Visit the Movie Wave Store | Movie Wave Home | Reviews by Title | Reviews by Composer | Contact me
WOMAN OBSESSED and
IN LOVE AND WAR
Fine pair of Friedhofer gems
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
* * * *
Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 2007 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation; review copyright (c) 2007 James Southall
It is customary to begin any review of a Hugo Friedhofer album by lamenting the fact that this magnificent film composer is still so little-known and little-discussed. One of the true greats of golden age film music, it is mystifying why he is so rarely discussed on the same page as North, Herrmann, Waxman and Newman - but it remains the case, despite the very welcome, slow-but-steady stream of Friedhofer gems being made available on CD at last by labels like Intrada and Varese Sarabande. The latest release is from Intrada and pairs one very well-known score - In Love and War - with a more obscure one, Woman Obsessed.
It is the latter which opens the disc and is, if anything, the more substantial and impressive work. Vintage Friedhofer, it features so much of what makes his music so delightful - unafraid to use gritty, modernistic music to underscore the more adult sequences of this 1959 melodrama, the composer also uses some gorgeous, light romantic music for other parts. Some of the action music is shriekingly, uncompromisingly powerful - and Friedhofer had such a talent for orchestration, the music stays constantly interesting and constantly rewarding. Listening to "Lone Woman", it's easy to detect a Herrmannesque intelligence in his psychological treatment of the scene - but if anything, Friedhofer's slightly more restrained inclinations could make it even more effective.
Woman Obsessedis a surprisingly rich and varied score, given the nature of the film (though it's less of a surprise, given the nature of its composer). The gorgeous romantic sections sit so easily alongside the pounding action music, it's a fine testament to Friedhofer's ability to conjure up this kind of score. It's an unexpected gem - the film is obscure, the score consequently little-known - so it's thanks to Fox's Nick Redman and the guys at Intrada for rescuing it from obscurity.
It's ironic that such a wonderful score isn't actually the album's headliner - that honour goes instead to In Love and War, the 1958 movie following three US Marines and their attempts to return to their former lives during shore leave in San Francisco during WWII. The score opens with a stirring march which is one of the composer's most memorable themes, brassy and punchy and arresting. A major secondary theme is the jazzy, slightly murky "Sue and Alan", which is highly evocative of adapting to life in the big city. Indeed, it is this mixture of styles which characterises the score and is its most impressive feature. There's some gorgeous music in this brief (25-minute) set of selections from the score, though it is not quite as distinctive as Friedhofer's very best.
This is a fine album, with the 50-year-old recordings sounding good, and comes with Julie Kirgo's enjoyable liner notes. Friedhofer is a composer who truly deserves greater recognition, and thanks to labels like Intrada, maybe he'll finally start getting it.