CD: Bell Book and Candle (1958) / 1001 Arabian Nights (1959)

May 24, 2012 | By

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Rating: Excellent

Label: Film Score Monthly/ Released: January, 2006

Tracks & Album Length: 27 tracks / (73:05)


Special Notes: 16-page booklet featuring 2006 FSM, prior Citadel, and original Colpix liner notes..


Composer: George Duning




FSM’s double-bill of classic Colgems LPs offers up two vintage George Duning scores which fit very snugly and stylistically together.

Bell Book and Candle (1958) shows off Duning’s flair for light, jazz-flavoured writing, and his knack for airy themes. Some cues – “Pyewackety/Queenie/Gil” – accent the onscreen nuances of the actors (namely the comedic moments of surprise) yet they always return to the main theme which ties together the supernatural element (basically a thriving coven of witches & warlocks in Manhattan), the initially forced romance, and a slight hint that the status quo between witches & humans might undergo a few bumps.

Duning also wrote & adapted several source jazz cues for the coven’s snazzy jazz club which happens to feature the Condoli brothers on trumpet, plus addition ace musicians on organ, electric guitar, and bongos, and among the zippy gems are “Way Out Calypso”; the snappy “Shep Shook,” with a compact set of solos in the middle; the slow & easy “Zodiac Serenade” and “Zodiac Blues”; and “Stormy Weather Polka,” which has the two headlining musicians blaring solos into the witch’s rival – an unwanted fiancée.

The sleekness of the main theme makes it ideal for more eerie permutations, and probably the most haunting is “The Spell/Shep Hooked” which has poor Shep stopping in his tracks and slowly returning to witch Gil as she hums a haunting, breathy version of the theme. Duning replays it with gentle orchestral additions before the full theme is replayed, and he uses strings to emphasize the couple’s forced bliss as they stand atop the flatiron building, observing the Manhattan sunrise.

Duning’s approach – ultra-sleek strings, gentle woodwinds, and light rippling percussion – is a perfect match for the idyllic depiction of a modern, glossy New York City, including its well-dressed inhabitants, artistes, chic rich, and beautiful pastel colours and geometrically broad furniture.

Some instrumentation also suggest the film’s Christmas setting, whereas a sense of mysticism is addressed with rippling piano and suspended chords – often tied to Gil’s cat Pyewacket, her main ally in casting spells. As detailed in the CD booklet, this marks the first time the score has appeared on CD in stereo, as taken from the original 3-track masters, and the disc includes the bonus track from the 1980 stereo Citadel LP. FSM’s also included the original liner notes to the Citadel LP pressings and the original mono Colpix LP, which is a nice bonus.

The CD’s B-score comes from UPA’s first animated feature film, 1001 Arabian Nights (1959), starring Mr. Magoo. Duning’s score is very melodic, and is performed by a large orchestral, including a heavy brass section and percussion. Duning also incorporates exotic harmonies with often jazzy finales, and the score’s orchestrations seamlessly glide between ethnic, classical, and jazz / rock instrumentations.

Most of the cues – some averaging between 2-4 minutes – are instrumental, but Magoo gets to croon a bluesy song of his own – “Magoo’s Blues” – and the theme also reappears via honky-tonk piano in the brief “Bar Fly Magoo,” and “Unhappy Magoo” with alto sax carrying the melody. The Clark Sisters croon “Three Little Maids from Damascus” with backing from electric guitar and rock-styled percussion, and alternating male / female chorus croon an ethereal version of the main theme in the very fifties (and very mushy) “Dream Ballet.”

FSM’s CD features superb mastering, and captures the excellent engineering of the original Colpix LPs which offered (in true stereo incarnations) crisp sonics, foreshadowing the audiophile qualities of the later Colgems LPs, particularly Casino Royale [M] (1967). Arabian Nights was previously available on a crisply mastered LP from Varese Sarabande.

Note: Bell Book and Candle was previously released on CD in 2004 by Harkit Records, and Twilight Time’s 2012  Blu-ray features and isolated stereo score track with slightly different music content.



© 2012 Mark R. Hasan


External References:

IMDB Blu-ray Review – Soundtrack Albums: Bell / 1001 Composer Filmography


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