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David Hurwitz
ClassicsToday.com, January 2002

"Not surprisingly, the soundtrack for Son of Kong borrows from King Kong, but if you like Max Steiner's score for the original, you'll enjoy more of the same. Both here and in The Most Dangerous Game, John Morgan's reconstructions deftly bind together shorter cues in a way that provides musical continuity, though plenty of shorter snippets remain. In Kong, the outstanding longer tracks include 'Chinese Chatter', 'Forgotten Island', 'Little Kong', and the imposing 'Finale'. Steiner's score for Game features a delicious little 'Russian Waltz' piano solo and a marvelous extended chase scene. It's also good to be able to enjoy these two scores on one very well filled disc. Though both have a certain generic 'movie music' quality, the differences between them provide more variety than you're likely to find on discs devoted to (frequently repetitious) single scores. As usual William Stromberg and his Moscow forces give strong, panoramic performances of this colorful music, and the recording captures them faithfully."



John Puccio
Sensible Sound, September 2001

"Marco Polo's sound is as solid as ever, clean and bold...This release makes a handsome addition to anyone's library of film music."



Jeffrey Wheeler
MusicWeb International, April 2001

"The latest classic film score restoration from the Marco Polo label nearly spills out from its disc. Most Marco Polo releases seem a touch better than the one before; thankfully, the presentation of 'The Son of Kong' and 'The Most Dangerous Game' continues the trend to push soundtrack re-recording standards higher. There are nearly 80 minutes of full-bodied, ageless Max Steiner music -- a platform for what may be two of the best scores from the early 1930s.

"'The Son of Kong' is a 'serio-comic fantasy' score that utilizes motifs from 'King Kong', expertly redevelops them, then introduces attractive new material, including a blues theme that gets a variation in nearly every track yet never quite overstays its welcome. It is a classy adventure score, full of Thirties stylishness and wittier primal contrasts to those of the original. I never noticed the composer's woodwind approach so clearly before this. Kong, Jr. does well by his good, misunderstood old dad.

"'The Most Dangerous Game' is an earlier and creepier underscore for another jungle island, one much more seriously inhabited by a man-hunting man instead of a vertically inconvenienced ape. Its sinister brass accents and deceptive moments of brightness are hardly new to anyone versed in the period's thriller underscores, but Steiner's ranks among the most significant. Some speak of his composition for the nerve-racking final chase as being the most exciting film music written at that time. It is unambiguously intense. A charming Russian waltz and a lighter secondary theme (the score's weakest element) flesh out the musical characterizations.

"John W. Morgan reconstructed the music from Steiner's original handwritten sketches. The RKO orchestra was too diminutive for the composer's wishes, and while terrific performances from the players boosted the sound there were planned textures and orchestral colors economized or lost completely. Morgan carefully restored the original indications for full orchestra. The Moscow Symphony Orchestra provides stellar performances for this album, practically faultless to these ears, and its conductor, William T. Stromberg, continues to establish himself as the foremost interpreter of film scores as he ushers the conducting panache of the Golden Age studio orchestras into another age and place of great music recording. The sound of the disc is equally spectacular, with every section so intimately captured that it is as though one can single out the individual instruments. Production credits are typically superior, featuring extensive liner notes, words from special effects legend, Ray Harryhausen, film stills, and behind-the-scenes glimpses of Max Steiner and company. This is an inviolable release in every aspect. Every glorious aspect."



Simon Jenner
MusicWeb International, April 2001

'It was hard luck on Max Steiner having the same dates as Stravinsky (1888-1971) and not being recognised as the innovator he was. Hard luck too that he was trounced by Korngold, nine years his junior and who predeceased him by 14 years. One can only recall Korngold's riposte to Max Steiner's quip about Korngold getting worse and Steiner better. 'That's easy, Steiner ... you have been stealing from me and I have been stealing from you.'

'To disprove that here are two scores dating from 1932 and 1931 respectively. That is (though the booklet, understandably, hardly mentions Korngold at all) a couple of years before Korngold wrote his score for A Midsummer Night's Dream and six years before Robin Hood et al began the Viennese invasion from 1937.

'Steiner, whose brilliant orchestrator Bernhard Kaun had to follow the breakneck schedules, was usually rushed off his spools. He annoyed RKO boss Kahane by saying his hours were now 9am-6pm, not 9am-9am, and that the May Company were not hiring him to sleep in their window to prove that even RKO composers could sleep in their beds. Kahane thought he should accept their offer of a career, and all Hollywood got the joke except Kahane. Stokowski, Klemperer and Reiner were taking Steiner seriously even before the advent of Korngold.

