I have to admit that only a decidedly small proportion of my music collection is given over to Soundtrack albums – less than 5 in fact. I have a couple of well-loved John Barry/James Bond compilations and a collection of ‘Bronze’ acts from the Buffy TV series, but that’s about it…until I downloaded John Dankworth’s soundtrack to the film ‘Fathom’.
‘Fathom’ is my very-guilty-indeed film pleasure, a British made Bond/Avengers spy-spoof made in 1967, directed by Leslie H Martinson and starring my 60s pin-up, Raquel Welch in the title role. It was shot on location in sunny southern Spain and in the probably rainy UK at Shepperton studios and the cast includes a whole bunch of British character actors like Ronald Fraser, Richard Briers, Tom Adams and Clive Revill along with America’s Tony Franciosa as the film’s other major draw. Adapted from the unpublished draft of Larry Forrester’s second Fathom novel, ‘Fathom Heavensent’, the screenplay by Lorenzo Semple Jr (of Batman TV series fame) tells of how Fathom, a US dental assistant-cum-vacationing skydiver, is drawn into a web of espionage and intrigue involving H-bombs and valuable Chinese artefacts. The script is full of twists and turns with a host of running gags to keep it light and airy – it’s no coincidence that Leslie H Martinson had also directed ‘Batman – the Movie’ the year before.
Whilst never more than a ‘B’ movie (I saw it first when it was doing the rounds as second feature to ‘Beneath the Planet of the Apes’ around 1970), it has a classic 60’s vibe of tongue-in-cheek innocence and frothy inconsequence. However, the photography, especially over the brilliantly lit Spanish Costa Del Sol, is quite stunning, Ms Welch, at 27, is at the peak of her sexpot period and the performances range from competent to hammy, but who cares? I watch it quite regularly and am charmed every time by its dated yet engaging point-in-time aura. It just oozes 60s appeal from the unique make-up and clothes to the curious ‘bright’ yet slightly washed out colour rendition that all films of that period seem to have.
Last but not least is the soundtrack. Written by well-known jazz musician and spouse of Cleo Laine, John Dankworth, it is the epitome of hep-cat sixties jazz and it fits the joie de vivre of the film perfectly. In places it veers a bit too close to Henry Mancini or Ray Conniff territory for my liking but the theme itself is a masterpiece – conjuring up the sort of ‘hip’ jazz that films used to use as ‘party’ music in the early 1960s, pre-Beatles in an effort to sound cutting edge. In particular, there is a flamenco styled section that accompanies Raquel’s skydive to a villa perched on the Spanish Coast that is quite exhilarating and worth the price of the album alone.
Sadly, Dankworth died quite recently and much of his work is not available on CD but the soundtrack to ‘Fathom’ is a wonderful reminder of what a talent he was. Cool, Daddy-O!