The Mountain Men
Music By Michel Legrand
Intrada Special Collection Volume 209
13 Tracks – Disc Time: 49:41 Grade: B+
The Mountain Men was an usual Western film released in 1980 starring the late Charlton Heston (which was written by his son, Fraser) as Bill Tyler, a grizzled frontiersman who with his partner, Henry Trapp (Brian Keith) who drink and fight Indian tribes where searching for a a valley filled with Beaver’s to trap them with a tenderfoot (John Glover) in tow. They soon engage in battle with a fierce and merciless Blackfoot Warrior, Heavy Eagle (Stephen Macht), and in the process, his abused squaw Running Moon (Victoria Racimo), flees the brutal leader and flees with the two trappers. Running Moon soon falls for Tyler as he does for her leading to more fierce battles with the Heavy Eagle and one Final Confrontation that leads to a shocking ending. The film was directed by Richard Lang has gained a cult following since its release in the summer of 1980.
Aside from the film’s somewhat unusual storyline for a Western, the fact that Academy Award winner Michel Legrand, who had scored the memorable music for films such as Summer of 42, The Thomas Crown Affair, The Other Side of Midnight, Lady Sings The Blues, The Young Girls of Rochefort and The Umbrellas of Cheobourgh was tapped as the composer for this film. Legrand, a famous jazz pianist, arranger and singer in his own right was at the height of his career and did score the action-adventures, Ice Station Zebra and The Three Musketeers with exciting results. The Western genre was not one that he had tackled up to this point and the surprising result was a rich, melodic and exciting score that should be apart of his best scores in his career discography despite the film’s non-grata popularity other than its cult status. Legrand uses a lush wonderful Americana approach to the film (Main Title, On To Popo Agie) establishing the film’s setting with a touch of Legrand’s trademark romance thrown in.
The key to the score is Legrand’s exceptional action material that is quite surprisingly engaging and melodic that you at first wouldn’t think would fit the film upon listening to it, but really does with crackerjack precision. (Run For Your Life, Run, Surprise Attack, Shootout At The River ). While Legrand throws in some serious, but lush drama to the proceedings (Frapp Is Scalped) during one of the film’s more dramatic moments as Heston loses his best friend to the savage Heavy Eagle and yet, Legrand also develops the love theme of Tyler and Running Moon to the proceedings to lend an air of cautious opitism for their relationship. Legrand ends the film with some very serious minded note for Heston’s final confrontation with his menacing rival as they fight to the death once and for all (Death, Retribution And Finale) using harsh brass, percussion and aggressive and wild string work cluminating in a reprise of the love theme to signify a rather positive resolution to the film and his excellent work. Intrada’s debut release for this score is excellent production all round and one that deserves alot of attention because the music is just too good just to go unnoticed as many scores unfortunately do. The Mountain Men has to rank up there with many of the best Western genre scores and one that Michel Legrand fans will enjoy alot! Defintiely recommended!