Movie Wave Home | Reviews by Title | Reviews by Composer
SADDLE THE WIND
Early Bernstein western score offers a few glimpses of what's to come
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Unused score composed by
* * *
Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 1958 Turner Entertainment Co.; review copyright (c) 2006 James Southall
A somewhat standard western notable mostly for having been written by Rod Serling, Saddle the Wind had a few production problems back when it was made in 1958. Having been completed, and scored by MGM music department member Jeff Alexander, the film underwent considerable reshoots, considerable enough in fact that an entirely new score was required - nobody, least of all people who read this album's liner notes, or even Elmer Bernstein himself when asked within them, knows whether or not Alexander was asked to re-score it, but he didn't, so Elmer Bernstein came in. While he had written a couple of western scores already, he hadn't yet done The Magnificent Seven at the time.
A song sharing its name with the film was written by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans for the film, and used in both sets of credits; as sung by Julie London it's appealing enough, if rather dated, but sadly it probably denied Bernstein the chance to write his own particularly memorable theme. There is a little theme which runs through the score, but it's not particularly noteworthy and is hardly likely to join the list of great Bernstein western themes (a list which is not particularly short).
Indeed, Bernstein's score is surprisingly dull for some time, before suddenly bursting to life with the brief action track "Dallas Shoots" which lasts for less than a minute but seems to stir the composer into life and energise him for the whole of the score's second half, which is infinitely more interesting, with some driving, exciting music. It certainly never reaches the standard of either Seven or The Comancheros (which followed very shortly afterwards and is also available on Film Score Monthly), but it's got some curiosity value as being the oldest Bernstein western score released on CD so far.
FSM being FSM, they haven't just released Bernstein's score, but as a bonus presented Alexander's complete rejected one as well. Alexander wrote a large number of scores, but is barely represented on CD at all, and it's interesting to note that his approach to the film appears to be very similar to Bernstein's. He adds a little more colour by using guitar and florid wind solos alongside the orchestra, but his music never quite raises to the (comparative) heights of Bernstein's.
Sound quality is, sadly, mono and a little pinched from time to time, but perfectly listenable; Jeff Bond and Lukas Kendall contribute interesting liner notes; and there's a dreadful, truly garish front cover. Musically, it's not going to rock anybody's world, but it's quite nice to have such an early western score from Bernstein, even if it's only in brief patches that he demonstrates hints of the greatness to come.