Screen Archives Entertainment may not bring out many releases each year but, when they do, you know it’s going to be something worthwhile, that you’ll get a lot of minutes for your money and that it will be handsomely presented, with great photographs and notes. Son Of Fury delivers on all these.
The story of a young man in Regency England who, deprived of his inheritance, amasses a fortune in pearls in the South Seas before retuning home to see justice done, was a perfect vehicle for Fox’s leading man of the 1940s, Tyrone Power. Studio head Daryl Zanuck was in charge of the Technicolor production and there was no question but that Alfred Newman would have to deliver another top notch score, as he had done for The Black Swan.
The ‘Main Title’ introduces us to the ‘Benjamin Blake’ (‘power’) theme, which will recur in various different orchestral forms no fewer than thirty-eight times in the course of the film. One of the most memorable is its use in the extended cue ‘Stowaway’, where Newman’s trademark high strings segue into a harp-dominated passage that in turn leads to a full-tilt, ornamented restatement of the theme in the strings. Best of all is ‘The Dungeon’, where it is given an achingly melancholic treatment involving some virtuoso playing from the string principals of the Fox Studio Orchestra.
The main glory of the score is, however, its South Seas music. Like many composers before him, Newman was fascinated by the exotic; in his case, the harmonies and rhythms of Polynesia. To make sure of authenticity, he hired two experts in the genre, Augie Goupil and Thurston Knudson, who are responsible for the Islanders’ songs and dances. But it was Newman who composed the love theme, known as ‘Blue Tahitian Moon,’ a cunning fusion of European and Polynesian styles. It’s very of its time and some may find its use in ‘Ben Claims His Woman’ a bit much, at least when the steel guitars come in. But there is no doubting the depth of the artistry on display. As often, Newman relied heavily on others to fill in missing bits of the score by composing short cues and to develop his themes, so as to fit the running time of the finished cut. Amongst those lending a hand on this occasion were David Buttolph, Edward Powell, Conrad Salinger and David Raksin.
The booklet is distinguished by some excellent production and publicity stills (including several of the wondrous Gene Tierney) and by first-rate essays on the picture itself (from the legendary Rudy Behlmer) and on the score (Ray Faiola, who is fast becoming legendary). Newman and his colleagues would be delighted and proud to know that their memory is in such good hands.