BFI John Barry Season

chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,126MI6 Agent

There is a season of sixties films featuring John Barry soundtracks on at the BFI London Southbank. It features a couple of James Bond items as well as The Ipcress File. Curiously though, not OHMSS, which finished off the decade quite nicely for Sir John the Master of Music.

On 6/2/2024 there is a talk being given by Bob Stanley, the season's curator, followed by a screening of YOLT, which might be worth a look.



  • CoolHandBondCoolHandBond Mactan IslandPosts: 5,983MI6 Agent

    The Bond films come complete with trigger warnings, apparently. Are these really necessary for serious filmgoers?

    Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.
  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,126MI6 Agent

    Personally, I think not. I remember they put a warning on Pasolini's Salo, but that's a rather gut wrenching masochistic BDSM film. This, I think is a new policy and I'll be interested to see how it progresses, say if they show The Knack or Gone With The Wind, or that one with Peter Sellers as a stupid French policeman... films riddled with out dated attitudes and stereotypes. It is an odd decision, as the BFI is a film club for film enthusiasts and ought not to be worrying the artistic content shown, especially as filmgoers to these movies are usually well aware of the films' social context.

  • Golrush007Golrush007 South AfricaPosts: 3,408Quartermasters
    edited January 6

    They shouldn't be necessary in my opinion. I do find it very tiresome the way these trivialities have to become media and social media mudslinging extravaganzas with the likes of Graham Rye arguing on so-called news programmes, and endless threads on Facebook, Twitter etc. If no-one bothered to bring up the issue I'm sure everyone could go on and have a good time watching the films, trigger warning or not.

  • emtiememtiem SurreyPosts: 5,645MI6 Agent

    It’s great that Barry has a season. I considered it but I know most of these films and scores already.

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,126MI6 Agent

    The season curator does stress he is looking at Barry's impact during his years composing and recording in the UK, before he moved to Europe and then the US, so the season isn't tackling his legacy as a whole, which I agree is disappointing.

  • emtiememtiem SurreyPosts: 5,645MI6 Agent

    Oh yes, I guess the films chosen are only from his relatively early years, I hadn’t really spotted that. Slightly curious choice, although I’d probably admit that’s my favourite part of his career.

  • Shady TreeShady Tree London, UKPosts: 2,962MI6 Agent
    edited February 25

    @chrisno1 Thanks for the heads up on this. After seeing DN at the PCC this afternoon I stopped off at the BFI Southbank and bought physical tickets there for some of the Barry season screenings. Update: I've since added the rest of the films to my basket:

    Never Let Go, 02/02

    Petulia, 03/02

    GF, 04/02

    Panel: 'Spies, Swingers and Shadows: The Films and Scores of John Barry', 06/02

    YOLT and Intro, 06/02

    TV shows and clips: 'Master Class: John Barry on The Art of Composing for Film' and 'Omnibus: John Barry - Licence to Thrill', 10/02

    The Ipcress File, 10/02

    Four In The Morning, 13/02

    Deadfall, 25/02

    Boom, 28/02

    Midnight Cowboy, 28/02

    The Tamarind Seed, 01/03

    Walkabout, 05/03

    OHMSS, 10/03

    Follow Me (aka Public Eye), 12/03

    It's been a while since I've done a BFI binge but this subject is too good to pass over.

    Happy to meet up with any ajbersfor a quick drink in the BFI bar for any of these screenings.


    Critics and material I don't need. I haven't changed my act in 53 years.
  • Shady TreeShady Tree London, UKPosts: 2,962MI6 Agent
    edited February 7

    I attended my first screening of this John Barry season yesterday evening at NFT2.

    Here are my reviews.

