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Category:    Home > Reviews > Action > Adventure > Skydiving > Soundtrack > Gypsy Moths (Limited CD)

The Gypsy Moths (Limited Edition CD Soundtrack)


Sound: B     Music: B-



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 all.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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