Liner Notes: Todd Stadtman


Everyone loves movie music, don’t they? That fusion of images and sound can create true cinema magic regardless of genre.

Maybe you’re old school, and love the swelling, bombastic scores of Max Steiner and Wolfgang Maria Korngold – or perhaps you’re a rocker and have King Creole or The Girl Can’t Help It constantly on your turntable. Maybe you love the swinging sixties spy vibe, and have John Barry, Lalo Schifrin, and Hugo Montenegro loaded into you iPod. Ennio Morricone, Piero Piccioni, Bruno Nicolai, and Mario Nascimbene have legions of fans with their sophisticated Euro sounds – are you one of them? Does John Williams theme from Jaws still send shivers up your spine?

With a bit of help from a few friends, over the next week or so, I am going to be looking at movie soundtracks – from spy films and beyond. I am going to drag out some of that old vinyl and shine a light on a few of my favourites – and hopefully serve up a few aural gems that you’ve never heard before.

Today I am joined by Todd Stadtman from Die Danger Die Die Kill, who shares his five favourite soundtracks below.

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Casino Royale (1967), Burt Bacharach. Burt Bacharach’s score is the glue that holds the otherwise chaotic Casino Royale together, the one consistent character in a movie absent a traditional lead. It’s also essential Bacharach, at once sophisticated and playful, and almost proudly cheesy. Oh, and catchy as hell; there are certain scenes that’ve stuck with me stubbornly over the years due only to the music that accompanied them. Besides, how can a soundtrack with Dusty Springfield’s version of “The Look of Love” as its centerpiece not rate inclusion here?

You Only Live Twice, by John Barry. All of Barry’s 007 scores are close to my heart, but I think that YOLT is by far his most challenging. Spurred by the genre bending present within the film itself, he addressed YOLT’s sci-fi aspects with an even denser than usual pallet of queasily dissonant strings, while at the same time adding an element of Asian exoticism to his usual foundation of brassy suspense riffs. The result is one of the most mysterious, intoxicating and compulsively listenable out of all his imminently listenable Bond scores, not to mention one that would provide an irresistible source of samples for trip hop producers come the 90s. On top of that, you have Nancy Sinatra’s theme, which is, to my mind (sorry, Shirley) the runaway best of the bunch.

Asoka, by Anu Malik. Asoka is by far the most frequently played out of all the Bollywood soundtracks I own, which is saying an awful lot. Anu Malik’s songs somehow manage to capture the grandeur and gravitas of the historical epic which contains them while at the same time maintaining an infectious pop sensibility. Many of the hypnotic compositions also conjure an air of magic and destiny, making for tunes that are somehow at once hummable, haunting and head bopping.

Vertigo, by Bernhard Hermann. I worried that including Vertigo would be something of a cliché, but, if I’m being honest, it has to be here. As much as the contrarian in me resists admitting it, this officially sanctioned “greatest movie of all time” is among my very favorites, an affection that carries over to its also deservedly admired soundtrack. Living up to the film’s title, these are swirling, brain-fogging compositions that lend to mania, madness and obsession a purple, seductive beauty

Danger: Diabolik, by Ennio Morricone. This may not be everyone’s Morricone soundtrack of choice. But enamored as I am of the swinging 60s, Mod/pop art aesthetics that Danger: Diabolik exemplifies, there’s no choice to be made. To my mind, no film crystallizes that aesthetic — redolent of comic books, bubblegum, pop music, popped pills, and pulp thrills – better, and Morricone supplies the perfect accompaniment — from hammered harpsichords, to twanging baritone guitars, to “I can hear the colors” psychedelic flourishes. At the same time, Danger: Diabolik is one of cinema’s coolest love stories, something that Morricone nails with the woozy, liquid chord changes and anxious modulations of “Deep Deep Down”, masterfully capturing the essence of Diabolik and Eva’s mad, doomed, but overall groovy romance within a flawlessly crafted pop gem.

Honorable mention: Raumpatrouille Orion, by Peter Thomas. I know that the subject here is feature film soundtracks, which throws the score for this German sci-fi TV series out of contention. But I nonetheless want to honor it for being the ideal musical accompaniment to the type of roguish, cocktail-fueled space sex tourism that I thought was my birthright as a child of the 60s. I also wanted to give a shout out to Thomas, who contributed so much that was slinky, stylish and swinging to the sound of European genre movies during the decade — not the least being his themes for assorted Edgar Wallace Krimis and the Eurospy adventures of Jerry Cotton.

Todd Stadtman thought that Die Danger Die Die Kill! would be a good name for a blog and now he’s stuck with it. He’s been writing about international cult and genre cinema there since 2008, in addition to being a regular contributor to Teleport City. Soon you will be able to thrill to his contributions to the World Directory of Cinema’s Turkey edition.

Liner Notes: Todd Stadtman

Napoleon Doble: @ 4DK

My knowledge of Filipino cinema is admittedly poor. I have heard of the Tony Falcon, Agent 44 series, starring Tony Ferrer, but I have never actually seen one. At least sixteen films featuring Falcon were made (possibly more), from 1965 till 1980. As many these films were little more than imitations of Bond, very little effort was made to preserve these films for future generations. They were banged out quick, then pushed around the market, hoping to generate as much cash in as short of time as possible. The films were then neglected and left to rot. As such many of these films are lost to us forever. The prints that do survive are scratched and faded and barely resemble their former colourful and psychedelic selves.

Then there was Weng Weng, the diminutive star of For Your Height Only, The Impossible Kid and D’Wild Wild Weng. I have seen and attempted to review For Your Height Only, but apart from that, I am still rather ignorant of Weng Weng’s career.

