The Gypsy Moths (Limited Edition CD Soundtrack)
Sound: B Music:
Elmer Bernstein has a unique thing going for him. When he composes upbeat, adventurous music
for film, it never feels hollow or shallow.
It never has a feeling of infantilism or childishness. It always feels like it has substance, and
if anything, even feels like the upbeatness has a sense of the reserved. One of the most interesting examples of this
is his music for John Frankenheimer’s The Gypsy Moths, his 1969 opus
about skydivers and how the serious ones are always gambling with their lives.
In such a story, the music actually sends some false
messages in almost Film Noir fashion, with Frankenheimer exploiting the
limitations of the extremely popular Bernstein (the notes in the CD booklet
note he did six film scores that year alone!) and audience expectations. That is why covering this music needs
context, especially here. Of course,
there is the marching band music, which is great for completists, but was too
much for this critic. The collection of
Nightclub works is more interesting, but still not for everyone. The fact that Bernstein composed so much
different music for this one film is remarkable, but the main score covers the
first 11 of the 18 tracks, with the 29th being a shorter version of
the main theme as used in the film.
What Bernstein also delivers is the kind of big screen
music that was becoming more a part of Hollywood past, but serves the
big-screen shot skydiving footage well.
Many fans consider this the only film to get skydiving right.
This is the first release of the soundtrack ever, and it
is in stereo, though there is some distortion trouble from the master tape,
especially in the right channel.
However, this is still an improvement over the 1.0 Dolby Mono on the
DVD, so it is worth getting, especially fans of the film, Frankenheimer, and/or
Bernstein. Despite this trouble, the
tapes are in decent shape otherwise.
This CD pressing is limited to 3,000 copies and is only
available from the soundtrack label FSM, from Film Score Monthly magazine. You can find this and other exceptional
soundtrack exclusives at www.filmscoremonthly.com
while their supplies last. These are
especially collectible when the film itself is NOT in stereo, does not look
like it will be, and some of their titles have already sold out.
It should finally be noted that this was one of the first
releases of any Frankenheimer-related material to be issued after his
passing. That was a tragedy, since he
was back on track, especially with the incredible Ronin and an upcoming Exorcist
prequel that has been taken over by writer/director Paul Schrader. Frankenheimer was one of America’s greatest
directors, who made a few duds, but usually made competent, intelligent films
for adults. He has many underrated, challenging
films like The Gypsy Moths under his belt and this soundtrack is typical
of the kinds of on-the-money music you would usually find in his films. A new generation of filmmakers so
appropriately impressed with the greatness of Stanley Kubrick and Martin
Scorsese are missing out on a director who was that good at his best, music and
- Nicholas Sheffo