It seems a few years late for the retro spy revival, but who's complaining? Here is the long-awaited compilation of OSS 117 soundtracks by French soundtrack chameleon Michel Magne.
OSS 117 is the code name for Hubert Bonisseur de la Bath, a free-lancing American secret agent of French origin. The character originated in paperback novels during the '50s, but didn't receive a successful film translation until the early '60s when spy fever swept the globe. In fact, the actor who provided the voice (but not the physical embodiment) of OSS 117 (Jean-Pierre Duclos) also provided the voice for the French dubbed Bond films. In terms of cinematic thrills, the OSS 117 films fall somewhere between Cubby Broccoli's big budget 007 films and the fly-by-night copy-cat spoofs made in Italy.
Four films were released between '63 and '66 and all featured Michel Magne's playfully imaginative scores befitting such settings as Thailand, Japan and Brazil. Along the way there are trad crime jazz cues, pop vamps with scat vocals, brassy big band jams, cacophonous carnival numbers, furious samba dances and stately oriental overtures. Plus, there's a remix by Roudoudou featuring sitar.
The OSS 117 scores aren't likely to remind anyone of John Barry's 007 work or Jerry Goldsmith's Flint scores. They're more in keeping with the comical Italian spy sound, but not to the point of mimicry. Magne is his own man, which makes any of his work (such as and FantomasCompartiment Tueurs) worth hearing.
This review previously appeared on the author's website www.ScoreBaby.com