Although Franz Waxman makes generous (and necessary) use of Alfred Newman’s theme from The Robe [M] (1953), he does manage to inject his own thematic material into the sequel, as well as Robe variations that are sometimes less soothing than Newman’s elegiac renditions, plus action cues that seem to feel more modern, if not possess a bit more verve.
Part of the style shift may be due to Delmer Daves’ obvious comfort with the film’s CinemaScope ratio: the film moves like any other action film & melodrama, and Waxman was never one to shy away from fast-action cues with an arresting use of pizzicato strings, brash brass (as in the fabulous pre-credit sequence), or big orchestral stabs.
Demetrius is still faithful to Newman’s design of high register notes, grinding low chords, and eerie / elegiac chorals, but it’s the flawless integration of new material and the smooth variations that bridge little theme fragments which makes Demetrius such a memorable score.
Waxman also manages to stay away from the bathos inherent to the Biblical epic, but unlike The Robe, he also has a greater range of corrupt characters from which to sketch more dramatic musical arcs, be it evil slimy Caligula, sultry bitch Messalina, or Demetrius himself when he moves from Jesus Boy to gladiator, and back to being a good Christian in the finale.
Film Score Monthly’s CD features a clean transfer of the original score elements in true stereo with bonus cues, and it’s a tight, fun listening experience, but this may be another score worthy of a remastering, given the current technology might be able to compensate for the handful of cues with slight wow, and the lack of an upper dynamic range. (Some of the early ‘scope score CDs are big on bass and mid-ranges, but still sound a little muddy.)
Liner notes and cue details fill out the booklet, and in a move to appease fans of FSM’s own CD of The Egyptian [M] (1953), Demetrius concludes with a ‘fixed’ Egyptian cue after a flaw was noticed after that soundtrack CD’s pressing.
© 2012 Mark R. Hasan