Tag Archives: Casino Royale

Bond and beyond: Remembering John Barry part 2

Dean Newman continues on his musical journey with John Barry expert, Mike Copping, as he talks about two of his favourite Barry scores.

The Black Hole

MC:     The Black Hole for me is one of Barry’s best, although I know a lot of people don’t like it but from a from a Barry fan’s point of view it was one of those scores that seemed to cross over to the people who loved Jerry Goldsmith or John Williams, it crossed that kind of bridge where a lot of his work just doesn’t. Incidently The Black Hole was the first digitally recorded film score with Star Trek: The Motion Picture, by the aforementioned Goldsmith was hot on its heels. Sadly though, because of its rather dubious reputation and it wasn’t quite as successful as the first Star Trek film so the master tapes are perhaps not as well looked after as those stored at Paramount, which is a crying shame.

Goldfinger

MC:     From Bond you would have to include Goldfinger as apart from its impact in the film, that is the album that knocked The Beatles off the number one slot in the US, a soundtrack album knocking The Beatles off number one is just plain crazy, but it happened.

Like many elements of that film the music also pretty much set the standard and was the blueprint for every ensuing Bond adventure since. That was where everything gelled. Monty Norman had written a score for Dr No that Terrence Young (the Director of Bond’s first outing) called ‘mining disaster music’, a phrase which I love, and of course Barry’s total restructuring of the Bond theme firmly established something that had never been heard of before and was completely fresh.”

Although Monty Norman wrote the Bond theme he always credits Barry with creating the definitive arrangement, but my own personal feeling is that Barry created more than just an arrangement, he extended the melody and created the bee-bop section and all that.”

As the title suggests the thing that makes James Bond forever James Bond, over and above everything else, is not the actor, it’s that score.

David Arnold himself, who is obviously Barry’s replacement, has said that without the music it is just another action film. True there are various Bondian elements such as M, Moneypenny, the gadgets and the globetrotting, but so many films do that these days so the music adds tremendously to the whole character and atmosphere of the thing.

We also have to remember that Barry was also responsible for the title track, sung by Shirley Bassey, again creating the quintisential Bond theme that all others are in the long shadow of.

Because of all of that it has to be Goldfinger, but from a personal point of view I would have said The Living Daylights, Barry’s Bond swansong, or On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.”

Musically, at least a lot of the Bonds take place outside of what was happening at the time so Barry was almost working in his own bubble but setting trends at the same time and being very influential because it worked.

Put simply, that is one of the reasons the Bond films are so successful and why they are still making them. The music’s importance should not be underestimated.

DN:     Barry never did return to the Bond franchise, bowing out with an exceptional score to Timothy Dalton’s debut, The Living Daylights (1987), but he did ensure that his musical legacy lived on and helped shape Bond for a new generation  personally recommending David Arnold, who had previously worked on Stargate and Independence Day, to Bond Producer Barbara Broccolli for Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) a score that is largely Barry in tone and feel, something that Arnold, who has helmed the music for the series ever since, has returned to with flashes of Barry in The World Is Not Enough and Casino Royale.

MC:     If you look at his first Bond venture,Tomorrow Never Dies, that is a blatant emulation of Barry in style, especially the pre-credits sequence. Most of that is pure Barry with its blasts of swaggering brass. Since then Arnold has moved away a little from that and given it a bit more punch, a bit more edge adding synth elements and drum machines etc. But it is something he keeps on returning to with for example the ski sequence in The World is not Enough, which is epic and broad, Vespa’s theme in Casino Royale and of course THAT familiar tune at the very end. Bond is only complete when that theme is heard. No theme, no 007, literally.

DN:     What now for the future of film music and what of Barry’s legacy?

MC:     For the latter half of the 90s and the Noughties melody was out of fashion and above everything else Barry was a melodist, he wrote just fantastic melodies and sadly they’ve been out of fashion for a number of years. It’s only recently with people like Alexandre Desplat, New Moon,  and Michael Giacchino, Star Trek, actually creating thematic scores that have been successful, which has meant they have come back to the fore and has seen them create dense thematic scores and not just ambient tonal pieces with no real structure.

