Pool Sharks

Retroist Scoreboard: Pool Sharks and B-movie monsters!

Hello, soundtrack enthusiasts. I’ve been toiling away on a special feature that I’ll be rolling out in small chunks in future editions of this column, only to discover that it wouldn’t be needed this week by a long shot. Why? Because there is a heap of new music to talk about this week. Ears open!

Intrada has released an unexpected gem, the complete remastered Kenyon Hopkins score from 1961’s The Hustler, which starred Paul Newman and George C. Scott. An unlikely collision of mid-20th-century jazz and orchestral drama, The Hustler was released on LP at the time of the movie’s release, and while this CD duplicates the original LP track order, it also adds enough material from the restored original session recordings to double the album’s length.
Pool Sharks

Intrada promises this title will be around “while quantities and interest remain”…which is a gentle way of saying it’ll be around until the typical specialty soundtrack print run of 3,000 copies sells out. (Why 3,000? It’s a number that the American Federation of Musicians, a union representing Hollywood session players, arrived at in negotiations with the Film Score Monthly label in the 1990s, and has since become the industry standard for the soundtrack specialty labels.)

From Kritzerland Records this week comes a very limited edition – only 1,000 copies worldwide – release of the score from 1957’s Monster from Green Hell, composed by B-movie maestro extraordinaire Albert “big blasts o’ brass” Glasser (Last Of The Wild Horses, Invasion U.S.A., The Cisco Kid, The Beginning Of The End, The Amazing Colossal Man, War Of The Colossal Beast…well, basically every third movie that ever showed up on Mystery Science Theater 3000, okay?). Kritzerland brought the score up to modern digital specs from Glasser’s original session tapes, and they’re taking orders now with the CD due to ship by the end of March, if not sooner.

Varese Sarabande has dropped three very limited editions – each limited to 1,000 copies – all from current and upcoming films. The standout in this batch would seem to be Before I Wake, with a score from the Newton Brothers and Danny Elfman; also released are Laurent Eyquem‘s USS Indianapolis: Men Of Courage and the soundtrack from Bitter Harvest, scored by Benjamin Wallfisch. None of these titles are, strictly speaking, “retro”, but with the low production numbers, like it or not, they’re tomorrow’s rarities. (Welcome to the soundtrack collector’s eternal game of Russian roulette: there’s no guarantee that all 1,000 copies will disappear either, though if even one of these titles sold out, I’d put my money on the one with Danny Elfman’s name on the cover.)

Going out of print at the end of this month at Intrada is Observations, a CD featuring an original composition by Arthur B. Rubenstein (Blue Thunder, WarGames), composed for a 2009 Griffith Park Observatory presentation. Rubenstein also conducts a selection of other astronomically-themed classical pieces from that show, but the highlight is “Observations”, presented both in instrumental form and, as it was heard by the planetarium audience, with narration by the late, great Leonard Nimoy. Perhaps not necessarily a film soundtrack, but somewhere at the intersection of Nimoy and Rubenstein (whose WarGames score is an all-time favorite of this writer) is one good reason, if not two of them, to pick this up before it goes out of print.

Now, that feature that somehow managed not to start this week? Here’s a little taster: a little green friend of mine once urged me to pass on what I have learned. So, beginning with March’s Retroist Scoreboard columns, I’ll start including, piece by piece, a glossary of terms that any budding soundtrack collector will need if they’re planning on staying aboard for this hobby. They’ll be terms that I’ll probably use quite a bit going forward, so there’s a good reason for such a glossary to exist, and I’ve put quite a bit of work into it. Stick around, you might learn a thing or two.

But that starts in March. Next week, we’re going to talk about why my inner Trekkie is awash in music he never thought he’d get his hands on. Beam back here this time next week.

When he’s not keeping score at the Retroist, Earl Green is the founder, head writer and podcaster-in-chief at the LogBook.com, a site devoted in roughly equal parts to classic sci-fi, classic video games, classic soundtracks, and space history. You can catch him lining up carefully curated excerpts from TV, movie and game scores most months on the Log Book’s soundtrack mixtape podcast, In The Grand Theme Of Things.

Batman ’66 3¾” Figures Revealed: Finally, The Heroes We Both Deserve AND Need

Retroist readers, it took me a minute or two to literally stop dancing in my office (believe me, I’m getting some looks), stop singing the Nelson Riddle Batman theme, and write this up for you. If the news from the real world is getting you down, this news is guaranteed to pick you up. Friends, bear with me and forgive my journalistic trespasses, for this brief article is bereft of any objectivity whatsoever.

Funko’s ReAction line is bringing characters and vehicles from the 1966 Batman TV series to the 3¾” scale (known almost by default as “Kenner Star Wars scale”.