    'Never Let Go'

    Set in London, John Guillermin's 'Never Let Go' (1960) is a monochrome crime drama in which Richard Todd, a failing salesman, is determined to recover his stolen car even though this brings him up against violent criminal Peter Sellers (a straight role) and nearly costs him his marriage. (I couldn't help but be reminded of Sellers' later comic creations, by his - Sellers' - forced, tight smile as the villain: it's borderline funny.) Adam Faith leads the delinquent youth element, which includes a beautiful but dejected Carol White, who's mixed up with Sellers. Elizabeth Sellars (no relation) plays Todd's concerned wife and David Lodge is Sellers' henchman, a familiar face in tough guy roles (I always associate him with Euston Films). John Le Mesurier is a department store manager grown weary with Todd's increasingly desperate sales pitches (in a scene which delighted 'Dad's Army' fans during yesterday's screening) and Noel Willman is a suitably steely police inspector.

    As with 'Beat Girl' (1960) John Barry's swing compositions form a significant part of the score, both as diegetic and extra-diegetic music. Swing is in the air: Faith's Terry Towers, hanging out by a cafe juke box with Carol White and his gang of quiffed biker chums, will put audiences in mind of the earlier film.* True, there's nothing in this one as catchy as the 'Beat Girl' theme but, to my Bond-attuned ear, the revelation is in how far Barry's suspense cues are now anticipating his early Bond music. It's a leaner sound, befitting lowbeat British crime drama, yet, for example, FRWL's bongo riff for the car-tailing espionage in Istanbul is presaged here, as are TB's mournful string chords and, in pared down form, GF's musical tension for the 'Raid on Fort Knox'. Yes, even that: the 'Never Let Go' sequence leading up to the climax - a fight in a garage between Todd and Sellers - is scored in a way which structurally parallels that GF 'Raid on Fort Knox' epic, a rattlingly suspenseful exercise in dramatic anticipation, but far less grandiose. The Todd/ Sellers fight itself, which is not scored, is surprisingly hard-hitting. It certainly recalls, for me, aspects of Bond's fights both with Grant and with Oddjob. (The stunts are by Peter Diamond, who also worked on FRWL. In fantasy scoring, I'd be fascinated to see and hear what would happen if Barry's 'Death of Grant' piece, unused in FRWL, was re-purposed against this Todd/ Sellers fight.)

    *(05/02 update) As was pointed out at this evening's BFI panel, 'Never Let Go' was actually released before 'Beat Girl'. 'Beat Girl' was made first but its release was delayed because of the censors' difficulties with it.


    The BFI has presented 'Never Let Go' in a double bill with 'Dutchman' (1966), a two-hander starring Al Freeman Jr and Shirley Knight. Barry scored the opening of 'Dutchman', its closing and also one brief interlude - the film's only music. Shot in Twickenham but set on New York City's subway, 'Dutchman' is a black-and-white movie with dark themes: Barry's bleak sounds fuse completely with the initial shadowy images of subway stations at night and trains trundling inside tunnels. The film explores predatory white-female-on-black-male sexual harrassment and murder, with rhetorical countering in a retaliatory rage invoking Black Nationalism. Written by Amiri Baraka (it's based on Baraka's stage play) and directed by Anthony Harvey, 'Dutchman' is no doubt trying to be emotionally and politically 'relevant'. It uses a kind of 'Twilight Zone' format to make its points. In the end, however, and certainly when viewed today, its depictions of sexualised racism and the fervour of an interpersonal race war just seem regressive and nasty. That said, Shirley Knight's large performance as a loose, fly-by-night femme fatale is really quite something. The BFI trigger warning is clearly appropriate here.



    Today I returned to the BFI (NFT3) for Richard Lester's 'Petulia' (1968).

    Set in San Francisco, 'Petulia' is a visually rich exploration of a romantic connection between Julie Christie's eccentric socialite - the titular character - and George C. Scott's dry divorcee doctor, Archie. (Bond fans might see parallels between Dalton-Bond's comic exasperation with Kara's attachment to her cello in TLD and the humorous business here with Archie lunking around Petulia's tuba). Richard Chamberlain plays Petulia's physically abusive husband and Shirley Knight turns in a delicately nuanced performance as Archie's ex-wife. This is 1968 in a bottle: artsily kooky; fashion conscious and chic; satirically amused by the tech of modern conveniences; colour saturated but definitely with some dark themes. The film's narrative line is initially blurred, punctuated by silent, disturbing flashbacks; Barry's score expands as the story clarifies itself and as Archie's relationship with Petulia gains poignancy in its later phase of chance but significant meetings.

