Movie Wave Home
Reviews by Title | Reviews by Composer

Composed by

* * * * *

Album running time

Performed by
conducted by


Engineered by
Produced by

Released by
Serial number

Artwork copyright (c) 1968 Turner Entertainment Co.; review copyright (c) 2004 James Southall



Extraordinary, colossal score for political/religious epic


Alex North was no stranger to epics when he scored The Shoes of the Fisherman, the 1968 movie directed by Michael Anderson telling the fictional story of the first Russian to become Pope, combining political and religious intrigue with a cold war theme.  At the time it was unthinkable that a non-Italian may become Pope - but only ten years later, Karel Wojita, a Pole, did just that, the first non-Italian in the position in almost five centuries.  The cast was illustrious, featuring Anthony Quinn as the new Pope (who had only recently been released from a Russian gulag where he had been held as a political prisoner) and also Laurence Olivier, John Gielgud, Oskar Werner and, to top it all, Burt Kwouk as the Mao Tse Tung-style Chinese leader.  North had, of course, already scored the likes of Cleopatra and Spartacus, but this was an entirely different kind of epic - no swords, no sandals, but it was a very modern tale, so ironically North used music from a more futuristic epic, his rejected score from 2001.

The score opens with an Overture which is magnificent, portentous even by North's standards, sees the familiar opening music from 2001 adapted for use here, and it is stunningly effective at creating an awe-inspiring portrait of divine presence on Earth.  The Overture also consists of two other sections, a theme inspired by Russian folk music for the Pope himself and a considerably more romantic theme in a surprisingly modern pop style, which closes the piece.  These three ideas form the basis for much of the music.  Unsurprisingly, it is the former which has the most impact, particularly in tracks for important moments such as "Arrival of the Cardinals" and "The Election".  There is a regal stateliness which is imposing and tremendously rousing.  Elsewhere, there are a few magnificent set-pieces, most notably the gloriously powerful "Kiril is Proclaimed Pope" and choral "Coronation".

As with most of Hollywood's grandest productions of the day, there was not only an overture composed solely to be used before the movie actually started, but also an entr'acte and full piece for exit music for when the lights went back up.  The entr'acte is another first-rate piece, ushered in by another rendition of the main theme and then featuring some stunning music for the opening of movie's second half, aerial shots of the Vatican.  The next couple of cues are surprisingly sprightly, featuring mandolins and a balalaika, with "Adventure" culminating with one of the lengthiest presentations of the pop-based theme.  "Consolation" is a gorgeous, truly beautiful string theme, quintessential North.  

There won't be a better film score released this year than this one, and as ever Film Score Monthly has gone mad with the presentation, not only providing a generous suite of alternate takes but also various source music and even music from two other 1968 MGM releases which wouldn't fit on FSM's albums, with demo cues by Michel Legrand for Ice Station Zebra and Ron Goodwin's complete original album recording of his sweeping Where Eagles Dare.  There are also extensive (and I mean extensive) liner notes by Lukas Kendall and Jeff Bond, rounding out this tremendous album.  The Shoes of the Fisherman is easily among North's finest works - no fan of the composer could be without this release.  There is a ton of music that wasn't on the original LP (and identical CD bootleg) so even if you have that, this is an essential purchase.  A masterpiece.

Disc One

  1. Overture (4:02)
  2. Main Title (2:00)
  3. Kiril's Release / Kamenev (2:33)
  4. Rome (2:32)
  5. Pope and Kiril / Announcement / St Peter's Square (2:18)
  6. Ceremony (3:10)
  7. Arrival of the Cardinals (3:03)
  8. The Election (4:37)
  9. Kiril's Past (1:38)
  10. Kiril is Proclaimed Pope / White Smoke (3:59)
  11. Entr'acte / Leone (2:25)
  12. Kiril's Loneliness (2:12)
  13. Adventure (2:15)
  14. Consolation / Tiny Folly (6:54)
  15. Commission's Reaction / Telemond's Death (2:23)
  16. Solitary Pilgrimage / Daybreak at St Peter's (2:39)
  17. The Gathering (2:19)
  18. Coronation (4:29)
  19. End Title / End Cast (1:32)
  20. Exit Music (2:00)
  21. Main Title (alternate) (2:48)
  22. Election of the Pope (film version) (4:01)
  23. Kiril's Loneliness (2:12)
  24. Theme from The Shoes of the Fisherman (1:58)
  25. Solitary Pilgrimage (alternate) (2:25)
  26. Coronation (alternate) (:46)
  27. End Titles (Leone version) (1:02)
  28. Rome (alternate) / Main Title (excerpt) (1:57)


Disc Two

The Shoes of the Fisherman (source music)

  1. Veni Creator Spiritus (7:08)
  2. Tu Es Petrus (6:00)
  3. Celebration (1:40)
  4. Roman Band (:27)
  5. Zoo (1:05)
  6. Roman Party (2:53)
  7. Tiny Folly (jazz version) (2:18)
  8. Tiny Folly (film version) (2:29)

Ice Station Zebra (demonstration tracks; composed by Michel Legrand)

  1. Water Theme (3:19)
  2. Theme from Ice Station Zebra (3:23)
  3. Water Theme / Theme from Ice Station Zebra (2:55)

Where Eagles Dare (album recording; composed by Ron Goodwin)

  1. Main Title (3:05)
  2. Ascent on the Cable Car (7:06)
  3. Pursued by the Enemy (4:04)
  4. The Booby Trap (3:20)
  5. Encounter in the Castle (2:03)
  6. On Enemy Territory (4:00)
  7. Descent and Fight on the Cable Car (7:16)
  8. The Chase to the Airfield (3:43)
  9. Beguine / Polka / Fox Trot (5:36)