Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Elmer Bernstein

Artist: Elmer Bernstein
LP: The Caretakers
Song: "The Caretakers (main title)"
[ listen ]
Song: "Black Strait-Jacket"
[ listen ]

One of my favorite kinds of movie is the melodramatic "ripped-from-the-headlines" expose film of the late '50s and early '60s. Whether reporting on the struggles, sacrifices, and humiliations of big-city women working their way up the corporate ladder, of a group of big-city hospital interns, or of those involved in crimes of passion who smear the family name across the front pages of big-city tabloids, these films are guaranteed to deliver deliciously lurid thrills. Addressing issues like abortion, mental illness, racism, and sexual freedom, these films dragged movie audiences to places they'd never been before. THE CARETAKERS, which exposes the struggles, sacrifices, and humiliations of doctors and patients inside a women's mental hospital, is a fine example of the genre. Master composer Elmer Bernstein has fashioned a wildly dramatic soundtrack to match the histrionics hurled from the screen by actors Robert Stack, Polly Bergen, Herbert Marshall, Constance Ford, Janis Paige, Diane McBain...and Joan Crawford. As usual, Crawford sinks her teeth into her meaty role, this time a stern head-nurse named Lucretia Terry who rejects handsome young Dr. Donovan MacLeod's newfangled ways of treating the mentally ill, resolutely clinging to her tried-and-true methods involving violence and torture. You can buy a copy of THE CARETAKERS on DVD from the Warner Archives store here, go here to read about the life and career of Elmer Bernstein and see a list of films for which he composed music, and visit the official Elmer Bernstein website here.

[ Elmer Bernstein: April 4, 1922 — August 18, 2004 ]

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