DN:     Barry, who crushingly had not completed a score for a film in over ten years, was what was known as one of the four key silver age movie composers, pretty much helping shape and influence the last 50 years of film music, alongside John Williams, Ennio Morricone and Jerry Goldsmith, who passed away in 2004. You can’t help but feel that wherever Williams and Morricone where in the world a part of them died along with Barry as the fantastic four (or should that be score) of film music became an even more select group.

MC:     David Arnold did once say if you are going to bring someone new in as Bond then you want to surround him as much of the Bondian elements as possible. With that in mind, in spirit at least, the music of John Barry will return.

John Barry 1933 – 2011

Robin Hood (2010) – nothing to Crowe about

TO THE TREES! HERE BE SPOILERS!!

The trailers hadn’t given me much to get all goosebumpy about, so it was with trepidation that I set foot into my local cinema to see the latest cinematic exploits of Robin Hood burst out at me from the silver screen. I really, really did try to like this rendition of dear old Robin, but alas I found it mostly way off target.

Less Boy’s Own Adventure and more boy, did it drag (all the way from The Holy Land it seemed) the pace of the film was just so slow and meandering. Don’t get me wrong, it didn’t need to be edited like a Michael Bay movie (although it would have perhaps have had a bit more pace had it been directed by Ridley’s brother, Tony) but it just seemed to defy script writing law – nevermind Outlaw – with its long drawn out scenes of nothingness. And slow, didn’t equal worthy.

Confusion seemed to reign on what anyone, writers and actors themselves, wanted to do with the villains. It suffered with too many not really doing enough, with the Sheriff of Nottingham getting short changed with gold coins the most, his role was none-existent and surely could have been amalgamated into that played by Mark Strong.  Prince John ended up being effective value for money though.

There were some flickers of what might have been but these – certainly in the first half of the film – were very few and far between and it needed some culling at either the script or editing stage to give it some much needed pace. There was certainly an interesting story trying to get out, but one can’t help but feel they were just trying to be a bit too clever with their retelling and it ending up being convoluted

One of my biggest fears was that this was going to be Robin Hood in name only, now don’t get me wrong it’s not as if I’m against revisionist reboots as I loved both the recent Sherlock Holmes and Casino Royale , but this wasn’t even Robin Hood in name only, it was someone (Crowe) nabbing his name.

Now, I don’t mind people playing with the legend, adding new elements to it or skirting round it – after all this is how the legend has continued to evolve throughout the centuries – but that doesn’t mean that people should go around just writing off whole swathes of it and actually not give us a Robin Hood at all, but someone pretending to be him. I just felt rather cheated.

There wasn’t really a standout Robin Hood moment – until the final reel – where you felt that some Hood daring do had been done, but then that could be explained away by Crowe’s character being ‘reborn’ as Robin Hood from the water – in slow mo for those slow on the uptake of the metaphor – so he couldn’t perform anything really Robin Hood until he had become him. But, saying that, there didn’t even seem to be a proper introduction to the character, unlike the strong introduction of  Marian, a film stealing Cate Blanchett.

It was also nice to see Mark Addy turn up as Friar Tuck and continue the tradition, of sorts, of  portly Friar being played by actors best known for comedy roles, such as Ronnie Barker in Robin and Marian and Mike McShane in Prince of Thieves.

For me, one of the essential characters of any Robin Hood story, and as essential addition as the likes of Friar Tuck and Little John, is that of Sherwood Forest. The Forest is as an important a character to the Robin Hood story as say New York is to Sex and the City, and we did get plenty of forest areas…but most of them were listed as being in ruddy France.

I Sherwood like to say that I enjoyed this film, but this Robin Hood’s blade was more than a little rusty. The film had lots of bluster and show, but not very much in the way of tell. Looks like that Bluray purchase of Prince of Thieves was a good investment afterall.

2/5

Close to the Edge: remembering Edge of Darkness

It’s hard to imagine in this multi-channel universe just how big an impact the thriller Edge of Darkness had when it was first screened on BBC2 back in 1986. In fact the six part nuclear conspiracy thriller, with sci-fi undertones, had such an impact that it was repeated a mere 10 days after its initial run, upgraded onto BBC1, unprecedented at the time.

Edge has of course just been remade, like State of Play before it, for the big screen this time with Mel Gibson replacing the late great Bob Peck in the main role as Ronald Craven, who is searching the truth about the murder of his activist daughter. Both the original BAFTA Award winning series, it swept the boards that year, and the new film were both helmed by Casino Royale director, Martin Campbell.

