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Kritzerland Wraps Up 2011: Orson Welles on “Trial”, and Les (Baxter) Is More

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2011 may be coming to a close, but the Kritzerland label still has a couple of surprises up its sleeve.  The label this morning announced its final two releases of the year, and both are offbeat gems: Lex Baxter’s scores to two Edgar Allan Poe offerings (Roger Corman’s 1963 The Raven and the Vincent Price-starring 1970 television special An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe) and Jean Ledrut’s score to Orson Welles’ 1962 film The Trial, described by the Citizen Kane director as “the best film I ever made.”

Emphasizing comedy over horror (just check out that cover artwork for the new CD!), The Raven starred Price, Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff and a young Jack Nicholson, and was one in a line of Corman’s Poe-inspired B-movie classics.  Despite Baxter’s fun, eerie and effective score, The Raven had never seen a soundtrack release, until now!  Tape research for The Raven revealed only the second of two reels of the film’s music, but the label pressed forward as it was a full reel with music from not only the second part of the film but several cues from the first part, for a total of nearly 25 minutes of Baxter’s best.  Several of the composer’s electronic cues have been included as a bonus.   The Raven has been paired with the original soundtrack of  An Evening Of Edgar Allan Poe.  Previously released on CD by Citadel in “fake stereo,” Kritzerland’s release has been mastered from  its original mono tapes and in proper sequence.  The main and end titles, taken from the DVD release, have also been appended for the most complete presentation of the score yet.

The Trial was Orson Welles’ 1962 adaptation of the novel of the same name by Franz Kafka, and Welles captured the air of menace and danger that pervades Kafka’s work.  Anthony Perkins, post-Psycho, starred as the persecuted Joseph K., whose crime is never revealed.  Romy Schneider, Jeanne Moreau, and Elsa Martinelli all figure in K.’s life and trial.  Welles himself (also the author of the screenplay) portrays The Advocate, K.’s lawyer and also the main antagonist of the film.  Jean Ledrut composed the score, including adaptations of Tomaso Albinoni’s “Adagio in G minor.” Ledrut wasn’t prolific, but his music has left a lasting impression.  His score plays on variations of the Albinoni “Adagio,” in addition to his own evocative, original cues.  Martial Solal, of Breathless fame, contributes the jazz piano work, and it all adds up to one wonderfully varied soundtrack to a remarkable (and remarkably forgotten) film.  Kritzerland’s edition has been mastered from a quarter-inch tape source in excellent condition.

Both titles are limited editions of 1,00o copies priced at $19.98 plus S&H.  Both are scheduled to ship the third week of January from Kritzerland.  Pre-orders at Kritzerland typically ship an average of one to five weeks earlier, however.

Hit the jump for track listings, pre-order links and the complete press releases for each title!

Music Composed and Conducted by Les Baxter

In 1960, Roger Corman made House of Usher, the first of his inspired-by Edgar Allan Poe films, and it was an exploitation sensation, playing to packed houses and packed cars at drive-ins. Knowing a good thing when he saw it, he followed with more inspired-by Poe films, including The Pit and the Pendulum, The Premature Burial, Tales Of Terror, The Raven, The Haunted Palace, The Masque of the Red Death, and The Tomb of Ligeia. These were all stylish horror films, but only one of them was an out-and-out comedy and that was The Raven.

With a screenplay by Richard Matheson and delectable performances by the likes of Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, and Boris Karloff (along with a young Jack Nicholson and a fetching Hazel Court), audiences expecting a horror film instead got a horror comedy, with an emphasis on the latter. It didn’t matter that the emphasis was on the latter, because audiences still flocked to see it.

Adding to the fun of The Raven is the delightful score of Les Baxter, who did several of the Corman/Poe films. Baxter uses electronics as well as conventional orchestra, and the result is a really fun and interesting score that just propels the film along its merry way. His eerie electronica for the opening narration of the Poe poem is really effective, and his music for the battle of the sorcerers is classic Baxter, as his exhilarating music for the wild ride to Scarabus’ castle.

