“The Salamander (1981)”
Music By Jerry Goldsmith
Re-recording Performed By The City of
Prague Philharmonic Orchestra And Chorus
Led By Conductor Nic Raine
Prometheus/Tadlow Music XPCD 174
17 Tracks/Disc Time: 57:19 Grade: A-
In the seventies and early eighties, there were many films about different subjects relating to coups and takeovers of different countries in an action setting and always with a star-studded cast of sorts. “The Salamander” as a film long in the making since the original novel was published in 1974 by Morris West, which turned out to be a best seller and attracted many offers from Hollywood studios to produce it. By 1980, the film finally went into production after a change of producers with American Paul Maslansky (“Police Academy”) taking the role from acclaimed Italian producer Carlo Ponti and immediately chose Italian star Franco Nero (“Django”, “Enter The Ninja”, “Force 10 From Navarone”) as the lead playing the novel’s hero Cabarneri Colonel Dante Martucci. Oscar winning film editor Peter Zinner (“The Godfather”, “The Deer Hunter”) was chosen to direct the film with personal friends and colleagues such as the late Anthony Quinn, Christopher Lee, Martin Balsam, Sybil Danning, Claudia Cardinale, and Eli Wallach taking on key roles in the film with the film completely shot in Italy. The film revolves around Italian policeman Martucci investigating a series of murders involving people in prominent positions. Left behind at each murder scene is a drawing of a “salamander” as a calling card. The policeman begins to suspect these murders are linked to a plot to seize control of the government. Martucci must rely on the help of Lili Anders (Danning), a spy who knows who might be at the head of the conspiracy and Bruno Manzini (Quinn), who will do anything to help thwart the plot. The film which was actually released in 1981 overseas after original distributor, United Artists, went bankrupt after their “Heaven’s Gate” fiasco and it would take a full two years before the film was released in the U.S. to lackluster reviews.
The film is significant for one sole reason and that is the grand musical work of the late Jerry Goldsmith, who for some reason was really enthusiastic about the original novel much like Director Peter Zinner was. During this period, Goldsmith had been going through one of his major enjoyable stretches of writing some of his most exceptional and memorable work that started with his Academy Award winning score for “The Omen”, which was then followed by Oscar nominated fare in “Islands In The Stream”, “The Boys From Brazil”, “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” and soon after “Poltergeist”. He also enjoyed his most memorable action laden period in the process with muscular scores to “Outland”, “Capricorn One”, “Damnation Alley”, “The Challenge”, “Night Crossing” and “First Blood”. It was an inspired period for the composer to which is score is also one of most intriguing because of the film’s obscurity despite the fact that it was released on video and then on DVD almost ten years ago and it soon disappeared soon after. The other reason this score is somewhat important to fans of the composer is the fact that it has been an in demand and requested unreleased scores of the composer for more than two decades. Sadly, the original recording sessions which took place in Rome are now lost to time and that is where Tadlow’s James Fitzpatrick comes into play. The acclaimed manager of the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus came up with the idea of re-recording this score and also sadly, Goldsmith’s original sketches for the music did not survive either. He then commissioned composer Leigh Phillips to completely reconstruct the score from ear by watching the DVD in a tight period of time.
Finally in August 2012, “The Salamander” was brought back to life just as the late Goldsmith would’ve wanted it. The re-recording itself is a wonderful marvel because Goldsmith was a composer who loved to play with odd meters readings to give his scores’ a frenetic pace and originality to them just look at his brilliant score to “Total Recall” as a great example. This re-recording by Nic Raine and company is easily one of my favorites of Tadlow’s long with Maurice Jarre’s “Lawrence of Arabia” because it does do serious justice to Goldsmith’s material and Leigh Phillips’ arrangements are superb. From the opening track “The Salamander – Main Titles”, you’re back with Goldsmith conducting one of his more aggressive and muscular scores and a unique theme in that he utilizes some neat slithry effects (evoking The Salamander) emphisized by a piercing synth motif along with powerful brass and percussion which kind of evokes his exceptional Main Title music to “Capricorn One”. “Funeral: Requiem For A General” Goldsmith introduces a rather elegaic track that features a wonderful choral reading by the Prague musicians. The rest of the score features Goldsmith trademark action and suspense licks that were really part of this excellent period in his career such as the propulsive “The Car Chase”, the ambiant and distorted sounds of “Car Bomb / Torture / Death Of The Surgeon”, the driving percussion of “Photographs / Steffi’s Abduction” and the excellent suspense of “Island Adventure”. Goldsmith also provides a love theme for Dante and Lili (“Dante And Lili”, “Phone Call To Lili / The Forest”, “Goodbyes & End Credits) that is very lush and tender and bring an air of relief to the tense action material. There isn’t enough that could be said about this recording, which is exceptional in every nauance and easily one of the best ones of this year so far. Thumbs way up!