CD / DVD / Blu-ray Reviews
Gareth Bramley comments on the newly released "The Music of ITC" double CD.
November 7, 2009
Unfortunately, despite being on of the most-loved ITC series, a lot of the music from The Persuaders! is believed to be lost in its original format. The song Gotta Get Away featured in the series' opener, Overture, and has been released on various collections since (the only release I know of is the original Columbia LP from 1971/2 by Trent & Hatch). The opening and closing credits made use of the same piece of music, reduced to a 29 second edit for the end titles.
On this set - as I predicted - we hear the original opening theme with the normal outro (i.e. without the cymbalom which was stuck on for the single release) but I think it is mono as it appears from the original series and fades quite significantly at the end.
Comprises: Main titles / Song / Instrumental of song (Hatch / Thorne) and a further incidental theme which I recall vividly.
A great shame most of the Thorne stuff is lost but my guess is that he will have it (and copies) and has so far been unable to issue it. I loved all that stuff he did and pity only one real theme is included here. Sure the main titles is Mono but hard to tell.
As I had hoped it includes both versions of the theme. One is the usual main title and the alternate theme which was only used as the end theme on some episodes - 5 if I recall. So the other episodes they just used the main title instead of the end title theme.
They list it on the CD as Closing titles alternate version so I guess it was just down to whether they had more or less credits at the end which determined which version they used - the alternate version or the reprise of the opening theme.
The other track is the Italian Main Titles which we saw on the DVD! Awful and an unknown composer. A good recording on all three tracks and could well be stereo as sounds like it - not faded too abruptly either so full marks to the compilers here as we now have 2 more rare Barry tracks on CD - 3 with the alternate Persuaders Theme.
The Biography of Don Black
Author: James Inverne, Don Black
Foreword: John Barry
(222 pages, plus 16 pages of separate b & w photos)
Published: Sanctuary Publishing
02 Jun 2003
List Price: £16.99
"Born a working-class East End boy in the 50s, over 40 years Black went on to write hundreds of songs for some of the most enduring hits of film and stage, such as "Born Free", "Diamonds Are Forever", "Sunset Boulevard" and "Out of Africa". He picked up a weatlh of accolades along the way, including Academy Award nominations and five Ivor Novello Awards, as well as collaborating with musical legends such as John Barry, Michael Jackson, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Quincy Jones. This biography covers the true rags-to-riches story of Don Black, up to his successes with "Bombay Dreams" and "Romeo and Juliet". "
Review by Geoff Leonard:
08 June 2003
Black Goes With Everything
Or so they say. It was certainly the name of an excellent musical I saw a few years ago, in Bromley, Kent, when around 30 of Don Black's songs were performed by a variety of talented artists and dancers in a two-hour show. The show hasn't yet found a home in the West End of London and doesn't get a mention in James Inverne's compelling biography, Wrestling With Elephants - The Authorised Biography of Don Black, just published by Sanctuary Publishing. However, it appears to be about the only thing which doesn't get a mention in this fascinating 'rags to riches' tale, which chronicles both successes and failures in an illustrious 40 years plus career in the music, film and theatre business.
Inverne clearly got plenty of help from his subject and his immediate family, as he did from several of Black's collaborators and singers of his songs, like John Barry, Elmer Bernstein, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Elaine Paige and Lulu. This is a big advantage for a biographer and not only does it create a feeling of integrity, it also gives the impression of frankness and honesty throughout - a refreshing change for a musical biography.
Black himself comes across as a very modest fellow. Proud of his success, yes, but never boastful, and always prepared to admit when something hasn't worked out and keen to establish the possible reason. So, we are entertained and thrilled by stories of his Oscar win for Born Free or his first, massive, stage musical hit, Billy, but can empathise with him when Budgie, which appeared to be a perfect idea for a musical, unaccountably failed to attract an audience. We can laugh along with his stories of John Barry offering to fight John Phillips of the Mamas & Papas, or his own beginnings as a stand-up comic (Don Black - A Living Joke), whereas we can share his sorrow and frustration as manager of Matt Monro, a wonderfully talented singer who could not stop drinking. Monro was obviously a very close friend of his, it was much more than manager and star relationship, and for the first time Black talks about how he fought to hide Monro's alcoholism from the public.
Overall, though, this book is about a successful career and having a lot of fun along the way. It's also a story of a man who is a bit of workaholic - he worries if he hasn't written anything for three weeks, for example. It's about a man who cherishes lyrics and cares deeply about every word he writes. To this end, he goes further than many of his contemporaries by explaining in detail why he takes a certain route in writing a song and even presents his 'Ten Golden Rules of Lyric Writing'!
Black is never one to dwell too long in the past and is always looking for a new challenge. In this respect, John Barry fans will be pleased to hear that Brighton Rock, the stage musical he is writing with Barry, is still going to plan. He even relates an amusing story of telling JB that the ten melodies he had sent were all melancholy and they couldn't possibly have ten sad songs. To which Barry retorted "It's not a ****ing picnic, it's about hell."!!
The book contains some rare photos of Black, his family, friends and collaborators taken throughout the course of his life and career. It also contains a moving foreword by John Barry, in which he talks of a deep mutual respect, trust and loyalty. It's easy to see why the two friends have worked together so happily for almost 40 years.