The thriller was written by the creator of Z Cars, Troy Kennedy Martin, who passed away last year, and was something I first saw in the late 80s and was something that has haunted and captivated me ever since.

Clearly I’m not in the minority as it’s omission from a list of the top 50 TV Dramas in The Guardian caused more than a bit of a grumble recently and it also won BAFTAs for its haunting music, composed by Eric Clapton and Michael Kamen, the latter who went onto become a genre fave, going onto score Highlander, X-Men, Event Horizon and perhaps most famously, Die Hard and Lethal Weapon.

Part crime drama, part science-fiction but totally absorbing, this rarely bettered 80s epic is a real slow burner, no seat of your pants editing here folks, and still commands attention in buckets 25 years later. The cinema remake seems to be getting a bit of a pasting, which is probably now more straight thriller, but don’t let that even think about putting you off the original, it would be like not wanting to take a punt on the original Planet of the Apes after seeing the Burton rehash.

Full of familiar faces from sci-fi and fantasy, Peck went onto feature prominently in Jurassic Park and was one of the main cast in the ill-fated Slipstream. It also featured Joe Don Baker, a feature of three Bond movies, Joanne Whalley, from Willow, John Woodvine from An American Werewolf in London and Zoe Wanamaker from Harry Potter. Of course a special mention has to go out to the shows special effects expert, a veteran of both classic Who and Blake’s 7, Mat Irvine.

Public concerns over nuclear war were at their highest than at any time since the Cuban Missile Crisis, the two previous years having seen The Day After and Threads nuclear blast onto our screens. This, added with the Miners’ Strike and protests at Greenham Common, made Blightly a none too pleasant a place to call home, all of which are touched upon by this conspiracy thriller that chillingly captures the shadowy corridors of power and one man’s grief at the same time.

Trying to understand the reasons behind his daughter Emma’s murder, Craven uncovers a vast conspiracy involving the nuclear industry, environmental terrorism and Britain’s role in the ‘Star Wars’ Strategic Defence System. On his quest, Craven is joined by CIA agent Jedburgh, superbly played by Baker, one critic describing the pairing as “a nuclear Butch and Sundance”, as well as by ‘visions’ of his dead daughter.

So far so thriller, but where is the sci-fi I hear you scream? A thriller about the politics of nuclear power is not science-fiction as such, but this all changes gear in the final episode where Darkness is transformed from being a political thriller into a grim vision of the future.

Apparently, Kennedy Martin wanted to end the series with Peck killed and transformed into a Green Man tree being protecting the Earth, you certainly wouldn’t have found that in Inspector Morse! It would have been a conclusion that would almost certainly have left the audiences of the day…and even now, scratching their heads. It does show that the thriller didn’t just include very real world concerns but also the mythic and the mystical (there must have been something in the water as Robin of Sherwood did the very same thing at around the same time).

This ending was toned down somewhat. This was one of Troy Kennedy Martin’s speculative environmental theories, introducing the idea that the Earth, in the form of Gaia, the Greek goddess responsible for Earth and the name of the group Emma worked for, will protect itself from environmental damage with the creation of black flowers that draw in heat from the sun and create warm patches that allow life to flourish, as it apparently did during the Ice Ages. The concept was taken from a section in climate scientist, James Lovelock’s book Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth (1977).

Thus, in the haunting last image of the series, we see black flowers growing in the hills of the Scottish Highlands as man tries at playing God with nuclear materials. The good guys, just like Butch and Sundance, have lost and those in the corridors of power have won for now, until Mother Earth takes her revenge, the black flowers harbingers of Gaia’s coming war against mankind.

One of the other fantastical aspects of the series is the character of Emma, murdered early in the first episode but continues to turn up throughout the rest of the series. Whether Craven is ‘seeing dead people’ or she is a figment of Peck’s grief is ambiguous, personally I believe it is the latter but there has been much argument on both sides.

With the rise of global warming and an endless slew of natural disasters, who is to say that Kennedy Martin didn’t get it right after all, especially as the once dormant spectre of nuclear armament rears its head again. Perhaps 25 years on, the original Edge of Darkness is less of a relic of The Cold War than we think?