In 1970, AIP produced a low-budget hour-long TV show called An Evening Of Edgar Allan Poe, starring Vincent Price doing solo recitations of four Poe stories: “The Tell-Tale Heart,” “The Sphinx,” “The Cask Of Amontillado,” and “The Pit and the Pendulum.” Naturally, AIP turned to their favorite composer, Les Baxter, and he provided his usual excellent work and some of his most adventurous scoring – a little more atonal than he usually did, but some seriously great music. The show has a brief main and end title theme, and then four complete scores.

For this release, the first ever for this music, only one tape could be found, the second of two reels. However, it was a full reel and contained music from not only the second part of the film but several cues from the first part. Taking our cue from the popularity of the La La Land release of Baxter’s score from X: The Man With The X-Ray Eyes, which was the same situation – one tape, partial score – we decided that some Raven was better than no Raven, especially as we actually had a lot of music from the film and unlike the partial score to X, none of it was source music. So, with close to twenty-five minutes of original score, it’s actually a pretty good sampling of the film’s music. We also include several of the electronica cues as a bonus. The mono tape was in excellent shape. This music for An Evening Of Edgar Allan Poe was released on CD by Citadel – that release had shrill and unpleasant sound and was in some sort of phony stereo – for this release we present the score from its original mono tapes and in proper order, and include for the first time the main and end title, taken from the DVD release.

Music and Arrangements by Jean Ledrut

In 1962, Orson Welles brought The Trial to the screen in what he himself called “the best film I ever made.” Whether one agrees with that assessment or not, The Trial is Welles at his Wellesiest, with brilliant imagery and atmosphere so thick you can cut it with a knife. Filmed in gorgeous black-and-white, featuring a screenplay by Welles, and incredible performances by Anthony Perkins as the persecuted Joseph K., Romy Schneider, Welles, Jeanne Moreau, Akim Tamiroff, and Elsa Martinelli, The Trial truly captures the Kafka spirit while also being uniquely Wellesian. The film is a nightmare of paranoia and persecution, along with unexpected moments of Wellesian humor. It is an astonishing film, where every component comes together to create a world that is bleak, desolate, and ultimately futile.

One of the elements that contributes heavily to the atmosphere and feeling of the film is the score by Jean Ledrut, using both original music and adaptations of Tomaso Albinoni’s stunning and iconic “Adagio in G minor.” Ledrut only scored a handful of films, including Abel Gance’s 1960 film The Battle of Austerlitz. Ledrut’s score relies heavily on variations of the Albinoni “Adagio,” as well as some wonderfully atmospheric original cues. There are several jazz-flavored pieces, as well (played by the great jazz pianist and composer Martial Solal, he of Breathless fame), and it all works splendidly, especially as a listening experience.

The Trial was originally released on both an EP and LP. The latter is one of the rarest of all soundtrack LPs. The CD is mastered from a quarter inch tape source in excellent condition.

Track listings and pre-order links follow!

Les Baxter, The Raven/An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Recordings (Kritzerland, 2011)

  1. Main Title/The Raven
  2. Dr. Bedlo/To The Crypt
  3. Not Quite Dead Dad
  4. The Plan
  5. Wild Ride To The Castle
  6. Dr. Scarabus/The Castle/Lenore
  7. Duel To The Death
  8. The Duel Continues
  9. The Escape/Quoth The Raven: Nevermore
  10. End Titles
  11. Bonus Track
  12. The Raven Electronica
  13. Main Title
  14. The Tell-Tale Heart
  15. The Sphinx
  16. The Cask Of Amontillado
  17. The Pit and the Pendulum
  18. End Titles

Jean Ledrut, The Trial: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Philips LP B-77908L, 1963 – reissued Kritzerland KR20021-1, 2011)

  1. Adagio d’Albinoni
  2. Air Sentimental
  3. Ouverture d’Operette
  4. Adagio Slow
  5. Sentimental Slow (with the Martial Solal Trio)
  6. Ambiance Kafka
  7. Jazz Sur L’Adagio D’Albinoni
  8. Jazz Hallucination
  9. Diabolic K (with the Martial Solal Trio)
  10. Concerto a Cinque, Opus 5, N° 12
  11. Adagio d’Albinoni (for baroque organ)

Written by Joe Marchese

December 19, 2011 at 12:24

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