'This was in part due not to King Kong, but to the movie that preceded it, The Most Dangerous Game, a real classic of pursuit and generally recognised as the first great film score. With its tritone theme on horns signalling the chase, the film washes ruggedly handsome Joel McCrea onto an island. He meets the sinister welcoming Count, Leslie Banks and guests, amongst whom hapless Fay Wray looms. What else would he do but attract her, so dashingly dishevelled, but still washed? She pairs with McCrea, in a kind of offer they can't refuse, to be hunted down. Guess you the rest, as Marlowe says in his version of Ovid's Amores. That bit comes only at the end, whilst the tritone (turning into a two-note motto at times) hunts down the fugitives through swamps, canyons, waterfall-fights a la Sherlock/Moriarty; and finales. The driving score never lets up and is in fact a true symphonic poem, a tremendous post-Straussian feat. Now we know where North by Northwest comes from.

'And we know where the next score derived from, in the title. Son of Kong was a hurried and ridiculously under-financed attempt to cap King Kong, itself containing Steiner's most famous score. Like most scores, Kong was overlooked by many, but not by those who mattered. Hence, Steiner was forced, like the rest of the Kong team, to attempt a six-month schedule. He had two weeks to write 45 minutes' worth of music. Amazingly, as Bill Whitaker - one of the two writers of this excellent, sumptuous booklet - says, it's masterly. It's more coherent and satisfying to listen through as a complete score than Kong, for all of that score's verve and ground-breaking power. At its heart there is not a tritone but a song sung by the hapless heroine Helen Mack: 'I've got the runaway blues'. This runs on a catchy original tune which recurs throughout this adventure in which Robert Armstrong again shipwrecks himself on Kong island. This time though, son of Kong turns out a cutie, trapped in quicksands. They rescue him and bandage his massive paw - comically and touchingly highlighted in Steiner's pin-point score.

'Ultimately the ingredients of a great fantasy ran to quicksanded exhaustions of their own as the scriptwriter ran out of ideas and floundered. Bandages were strictly for studio bosses, and many felt pretty well walking wounded by the end of this manic, almost shot-gun project. Son of Kong sacrifices himself to save Armstrong, Mack et al. Twit. A motif recalling him and his noble sacrifice floats up poignantly at the end. Of course the nice Kong would be back as Godzilla. Most of the score is new, despite some quotes from the earlier work, and 'the runaway blues' is the new theme at the core. Many pointillist references are made throughout, whether to Chinese ports or quicksands, Steiner manages to convey and differentiate this with great effect. Try tracking through the works to 'I Dakang', the un-PC 'Chinese Chatter', 'Quicksand - little Kong', 'Finger Fixings' or 'The Old Temple'. There's even a sly reference to 'Johnny Get Your Gun' as part of the plot.

'Marco Polo, the Moscow Symphony Orchestra and William T Stromberg have produced one of their finest efforts. The MSO must feel thoroughly at home in Hollywood now. John T Morgan reconstructed the score partly from the film tracks. Ron Fortier and Bill Whitaker have supplied detailed and witty histories, littered with photographs (some very funny, try Steiner in the bath with a colleague), detailed synopses and musicological notes. There's even an Arranger's Notes and a holograph page of the score. Thirty-five pages doesn't seem too many, and this production fully justifies its Marco Polo cost. Even non-film listeners should hear it as an example of what Steiner and others were trying before Korngold arrived. From this music they were fashioning the film sound world that so influenced contemporary and later composers in every field. Two sparky masterworks of the film world, newly revealed, like minerals from the dust of sound tracks. Like the lead characters, don't hesitate.'



Jeff Berkwits
Syfy, April 2001

"This impressive collection reveals that their often-overlooked scores doubtless deserve to be remembered and revered."



Koldys
American Record Guide, August 2000

"Orchestra and conductor surpass themselves with each new release in this valuable series. The recording is just about perfect, and we cannot let pass without comment the generous 36 page booklet."



Randall D. Larson
Soundtrack Magazine

"Marco Polo wraps it all in their usual fine package. The vigor of the music and the rarity of these scores make this recording one of the label's finest and most welcome."



Gary S. Dalkin
www.filmmusic.uk.net

"The album comes with a 36 page booklet which is absolutely packed with notes by various hands, plus excellent stills, behind-the-scenes photographs and manuscript reproductions. In-fact, the notes tell us just about everything most people could want to know both about the films and the music, as well as providing some nicely human anecdotes about Steiner. With first-rate recorded sound, painstaking and loving attention to detail, and with simply wonderful packaging, this is a release of enormous with strong appeal to anyone with an interest in the dawn of synchronized film scoring, the music of Max Steiner, or the early days of thrillers, fantasy and horror movies (*****- sound, presentation and historical importance)."






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3:25:31 PM, 18 April 2014
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