    Barry's swelling, lyrically romantic themes sit recognisably between his work on YOLT and OHMSS. What surprised me is the extent to which an underlying motif in DAF's 'Following The Diamonds' (/ 'Bond Smells A Rat') seems to draw from the gentle theme which opens and closes 'Petulia'. (Listen out especially for the similarity between the final bars of 'Following The Diamonds' and the delicately halting bars ending the closing arrangement of the 'Petulia' theme.) 'Petulia''s pop-cultural texture and sound complexion gains, too, from Lester's on-screen inclusion of musicians like Janis Joplin and The Grateful Dead.

    Today's screening was briefly introduced by season curator Bob Stanley, who shared how his initial love of Barry was stimulated by 'The Persuaders!' theme.


    Tomorrow I'm back for GF. I won't post on that unless there's anything of note about the screening itself. I have no issue with the BFI placing a trigger warning ahead of this Bond picture, if that's what they do. I've no wish to resurrect debate about the Bond/ Pussy clinch ('no means no') and I agree that anyone choosing to see GF in the cinema, especially at the BFI, is unlikely to need a warning. But, for all I know, there may be some individuals out there who actually would need it or benefit from it, so it's understandable as a safeguarding provision. The key thing is that Bond is back in action... in NFT1.

    GF update notes (04/02):

    After all, there was no on-screen trigger warning preceding the screening of GF this afternoon (of the sort that there had been on Friday, before 'Dutchman', regarding that film's depictions of racist language and attitudes).

    Eddi Fiegel, author of 'John Barry: A Sixties Theme', gave a substantial introduction to the GF screening, covering Michael Caine's recollections of his flat share with Barry when Barry was composing the 'Goldfinger' song, and Harry Saltzman's initial dislike of the song. Fiegel also commented on the failure of Barry's first choice of lyricist, Trevor Peacock, to come up with workable rhymes - and how Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse, taking over, were clever with rhymes like "Midas touch" and "spider's touch". (It occurred to me, listening to this, that "a spider's touch" may have reminded original GF audiences of the tarantula in DN, just as Robert Brownjohn's choice of imagery for the title sequence includes a callback to the helicopter stuntwork in FRWL.)

    In the screening's programme notes, questions about Saltzman's judgement were highlighted in another respect (aside from his fuss about the song): the notes quote Cubby Broccoli's interview about a disagreement with Saltzman over the casting of the villain. It was Broccoli who wanted Gert Frobe, as a character actor perfect for the role despite his difficulties with English, while Saltzman wanted American actor Theodore Bilkel, who Broccoli knew was "no Goldfinger". (From: Cubby Broccoli with Donald Zec, 'When The Snow Melts', Boxtree, 1998).

    Personally I prefer Barry's score for FRWL, even though the admittedly middling theme song is Lionel Bart's rather than Barry's own. Overall Barry seems, in FRWL, to capture the tone of Ian Fleming (Fleming's "death-watch beetle of the soul") as well as the mood of the film per se: that's what I like about that score. But there's no question that, alongside Barry's arrangement of the James Bond theme for DN, it's GF which boasts the defining song and score of the series: the music is spine-tinglingly entertaining and a pop-cultural landmark in its own right.

    Thinking back to FRWL, I can't help noticing how cheerful Bond is in it - up till the death of Kerim Bey, that is, when Bond's mood sours as never before or since. The fact that FRWL is a relatively serious thriller means that sometimes Bond's good spirits in well over half of that movie get overlooked. By comparison, Bond remains humorous for pretty much the duration of GF. In GF, Connery as light comedian has properly arrived and Barry has fun heralding this. (This is true despite Jill's death early on - which hits Bond hard for all of two minutes - and a brief, reflective moment of stillness over Tilly's body. Not to mention Bond's sweating out cartoonish threats of castration by laser and atomisation by dirty bomb. Again, Barry's all over it.)

