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CD: Batman - The Movie (1966)
Review Rating:   Excellent  
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La-La Land Records

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April 6, 2010

Tracks / Album Length:

32 tracks / (71:43)



Nelson Riddle, Neal Hefti (Batman theme)


Special Notes:

16-page colour booklet with liner notes by Brian Satterwhite / Limited to 2000 copies

Comments :    

Although previously released on CD by Film Score Monthly in 2000, La-La Land’s CD actually features a bonus cut, plus a total remix of the sound elements used for the recent Blu-ray disc’s isolated music track.

Nelson Riddle took over most of the scoring chores of the original TV series when chief composer Neal Hefti became busy with his own feature projects, and when Fox wanted a spinoff feature film, Riddle adeptly balanced his own material with Hefti’s iconic theme (which closes this CD), starting with a main title track that grafts layers of spiraling brass onto Hefti’s grooving bass line.

Beginning with a snare drum march and lots of brass, the main title intro quickly shifts to the variant of Hefti's theme, and Riddle quotes some of the motifs he’ll use throughout the score, such as a menacing trumpet herald, and the swirling brass for action scenes. The track’s best section is its finale, with banks of trombones playing a singular version of the overlapped brass phrases, and the final bars where each phrase is accented by heavy, deep percussion.

The use of resonating bass and percussion also dominates “Torpedoes,” a simple cue where Riddle uses an ostinato to evoke a burrowing sensation. Brass and organ are melded into a funky bass line, while a bopping beat on drums keeps hammering away in the background.

Breezy lounge dominates “Batmobile to the Airport,” a track that serves as the Batman-in-motion theme, and Riddle uses an organ for the high parts, which foreshadows quotes from Hefti's theme a few bars later. “A Good Job” is a weird little variant of the prior cue, with bongos and shrill, pseudo-Arabian notes being the main instruments. “Tricky Buoy” makes use of that menacing fanfare motif that unsubtly hints at a character out to do no good, and Riddle has fun with a deranged version of a familiar and oft-used sailor tune a few bars later.

Riddle’s knack for writing sultry, semi-humorous lounge music is found in the opening bars of “Kitka,” as well as “Bruce and Kitka,” with sax and brass, with light use of flutes.  What's striking in these fairly brief cues is Riddle’s orchestrations, where various brass instruments seem to glide around each other without losing their clarity, and the quixotic shifts from romantic to potential danger (“Shades of Smolensic” and "Jet Umbrellas”) without sounding overtyly cartoonish. Riddle’s transitions are also very cinematic, making it easy to grasp the changes in emotions and varying levels of ridiculousness within any given scene.

The big plus for orchestral jazz fans with Batman is the variety of themes and smooth writing that made Riddle a favourite with jazz singers, including Frank Sinatra, for whom he crafted some fine concept albums in the fifties (1958’s Frank Sinatra Sings for Only the Lonely being a standout). The composer had no problem moving from jazz ballads to the hip-swinging sixties style because of his firm grasp of what makes a good tune, and the hooks with which to grab listeners with an addictive bass line or swinging rhythm.

A classic example is the overtly melodic “Filthy Crimminals,” which was briefly quoted in militaristic guise in the main titles. Here it’s given a gorgeous big band arrangement with hip string bass pulsing along, smooth brass and trumpet accents, and percussion claps and high hat hits redolent of the crime jazz sound popular in the late fifties and early sixties (and one Riddle helped propagate in TV shows like The Untouchables).

Batman: The Movie grouped together some of the TV series’ most popular villains to create a super-threat against global world order and Batman’s patience, and Riddle’s score, while somewhat repetitive at times, is so ripe with energy that the 72 min. album just breezes along, grabbing one on a hip ride that closes with a sense of glee.

La-La Land’s sources for the CD came from the surviving mono tracks used in the Blu-ray release, with levels re-mixed for more even sound levels, and the tracks sweetened with some slight warmth that broadens the sonics without veering into faux stereo. The CD also includes two previously unreleased tracks: a vocal version of the jazz standard “Again,” and an edit of the “Submarine Battle” music that in the film was comprised of edited bits from other tracks.

The booklet is filled with photos and appropriately cheeky liner notes and captions (“That’s One Hefti Theme”) which provide a solid overview of the score’s creation, plus some quotes by album and home video mastering engineer Mike Matessino.


© 2010 Mark R. Hasan

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