BRUCE KIMMEL / KRITZERLAND RECORDS (2010)

December 1, 2010 | By

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In the two years since the release of Stephen Sondheim’s Evening Primrose (1967), Kritzerland Records’ catalogue of classic film score titles has grown to include many premiere releases, allowing fans to scratch off titles from their Wish Lists, and hope maybe another impossible gem might appear on the horizon.

In our second Q&A, producer Bruce Kimmel discusses the inimitable music of Albert Glasser, and the 2-CD release of Hugo Friedhofer’s One-Eyed Jacks (1961), perhaps the composer’s last great score prior to his moving into TV, where the work was more steady, and differently affected by studio politics, egos, and the music editor’s sharp scissors.

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Mark R. Hasan:  Before we get to Albert Glasser, did you first develop an interest in film music as a child going to the movies, or as a filmmaker?

Bruce Kimmel: Oh, as a child, definitely.  I remember staying to see a second showing of The High and the Mighty (1954) to see who wrote that wonderful music, and basically from The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) on, I always took note of who the composer was. I’d say by nine years of age I could pretty well identify a Herrmann score before the credit came up – same with a few other composers – but Herrmann was unmistakable to me and was my favorite back then.

MRH: Albert Glasser was pretty much forgotten until Kerry O’Quinn released Fantastic Film Music of Albert Glasser and Rocketship X-M (composed by Ferde Grofe, and orchestrated by Glasser) between 1977-1978, which was followed a few years later in 1987 by Screen Archives Entertainment’s Huk! (1956) and Tokyo File 212 (1951), but then things quieted down. Why has it taken so long for Glasser’s music to appear on CD, and how did your first release – Earth vs. the Spider (1958) – come about?

BK: You know, funnily, no one thought he would sell – I talked to a lot of people about it before actually doing one –  and MGM didn’t really have any assets on this stuff, but thank goodness Glasser gave copies (sometimes the ORIGINAL copy) to various collectors over the years, and that’s how we got those elements.  I now have a whole batch of Glasser stuff that all came from one guy – sheet music, tapes, his book, everything.

MRH: Is your decision to stick within the 1000 copy run for CDs like Glasser’s Earth vs. the Spider due to a mix of cost and rights issues, or are there really roughly 1000 people who care about Glasser’s work?

BK: A 1000 people cared about Earth Vs. The Spider, certainly.  Not quite that many cared about The Boy and the Pirates (1960), but it sold pretty well.  We’ve found that we’re safe with 1000 units – we’ve really only gone beyond that on a handful of bigger titles with major composers.

MRH: Even from just a passing listen to Glasser’s Earth vs. the Spider score, it’s obvious he was a top-notch orchestrator who could write a lush love theme, as well as some striking dissonant music without throwing the entire brass section at the moviegoer.

As The Boy and the Pirates demonstrates, he could really write for an orchestra. Why do you think his work pretty much remained within low budget exploitation films, because he was also responsible for turning Ferde Grofe’s Rocketship X-M (1950) into a solid score?

BK: I think like a lot of people he found a niche and just got comfortable there.

He’s who he was, and an awful lot of kids grew up loving the movies he scored and loving that music – I was one of them.  I was crazy for his score to Attack of the Puppet People (1958) – but all his Mr. BIG [Bert I. Gordon] scores are great, and even stuff like Invasion USA (one of my all-time favorite weird movies) is great – we’ll be putting that out at some point.

No one wrote screaming brass like Glasser – occasionally it’s like he threw a hundred musical notes in the air and let them land on some score paper – but the scores really work in the films, and they’re a lot of fun to listen to.

MRH: One can get a sense of a composer’s personality from his / her music, and if there’s any dominant emotion that permeates his music, it’s excitement, as well as maybe a sense of amusement in seeing how aggressive or outrageous he could be with the orchestra. Is his energetic style perhaps a key reason he scored so many of writer / director / producer Bert I. Gordon’s films?

BK: I think they were two of a kind.  Both loved what they did – Bert was like a little kid in a candy shop and so was Glasser.  Bert and I have become friends and I always prod him to talk about those days – he tends to not like to look back, but I keep telling him that that’s his legacy and he should be very proud of it.  I only wish I’d met Glasser.  I know his niece very well and have for years, but I didn’t know Al was her uncle until a few years ago.

MRH: What I loved about Earth vs. the Spider is the total sincerity that bleeds from every cue. The love theme is gorgeous, the furtive suspense cues are surprisingly modernistic, and the monster cues are appropriately BIG. Was this approach mandated by Gordon, or was it Glasser’s own sensibilities to treat every film, no matter how ridiculous, as sincere drama?

BK: It’s hard to know what Bert’s input was with the scores.  I do know that Glasser’s scores were usually cut up by the music editor – cues repeated, truncated – really weird.  And the thing to remember is these people didn’t think they were making campy movies or movies that would tickle people years later.  They were making movies – to them these were movies, while always having a sense of fun, were serious business.

MRH: Most of Glasser’s work was recorded in mono, often because he was working within a tight budget. Why was the decision made to record Boy and the Pirates in stereo when the film was going to be exhibited in mono?

BK: I don’t really have an answer and it’s the only one of his scores recorded that way, at least of the ones I have.  Certainly the film was never shown in stereo, so it’s a little peculiar, but it’s great to have it in stereo.

