Saturday, April 7, 2012

“Riddle” Me This!

Sixties Entertainment “Geeky Warning”:  We are about to link the BATMAN TV Series, with a John Wayne movie – by way of THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. and a single, specific episode of VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA.  There will even be a tangential reference to Alfred Hitchcock. 

Bail out now, if you can’t take it! 

The Adam West BATMAN TV Series (1966-1968) was distinctive in several ways.  Its visual sense and set decoration, based on character design, costumes, and props from just over a quarter century of Batman comic books, delineated by the likes of Bob Kane, Jerry Robinson, Dick Sprang, Sheldon Moldoff, and Carmine Infantino.  The over-the-top acting, that ushered in a new era of sixties camp that swept contemporary television for a (brief but wonderful) time. And the memorably unique music scores, courtesy of composer Nelson Riddle.  

C’mon, folks… no matter how long it’s been, you can still hear those Bat-scores echoing in the recesses of your mind’s ear! 

Though BATMAN was but a mere fraction of this great composer’s output – it is the cornerstone of a particular segment of Nelson Riddle’s work – the segment he did for television.

A year or so before BATMAN, this particular type of score got its “tryout” on the 1965 VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA episode “Escape from Venice”. 

An aside, “Escape from Venice” recycled a key plot element from the Alfred Hitchcock film “The Lady Vanishes”. (We’ll discuss that when I someday review “The Lady Vanishes” on DVD.) The writer of “Escape from Venice” was a man named Charles Bennett, who was a former associate of Hitchcock – as seen in THIS POST.  And, that probably accounts for any similarities between “Escape from Venice” and “The Lady Vanishes”.  End of aside. 

Many of Nelson Riddle’s cues for “Escape from Venice” are very similar to (or even the same as) those he would later make famous in BATMAN.  It was the only score Riddle would do for VOYAGE, with subsequent (…or would that be “SUB-sequent”) scores, mostly by Alexander Courage and Leith Stevens, overshadowing Riddle’s as the series standards. 

Similar Riddle scores would be heard throughout the third, and most “campy”, season of THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. – lending much to the particular atmosphere that season wished to project. 

But, here’s where even *I* was taken aback…

I just viewed the John Wayne film “El Dorado” (1966 or 1967, depending on which source you accept) – and the distinctive background music styling that appears to have begun on VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA, became famous and indelibly identified with BATMAN, and worked its way through THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. also supports (almost incongruously) the western adventures of The Duke! 

To me it seemed weird – yet, somehow wonderful – to see John Wayne riding the trail and swinging into both fist and gun-fighting action to the type of music cues I’ve spent a lifetime associating with Adam West, Burt Ward, Frank Gorshin, and Caesar Romero! 

But, overall, Nelson Riddle’s score for “El Dorado” was quite enjoyable – especially if you’re “me”! 

Sixties composer geekiness aside, “El Dorado” is a great film – as far as the sixties Western genre goes – with John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, (Introducing) James Caan, and (as the villains) Christopher George and the great Ed Asner. 
Many of the plot elements of “El Dorado” are directly lifted from an earlier Wayne film, “Rio Bravo” (1959), with just enough of the elements “re-mixed” to keep it barely this side of an actual “remake”. 

In the event I never get around to doing an actual “Loooong DVD Review” of “El Dorado”, consider this post to be made up of SOME of the observations I would make there! 

End of Sixties Entertainment “Geeky Warning”.  You may now resume your “normal lives”! 

Assuming we HAVE “lives”!  J  


joecab said...

Joe: I've been a little behind my blog reading lately, but thought you might wanna peek at this if you haven't already: an upcoming adaptation of The Dark Knight Returns for home video:

Joe Torcivia said...

Now THAT’S great news! Interesting that they’re going to release it in TWO PARTS!

As excellent as they often are… maybe if the “DC Direct to Video” things weren’t always so damned SHORT, there wouldn’t be a need for TWO volumes! I should be glad someone at Warner realized “The Dark Knight Returns” is NOT something to be skimped upon, as was the unfortunate case with “All Star Superman”.

Oh, well… I can always regard this as a DC *Comic* and factor-in the time between volumes as the typical DELAY between issues!