John Barry

The Last Valley [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack]

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The Last Valley [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack] Review

by William Ruhlmann

The little-known 1971 film The Last Valley was one of those big failures moviemakers sometimes concoct, a six-million-dollar production (a lot of money at the time) starring Omar Sharif and Michael Caine, set during the Thirty Years' War, and concerning a valley left untouched by the conflict, until the commencement of the plot. Given the time of its release, the film's analogy to the Vietnam War was clear, but novelist-turned-director James Clavell seemed to intend something more like the broad canvas of his lengthy historical novels, with lots of characters and subplots, not so much an allegory as an epic. John Barry, in the wake of his Academy Award for The Lion in Winter, was the composer of choice for such a costume drama, even if the story took place 500 years later. According to James Fitzpatrick, who produced and annotated this new recording of the score, Barry was given six months to write, luxurious for a movie composer. Clearly, he felt his assignment was to create a big score for a big adventure movie, and especially on this recreation, which runs more than 18-and-a-half minutes longer than the original soundtrack album, that intention seems fulfilled. The Crouch End Festival Chorus intones German and Latin texts in an updated Gregorian chant mode, and elsewhere there are stirring, martial passages for the action sequences and warm, lush, pastoral themes for the quieter moments. Noted film critic Pauline Kael spent a surprising amount of space castigating the score, but her main point was that it was, in a sense, too good for the film it accompanied, if only because The Last Valley was not the gigantic cinema experience it was intended to be. That wasn't Barry's fault, and this recording does him a service by rescuing one of his better scores from obscurity.

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