    Critics and material I don't need. I haven't changed my act in 53 years.
  • Napoleon PluralNapoleon Plural LondonPosts: 10,192MI6 Agent

    Why would you see it there when you can see it at the Prince Charles?

    Bob Stanley did a great book on modern pop music, well worth getting out of the library.

    "This is where we leave you Mr Bond."

    Roger Moore 1927-2017
  • Shady TreeShady Tree London, UKPosts: 2,962MI6 Agent

    The BFI Southbank is a little more convenient for me and has a nicer bar with a good street food market nearby at the weekends.

    Bob Stanley's back on Tuesday, I think. I'll look up his book.

    Critics and material I don't need. I haven't changed my act in 53 years.
  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,126MI6 Agent
    edited February 4

    The John Barry Season is extended into March with two showings of OHMSS (3rd & 10th) WALKABOUT (2nd, 5th, 11th - sadly only in NFT2 or 3) FOLLOW ME (2nd & 12th) and a rare showing of THE TAMARIND SEED (1st & 11th).

  • Shady TreeShady Tree London, UKPosts: 2,962MI6 Agent

    Good news about that extension.

    I've pointed out this thread to Bob Stanley who's expressed gratitude for support of the season. He's been kind enough to say that he appreciates the cross references between soundtracks in my reviews in #9.

    Critics and material I don't need. I haven't changed my act in 53 years.
  • Napoleon PluralNapoleon Plural LondonPosts: 10,192MI6 Agent

    Always loved that mostly John Barry James Bond Collection double LP that came out in 1972 or so. Always wished there'd been a sequel to encompass the Roger Moore years - maybe get Bob Stanley onto it? He himself has had a hand in doing LP compilations.

    I wouldn't call FRWL 'middling' - it was a boob however when George Martin paid tribute to John Barry that he cited that song as his favourite because it's one Barry didn't write, a bit like praising Sir George for doing Live and Let Die - he may have done the soundtrack but Macca - and Linda - wrote the song!

    As good as the above LP is, it only has instrumentals of the Thunderball and You Only Live Twice songs presumably due to contract reasons re Tom Jones and Nancy Sinatra.

    "This is where we leave you Mr Bond."

    Roger Moore 1927-2017
  • Shady TreeShady Tree London, UKPosts: 2,962MI6 Agent
    edited February 7

    I loved that compilation album.

    The 'Diamonds Are Forever' album was the first Barry album I listened to, borrowed from a public library, but 'The James Bond Collection' album was the first one I bought. Not until a few years after its release, though - maybe in 78/79.

    Yes, it was probably unfair of me to describe the FRWL song as middling. It's just that it's not yet properly 'Bondian' compared with the Barry Bond songs which succeeded it. Barry's arrangements of the theme for the title sequence and in the body of the movie are, however, brilliant in context.

    Critics and material I don't need. I haven't changed my act in 53 years.
  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,126MI6 Agent

    The theme From Russia With Love / James Bond is Back coupled with the Robert Brownjohn titles is my second fav title sequence behind the outstanding Thunderball. Barry's arrangement makes Bart's main theme more than just a love song, a snazzy, jazzy, sexy little number with all that brass and percussion, the belly dancer on screen, it ventures all kinds of Ottoman exotica and erotica, and the Bond Theme arrangement reminds us of the central character and the suspenseful joyride we will embark upon. Sadly, overall the soundtrack misses more than it hits, but the opening titles are already a big step up from Dr No. It marks the way forward for introducing Bond and, given the powerhouse songs to the next three movies, Barry's choice of style for his initial forays into Bond themes.

  • Shady TreeShady Tree London, UKPosts: 2,962MI6 Agent
    edited February 7

    BFI Panel: 'Spies, Swingers and Shadows: The Films and Scores of John Barry'/ YOLT

    This evening's panel at NFT1 was excellent. Eddi Fiegel hosted the event, joined by Bob Stanley, Nainita Desai and Neil Brand. Each introduced a selection of favourite John Barry clips. John Barry's daughter was also in attendance.

