© 2017 Lawrence Tuczynski
All pictures and info courtesy of Brandon O'Brian
|Title||Monster Snowman Original Soundtrack|
|Music by:||Masaru Sato|
|Number of tracks||32|
|Number of discs||1|
|Year of release/manufacture||December 21, 2016|
December 30, 2017 (courtesy of Brandon O'Brian)
On December 21, 2016, Japanese record label Cinema-kan released a remastered reissue of an early score from composer Masaru Sato (May 29, 1928 - December 5, 1999), who is best known for being director Akira Kurosawa's go-to composer from 1957 - 1965, as well for his Special Effects (Tokusatsu) and Godzilla films. This early score, one of Cinema-kan's popular releases, is Monster Snowman Original Soundtrack (CINK-20), Masaru Sato's score to director Ishiro Honda's "Half Human" (1955).
Being one of my favorite Sato scores, I've been wanting to get my hands on an original copy for years. Sadly, the Futureland release tended to be on the expensive side when I've seen it pop up. Fast forward to 2016, I was thrilled to read Cinema-kan's announcement of the label reissuing the score. Unfortunately, various situations prevented me from obtaining this release. Recently, I was in the process of purchasing three Cinema-kan albums at Amazon Japan, when I noticed that there was a damned good deal on this release. I jumped on the opportunity and threw it into my shopping cart with the rest of the albums at the last second. At last, I finally got the score.
Anyway, how is this score? How does it compare with the 1997 Futureland release (reviewed here elsewhere)? While I do not have an original copy of the Futureland release, let's find out anyway!
Let's start with the packaging design. The booklet cover artwork is pretty good. The front features a collage of the main cast as well as the titular Monster Snowman and his son. The red text of the film's title ("Monster Snowman") stands out, with the overall text reading "Monster Snowman Original Soundtrack - Music: Masaru Sato". The upper right hand corner is Cinema-kan's logo. The back cover features a photo of the Snowman and his son, along with the red text of the film's title appearing at the bottom left and corner.
The booklet contents are great. The first page is the album's track list, with an ominous photo of the Snowman in the background. The text from the front cover is presented here again, with the with the Cinema-kan logo and CD number being at the upper right hand corner. The booklet is filled with a number of great photos, which accompany pages discussing the film's production, profiles of Ishiro Honda and Masaru Sato, as well as a detailed track-by-track breakdown.
The tray insert is also nice. The front of the insert (viewed behind the disc) features a special hidden photo. I will not state what the photo is, but I will give a hint: You may have seen it somewhere before. The back of the insert features the track list, without the cue numbers (except the tracks that only have cue numbers). The text from the booklet front is also featured here, this time being all red. The background is a photo of Chika, played by actress Akemi Negishi, with the Snowman looming over her. As for the disc itself, it features the album title and some other text, with a monochrome background of the Snowman.
The obi strip, a feature exclusive to Japanese releases, features information of the albums, as well as some information on Blue Christmas Original Soundtrack (CINK-21), another score from Masaru Sato. In interior has some production materials (with information on them), with a photo of Chika in the background.
Overall, the packaging and contents are attractive, and features valuable information (if you can read Japanese). Since I don't own a copy of the old Futureland release, I can't make much of a comparison between the two albums. I have seen the booklet front artwork of the Futureland release, and while it's also attractive, it falls a bit short compared to this release. Now for the music.
The score opens with Main Title (M1T2), beginning with a suspenseful motif, then seguing into an arrangement of the German folk song "Muss i denn" (later adapted by Elvis Presley as "Wooden Heart"). The song is reprised a few other times throughout the score. The cue concludes with a reprise of the aforementioned motif.
Cry from the Notebook (M2) is a brief cue, evoking a sense of urgency.
Going Through the Snow (M3) starts off with a wonder sense of adventure, with playful interludes of piano and woodwind. One easily can picture a day out skiing with friends.
Bad Weather (M3A) is essentially a reprise of the adventurous motif that kicked off the previous cue, time time with a sense of foreboding.
What Was Left Behind (M5) [Mix] begins with a slow, primitive percussion motif (MX-1). This continues for around for nearly three minutes, before it quickly fades out, transitioning to M5. This portion is sorrowful for the most part. After roughly forty-five seconds, M5 transitions back to MX-1. An atmospheric cue overall. It sets the primitive qualities the film conveys.