Take a moment to let that sink in. Like the recently announced Twin Peaks figures also expected this year from Funko, the Batman figures will have more than 5 points of articulation.




(I wonder if they will release a variant edition of Mister Freeze – who was also portrayed by George Saunders and Eli Wallach. This toy design certainly appears to be based off the time that Otto Preminger played the character in the Batman ’66 series. – Vic)

And get a load of this glorious, glorious Batmobile.

The show’s villains are well-represented, and not even the most obvious ones: Mr. Freeze, King Tut and Catwoman are just the tip of the iceberg of memorable baddies that could be commemorated in plastic.
Conspicuous by their absence: the Joker, the Riddler, and the Penguin. (I have no insider info, but just between you and me and the Batcave, I smell a box set waiting to happen there. There’s clearly no issue with likeness rights, as both the Riddler and the Penguin will be appearing in the second wave of Funko’s Batman ’66 Vinyl Pops.)
Batman '66

And while she may have been a late addition to the show, Batgirl will be one of the first arrivals in figure form.

If you, like me, have been waiting for this moment since you were six years old, well, I’m gonna start up the Batman soundtrack in my office and start dancing again until these are in the stores.

When he’s not keeping score at the Retroist, Earl Green is the founder, head writer and podcaster-in-chief at theLogBook.om, a site devoted in roughly equal parts to classic sci-fi, classic video games, classic soundtracks, and space history. He can be heard on theLogBook.com’s Escape Pod daily mini-podcast of geek history, and monthly on the Select Game, Don’t Give This Tape To Earl, and In The Grand Theme Of Things podcasts.

Batman

Retroist Scoreboard: Of Gotham And Grails 2/15/17

It’s a slow news week here at the Retroist Scoreboard – this week’s only new release is La-La Land Records’ CD of the soundtrack from the DC Animated Universe movie Justice League Dark, scored by Robert J. Kral (Angel, Jake 2.0, Superman: Doomsday, Green Lantern: First Flight, Batman: Assault on Arkham).
Gotham - Batman - Justice League Dark

Perhaps even more exciting is La-La Land closing the books on the last few copies of some of its past releases, and when I say “last few” I mean “maybe a dozen or so”, which translates roughly to “they may be gone by the time you read this and go looking for them”. Not only will these titles be going out of print, but they’re being sold off at what the Firesign Theatre once called “unhealable deep-cut discounts!”. Titles include the late Shirley Walker’s masterful score from the 1990 TV iteration of The Flash, Haunted Honeymoon, Days Of Our Lives (yes, there was a soundtrack for that), and Les Baxter’s vintage soundtrack from “X”: The Man With X-Ray Eyes. Get ’em while they’re still there. Some of the low-quantity titles I mentioned in the last Retroist Scoreboard…some of those are already out of print. Life comes at you fast when you’re a soundtrack collector.

Since there’s a lull in the action, let’s talk about Holy Grails.

The two big fish in the boutique soundtrack label pond, La-La Land Records and Intrada, have something of a gentlemen’s agreement: this week, La-La Land releases something. Next week, Intrada releases something else. (It’s actually a pretty friendly unspoken rule: if you check the credits in the back of the liner notes booklets of any given recent vintage soundtrack releases, you’ll find the same producers, restoration experts, mastering engineers and liner notes writers are happily working for both labels.) You’ll notice this ebb-and-flow as the Retroist Scoreboard continues chronicling their releases this year.

Both labels tend to hit the pause button around Christmas and New Year, as well as other holidays during the year. So let’s assume that each label will be dropping one or two new items – or one big one, if it’s a box set – 20 weeks out of the year. The labels strive to find a mix of “crowd pleasers” (i.e. last year’s 30-years-overdue release of the complete score plus songs from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off), “golden age” material from Hollywood’s postwar heyday, and more recent “silver age” material. Not all of them sell in huge numbers; La-La Land boss M.V. Gerhard has openly stated that the “crowd pleasers” foot the bill for some of the more obscure releases whose scores deserve preservation, remastering, and their own releases.

In short: you’re looking at 40 weeks out of the year with something dropping, not all of which you’ll like, but that’s okay. The late, great Jerry Goldsmith criticized soundtrack collectors who were less interested in music than in “collecting bottle caps”…point taken, Maestro Goldsmith. No one can afford to get all of them.

So…is your favorite out there? If it isn’t yet, someone’s probably working on it. One of the most surprising releases last year was the four-disc La-La Land Star Trek 50th anniversary compilation, one disc of which presented – for the first time ever – the incidental music from Filmation’s early 1970s Star Trek cartoon. (Sharp-eared Filmation fans will also know that this is, essentially, the soundtrack from Jason Of Star Command.) It wasn’t that new tapes had been found and remastered; it happened because two recording engineers who happened to be fans of animated Star Trek managed to piece together every instrumental piece from segments of the show where no one was talking! (These guys work hard for your money.)

