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 Posted:   Jan 26, 2014 - 7:02 PM   
 By:   John B. Archibald   (Member)

For any of you not familiar with Max Steiner's score for HELEN OF TROY (1956), it is a stunner. Gorgeous love theme, thrilling action pieces, strong dramatic intensity. And chock-full of multiple melodies. They just don't write scores like this anymore. And, the chief mystifying element in all this is that the tracks exist, but, for inexplicable reasons, have never legitimately been released. (For this reason, any number of people have opined that producers are wary, reasoning that all the collectors already have it. But, if you want to go that far, all the collectors already have various releases of THE GREAT ESCAPE, COCOON, STAR TREK (take your pick) , and any number of other scores in multiple releases, and this doesn't seem to faze the producers one iota. So what gives?)

HELEN OF TROY is not the best movie ever made, though it certainly has fine credentials, with Robert Wise directing, and a stellar cast of mostly British nobility, not to mention beautiful costume and set designs, as well as a pictorially beautiful central pair of lovers (even though their voices were both dubbed). The movie is well-paced, and is always a pleasure to watch, and the battle scenes, as well as that Horse everyone's been waiting for, live up to expectations.

Among the details listed on the back of the Warner Bros. DVD of HELEN OF TROY is the announcement: "Soundtrack Remastered in Dolby Digital 5.1" Does this mean that the music elements were remastered as well?

I hope some enterprising label will one day get up enough gumption to finally release this score, in the legitimate 2-CD set it deserves.

 
 
 Posted:   Jan 26, 2014 - 8:28 PM   
 By:   Bob Bryden   (Member)

It's truly a wonderful score, John. I've just finished reviewing all my Steiner scores chronologically (almost 200 including original tracks, re-recordings, suites, versions and themes) and 'Helen' was a stand-out. I've also always been amused by the battle scenes where Max invented the 2-note shark motif John Williams used in 'Jaws'. That alone should spark interest enough in the younger set! (Williams should just 'fess up!) But I think you left out the most important element of the film itself: BRIGITTE BARDOT!!!

 
 Posted:   Jan 26, 2014 - 8:33 PM   
 By:   Basil Wrathbone   (Member)

There have been many calls for this fine score over the years, and also Steiner's King Richard and the Crusaders. Steiner's Alamo movie, The Last Command, is just as high on my wish list.
Some encouragement might come from the fact there were decades of similar unanswered calls for Tiomkin's Gunfight at the OK Corral too... and now we have it. After that, anything's possible.

 
 
 Posted:   Jan 26, 2014 - 8:37 PM   
 By:   dan the man   (Member)

Thumbs up for me a great score with a lovely love theme. a winner.

 
 Posted:   Jan 26, 2014 - 8:37 PM   
 By:   Ron Hardcastle   (Member)

Bob Bryden: Re: "I've also always been amused by the battle scenes where Max invented the 2-note shark motif John Williams used in 'Jaws'."

And I always thought that John Williams got his inspiration for it from Igor Stravinsky's "Le Sacre du printemps" ("The Rite of Spring").

 
 Posted:   Jan 26, 2014 - 8:43 PM   
 By:   Basil Wrathbone   (Member)

Bob B: Re: "I've also always been amused by the battle scenes where Max invented the 2-note shark motif John Williams used in 'Jaws'."

And I always thought that John Williams got it from Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring"!



No. I remember reading that Stravinski's "Rite of Spring" was 50 years ahead of its time, which would place it seven years after Helen of Troy.

 
 
 Posted:   Jan 26, 2014 - 9:15 PM   
 By:   PFK   (Member)

Didn't Waxman's MGM early 40s Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde have the "Jaws" theme?

 
 
 Posted:   Jan 27, 2014 - 3:24 AM   
 By:   CinemaScope   (Member)

A big favourite ancient world epic, the siege scenes are amazing (the god-awful Troy didn't even didn't even have a siege, just a battle between computer pixels outside the gates of Troy). I love Max Steiner's score, I have the two-disc boot, but wouldn't hesitate to buy a better sounding release. I'd love a great looking Blu-ray...& while you're at it Warner, throw in a great looking Blu of Land Of The Pharaohs.