MRH: You mentioned in the Pirates liner notes that little survives of Attack of the Puppet People, hence the brief suite. As with your 1995 CD release for Varese Sarabande of Not of This Earth! The Film Music of Ronald Stein (1995), have you found the music composed by these giants of B-movie music has survived well, or have many source materials been lost or were not retained by the composers because the films were regarded as disposable, or as ephemeral drive-in fodder?

BK: It’s really hit and miss.  I actually have all of Puppet People but the quality is not releasable – I put out exactly what was passable; everything else had so much distortion, it was terrible.  A pity.  Ron Stein’s stuff was in pretty good shape as I recall, and some of Glasser’s tapes were very nice.

MRH: Years ago (like circa 1989) when Lorimar bought the rights to the old Allied Artists catalogue, a number of rare films were transferred from crisp 35mm prints for TV distribution, and that’s one way I managed to catch a few great little B flicks that have since disappeared from distribution. Among my favorites are Glasser’s Tormented (1960) and the sleazyConfessions of an Opium Eater (1962). Is there a chance the scores to these gems still exist as acetate or tape recordings, and may get a crack at a CD release?

BK: I have Tormented complete – not great quality but we’re probably going to do it as a coupling with Invasion USA (1952).  I have Opium Eater, too, but actually haven’t had time to listen to it.

MRHOpium Eater was one of Glasser’s last efforts, and it marked the end to a non-stop scoring run, going back to 1941. Do you think he had become tired of the grind, or were the royalties (perhaps from the scores making their way to stock music libraries) helpful in allowing him to retire?

BK: I think the movie business changed.  The kinds of films Glasser did simply stopped being made (until Bert came back in 1976 with Food of the Gods) – but by then he’d stopped – I don’t know if that’s because he wanted to or he simply could not get work anymore.

MRH: Was Glasser’s autobiography ever published, because not much is known about his life aside from a few autobio excerpts that accompanied the SAE LPs?

BK: As I mentioned, I have it – it’s not something that could be published in its present form – it’s massive and unwieldy, repetitious and a little nutty.  But at some point I may talk to his niece about cleaning it up, organizing it, cutting it down to size, and putting it out in the world.  There are some great stories in it and he’s very amusing.

MRH: Kritzerland has become quite prolific in releasing a steady amount of titles each month, and I wonder if there are any composers whose work you admire, and would like to see represented on CD? (I’m secretly hoping Marlin Skiles’ The Strangler from 1964 might be in there someplace, but perhaps that’s wishful thinking.)

BK: I think people have come to realize pretty quickly that I pretty much do only what I like and what’s fun.  That’s why you don’t see any of those 80s synth scores that people love so much – I know they’d sell, but I just can’t bring myself to do them because while they’re okay they don’t really do anything for me.

But to do Les Baxter’s Sadismo?  NOW, you’re talkin’.  But I’ve gotten to put out any number of releases of scores I love by composers I love, and more than a few of my Holy Grails, like the complete  (1961) by Friedhofer, the two Elmer Bernstein scores, Love With The Proper Stranger (1963) / A Girl Named Tamiko (1962) – we’ve got more Elmer coming – Previn’s Two For The Seesaw (1962), and on and on.  Our end of October release is a score by a composer who’s not that well known [Richard Einhorn], but it’s a great score for a neat little thriller [Dead of Winter] – I think people will really like it.

MRH: And my last quick questions are in regards to One-Eyed Jacks, which you just released in a 2-CD set. Friedhofer was one of the first composers whose work I noticed as a teen, and among the first LPs I bought when they were reissued by Varese in the 70s and 80s, and he’s been a personal favourite since The Young Lions (1958), Boy on a Dolphin (1957), and The Sun Also Rises (with that devastatingly beautiful main title).

One-Eyed Jacks is particularly special because it has everything I admire about Friedhofer: romanticism, complexity, and his use of harmony for moments of desperation and emotional turmoil. (The sequence where Brando waits on a wind-blown hill and is eventually forced to surrender is a fantastic cue.)

What made you focus on releasing this unique Friedhofer score, and is there a chance some of the Decca/Varese titles might one day see expanded releases?

BKOne-Eyed Jacks was one of my all-time Holy Grails and I was so determined to get it that nothing, and I mean nothing, could stop me.  It took a long, long time to make the inroads I needed to make, and then more time to do the deal because the paperwork wasn’t good, but eventually it all got done and the result was beyond my wildest imaginings.  It’s Friedhofer at his absolute zenith and I do not say that lightly, as I love his entire output and my favorite film score of all-time is The Best Years Of Our Lives (1946).

As to the Decca stuff – we have no relationship with Universal – Varese does and Intrada seems to, so I’m hoping they get around to those scores.

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KQEK.com would like to thank Bruce Kimmel at Kritzerland Records for his generous time.

Visit Kritzerland Records’ official website.

All images remain the property of their copyright holders.

This interview © 2010 by Mark R. Hasan

Also available: an additional interview with Bruce Kimmel (2008)

All images remain the property of their copyright holders.

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Related external links (MAIN SITE):

CD / LP:   Boy and the Pirates (1960)/ Attack of the Puppet People (1958) — Boy on a Dolphin (1957) —  Fantastic Film Music of Albert Glasser (1978) — Huk! (1956) — Not of This Earth! The Film Music of Ronald Stein (1995) —  Rocketship X-M (1950) — Tokyo File 212 (1951)

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