THE RESTORATION OF
WILLIAM WALTON'S THE BATTLE OF BRITAIN- Page 1 -
When originally released in 1969, the film dramatization of the Battle Of Britain had already endured a series of highly publicized cost overruns, but perhaps the most lingering controversy of this otherwise dynamic recreation of Britain's stand against Nazi invaders during WW II was the rejection of Sir William Walton's film score by certain executives.
Selected by director Guy Hamilton and producers Harry Saltzman & Benjamin Fisz to compose the score for the 128 minute film, Walton was faced with a rather dramatic challenge of his own: after being absent from film scoring for several decades, could one of England's most esteemed composers still create a stirring musical underscore for a major (and in this case, extremely high profile) film?
The question seems a bit insulting, given Walton's obvious talent was evident in the lone surviving cue used in Battle's final mix - "The Battle In The Air" - which also appeared on the soundtrack album, surrounded by Ron Goodwin's excellent replacement score.
To commemorate the D-Day landing this year, MGM-Europe has issued Special Edition DVDs for the films A Bridge Too Far and the Battle Of Britain, both in 2-disc editions, and containing a substantial array of extras.
While A Bridge Too Far doesn't offer any specific film music materials, the full-length commentary track brings together screenwriter William Goldman, camera operator (1 st unit) Peter MacDonald, assistant art director Stuart Craig, and special effects Supervisor John Richardson. Also making a modest contribution is music historian John Burlingame, who provides some excellent biographical notes on Addison's pre-film career as a tank commanders in the largest Allied parachute assault in history.
Like the Bridge DVD, MGM has included similar extras for the Battle Of Britain, including something truly unique: the option to view the film with a fully mixed Dolby Digital 5.1 mix of the film soundtrack featuring Sir William Walton's complete score.
Several years ago, Universal mixed some of Bernard Herrmann's rejected score tracks over selected scenes from Torn Curtain, but the mixes were in mono, and the handful of scenes merely gave viewers a glimpse at another composer's creative interpretation of a film; unless it's applied to the complete film as the composer and director intended, the rejected score snapshots are mere teases.
No one's ever dared to remix a rejected score for a film's commercial DVD release, and it's a rather courageous decision by MGM, given the kind of personal hurt that can linger, long after a composer's work was dismissed for any number of reasons.
Offended fans may be the most vocal critics of a corporate or political or financial decision to rejected a score, but it's part of the realities of any film composer's profession, and while the DVD contains no background info to the film's controversial musical history, the film's original mixer - Eric Tomlinson - and sound a& picture editor - Timothy Gee - graciously spoke with Music From The Movies, and discussed very candidly Walton's score, and the tough chore given to Ron Goodwin when a colleague's approach proved most unwanted.
For this web exclusive, we have chosen to include a tantalizing overview of some of the areas discussed by Gee and Tomlinson. Interviewed separately, their comments have been edited into extended highlights, with more detailed discussions and Walton anecdotes reserved for MFTM 's next print issue.
Music preservation is a major theme in this examination of two special scores, and Timothy Gee's determination to see Walton's music applied once again to the Battle Of Britain remained undaunted in spite of disappointments and lengthy delays.
"It had always been in my mind that I thought the film benefited by having the Walton music on it," says Timothy Gee, "and it just seemed to me that at some point, whoever the copyright owners were, [they might] go back to it and replace the Walton score… at least for their television sales, and say, 'Here, we've got a new version of the film. What do you think?'
"It didn't happen… and then as the year 2000 approached, obviously there were going to be reunions and celebrations of the Battle of Britain in September, and I thought this would be an ideal opportunity…. At that point I had no idea what materials still existed. I was in touch with [Eric Tomlinson], and as I say, I was starting from scratch.
"I contacted [director Guy Hamilton], who obviously didn't have a copy of the Walton music on tape, and I got very little help from United Artists' man in London, who's stock in trade seemed to me to say 'Oh, I hope to have an answer for you by the end of the month,' and I got that on a monthly basis throughout 2000.
"So I realized there was going to be no possibility of doing it on the 60th anniversary, but it did occur to me that one only had to wait until 2002, and one had the Walton Centenary, when once again one assumed that there would be certain events marking it, and MGM could sort of say, 'Abracadabra - Here we have the Walton score for Battle of Britain, which you've never heard before.
"I mentioned this to a friend of mine, who at that time ran the record shop in Festival Hall in London, and one time when I was there, he said, 'Tim, look - Have you seen this?' He produced the master catalogue - and there [was a CD listing for] Walton's Battle of Britain music, conducted by Malcolm Arnold.
"Two or three things happened one on top of the other, but basically I got in touch with [Silva Screen's] David Wishart, who is the person that was dealing with [Eric Tomlinson], apart from something else, and said 'Well you haven't got something else, have you Eric? And he said, 'Well I've got the Walton Battle of Britain score,' and in the first instance I was a bit hesitant about doing anything on the strength of that, because I didn't want to get Eric in trouble… I mean, what was he doing with somebody else's property?"
On to Page 2 ____On to Page 2
Site designed for 1024 x 768 resolution, using 16M colours, and optimized for MS Explorer 6.0. KQEK Logo and All Original KQEK Art, Interviews, Profiles, and Reviews Copyright © 2001-Present by Mark R. Hasan. All Rights Reserved. Additional Review Content by Contributors 2001-Present used by Permission of Authors. Additional Art Copyrighted by Respective Owners. Reproduction of any Original KQEK Content Requires Written Permission from Copyright Holder and/or Author.