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THE BRIDGE AT REMAGEN
and THE TRAIN
Excellent combination of war music by two of film music's finest
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
The Bridge at Remagen composed by
The Train composed by
* * * *
Bridge at Remagen orchestration
Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 1964 The Wolper Organisation; review copyright (c) 2007 James Southall
A popular WW2 movie released in 1969, The Bridge at Remagen is a fictionalised account of the struggle to control an essential bridge over the Rhine in Germany towards the end of the war. Starring George Segal and Robert Vaughn, it was directed by Robert Guillerman, but it was probably producer David L. Wolper - best known at that time for his documentaries - who hired composer Elmer Bernstein - he had previously scored several of Wolper's documentaries, including Hollywood and the Stars.
The composer's boistrous main theme for The Bridge at Remagen is one of his most aggressive and stirring, a dramatic piece given a full workout in the opening titles (what a pity films these days rarely allow their composers such an opportunity). While this type of large-scale music is certainly given its share of air time in the relatively brief score, perhaps even more striking are the surprisingly touching, typically-deft cues which underscore the movie's more humanistic moments. "Aftermath" features music which is really not far removed from To Kill a Mockingbird, and is genuinely lovely.
Having said that, it's the action which dominates, and Bernstein certainly pulls no punches. Aside from the stirring main title piece, "Defences" includes a thrilling middle section including some strident brass writing; "Remagen" is thunderous and uncompromising, finding Bernstein in an unusually modernistic vein; "Hartman" features a triumphant version of the main theme which is really quite stirring; and the finale is predictably rousing. It's a terrific score by Bernstein - he is rightly-lauded for his westerns and his deft scores for adult dramas, but these large-scale scores are not mentioned so much; The Bridge at Remagen is one of the best.
That score is so fine that, even though it's relatively short, it would make a highly-recommended album already - but Film Score Monthly like to pack their CDs full, and so in addition to a top-class score by Elmer Bernstein, we get one by Maurice Jarre too, with his music to John Frankenheimer's The Train. The films are connected because of their WW2 settings (though they're very different animals) - the scores, by their dynamite main themes. Jarre's for The Train is, in his own unmistakable way, just as rousing as Bernstein's; cleverly suggesting the motion of the train at the centre of the film, it is passionate and exciting and full of a uniquely French sense of romance about the whole thing.
After some more rhythmic action material in "The Train" comes the softer "Papa Boule Theme", full of gallic flair. "The Hub" is full of strident action music, which is particularly faw and forceful even by Jarre's standards - it's vintage stuff. Indeed, the whole score is tremendously entertaining, the kind of old-fashioned score which nobody would write today but which is so full of charm it is difficult to resist. Jarre is hardly the most subtle composer and so his outlandishly expressive music seems to come from a different world, let alone just a few decades ago, but it's hard to see how many people could fail to be taken in by its charms. It plays its part in a very fine release, undoubtedly FSM's finest since they released the Elmer Bernstein Film Music Collection.
The Bridge at Remagen tracks
The Train tracks