Does it ever make you chuckle seeing these crews go through so much trouble to secure a score for a movie that ends up being really bad anyway?
In a roundabout way, I’d say it has some positive aspects, namely the fact that filmmakers do pay attention to film music. Of course it’s very often a last ditch attempt to improve a film when other aspects (writing, casting, editing) cannot be modified – but when they feel that the music can help the picture can get better, I’d like to think of it as a compliment on the importance of film scoring.
Why do Hollywood executives insist on altering foreign scores for American distribution? Is there a precedent somewhere that ever proved that to be a good idea?
This isn’t as frequent anymore as my book may suggest since I only focus on the extreme cases. Yes, changing the music was a big part of studio politics in the 1950s British–American co–productions (where the composer change was due to legal issues) and American International Pictures frequently used it as well due to the producer’s dislike of Italian film scoring traditions.
Nowadays this is a rather isolated incident and it usually happens if the American and the foreign version of the film are significantly different (“The Adventures of Milo and Otis” for instance, whose Japanese original is a completely different film made from the same footage). If a foreign film’s score is changed now, it usually relates to much greater changes such as a complete re–edit of said picture – the score must be changed because the images changed as well. In that respect, it’s a good idea because a score for the new cut will help the picture seem more unified than a score that jumps together with the picture cuts.
This book is the first time I’ve ever heard about “Fantasia” music being replaced. Did copies of this ever get released for public consumption, or was it strictly theatrical?
I’m glad you enjoyed that part because I wasn’t sure whether it even fits the book’s topic or not – after all, the music is the same, but the performance is different. However, since it concerned a major film, related to a historically and technically important sound recording, not to mention the two great conductors (Leopold Stokowski and Irwin Kostal) involved in the process, the story was just too good to pass on. Both Stokowski’s original and Kostal’s version are available on CD, so you can use those to compare some of the interesting changes between the two approaches.
As far as I know, all home video releases were based on the original version (or the 1990 restoration of the Stokowski recording to be precise) and the Kostal version isn’t available legally. But you should know (and I think the book doesn’t mention this) that apart from the music, the narration was changed as well – the 1982 restoration had significantly less explanatory text, but the 1985 theatrical release contained yet another different narration so there was always something tinkered with “Fantasia.”
How did you find out about stories as obscure as “Manimal”?
Luck, I’d guess. Stu Phillips’ “Manimal” for instance came directly from the composer’s excellent autobiography “Stu Who?” That’s where I found a brief mention of the score, than contacted the composer for further information. Needless to say this was so obscure that Stu himself recalled only a few more details about the rejection – at least I knew it was true and I didn’t misinterpret anything. For one thing, it taught me that pilot episodes of television series were very frequently re–scored in certain stages of development and this doesn’t really register anywhere either in the business or among fans of film music. But I found “Manimal” such an amazing find that I simply had to share it even though there may be hundreds of pilots that shared exactly the same fate.
Do you have any fears that this book will alienate you from work with certain composers?
Back when I wrote the book there was no such fear because I didn’t work in the business at all – I was merely an academic dealing with the subject. Since then (perhaps due to the book) I had the chance to work on a few dozen CD releases, but “Torn Music” had never cost me a job. I even worked together with composers who weren’t feeling comfortable to contribute to this delicate discussion, but liked to work with me on something different.
Do you think that the retail release of rejected scores ever demeans or lessens the value or appreciation of the score that was used?
I cannot think of such an example – film music is already a niche subject and the release of a rejected score is a curiosity at best. However, generally speaking I think the mere existence of a rejected score demeans the appreciation of the actually used score in certain examples. When you hear that your favorite composer had a rejected score in a certain movie, you’re already inclined to interpret this story in the framework of “misunderstood genius” vs. “idiot filmmakers”. You don’t even have to hear the music to assume this – and the release of this particular title will do little to change your mind.
Why do you think film music fans have an affection for rejected scores? Is it simply a matter of being a fan of certain composers, or are they fascinated by “what could have been”?
For fans of film music, that’s certainly a valid reason, because unused film scores mark one of the few cases where the question “what could have been” can be answered. If it’s released, it’s there for comparison and can be debated – this is especially true if you’re a fan of the composer. However, I found that rejected scores can have an appeal outside the world of soundtrack collecting. If it’s a very famous or over-analyzed movie (“Torn Curtain,” “2001: A Space Odyssey,” “The Exorcist,” “Chinatown”), you can get the attention of people who otherwise show absolutely no interest in film music on its own. And hopefully if they read the book, they’ll pay attention to the music the next time…
“Torn Music: Rejected Film Scores – A Selected History” is currently available at Amazon and at Silman-James Press.
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