 
 Posted:   Jan 27, 2014 - 5:25 AM   
 By:   John Morgan   (Member)

An even better, more pronounced and earlier Steiner use of the "JAWS" theme is in his 1946 noirish-western score PURSUED, which is out on Blu-ray and looks and sounds terrific.

 
 
 Posted:   Jan 27, 2014 - 6:41 AM   
 By:   finder4545   (Member)

""There have been many calls for this fine score over the years, and also Steiner's King Richard and the Crusaders. Steiner's Alamo movie, The Last Command, is just as high on my wish list.
Some encouragement might come from the fact there were decades of similar unanswered calls for Tiomkin's Gunfight at the OK Corral too... and now we have it. After that, anything's possible.""


Yes. Even a clear release of VERA CRUZ!

 
 Posted:   Jan 27, 2014 - 7:23 AM   
 By:   Yavar Moradi   (Member)

The Jaws theme? I'm shocked!! And all this time I thought John Williams had invented the minor 2nd...

smile

Yavar

 
 
 Posted:   Jan 27, 2014 - 7:45 AM   
 By:   Bob Bryden   (Member)

Clearly John Williams loved Max Steiner who loved Igor Stravinsky who all loved those 2 notes. And yes, it's in 'Pursued' too but I think not as pronounced or as repetitive as in 'Helen'. It's really quite amusing. As an aside, I was not a big Max fan UNTIL I did this chronological review. I'll risk heresy to some and say that before this I thought he was a bit of a hack - a brilliant one, but a hack nontheless. The review of all his scores in my collection completely turned me around. I now acknowledge he invented the art of film scoring and also the vocabulary we now so readily associate with so many genres. From the western ('Cimarron' 1930) through the monster pictures ('King Kong' 1933) through the adventure ('Light Brigade' 1935) through the drama and comedy, etc. etc. His frequent use of quotations from folk pieces used to bother me (although the true master hack in the department is Herbert Stothart!) but now I see it more along the lines of how Charles Ives' used these elements in a very modern and provocative manner. Max may have quoted a lot of familiar pieces but it was also rare for him not to include at least one gorgeous original theme per picture as well.

 
 Posted:   Jan 27, 2014 - 8:07 AM   
 By:   Yavar Moradi   (Member)

Yeah, I'm largely in line with your old opinion of Steiner (and certainly Stothart, most Tiomkin, and even a lot of Victor Young for the same reasons). There are certainly exceptions -- I greatly enjoy Tribute's recording She and since childhood have loved The Flame and the Arrow. But so much of his work sounds like talented hackery to me...but your opinion changed so I guess there's hope for mine to as well...

Yavar

 
 Posted:   Jan 27, 2014 - 8:34 AM   
 By:   Ron Hardcastle   (Member)

Basil: Re: "I've also always been amused by the battle scenes where Max invented the 2-note shark motif John Williams used in 'Jaws'."

And I always thought that John Williams got it from Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring"!


No. I remember reading that Stravinski's "Rite of Spring" was 50 years ahead of its time, which would place it seven years after Helen of Troy.


Just for those innocents here who may have misunderstood your jest and assumed that you were correcting me, Stravinsky finished his "Rite of Spring" by 1913.

 
 
 Posted:   Jan 27, 2014 - 8:49 AM   
 By:   JEC   (Member)

You can hear the JAWS theme in Les Baxter's GOLIATH AND THE BARBARIANS, too.

 
 
 Posted:   Jan 27, 2014 - 8:59 AM   
 By:   Bob Bryden   (Member)

Yeah, I'm largely in line with your old opinion of Steiner (and certainly Stothart, most Tiomkin, and even a lot of Victor Young for the same reasons). There are certainly exceptions -- I greatly enjoy Tribute's recording She and since childhood have loved The Flame and the Arrow. But so much of his work sounds like talented hackery to me...but your opinion changed so I guess there's hope for mine to as well...

