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What decade would have a great score by a French composer for a violent English film done in Hollywood style set in Africa? The 1960s, of course -- and you can find the CD on Film Score Monthly's Silver Age Classics.
Dark of the Sun (1968) starred Rod Taylor and Jim Brown as mercenaries (the film is also known as "The Mercenaries") on a mission in war-torn Congo of the early 1960s to retrieve refugees and an expensive cache of diamonds before they can fall into the hands of Simba rebels. The film becomes a "Heart of Darkness"-style tale plagued by violence, betrayal and murder—and it has a corker of a score by French composer Jacques Loussier, famous for his "Play Bach" jazz albums and largely French film and TV assignments such as the theme to Thierry la Fronde.
Loussier's score to Dark of the Sun matches the offbeat melodic invention of Ennio Morricone and the brassy inflections of John Barry's James Bond scores while remaining the very personal work of its composer. The main theme consists of three layered ideas: a plucked pulse, a jazzy, syncopated bass line for piano and harpsichord, and a distinctly European minor-mode melody often voiced by strings. The score expresses the tragedy and subtext behind the violence of the on-screen images, while acknowledging the action explicitly in several jazzy action cues.
The Dark of the Sun score somewhat defies description except that it abounds with the kind of invention and melody that marked 1960s film scoring (such as that of Barry, Schifrin, Legrand, Goldsmith, Morricone and others) and has long been a favorite of soundtrack collectors. Loussier never again scored this kind of mainstream adventure film but he provided a winner in this premiere effort.
FSM's definitive CD of Dark of the Sun features the complete score (less one brief cue which was lost) in stereo, containing all of the music from the previous MGM Records LP (and Chapter III CD) -- and much more -- in improved sound quality. Liner notes are by Didier C. Deutsch, Alexander Kaplan and Lukas Kendall incorporating new comments by the composer.