    Eddi Fiegel went with the precocious 'Beat Girl', Gillian Hills, crossing the threshold to a basement dance club and hitting the floor to The John Barry Seven, while the young Oliver Reed gyrates his hips in Hills' vicinity. (I was delighted to see this iconic hook on the big screen having been disappointed that 'Beat Girl' hadn't made it into the season.) Bob Stanley went with the opening sequence of 'Never Let Go' and the titles of 'The Persuaders!' Neil Brand opted for Michael Caine making his breakfast coffee at the opening of 'The Ipcress File' - a no brainer - and also the extended musical sequence incorporating 'Mountains and Sunsets' from YOLT. Nainita Desai's choices were 'Raid On Fort Knox' from GF (the Flying Circus segment) and 'The Tamarind Seed', with Julie Andrews pensively strolling along a beach and dancing with Omar Sharif.

    What struck me immediately about the beautifully doleful 'Tamarind Seed' music for the beach scene was its close similarity to the music accompanying Moore-Bond's approach to Maud Adams when she's taking a shower in TMWTGG: I could date 'Tamarind Seed' as a 1974 movie from that similarity alone.

    Neil Brand stayed on to introduce the YOLT screening which followed. He made some interesting contextual points about the film; for example, how the 'Space March' PTS - rendered terrifying by Barry's music - would have touched nerves in 1967, the first year to see astronaut fatalities (in both the U.S. and the Soviet Union). The dangers of being an astronaut were suddenly in focus that year.

    It was great to catch up with @chrisno1 for a drink between the panel and the YOLT screening.

    Critics and material I don't need. I haven't changed my act in 53 years.
  • emtiememtiem SurreyPosts: 5,645MI6 Agent

    Pretty great choices, all.

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,126MI6 Agent
    edited February 7

    Yes, @Shady Tree it was great to catch up - a long time since Dr No in Oct 2022.

    Further to your review, and as always putting my "critic's" hat on, while the panel showed some insight into the subject of Barry, Bond and Music, there did seem to be gaps in their knowledge and / or research which while just about forgivable given The Music Master's vast canon of work did make me participate in moments of metaphorical head scratching. For instance, Bob Stanley's admission that he hadn't considered Barry's use of choral music [as in The Lion in Winter] was startling considering the movie falls in the direct period covered by the retrospective and was the period of his choosing also.

    I didn't feel the panel broached to discuss anything further afield than their own personal favourites, hence the clips, and while Barry's impact as a jazz musician, music producer and influential movie composer was hinted at, the hint was always left to drift. Not much mention either of the wider cultural impact of his music beyond cinema goers or how Barry's own compositions were influenced by other artists / composers / cultures. Neil Brand touched briefly on traditional Japanese music and that was about it. Some of the Q & A questions seemed more aligned to wanting a deeper understanding of Barry's work, both in its composition and its reception.

    Appreciation is all well and good, but given the retrospective was billed as exploring his music through the medium of cinema, I found this oversight a little odd. It felt more like a fan's love-in.

    It was a long discussion too, almost 95 minutes.

    As for You Only Live Twice, I'll shove a note into the Last Bond Film Seen thread. It was good, as always. It has a great Barry score. Up to that time probably his most complete Bond score. The attention to Japanese instrumentation and chords certainly gives the film a unique musical atmosphere that reflects the landscape and environs of the unfolding action. This is missing from almost every other Bond film. Diamonds... comes a close second with all the jazzy stuff for Las Vegas. Bill Conti tries a bit with the Hellenic vibe he gave parts of FYEO, but that's the best I can think of.

    Odd too that the programme notes for YOLT never once mention the music - the whole point of the film being shown ! - and instead relates long extracts from Cubby's autobiography regarding Roald Dahl.

  • emtiememtiem SurreyPosts: 5,645MI6 Agent

    I guess he goes for a brief bit of samba as Bond arrives in Rio in Moonraker, but yes he rarely scores according to location. I’m sure there’s an interview where he talks about refraining from doing that and his reasons why in fact.

