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Category:    Home > Reviews > War > Thriller > Soundtracks > Patton/Flight Of The Phoenix (Limited CD)

Patton/The Flight of the Phoenix   (Limited Edition CD Soundtrack)


Patton Sound: B     Music: B+     Phoenix Sound: B-     Music: B-



When Jerry Goldsmith composed the music for Patton (1970), he knew he was scoring for a film shot in 65mm negative, and ingeniously used an echoing horn to signify both the film frame and the title character’s journey into battle and (in effect) history.  That helped make the well written, acted, directed, and paced film a hit.  It is also one of the most well known motifs in all of movie music.


Fortunately, the rest of the score is equally compelling.  It is one of two scores on this single-CD double feature score set.  The other, The Flight of the Phoenix (1965), is one of several collaborations between the great Robert Aldrich and composer Frank DeVol, while both a War genre films for Fox.  As one listens on, the combination of the two makes sense.  In a word, both films are hard-hitting portraits of War, even if both take placer in WWII while the country was actually engaged in the catastrophic Vietnam.


That certainly does not hurt the qualities of the films or these scores.  Goldsmith’s work ranges from thoughtful, character driven, and desolate, to proto-militaristic.  His staccato motifs and pieces of traditional passages are almost ironic for a couple reasons.  For one thing, Patton himself was atypical of the image of a great soldier and leader, beyond politically incorrect and operating in a world of his own.  The amazing thing is that the imposition of that particular logic made him a brilliant strategist, with a direct irony being his individualism helped him rise to the top in an outfit like the U.S. Army.  He was a character with amazing character, of which the late, great George C. Scott hit the nail on the head like no other actor ever could have.  The military music is about unity, but Patton went beyond that, film and score.


Note the incredible ways Goldsmith takes the two sensibilities and has them share many tunes with ease.  This is not to oversimplify one of Goldsmith’s greater music achievements, but only to point out one of the basis for it.  How he takes off with that and his superior composing skills makes this all the more remarkable.


Then there is Frank DeVol, whose Flight of the Phoenix is not bad either.  DeVol has a name recognized from many films and TV series, particularly The Brady Bunch.  The odd thing is he became one of the only composers to simply use his last name, but this had caused many to wonder if DeVol was a thing and not a person.  Is a DeVol a special keyboard that makes a dippy-sounding Brady Bunch theme sound dippier?  Was this actually a new keyboard invention by a new company, or one that was now defunct?  It is a fair question under the circumstances.


However, DeVol was a very diverse composer, even scoring a#1 hit for Diana Ross and The Supremes with the title song to The Happening, though the song has so far outlasted the film that many are surprised there was a film.  It was also the last #1 the vocal group had with Florence Ballard before her tragic departure.


Robert Aldrich was one of the boldest, most daring Hollywood directors there ever was or would be.  Despite the associations with Pop music and light compositions, DeVol produced some strong, powerful, and serious music to go with the legendary directors films.  The association lasted for 15 films, peaking with Aldrich’s 1955 masterpiece Kiss Me Deadly, the boldest of all Film Noirs.


His score for Flight of the Phoenix is not bad, but far from his best work.  The Connie Francis song “Senza Fine” (track 21) is the only light moment in an otherwise typical War genre score.  She even sings in two languages.  In her career, Francis cut more songs in more languages than any artist ever has, even to date, saying something about how ahead of her time she really was.


As for the sound quality, both scores are in PCM CD stereo, but Goldsmith’s recordings are five years after DeVol’s, so they sound a bit better.  As a matter of fact, they also sound better than the LaserDiscs and DVDs of Patton Fox has issued so far.  Previously, The soundtrack was only available on a rerecording issued at the time on vinyl by 20th Century-Fox Records by Goldsmith and never reissued since, while Goldsmith cut a new session of the music in 1997.  That makes this the first time the film’s actual music has ever been issued as a stand-alone soundtrack.  The LaserDiscs ha PCM CD Pro Logic surround, but the music was not this distinctively clear.  Later, newer LaserDiscs with an early Dolby Digital 5.1 remix was pressed, a mix recycled on the 1999 double DVD set (out of print) and 2001 basic DVD.  Those versions do not have the base the original 70mm magnetic multi-channel stereo prints would have had, nor the base this CD has.  Though the picture transfer was not bad at the time, the DVD has dated and Fox needs to consider a High Definition anamorphic transfer from 65mm elements.  The film was recently issued in theaters in 70mm exclusively that prove good restored materials exist.  DTS would be the only way to capture the kind of fidelity this CD has.


Until then, this is the best way to hear both scores, especially since Flight of the Phoenix was just issued on DVD in simple Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo only.  No matter how good that may sound, there is no way it is going to sound as good as this CD.  However, while that DVD has just come out, this CD has been out for a while and is limited to only a 3,000 copies pressing.  It was issued by the FSM label of the magazine Film Score Monthly and can be ordered exclusively from them at www.filmscoremonthly.com while supplies last.  That new DVD is going to spark new interest, so get it while you can.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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