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FSM Vol 5 No 17

Artwork copyright (c) 1957 Turner Entertainment Company; review copyright (c) 2005 James Southall



Colourful oriental score


A movie version of Somerset Maugham's The Painted Veil, The Seventh Sin is about the moral journey of an unfaithful woman's affairs and eventual redemption, set in Hong Kong in 1949.  This would seem like an ideal opportunity to combine glorious exotic locations with film noir (two things that make the choice of composer seem perfect) but sadly neither was really to be - the former was spoiled by director Ronald Neame's decision to shoot in black and white in an attempt to bolster the appearance of the latter, but in the end it fulfilled neither aspect of its promise.

On board to provide the music was MGM's senior composer, Miklos Rozsa, tackling a less high-profile assignment than usual.  It is often said (and I hold my hands up here as a guilty party) that whatever location, whatever time period, whatever dramatic moment Rozsa is scoring, it ends up sounding pretty much like the others, so the obvious ethnic elements in the score come as a not-unwelcome surprise.  That said, the main theme is vintage Rozsa stuff, not overtly hinting at the period or location of the film, but being typically stirring dramatic stuff.  There is more than the occasional memory of the composer's famous scores for the legendary 1940s films noir like Double Indemnity and so on, with him laying on the drama in no uncertain terms.

The "travelogue" elements of the story are accompanied by colourful Oriental-style music - you'd never mistake it as being by anyone other than Rozsa, but it's still a side to the composer not frequently heard.  Cues such as "Boat Trip" and "Cortege" are good examples.  Later, "East Meets West / Tea Party" is an absolutely lovely bit of tender scoring, in great contrast to some of the somewhat bombastic music which has gone before.  Things climax with a lengthy cue "Bad News / Rough Passage / Forgiveness" which is amongst the score's most dramatic and impressive, and then a rousing, impressive "Finale".

Part of Film Score Monthly's "Golden Age Classics" series, The Seventh Sin is not classic Rozsa, but is still an entertaining and engaging listen.  The album's production values are first-rate, with the mono sound being pretty much as good as could be expected for something this old, and the liner notes by Jeff Bond and Lukas Kendall are interesting.  Add in a nice cover (and of course the fine music!) and you have a good all-round package.

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  1. Prelude (2:15)
  2. Briefcase (1:55)
  3. Alibi / Mystery Story (4:26)
  4. Homecoming (1:21)
  5. Boat Trip (:51)
  6. Cortege (2:16)
  7. Alone (:49)
  8. Nursery / Turmoil / Reminiscences (5:38)
  9. Rape (2:07)
  10. East Meets West / Tea Party (5:25)
  11. New Life (2:20)
  12. Home (1:15)
  13. Bad News / Rough Passage / Forgiveness (7:17)
  14. Finale (2:01)
  15. Chinese Montage (16:27)
  16. Waltz (2:23)