Visit the Movie Wave Store | Movie Wave Home | Reviews by Title | Reviews by Composer | Contact me
SEVEN CITIES OF GOLD
Exotic action/adventure score is a treat for Friedhofer fans
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
* * * *
Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 1955 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation; review copyright (c) 2007 James Southall
A 1955 historical movie about Spanish explorers trying to find buried gold in California, Seven Cities of Gold is mostly-forgotten today, but such is the way of the world its soundtrack was released for the first time late in 2006. It's amazing that this sort of thing is seeing the light of day, and most welcome too, because it provides a chance to hear more music by Hugo Friedhofer, one of the greats of Golden Age film music but one who is sorely underrepresented on disc compared with his illustrious peers.
A different Spanish-flavoured historical epic (Captain from Castille) inspired Alfred Newman to write one of film music's most indelible scores, and if Friedhofer doesn't quite attain those standards here (the film, I suspect, was never going to provide him with the opportunity of doing so) his score is still a treat for fans. Lively and energetic throughout, Friedhofer's score is full of adventure and excitement. There are several main themes, with a wonderful Spanish hue emblazoned on each of them, and when the composer is in bright and breezy mode the results are all very enjoyable - but Friedhofer often injected a surprisingly stark dramaticism into his music which was a little atypical of the day, and it is probably in these moments that his music here really shines - "Column Through the Pass" retains the Spanish flair, but also features punchy low-end music which adds a dynamism to proceedings which is most welcome.
In amongst this excellent "showy" material, there is really impressive dramatic music composed in a more subtle way - "Lieutenant Exits" is a beautiful, strained string piece. "Serra Walks Away" is another fine example, with dischordant notes striking throughout against the anguished feeling generated by Friedhofer's clever suspense music. This is followed by the score's darkest action music, "Jose Salutes Portola", which is quite ferocious in its way and one of the highlights. Of course, there's romance here, and Friedhofer does this well too, though perhaps not so strikingly as (say) Newman would have - the score's real asset is its more dramatic music, particularly when Friedhofer is displaying his flair for florid, expressive orchestration - but the sweepin g finale, "Departure", is impossible to resist!
The album also includes a brief (15-minute) suite from the same composer's The Rains of Ranchipur. Sadly those 15 minutes are all that survive of the score, but it's still a treat to have them - the film is set in India and Friedhofer wastes no opportunity to indulge in delightfully exotic music. It's very rich and rewarding, particularly the glorious main theme, and it would be great if some day more could be made available (doubtful though that seems at the moment). It rounds off a fine album which is sure to be appreciated by all Friedhofer fans - he really was one of the great film composers, and even if Seven Cities of Gold isn't quite at the level of his very best, it is still highly accomplished and most welcome indeed.