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BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES
Powerful, complex work from Rosenman is no monkey business
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
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Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 1970 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation; review copyright (c) 2008 James Southall.
A nuclear bomb is at the heart of the first sequel to Planet of the Apes, with mutant humans living below the planet surface planning to use it to wipe out the apes on the surface. Oh, and they worship it too. Obviously the opportunity was not lost to indulge in lots of moralising and it's a very disappointing follow-up to the first film, seeming even more silly and trite today than it must have done at the time. Astoundingly, Jerry Goldsmith didn't score the film and opted instead to work on Patton, demonstrating an extremely rare moment of good taste when it came to picking his projects.
The composer enlisted by Twentieth Century Fox was no slouch though - far from it, Leonard Rosenman being one of the most innovative and daring of all film composers. Of course, Goldsmith's music for the first film was innovative and daring - but it sounds like Francis Lai's Love Story when you put it up against Rosenman's extraordinarily complex, dense, uncompromisingly aggressive music for Beneath the Planet of the Apes. A few electronic effects are used, but it is largely orchestral, Rosenman using every trick up his sleeve to craft a distant, alien soundscape from traditional earth-bound instruments. This is atonal music at its best - creative, and indicative of the singular artistic vision of its creator. The composer's attitude was obviously to ignore the quality of the film and instead celebrate the fact that it allowed him such freedom of expression to create a score which had probably been bubbling inside him for some time.
Such organic music really needs to be heard in its entirity to be appreciated fully, but there are a few moments which stand out. The aggressive main title is certainly one; "Captured" is a truly thrilling piece of barbaric action music; "Off to War" is a crazed, manic march; and "Hail the Bomb" a truly bizarre piece with theorchestra joined by a jolly choral chant which incorporates "Oh What a Beautiful Morning"! It's very strange; but very effective.
This is an extraordinary film score. It's one that you have to be in precisely the right mood to fully appreciate; and is so unreletingly dissonant that many will probably never fully appreciate it. But for this uninitiated listener, I found tentatively dipping my feet in from time to time before fully immersing myself allowed me to get to know the music, and in time be in awe of it. Typically for Film Score Monthly, after the extraordinary original score and a couple of bonus cues comes the original album presentation, which is very different - an almost psychadelic experience, with 70s pop beats laid on top of rearranged selections from the score, performed by a reduced orchestra. If anything it's even more difficult to get into, but a fascinating experience all the same. The package is rounded out by extensive, informative liner notes; and the sound quality is top-notch. Beneath the Planet of the Apes is one of the most daring scores that one of the most daring film composers ever wrote - a tough listen - but give it time, and it's worth it.