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Cahill: United States Marshal
  • Composed by Elmer Bernstein
  • Intrada / 2013 / 43m

John Wayne was nearing the end of his career when he made the relatively low-budget Cahill: United States Marshal in 1973, one of a number of westerns he made in the period which seem to have a reflective nature which mirrored the end of the actor’s life and career with the end of the West.  Elmer Bernstein was on board for many of those films – Cahill was the fifth of six Wayne westerns he scored between 1961 and 1976 – and he was the perfect composer for them.  Like all the others, this score features a wonderful main theme – and Bernstein gets quite some mileage from it during the course of the score.  The expansive, orchestral treatments are the best, but the composer also pares it down to surprisingly intimate, much smaller arrangements with guitar lending a homely touch, then later in the score it is turned into a song for a couple of sequences, “A Man Gets To Thinkin'” with lyrics by Don Black and vocals by Charlie Rich which sounds like a bit of an afterthought (and reading Jeff Bond’s liner notes, it sounds like that’s exactly what it was).

There’s one immense action track here, the seven-and-a-half minute “Killers”, a thrilling piece of music featuring Bernstein’s typically brash action style.  There’s more action later, though much of it comes in the form of shorter cues that seem to be over before they’ve done much; an exception is the excellent “Necktie Party”, with shrill winds contrasting thunderous brass and percussion, the jovial main theme appearing in fragmented form through the cue and nicely balancing against the darker nature of much of the cue.  Later, “Various Troubles”, immediately before the rousing finale, is another thunderous (and lengthy) piece of action music.  Impressive too are the more intimate pieces, particularly the moving “Born to Hang” and the desperate, anguished “Cemetery”, though again several of these are so brief they don’t have time to leave much of an impression.  Notable is the sound quality – this is by far the best-sounding Bernstein western score I’ve heard.  Elmer Bernstein scoring John Wayne was always worth hearing and this is no exception – it’s not in the top tier of scores the composer wrote for the Duke, but it’s still a highly entertaining and impressive album.  A couple of cues were included on the popular albums the composer did for Varèse Sarabande in the mid-1980s when he conducted some of his John Wayne music with the Utah Symphony Orchestra, but this album marks the film recording’s début on any form of album, so is obviously a must-have for fans of Bernstein.

Rating: *** 1/2 | |

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  1. Sam Juliano (Reply) on Tuesday 19 February, 2013 at 19:23

    I am a Bernstein fantastic and have been collecting every single new release of his work over the past several years. This was not a film I remember well though, and if Bernstein were not the composer I might take a pass. But I’ll be ordering it this week, and much appreciate this terrific review. I’m thrilled to hear the high praise for that seven-and-a-half minute action sequence. I know Elmer is prone to excelling at that.