The Second Disc

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Golden Age Noir: Miklos Rózsa Score to “Strange Love” Premieres On CD

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Had Miklós Rózsa only composed the Academy Award-winning score to 1959’s epic Ben-Hur, his place in the cinema pantheon would likely have been assured.  But Ben-Hur was just one of three Rózsa scores to win Oscars in a career that spanned from 1937’s Knight Without Armour through 1982’s Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid.  Rózsa, who also maintained a career as a composer of concert works, often employed a rich, sweeping orchestral style, and though he famously crafted “big” scores, he was also an important film noir composer, with films such as Billy Wilder’s Double Indemnity under his belt.  One such noir picture scored by Rózsa was 1946’s The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, from producer Hal Wallis and director Lewis Milestone.  Its original soundtrack is now making its debut from Kritzerland.

Starring Barbara Stanwyck, Van Heflin, Lizabeth Scott and Kirk Douglas in his film debut, Martha Ivers was based on John Patrick’s short story Love Lies Bleeding.  Stanwyck starred as the titular character, caught in a web of murder, blackmail and torrid romance.   Bruce Kimmel, producer of the CD soundtrack, describes its score as “almost a second cousin to Double Indemnity and The Lost Weekend.”  The new issue comes directly from acetates lovingly preserved in Paramount Pictures’ vaults, with close to fifty minutes of previously-unreleased Rózsa.

The Strange Love of Martha Ivers is limited to 1,000 copies, and is scheduled to ship from Kritzerland in the third week of September.  However, pre-orders made at the label’s website usually arrive one to five weeks earlier.  The price is $19.98 plus shipping and handling.  Hit the jump for the full press release plus the track listing and pre-order link!

It was 1946 and film noir was everywhere, from low budget quickies to major studio releases.  Of course, the studios didn’t realize they were making films noir, since that term had just been coined by French film critic Nino Frank. The noirs of 1946 included: The Killers, The Blue Dahlia, The Big Sleep, Gilda, The Postman Always Rings Twice, The Stranger, The Dark Mirror, The Black Angel and The Strange Love of Martha Ivers.

The Strange Love of Martha Ivers was an “A” picture from Paramount, produced by Hal B. Wallis. It featured a terrific cast, including Barbara Stanwyck (who’d been in the classic noir Double Indemnity two years prior), Van Heflin, smoky-voiced Lizabeth Scott, Judith Anderson and, in his film debut, a young actor named Kirk Douglas.  It’sa terrific picture with wonderful dialogue, elegant direction and great performances – it’s noir, it’s melodrama, and the whole film crackles with electricity.  And perfectly capturing every mood, every character and every situation is the classic score by Miklós Rózsa.

The music for The Strange Love of Martha Ivers is almost a second cousin to Double Indemnity and The Lost Weekend, filled with the incredible Rózsa sound of that era. No one did this kind of thing better than Rózsa – he seemed to have a real affinity for these darker tales. The main title is everything a classic main title should be: It draws you in right from those great Rózsa-esque opening chords, introduces its beautiful main theme and then segues directly into the first cue for the young runaways.  From there, Rózsa’s music weaves its magic, perfectly capturing the film’s moods, situations and characters as they travel their dark roads.

The surviving music from Martha Ivers was taken from a set of incredible-sounding acetates preserved in the Paramount vaults.  It’s almost fifty minutes of prime Rózsa and it’s nearly most of the score, with only a handful of missing cues.  Only two tracks had material that was beyond repair – one of those tracks was only twenty-four seconds long and the material contained therein was well represented elsewhere.  For the other track, through careful editing, we were able to save ninety percent of it and again, the material that wasn’t salvageable was represented elsewhere in the other cues.

Miklós Rózsa is in the pantheon of greats, and it’s really gratifying to bring one of his classic noir scores to CD.

You can pre-order below!

Miklós Rózsa, Music from the Motion Picture: The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (Kritzerland, 2012/Recorded 1946)

  1. Prelude/Fugitives
  2. Hatred
  3. Murder/Conspiracy
  4. Accident/Frustration
  5. Love
  6. An Idea/Foreboding
  7. Memories (Part I)
  8. Double Cross/Tell the Truth/Revenge
  9. Passion
  10. Unmasked/Conflict/Retribution
  11. End Title

Written by Joe Marchese

August 13, 2012 at 15:26

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