    Out of mild interest, and I know it’s a bit tedious, but was there a mention on the screen of outdated attitudes etc. before the film?

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,126MI6 Agent

    No, there was no "warning".

  • emtiememtiem SurreyPosts: 5,645MI6 Agent
    edited February 8

    Thanks, what a lot of fuss about nothing!

    (not here so much- lots of griping on twitter)

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,126MI6 Agent

    I'd be interested in that interview. [One for @Revelator perhaps?] Strange he preferred not to follow his own lead as YOLT is a very successful score and retains a uniqueness precisely because Barry channelled the Japanese culture.

  • emtiememtiem SurreyPosts: 5,645MI6 Agent

    Yeah I'm trying to think where I heard it; to be honest I may be mixing it up with David Arnold talking about how JB rarely did it, I can't quite remember.

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,126MI6 Agent

    I have a ticket fir WALKABOUT and am interested to see if JB channels the natural sounds of the outback as well as indigenous culture. It is a movie I haven't seen for over two decades, so very much looking forward to this one.

  • Shady TreeShady Tree London, UKPosts: 2,962MI6 Agent
    edited February 10

    'The Whisperers'

    Screening at NFT3 this evening was Bryan Forbes' 1967 monochrome film about the dignity and vulnerability of an elderly woman with a muddled mind living alone in a rundown part of Oldham. Edith Evans' performance as Mrs Ross is extraordinarily well observed and often very moving. Dame Edith is supported by a range of British character actors, among whom several (Ronald Fraser, Michael Robbins and Leonard Rossiter) play grim, social-realist versions of the kind of comic creations for which they were or would be better known. (Robbins is particularly chilling as the husband of a woman who opportunistically steals from Mrs Ross.)

    Barry's angle is to underline the gentle sadness of Mrs Ross's interior life, focusing his minimalist arrangements more on this than on the desolate setting per se. Crucially Barry respects the silences in Mrs Ross's daily existence, and he generally leaves untouched a moribund domestic soundscape which includes an incessantly dripping tap and the muffled noise of arguing neighbours and crying babies. (Nanette Newman is the brittle young woman living upstairs). Only when a subplot involving petty gangland violence yields a brief action scene does Barry revert to some of the musical manoeuvres more familiar to Bond audiences. There's also, briefly, some jazz-inflected mod music playing at a bar serving a recently developed council estate in another part of town - a place where they sell sausages and mustard with drinks, and where grizzled old men stare bemused at larva lamps placed on the tables.

    I hate to sound officious but I wish the BFI would restore its no eating policy in its NFT cinemas and find some polite ways to highlight this. NFT3 is a relatively small cinema and it sucks when two or three people are inconsiderately munching their way through packets of crisps during a screening of a quiet movie which forms part of a celebration of a great movie composer.

    Critics and material I don't need. I haven't changed my act in 53 years.
  • Sir MilesSir Miles The Wrong Side Of The WardrobePosts: 26,347Chief of Staff

    @Shady Tree never heard of that film, but it sounds interesting…although, if it’s set in a run down part of Oldham - then it’s not a “desolate Midlands setting” 🤗

    YNWA 97
  • Napoleon PluralNapoleon Plural LondonPosts: 10,192MI6 Agent

    Wasn't Barry's comment about the location sounds relating to Out of Africa? Or was it Born Free? If the past is a different country, you could say he went native a bit with A Lion in Winter.

    "This is where we leave you Mr Bond."

    Roger Moore 1927-2017
  • Shady TreeShady Tree London, UKPosts: 2,962MI6 Agent

    @Sir Miles Thanks, correction made. Yes, 'The Whisperers' was one of a number of films Barry worked on with Bryan Forbes.

    Critics and material I don't need. I haven't changed my act in 53 years.
  • Shady TreeShady Tree London, UKPosts: 2,962MI6 Agent
    edited February 14

    Back to the NFT3 this evening for screenings of the TV programmes, 'Masterclass: John Barry' (Yorkshire Television, 1998) and 'Omnibus: John Barry - Licence To Thrill' (BBC Northern Ireland, 2000).