Search in the Melting Snow I (M6) and Search in the Melting Snow II (M7) [First Half] are two relatively suspenseful cues conveying a sense of urgency. The latter (M7 [First Half]) is a longer variant of the former.
Camping I (M7 Second Half) reprises "Muss i denn". This time sung in its original German lyrics, with a harmonica accompaniment.
Camping II (MEX-2) is a quick humming tune.
Camping III (Whistle Only) is a whistle solo of "Muss i denn".
The Snowman Appears (M8) [Mix] begins with the whistled "Muss i den"(Whistle). This does not appear to be the same as the previous cue. After roughly eighteen seconds later, the first portion of M8, overlaying the whistling, is briefly heard, causing suspense to build. The whistling continues for a short while longer, before stopping abruptly and immediately transitioning into the remainder of M8, giving the listener a sense of surprise. This is overlayed with MX-1. After the suspenseful M8 concludes, MX-1 continues on for the rest of the cue.
Garan Valley (M9) [Mix] begins with M9-1, which is essentially percussion and whipping sounds (that's the best way I can describe it) and a haunting chorus. This is quickly overlayed with M9-Flute 1. Despite my description, this cue is quite chilling, giving me goosebumps every time I hear it.
Cliff of Death (M10) [Mix] is a foreboding cue, which is M10 overlayed with M10B'-1 (given a tremolo effect).
A Helping hand (M11) [Mix] is a lengthier reprise of the previous cue. In this case, M11 is overlayed with M10B'-1 (again with a tremolo effect)
Prayer (M11A) [58 Cycle Playback] is a haunting cue consisting entirely of a chorus.
Oba's Final Moments (M12) is another solid cue. It's full of suspense, then becoming more on the somber, tragic side.
Wrath of the Snowman (M13A-1) is another solid suspense/horror cue, a highlight form this score. It consists of lower end strings and brass.
The Blazing Fire of Garan Valley (M14) is one of my favorite cues from this score. The flute work gives this cue a haunting quality to it.
From the Hands of the Dead (M15) [Echo] is a harmonica solo, and is another favorite of mine. Another cue that has a somber touch to it.
The Snowman's Cave (M13-1) continues the suspense from M13A-1.
The End of the Snowman (M15A) [Mix] is a brief chilling cue starting with M15A, quickly overlayed with Prayer-3-1.
Ending (M16) briefly reprises "Muss i den" before giving the score a rousing conclusion.
The bonus tracks begin with the first take of Main Title (M1T1). Next is the original version of The Snowman Appears (M8), before it was mixed with the whistle solo of "Muss i den" and MX-1. M9-1 and M9 (Flute-1) are the original Garan Valley materials before being mixed together. M10A'-1 is an unused variant of the piano echo overlay used for Cliff of Death and a Helping Hand, with M10B'-1 being the original used overlay for the cues (without the tremolo affect). M11A-1 is the original material for Prayer. M15 [No Echo] is a version of From the Hands of the Dead, without the echo. Prayer-3-1 is the original chorus material, before being mixed with M15A for The End of the Snowman. Lastly is MX-1, the complete primitive percussion material that was mixed into a couple of cues.
Overall, this is an underrated score from the composer, a wonderful blend of adventure and suspense. Unfortunately, I've only seen a portion of the film, so I can't comment on how the music was utilized on-screen. However, the music makes for a wonderful stand-alone experience. The only setback for some might be the MX-1 material, due to its slow, sparse nature.
Now, how does the music compare with the Futureland release? First of all, the content of both releases are identical. The only difference are tracks 11 and 24 being switched around with this release. As for remastering, it's been a while since I've had a chance to listen to the Futureland release. Based on memory though, I have to say that this release sounds just as good, if not better, in terms of sound quality. Cinema-kan definitely did a good job remastering this score.
Final verdict? Cinema-kan's release is the better of the two, both in sound quality and packaging. It's clear that time and effort was put into this release, something I've noticed with Cinema-kan's other releases. Whether you are a collector of Japanese Science Fiction film scores, or an overall film music fanatic, I recommend picking up this release and giving it a try. It's a true diamond in the rough.
Monster Snowman Original Soundtrack