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Biblical epics have always brought out the best in film composers. From the pagaentry and color of the ancient world, to the bold, dramatic gestures of divine involvement, one could not ask for a better canvas for music. And now—finally—one of the legendary Biblical scores of the 1950s gets a premiere CD release: Demetrius and the Gladiators by Franz Waxman.
Demetrius and the Gladiators is the 1954 sequel to the The Robe (1953), Twentieth Century-Fox's blockbuster introduction of the stereo CinemaScope format. As such Demetrius features a fascinating collaborative situation in which Waxman, who wrote largely an original score, interpolated Alfred Newman's themes from the preceding film. This includes Newman's powerful, awe-inspiring melodies for the Robe itself, for the Apostle Peter, for Diana (briefly), and an adaptation of the crucifixion music for a crucial flashback. Furthermore, Waxman based his central theme, a soldier's march for Demetrius (Victor Mature), on chord progressions from the Robe theme, and utilized staples of the Fox "historical epic" sound like Ken Darby's choir.
Waxman wrote all-new music for Demetrius' sizable Roman dimension, including a malevolent march for Caligula and a seductive yet ambiguous theme for Messalina (Susan Hayward). The themes for Caligula and Demetrius double as the fanfares and marches associated with the gladiators' arena, and exotic dance cues accompany the film's baccanal sequences. The aforementioned soldier's march for Demetrius is adapted into a powerful "Gloria in excelsis" for orchestra and choir for the titles.
Demetrius and the Gladiators was one of the earliest CinemaScope recordings at Fox, and time has not been kind to the stereo masters. Although most cues sound marvelous, some damaged passages have been placed at the end of the album (the liner notes identify the chronological sequence). Only three cues were completely lost, and the album also includes the film's surviving temporary music. As a final bonus, the CD includes a five-minute selection from The Egyptian previously released on FSMCD Vol. 4, No. 5, but with a minor synchronization error between orchestra and choir corrected. We regret the mistake (which was identified too late to repress and recall the discs), and hope that fans apperciate having the correct version here.