Then there’s Dolphy. Once again, I am sad to confess that my knowledge of Dolphy is limited to a few posters from films in which he parodies James Bond. But James Bond wasn’t the only sixties spy who was parodied. Napoleon Solo and The Man From UNCLE also came under fire. Once again, the intrepid cinematic explorer, Todd from Die, Danger, Die, Die Kill, has ventured into the unknown, macheted his way through the dense Filipino jungles and dug up Napoleon Doble and the Sexy Six.

Here’s a snippet

Surviving examples of Filipino pulp cinema from the 1960s are so few and far between that it’s always exciting when one turns up — even though, admittedly, I was less excited about the prospect of actually watching Napoleon Doble and the Sexy Six than I was by the mere fact of its existence. Like the previously reviewed James Batman, Doble is one of many spy spoof/action comedies from the period that starred the (still!) massively popular comedian Dolphy, and, having seen James Batman, I felt that I had already pretty much gotten what those movies were all about… more

Napoleon Doble and the Sexy Six, is not exactly the type of tribute that UNCLE fans would want or expect, but it is out there, and a reminder of just how popular UNCLE was across the world in the 1960s.

I forget where I found these Dolphy posters on the net many months ago – but I thank the person who uploaded them – they are a great visual timecapsule of films that are almost forgotten.

Napoleon Doble: @ 4DK

The Subterranean John Barry @ 4DK

Over the last day and a half there have been some amazing tributes to John Barry posted on the web. Todd at Die Danger Die Die Kill’s tribute looks at a slightly different aspect to Barry’s music, and one I though was worth sharing.

His post, The Subterranean John Barry: The Secret Life of the James Bond Scores examines how Barry’s scores were appropriated by burgeoning film industries in other countries. Here’s a snippet:

…while other tributes rightly focus on the man’s many high profile accomplishments, I thought I would instead laud him for his somewhat more subterranean contributions to international pulp cinema. Even though they are contributions that he very well may not have been aware of making.

I encourage you to go head across and read the full post.

The Subterranean John Barry @ 4DK

S.O.S. Conspiracion Bikini (1967)

Like an anchorman, desk-bound in a television studio, I once again throw to Todd at Die, Danger, Die, Die, Kill. Todd’s field work takes him once again to Mexico – as he looks at the ’60s spy film S.O.S. Conspiraccion Bikini

Here’s a snippet:

Though, not being fluent in Spanish, I couldn’t tell you what exactly that story was. Nor can I even tell you for sure what the conspiracy at that story’s center was. It did indeed, however, involve a bikini fashion show taking place at a resort hotel in Ecuador, so it was probably some kind of nefarious, cameltoe based scheme, or perhaps a plan to start some kind of worldwide wedgie pandemic. The bikini models, you see, are enemy agents.

To read the whole review – click here.

S.O.S. Conspiracion Bikini (1967)

The Brain Stealers (1968)

Earlier this year a rumour circulated around the net that Shaw Bros/Celestial Pictures were going to release a whole swag of previously unreleased films on DVD. Among them were a few spy films, Operation Lipstick, Dark Rendezvous, Kiss & Kill, and The Brain Stealers. Unfortunately the rumour appears to be a hoax. But Todd at Die Danger Die Die Kill has uncovered The Brain Stealers. The title alone makes you want to see it, doesn’t it?

To check out Todd’s review click here.

The Brain Stealers (1968)

James Bond 777

Whenever a new Bond film is about to be released in the cinemas, there is invariably an article about the weird and wonderful offshoots of Bondmania. Apart for Operation Kid Brother, one of the most cited Bondsploitation films is the Indian flick James Bond 777. But despite all the name checking of James Bond 777 I doubt that many who mention this film have actually taken the time to see this movie (me included).

But one man who has taken the time to seek it out, and submit himself to the wonders within is Todd at Die Danger Die Die Kill.

To read Todd’s review click here.

James Bond 777

The Devil's Man (1967)

You know I watch a lot of crap, but even then there are some films that I am scared of. The Devil’s Man is one such film. I have heard nothing but bad things about it. But the areas where I fear to go seem to provide a strange comfort zone for Todd at Die Danger Die Die Kill. He has this ability to tolerate and appreciate the most obscure (and painful) cinematic offerings. But I think even his levels of tolerance were solely tested The Devil’s Man.

To check out Todd’s review (if you dare) click here.

The Devil's Man (1967)

Con Licencia Para Matar (1967)

I am starting to resent Todd over at Die Danger Die Die Kill. Every time he reviews one of the amazing spy films from India, Thailand, Hong Kong or whichever part of the world that Todd is cinematically traversing – this time it happens to be Mexico – I feel compelled to track down a copy of the movie that he has presented. That in itself may not be a bad thing – but I don’t think my bank balance can stand the strain… and besides, where does he find these films?

Needless to say, this is another one I really want to see!
To read Todd’s amazing review click here.

Con Licencia Para Matar (1967)

Spy In Rome (1968)

Here’s a lazy posting for the day. It’s a link to Die Danger Die Die Kill and the Bollywood Spy film, Spy In Rome.

Over at Die Danger Die Die Kill, for those you want to venture further into the strange and neglected world of Indian, Thai and Mexican movies, allow Todd Stadtman. to be your guide. Todd’s worldly and witty reviews take you to the far flung corners of the world, and if you’re lucky, will then safely guide you out again.

To read Todd’s review of Spy In Rome Click here.

Spy In Rome (1968)