The News at Ten
Richard Attenborough arrested on roller-coaster!
Theresa Russell dons moustache to attend opera!
Cathy O’Donnell finds loudspeaker in chimney!
Semi-clad stunt-woman kisses wall!
Believe it or not, non-British Shadowplayers, the ITV News At Ten really does begin like this, with dramatic news and an anchor barking out headlines in between the strokes of Big Ben. The stories might not be quite as enticing as those outlined above, but the effect is similar: everything is at once dramatized and trivialised.
The News at Tentheme is very famous here, which is why it was hilarious to us as kids when we saw a matinee at the late-lamented Odeon Clerk Street of what I think was Eddie Romero’s no-budget Dr Moreau
rip-off re-imagining, THE TWILIGHT PEOPLE, and the news theme struck up as background score to a man-versus-monster fight scene. You do run this risk when you score your film with stock music: somebody might come along and make one of those themes famous.
Early Cronenberg films, their music tracks assembled by Ivan Reitman, of all people, seem to have escaped this fate — the music just sounds cheap and drippy. It was so great when Howard Shore and Michael Kamen came along to write proper scores — really good ones.
The best stock score I can think of is probably the stuff by “DeWolfe” for MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL, which succeeds in raising the production values whenever it comes on, which is the exact opposite of the effect stock music usually has. For ages I wondered who this great unknown film composer was. Actually, I still don’t know. I’ve stumbled across some DeWolfe company CDs in the past, but never found the HOLY GRAIL score on any of them…
It never seems possible to get stock music to fit as nicely as a well-composed score — the solution would be to select the music in advance and shoot to it and cut to it, like Leone did with Morricone’s score for ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST, and Powell did with BLACK NARCISSUS, and musicals directors routinely do. As our piece The Chills #1 hopefully demonstrated, moving the camera in time with a score is a powerful thing…