Silva Screen Records devotes itself to making new recordings of old film music, usually employing the (presumably non-unionized) City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. The label has been at this task for some time, and thus has built up quite a library of recordings, which allows it to recycle its material in compilations like this one. Spanning four discs, with a running time approaching four-and-a-half hours, The Incredible Film Music Box seems intended as a kind of omnibus collection to be popped into a multi-CD player and provide an evening's worth of often quite familiar movie music. Unfortunately, whoever designed the cover added a legend that reads, "Celebrating music from the "Greatest Box Office Hits' of the last 60 years," which is not true. To begin with, the first three of the 56 selections (sequenced in chronological order of the films' releases), the overtures from Gone with the Wind and Citizen Kane, and an instrumental treatment of the song "As Time Goes By," heard in Casablanca, date from more than 60 years before this album's 2005 release. Then, too, the emphasis on "box office hits" is problematic. That is a quantifiable (if disputable) measure for inclusion, and the collection simply does not live up to it. According to www.filmsite.org, for example, only 11 of the 56 biggest box office hits of the past 60 years have music included here: Titanic, Star Wars, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Jaws, The Incredibles, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Back to the Future, and Saving Private Ryan. (That is considering the list of top money makers as of 2005 without regard to inflation; the adjusted list would also include Gone with the Wind, Doctor Zhivago, Ben-Hur, and The Godfather, but back out some of the more recent titles, such that a mere ten of the 56 highest grossers would be featured.) Nor are these the most celebrated scores; only 12 were Academy Award winners. But what the collection does have going for it is familiarity. "The Harry Lime Theme" from The Third Man, "Colonel Bogey March" from The Bridge on the River Kwai, the main theme from The Magnificent Seven, the overture from Lawrence of Arabia, the main title music from The Great Escape, the main theme from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, "Also Sprach Zarathustra," interpolated into 2001: A Space Odyssey, the Wendy Carlos synthesizer arrangement of Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" from A Clockwork Orange -- these are all musical works that have entered the public consciousness, and they do come from successful films, if not actually "the greatest box office hits of the last 60 years." The orchestra (heard on all but six tracks) handles them adequately for the most part, though the pieces that have become closely associated with particular recordings, such as "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" and "Gonna Fly Now" from Rocky suffer in obviously inferior treatments that ape the hit versions. The Incredible Film Music Box doesn't justify its billing, but it does fulfill its main function, to present a big collection of well-known film music in a single package.
The Incredible Film Music Box Review
by William Ruhlmann