Other grails have already seen release – the complete scores from all three Back To The Future films, the now-legendary restoration of John Barry’s complete score from The Black Hole (recorded on a no-longer-used digital tape format, which could be played back only on the same kind of tape deck that recorded it…of which there was only one left in the United States, and it fell victim to flooding just before engineers went to transfer those tapes to a hard drive for remastering), and the massive 15-disc box set of every note of music recorded for the original Star Trek.

Others that are high on people’s lists are lost to the mists of time: one frequently requested title is Disney’s The Rescuers, whose master music tapes seem to be lost forever. Intrada’s late 2016 CD release of the soundtrack from Silent Running suffered a similar problem; the CD was mastered from a pristine copy of the long-out-of-print original LP (!).

You’ll notice that there are some genres that get a little more love than others, but that’s often because their very nature lent itself to more epic music: westerns, historical dramas (especially epics like Ben-Hur and Spartacus), and sci-fi are, perhaps, over-represented. But there’s also a healthy selection of ’70s thrillers and a growing category of ’80s cinema (i.e. recent relases of Beverly Hills Cop I & II, Less Than Zero, the aforementioned Ferris Bueller) and ’90s material (i.e. Jurassic Park, Twister, DuckTales: The Movie, Galaxy Quest) that are on the rise. As the audience age range shifts, collectors are “into” the soundtracks from the movies they enjoyed in their youth, and the labels are obliging those changing tastes.

Be patient: someone is almost certainly working on that one soundtrack you’re waiting for, if they haven’t already made it available. (I’ll bring this up again in a more personal context in a couple of weeks.)

When he’s not keeping score at the Retroist, Earl Green is the founder, head writer and podcaster-in-chief at theLogBook.om, a site devoted in roughly equal parts to classic sci-fi, classic video games, classic soundtracks, and space history. You can catch him lining up carefully curated excerpts from TV, movie and game scores most months on the Log Book’s soundtrack mixtape podcast, In The Grand Theme Of Things.

DuckTales - Retroist Scoreboard

The Retroist Scoreboard: DuckTales the Movie And More 2/8/2017

There’s a whole cottage industry surrounding the release of classic TV and movie soundtracks out there that you may not know about. Small labels, usually limited by musicians’ union rules to a releasing only 3,000 or so copies of a given title, unearth classic soundtracks that have often never been issued on CD before, or have only had a CD release featuring about half of the music that was included in the movie. Labels like Intrada, La-La Land Records, Perseverance, and Quartet Records release a steady stream of classic TV and movie scores throughout the year…and the Retroist Scoreboard is here to let you know what’s just dropped.

Intrada gets bragging rights this week with the first-time-ever-on-CD release of the complete score from 1990s DuckTales: The Movie, composed by David Newman (later of The Mighty Ducks, The Phantom, Galaxy Quest, Serenity, and many others). Weighing in at nearly the maximum possible length of an audio CD, it isn’t just that DuckTales hasn’t been on CD before, it’s never been released before in any form other than a couple of excerpts featured on a 1990 Disney compilation CD, The Disney Afternoon. Disney animation fans are ecstatic about this one, to say the least.
DuckTales - Retroist Scoreboard

As new titles are introduced, old ones sell out or are retired; Intrada is giving everyone until February 13th to buy the last remaining copies of the soundtracks from Disney’s Unidentifed Flying Oddball (1979, known to UK audiences as The Spaceman & King Arthur) and a two-fer CD with the Laurence Rosenthal scores from 1976’s Return Of A Man Called Horse and the 1999 TV movie remake of Inherit The Wind.

La-La Land Records has just released the score from the 1993 Sylvester Stallone flick Cliffhanger, scored by Trevor Jones (Excalibur, Time Bandits, The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth, Notting Hill, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen). As is often the case with La-La Land’s released, the first disc of the 2-CD set is the complete score (including never before heard tracks), while the second is a remastered reissue of the original 1993 album.

A gaggle of past La-La Land releases are about to go out of print forever, including David Newman’s The Phantom (1996), Tangerine Dream’s score from Wavelength (1983), a lavish 2-CD set of Alfred Newman’s A Certain Smile (1958), Mark Mancina’s score from 1995’s Money Train, Bill Conti’s score from I, The Jury (1982), Andrew Belling’s score from the 1977 Ralph Bakshi animated film Wizards, a selection of Brian Tyler’s music from the far more recent TV series Terra Nova, and a similar selection of music by Michael McCuistion, Lolita Ritmanis and Kristopher Carter from Batman: The Brave And The Bold. All of the retiring titles have been marked down while supplies last.