Yavar


I've been reviewing all the composers chronologically and (relatively) complete (I've been steadily collecting film music since 1961!!! And somewhat proudly avoiding the 'bottle cap' syndrome I hope).
I recommend this approach! It gives one the breadth and depth of a composer's career. Steiner was truly a revelation. Overwhelmingly good, in fact. I went 360 degrees on him. I'm presently reviewing Alfred Newman in the same manner - I'm at 1942 ('Son of Fury') - Ha! He followed just in the wake of Max. Steiner arrived in Hollywood on Christmas Day, 1929. But Alfred is a remarkable 'second' and is undoubtedly to most ears a little more tasteful than Max. But Max's sheer energy and output are without equal (with the possible exception of Morricone).

 
 Posted:   Jan 27, 2014 - 11:38 AM   
 By:   msmith   (Member)

I'd love to be able to throw away my old private copy of the score CD in order to get a new remastered version of this music.
Max Steiner at his best!!

 
 Posted:   Jan 27, 2014 - 12:40 PM   
 By:   WILLIAMDMCCRUM   (Member)

A big favourite ancient world epic, the siege scenes are amazing (the god-awful Troy didn't even didn't even have a siege, just a battle between computer pixels outside the gates of Troy). I love Max Steiner's score, I have the two-disc boot, but wouldn't hesitate to buy a better sounding release. I'd love a great looking Blu-ray...& while you're at it Warner, throw in a great looking Blu of Land Of The Pharaohs.




Well, the big first advance scene with the hoplites and the siege towers was amazing, and Steiner's repetitive music in genuine Greek modes enhanced it immensely. But corners were still cut. Take a close look at some of those hoplites advancing, and in some shots you'll see the age-old continuity bug of REVERSED frames, in order to make the attackers look like they're coming from the left. What you have is whole lines of LEFT-HANDED Greek infantry with their shields on their right arms, advancing! Check out the shots that are side-on.

Later in the movie, the sets burnt down (and one cameraman was killed, who fell from scaffold) necessitating much compromised set-ups near the end of the film.

I agree 'Troy' is no great shakes, but it did have a psychologically superior 'message' about Achilles and Hector as youth culture's two extremes, and it did portray Helen as more of a problem than a solution ... which she was ...

The Robert Wise movie had far more authentic sets and costumes, but alas, they were made of less authentic plastic materials! (Incidentally, it's generally recognised that ancient Greek armour was often made of layers of hardened silk or linen, glued together with strong resin. So it was light and colourful.) The 'Troy' armour was ridiculous (especially the Trojans) and stylised, but made of proper materials, ironically.

 
 Posted:   Jan 27, 2014 - 12:46 PM   
 By:   WILLIAMDMCCRUM   (Member)

Robert Wise in an interview mentioned the 'orgy' music that Steiner wrote that he claimed contained 'authentic period material'. To his annoyance most of that scene was apparently cut by the studio (the Bacchanale) so who knows if the music he refers to is in the film or no?

In this, Steiner was taking a leaf out of Miklos Rozsa's book, who used at least ten ancient Greek sources in 'Quo Vadis?'

Come to think of it, I must listen to Bernstein's Bacchanale recording to see if I can identify any of them! But that's the claim Wise made.

 
 
 Posted:   Jan 27, 2014 - 2:39 PM   
 By:   PFK   (Member)

Clearly John Williams loved Max Steiner who loved Igor Stravinsky who all loved those 2 notes. And yes, it's in 'Pursued' too but I think not as pronounced or as repetitive as in 'Helen'. It's really quite amusing. As an aside, I was not a big Max fan UNTIL I did this chronological review. I'll risk heresy to some and say that before this I thought he was a bit of a hack - a brilliant one, but a hack nontheless. The review of all his scores in my collection completely turned me around. I now acknowledge he invented the art of film scoring and also the vocabulary we now so readily associate with so many genres. From the western ('Cimarron' 1930) through the monster pictures ('King Kong' 1933) through the adventure ('Light Brigade' 1935) through the drama and comedy, etc. etc. His frequent use of quotations from folk pieces used to bother me (although the true master hack in the department is Herbert Stothart!) but now I see it more along the lines of how Charles Ives' used these elements in a very modern and provocative manner. Max may have quoted a lot of familiar pieces but it was also rare for him not to include at least one gorgeous original theme per picture as well.



Glad you have seen the light Bob! smile

 
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