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Sunday, November 4, 2012

THE SOUND OF HORROR

MASTER OF THE WORLD / GOLIATH AND THE BARBARIANS (1961/1959) Music by Les Baxter. 2-CD set, 31 tracks, 1-hr. 28-mins. Intrada Signature Editions ISE-1029 Stereo/Mono. $24.95.

(This review originally appeared in The Phantom of the Movies’ VideoScope magazine.)

Intrada and its committed founder, Douglass Fake, is one of today’s premiere sources for consummate film music rescue and restoration. His recent packaging of two Les Baxter AIP scores, Jules Verne’s Master of the World (1961) and the studio’s Peplum pick up Goliath and the Barbarians (1959), is yet another stellar example of devoted excellence. At the time of Master’s theatrical release, the Vee Jay record label issued a specially re-recorded LP of Baxter’s score (Vee Jay SR 4000) featuring magnificent cover art and beautifully performed cues. It was produced in massive quantities and often a resident of cutout record bins for years. A 1978 stereo reissue by Varese Sarabande kept collectors satiated and it is that album master Intrada used for its CD presentation. Fake, however, didn’t stop there and encouraged rights holder M-G-M to search its archives for the original film recording sessions. Miraculously hidden amongst the materials was a 20-min. stereo reel of Baxter’s film versions, an astonishing discovery that is included on Disc 1. Brilliant and crisp, it is a soaring suite of themes as heard in the movie. Combined, the LP and newly liberated session performances are sweeping and lush, adventurously driven with an inherent charm for which the composer was well-suited. They are as musically vibrant as Verne’s fantastical tales with melodic and craftily spectacular treatments evident in every cue. Goliath and the Barbarians (Disc 2) leads with the brief and powerful main title, “Goliath’s March” which gives way to Track 2’s mysteriously intricate “(Love Theme) Landa”. Full dramatic action unfolds in commanding pieces such as “The Sacred Crown”, “(Noisy Village) Barbarian Games” and “Ride of the Barbarians”, a cue that embodies scant lifts from Serge Prokofiev’s seminal Alexander Nevsky score, a fun treat for those who recognize them. A widescreen epic shot in Italy under the title Il Terrore dei Barbari, the film was originally scored by Carlo Innocenzi. It wasn’t uncommon for AIP to assign domestic composers to re-track the Euro compositions for stateside audiences (i.e. Baxter’s 1961 and 1963 replacement music for Angelo Francesco Lavagnino’s Goliath and the Vampires [Maciste Contro il Vampiro] and Roberto Nicolosi’s Black Sabbath [I Tre Volti della Paura]). Thanks to the prevailing popularity of cocktail exotica albums from tunesmiths Martin Denny, Arthur Lyman and Baxter himself, his 1959 score was cleverly marketed as Les Baxter’s Barbarian on AIP’s own label (American International LP 1001) with a small cover mention as being the original soundtrack LP. It long held sway as a top rarity among collectors. Intrada’s stereo source material once again relied upon a Varese Sarabande album master, the label having reissued the LP in 1979. Parenthetically, Innocenzi’s original score CD was released in Italy by Digitmovies in 2008. The bad news in all of this stems from Intrada’s pinched 1000 copy press run. Within six hours of the label posting it on its website the title completely sold out. This landmark 2-CD set now commands collector prices. An 8-pg. color foldout booklet augments the package with liner notes by Fake and film music journalist Joe Sikoryak.

-- Review by Tim Ferrante

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