    Also included were the title sequences of two ITC shows for which Barry did the themes - 'The Adventurer' and 'The Persuaders!' (we got both the main and end titles of the latter*) - and an extended extract from a 1960 episode of 'Sunday Night at the London Palladium': The John Barry Seven play 'Hit and Miss' then back Adam Faith for 'What Do You Want?', 'Somebody Else's Baby', 'Big Time' and 'Poor Me'. (Faith performs 'Poor Me' as a duet with host Bruce Forsyth, who's garbed in a comedy 'hip' Faith-style blonde wig and jacket for the gig.)

    In the 'Omnibus' programme Barry pays tribute to Francis Jackson, Master of Music at York Minster, who taught him the rudiments of choral work, harmony and counterpoint. Clearly Barry drew on this learning when working on choral elements in some of his great scores, as mentioned earlier in this thread (esp. 'The Lion In Winter'). Barry emphasises his gratitude to Dr Jackson - an exception to what, in general, had been his dislike of teachers.

    Barry proves to be a great teacher himself. In the 'Masterclass' programme he makes suggestions to music student Adam Johnson about how to improve a score Johnson had written for the pre-titles sequence of a film which includes footage from the Far East. Again, some of what Barry says connects with discussion earlier in this thread. Barry advises Johnson not to 'go with' location musically if it's a movie in which locations change. He suggests that generally the right thing to do is no more than 20% 'ethnic' colouring and to make the unifying tonal arc of the score about the emotional drama of the film instead.

    As for the 'Omnibus' documentary it's a well balanced retrospective of Barry's life and career. It's lovely that it include footage of Barry working from his home in Oyster Bay and reflecting on his albums 'The Beyondness of Things' and 'Eternal Echoes'.

    *I've previously reviewed 'The Persuaders!' theme here:

    Critics and material I don't need. I haven't changed my act in 53 years.
  • Shady TreeShady Tree London, UKPosts: 2,962MI6 Agent
    edited February 14

    'The Ipcress File'

    The second part of this evening's Barry offering at the BFI Soutbank was an NFT1 screening of Sidney J. Furie's 1965 film of Len Deighton's Harry Palmer thriller, produced by Harry Saltzman and starring Michael Caine. This was presented in a very pleasing Park Circus restoration.

    During Tuesday's panel Neil Brand perceptively parsed Barry's 'The Ipcress File' main title theme. He pointed out that in context Barry's distinctive use of the cimbalom, a Hungarian instrument, is suggestive of Soviet espionage on the home front of the Cold War - or at least in Kensington - reflecting a contemporary anxiety about spies and traitors in the national woodwork. Meanwhile the stark simplicity of the theme is a deliberate marker of the difference between Caine's low-key Palmer and Connery's playboy OO7. Barry exercises restraint by not giving way to expansive strings, for example. (An awful cover version by the Branon Strings Orchestra shows what could have happened with that.)

    But It's easy to overstate the musical difference between 'The Ipcress File' theme and Bond. Compositions of minimalist linearity with jazz-infused, interconnecting catches are a staple of Barry's early Bond scores too, aestheticising a sense of stealth and the subtle triggers and mechanisms of sixties spycraft (or indeed of stovepot percolators!) And in particular, as has been remarked elsewhere in the forum, the recurring 'swing' motif of 'The Ipcress File' theme is similar to that heard in TB's 'Mr Kiss Kiss Bang Bang' of the same year. Also, the ominous use of brass at the end of the theme, creating a grave, bass undertow, is clearly Bondian in style, reminiscent of TB's suspense music: Palmer, like Bond, carries a gun.

    Having watched 'The Ipcress File' this evening back-to-back with the Barry TV retrospectives, I can't help but comment on the likeness between Caine's cool image in the film and Barry's own look at the time. (Actor and composer were friends and drinking partners on the London scene.)

    Critics and material I don't need. I haven't changed my act in 53 years.
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