I recommend this book unreservedly to one and all. I'm about to read it again!!
Geoff Leonard, June 2003.
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland - the DVDs
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (Released 25.04.05), DVD, released in UK.
Widescreen 2.35:1 Anamorphic, English.
A fifiteen year old Fiona Fullerton heads an all star British cast in this double BAFTA winning musical comedy-widely regarded as the most lavish and most faithful adaptation of Lewis Carroll's classic Fantasy Novel.
One of the most enduring classic stories of all time! Fully restored, digitally remastered in correct 'Scope Aspect Ratio! Gorgeous Limited Edition DVD boxset with Book! Grade 'A' all star British cast!
Filmed to mark the centenary of the completion of the Alice novels, this extravagantly lush British spectacle, which brings Sir John Tenniel's famous illustrations enchantingly to life with a bewitching score by James Bond composer John Barry and BAFTA winning cinematography by Geoffrey Unsworth (2001: A Space Odyssey), is presented for the first time on DVD in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 Todd-AO 35 'Scope alongside the classic novel upon which it is most faithfully based.
Stars: Michael Crawford, Peter Sellers, Dudley Moore, Spike Milligan, Sir Michael Hordern, Fiona Fullerton, Sir Ralph Richardson, Dame Flora Robson, Roy Kinnear, Michael Jayston, Hywell Bennett.
* This DVD box set release includes the classic Lewis Carroll book on which the film is based!
On Saturday the 2nd of April, the Daily Express (UK) issued a free DVD with that day's edition of their newspaper. It's from the same source as the forthcoming official UK release (mentioned above), but came in a CD-style cover containing the Daily Express Logo. Readers were also given the opportunity to get a free CD containing the 'Alice Through the Looking Glass' story the following day, in The Sunday Express.
David Wishart commented on the free DVD [Hiachresis discussion group]:
"I mentioned in an earlier post that the sound was "a bit ropey" on this DVD. Well now I know why. It was late here in the UK and I thought I'd not disturb anyone by popping the headphones on and listening to the film that way. Aha ... the producers of the DVD - or someone along the way - had sought to "stereorise" the mono sound! It might sound a bit ropey via speakers but its damned near impossible to listen to on headphones!"
by Geoff Leonard, December 1, 2003
Here is an idea of the poor quality of the Platinum Disc 'Alice' DVD. Click on the jpgs to get a better idea and then imagine it enlarged many times again.
Page best watched at 1024 x 768 or higher.
Here is my review from 2001:
'Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland’ has been released on DVD
Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland’ has been released on DVD. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the print is so bad, I’ve got a ten-year old video taped from TV with a faulty aerial in better shape! So, only get this if you are desperate (it is cheap) and even then think twice and do without it.
The company concerned is Platinum Disc Corporation of La Crosse, WI, USA, and may God have mercy on them for having the nerve to put this out for public consumption.
It’s pan and scan, unsurprisingly and appears to be region free. Pity the whole thing wasn’t! It’s such a shame that it’s not a decent transfer as it’s an excellent film. In fact, I was quite surprised to find so much music not on the original Warner Brothers LP. This is definitely a candidate for some enterprising company or person to re-record with all the songs and musical bridges intact.
Another release on dvd found
"December 16, 2003.
A widescreen Alice's Adventures in Wonderland DVD is available at:
I (Alan, ed.) have received it and here are my comments:
The good news:
The web page says Region 4, but it's Region free.
The web page says Full Screen, but it's Widescreen 2.35 letterbox.
The bad news:
The web page page says Stereo, but soundtrack is mono DD 2.0
Video quality is a lot better than the poor Platinum canadian release.
Audio quality is standard mono (clean but not hifi). "
To enable capture from PowerDVD, I had to disable the hardware-assist feature, and the motion of characters may be somewhat blurred.
Pan and scan captures provided by Geoff Leonard.
Widescreen captures provided by Alan More.
In addition to the previously reviewed Platinum Corp and Aussie DVDs, there are now four more versions available. Here is what detail we can establish (very sketchy) with a warning that it's very likely that only the Universal one (out shortly) is official.
|Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (Digitally Remastered)
Studio: Digiview Productions
Format: Color, Full Screen
Audio Encoding: Stereo
|Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
Studio: Westlake Ent. Group
Format: Color, DTS Surround Sound, Original recording remastered
| Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
Studio: Bci Eclipse Company
Format: Color, Closed-captioned
| Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
Studio: Universal Studios
Features: Full Frame 1.33
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.1 English
Reproduced here (as restored from Film Score Monthly thread):
Good news and bad. The Good: Prometheus issues World Premiere Release of original soundtrack from J. Lee Thompson western drama starring Charles Bronson as Wild Bill Hickok. Barry's dark, dramatic score plays to moodiness of picture, captures images of massive, symbolic animal and Native American settings. Lean strings, expressive French horns, solid percussion riffs are highlights.
The Bad: Outer packaging somewhat deceptively mentions source material as "best available". Inner packaging notes "archival" status, unavailability of multi-track masters and mentions a pair of tracks having traces of faint dialog. In actuality, anomalies exist throughout, suggesting some tracks transfered from production tapes used by music editors, etc. Additional liability: pinched mono sound. WHITE BUFFALO is important John Barry music, foreshadowing more-celebrated work ahead. This limited edition album is - however - a disappointment.