UK classical label Dutton Vocalian has jumped into the fray with a CD reissue of the original soundtrack album from Watership Down (1978), scored by Angela Morley (The Goon Show, Dynasty, Dallas), including the original album’s Art Garfunkel vocals and narration by Michael Hordern. The single disc is a hybrid SACD which is compatible with most garden-variety CD players, and for an import, it’s surprisingly affordable.

Looking further down the road, soundtrack specialty labels often let their customer base know if something is coming up that they might have to save up for. La-La Land – who has all but taken ownership of vintage Star Trek soundtrack releases in recent years – has announced that its first (yes, first) 4-CD box set of music from Star Trek: Voyager will land on February 28th. La-La Land’s Star Trek box sets tend to arrive at the $50-$60 price point, so start saving your quatloos now; they’ve tentatively scheduled a second box set of Deep Space Nine soundtracks for the third quarter of 2017, with a second Voyager box set hitting about a year from now, and what the label says will be its final Star Trek release, a 4-CD box set collecting fan-requested “leftovers” from Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise in late 2018.

Varese Sarabande has announced an April release date for the scores of all three of the original Mel Gibson Mad Max films on “sandy” vinyl, and they’re accepting pre-orders now.

Stay tuned to the Retroist Scoreboard…as new releases arrive, we’ll let you know what, and more importantly where, the score is.

When he’s not keeping score at the Retroist, Earl Green is the founder, head writer and podcaster-in-chief at theLogBook.com, a site devoted in roughly equal parts to classic sci-fi, classic video games, classic soundtracks, and space history. You can catch him lining up carefully curated excerpts from TV, movie and game scores most months on the Log Book’s soundtrack mixtape podcast, In The Grand Theme Of Things.

Twin Peaks

Twin Peaks is back…and it’s bringing action figures

Diane, it’s almost ten o’clock on Monday night, and I’ve just discovered something stupendous, something I never thought I’d see. No, not coffee that somehow manages to be even blacker than black, although that does sound pretty good right now. I’ve just discovered that Funko is about to unleash Twin Peaks action figures on the world.

At the 2017 London Toy Fair, Funko – best known currently for its seemingly endless variety of Vinyl Pop figures – unveiled not only Twin Peaks Vinyl Pops, but a selection of four 3 and 3/4″ Twin Peaks action figures as well. Perhaps it would be best to say that only three of them are action figures; one of the figures doesn’t really move…but then, the character of Laura Palmer didn’t really move much once she was wrapped in plastic.
Twin Peaks

As is often the case, Funko’s choice of characters to produce in what is often referred to as “the Star Wars scale” is both iconic and frustrating. Audrey and Leland, at least, get Vinyl Pops, but there’s no 3 and 3/4″ love for those all-important characters; the quartet of figures instead consists of Agent Dale Cooper, the Log Lady, the aforementioned plastic-wrapped corpse of Laura Palmer, and “Bob”, the spirit form of a deadly presence that inhabited more than one resident of Twin Peaks in the show’s two seasons on ABC. (It could be that the character choices are tied closely to Twin Peaks’ upcoming revival in May on Showtime – only time will tell.)

There is a welcome development for this latest round of 3 and 3/4″ figures from Funko – the “Star Wars standard” of five points of articulation (neck, shoulders, legs) has given way to nine point instead (adding elbow and knee joints); this slightly more modern approach puts these figures on a par with Big Bang Pow!’s Flash Gordon, Big Bang Theory and KISS action figures in the same scale. (Laura Palmer has no points of articulation, being dead and all. Blame it on rigor mortis…and hang her next to Carbonite Han in Jabba’s Palace.)


Will we ever get more characters in this format from Funko, which has drastically scaled back its ReAction line of 3 and 3/4″ figures in recent years? Overproduction of past 3 and 3/4″ lines such as Gremlins and classic Star Trek has given way to a more collector-oriented “boutique” approach with more recent licenses such as The Dark Crystal, The Golden Girls, and E.T.; however, Funko has irked a few collectors by not returning to the well for licenses that did prove popular. A good example of this was its Firefly license, which never delivered figures in any scale for Shepherd Book, River Tam, or Simon Tam, let alone any secondary or enemy characters – no Reavers, no Badger, no YoSaffBridge. Anyone who spent any time watching Twin Peaks at the height of its popularity knows that the show was about far more than just these four characters (one of whom is, it has to be said again for emphasis, dead and motionless); whether we’ll ever get more than three characters and a plastic corpse remains to be seen.

It’s also not known if these figures will be individually carded or sold as a boxed set, a la the more recent E.T. and Golden Girls box sets.

Funko’s line of Twin Peaks 3 and 3/4″ figures will arrive later this year.