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*** 1/2

Album running time

1: Fox Fanfare (Newman) (:19)
2: Main Title (2:35)
3: Fox Hunt (1:39)
4: Sperl Polka (Strauss) (1:29)
5: Goodnight (1:01)
6: O'Neill's Garden / Cape Town Street (7:04)
7: Vorwärts (3:56)
8: The Accident (2:32)
9: Zulu Attack (2:07)
10: The Commandos (1:56)
11: Paul Finds Katje / Hoffen Valley (3:56)
12: After the Dance (1:55)
13: After the Fight / By the River (6:30)
14: Back to the Commandos (2:34)
15: Kurt is Back (1:58)
16: Planting (1:56)
17: Lightning (3:05)
18: After the Storm (3:03)
19: The Diamond (2:10)
20: Sörgenbrecher (Strauss) (2:24)
21: At the Beach (1:17)
22: Paul's Son / To Kolesburg
23: Finale (2:44)

Performed by
conducted by


Produced by

Released by
Serial number
FSM Vol 4 No 4

Artwork copyright (c) 1955 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation; review copyright (c) 2002 James Southall

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Fairly standard Waxman adventure score with one incredible track

I hate to say it, I really do, but for all the criticism that both classical music snobs and golden age film music snobs launch at modern film music, it's impossible not to level some criticism at some film music from the golden age. For one thing, no matter what the subject of the film, you could pretty much take a score from one film and put it in the next one and nobody would notice all that much. It's always amusing to read about how Miklós Rózsa went away for three years and lived with the natives to immerse himself in the musical culture of the period or location of whatever film he was about to score because then he'd come back and his score would sound just the same as all his others. Now, I say that with my tongue planted firmly in my cheek, but reading the liner notes from Untamed (a film about which I know precisely nothing), I see that the film is about a love triangle set against the formation of South Africa. But listen to the music and it could be a biblical epic, a mediaeval adventure yarn, a contemporary romance or pretty much anything. There's no sense of time or place in the music. One criticism of modern composers is that they are so chameleonic that they have no real style of their own, but fifty years ago the reverse would seem to be true: composers wrote music first and foremost, refusing to budge an inch to accommodate the needs of the film.

Anyway, the net result of that is that a far higher proportion of albums from films scored in the 1950s contain great music than those from 2002. Franz Waxman was until recently sorely under-represented on CD, but the likes of Film Score Monthly and Varčse Sarabande have been addressing that for a couple of years now and Untamed is part of FSM's Golden Age Classics series. It's slightly unusual in that it contains one of the most stunning pieces of Waxman's Hollywood career but by and large doesn't quite hold up to his strongest work.

Let's start with that main title piece: a multitude of horn fanfares echo around before the actual theme sweeps through, performed of course by the full orchestra. It's a piece of vintage golden age film music, easily one of the best themes I can think of and it alone would make the album worth buying. The rest of the score is, as I suggested earlier, not all that distinguished - this is not to suggest it's not good, but it seems slightly less coherent than most of Waxman's work. There are some fine moments, especially the gorgeous romantic material in "The Diamond" and thrilling, pulse-pounding "Lightning". But overall much of the action music is just a little turgid for my tastes, the orchestration perhaps a little thicker than usual, and I'm not sure the style suits Waxman too well.

As ever, FSM's presentation is immaculate, with very detailed liner notes (doubly impressive given the obscurity of the film) and dynamic stereo sound. There's also a reproduction of the film's original poster, which amusingly has "AFRICOLOSSAL!" sprawled across it. It's not one of Waxman's best, but even average Waxman is always entertaining, and the main title is breathtaking.