Score Season #31
Bad Girls (Jerry Goldsmith, 1994) **** Colour me surprised for Jerry Goldsmith’s Bad Girls combines sass and ingenuity. Frankly, I wasn’t expecting the music to be good. Vague memories of the film notwithstanding, it seemed like he might phone in this contribution. Nothing could be further from the saloon. The rhythms come across as fierce and assured, the atmosphere conducive to saddles and peacemakers. Seriously, where have these Bad Girls been all my life? Highly recommended.
The Heiress (Aaron Copland, 1949) ** Only a poem:
Because sound was hampered
left far from pampered.
Rating affected by flaw
Not left wanting more.
Hurricane (Nino Rota, 1979) *** Time to rhyme:
Much less to be feared
“Main Title” felt weird.
Token woodwinds grant
A favourable slant.
Perhaps one or two hearings
Might alter troubled bearings.
The mystery and the unknown
Like a new king on the throne.
“Love in Blossom” hardly weepie
Because the vibe was creepy.
Flutes duly relieve
What might deceive.
“Matangi’s Escape” proved valid
Pushing past the pallid.
This final song
Overcoming what’s wrong.
The Robe (Alfred Newman, 1953) **** Until recently, I’d yet to experience an Alfred Newman score which felt like a love affair. That could change with The Robe. Actually, Newman comes across as the most austere of geniuses, always at arm’s length or the other side of the shore. From time to time, it’s possible to sense the attachment a composer makes to a film; bringing to mind the painter that uses his/her favourite subject for their commissions. This otherness, a fusion between epic drama, craftsmanship and emotional weight was palpable here. Also, there’s plenty to experience – thirty two tracks spanning over ninety minutes. The potency behind “The Crucifixion” felt enhanced by a strategic and dramatically sound “The Carriage of the Cross.” Overall, The Robe could be one of the great scores never to receive an Oscar nomination.
Stuntman (Carlo Rustichelli, 1968) *** A more bizarre opening for a soundtrack could scarcely be imagined. Stuntman turns eclecticism on its head via a children’s choir, carnival rhythms and electric guitar of all things. Despite system shock, I like the groove. A more romantic flavour can be felt during “We’re Two, At Least.” No deceit, this came across as genuinely heart tugging. It’s a wonder I never happened upon Carlo Rustichelli before. Recently, I heard Journey Beneath the Desert, a wondrous exploration into musical form. While some composers would be hard pressed to reinvent their sensibilities from one soundtrack to the next, Rustichelli does so every other track. Good old Rusty!
Supernova (David Williams/Burkhard Dallwitz, 2000) * First up: David Williams scored the majority of Thomas Lee’s ill-fated Supernova. The latter was a pseudonym adopted by Walter Hill. Reading about the picture in David Hughes’ The Greatest Sci-fi Movies Never Made, the best version was left on the cutting room floor. Apparently, such innovative camera trickery and effects left producers confused. Because they couldn’t recognise the actor under the make-up, they decided to hedge their bets. The fools! So, this review will be based on two halves. There’s the finished product containing mostly Williams’ underscore, with some Burkhard Dallwitz thrown in. Essentially, little can be drawn from Williams’ effort. He lulls us into a mysterious mood, his thematic discoveries patchy at best. Above all, the ethereal heart behind Supernova proves creepy at best. For example, “Discovery” drifts in a vacuum, flanked by complacency. I like to be taken on a journey, and this barely made the first step. Even worse, Dallwitz emits radiation in the form of Tangerine Dream. Remembering how poorly the latter fared on Firestarter only serves to undermine Dallwitz’s plan. He affronts the listener via disco sound design. This would prove distracting in a commercial, the medium built on such references.
Valentina (Riz Ortolani, 1982) *** Incurably romantic, Riz Ortolani believed in the ever shifting currents which brings human beings together. The swing behind “Walking Hand in Hand” felt delightful. Such easy going dynamics only makes the emotional depths more palpable. Also, war historians might revel in the martial fun from “Children’s Battle on the River.” The keyboard offers goofy, escapist appeal. Meanwhile, smoky jazz makes “Disenchantment” as spellbinding as a sonnet from the Bard. Having kissed a girl recently, I can attest to the magic wrought by “First Kiss.” As such, Ortolani captures that life altering moment where eternity stands still and all that matters resides in the heart.
Venom (Ludwig Goransson, 2018) **** Intriguingly, Venom starts tiny like a particle of space dust. The volume increases as a spaceship enters orbit and crashes. Mostly, composer Ludwig Goransson embraces electronics not as a kitschy 1980s supplement but for texture and mood. Despite the comical tone adopted by director Ruben Fleischer, the music presents greater contrasts. It’s dark, ominous and demented. While “First Contact” provides some lightness, it’s immediately countered by the unsettling chorus. If a theme does exist, “Eddie’s Blues” clarifies loneliness and despondence. Do I detect the Horn of Doom in “Run, Eddie, Run”? Yes but Goransson develops a parallel narrative. This standard bellicose personality warps the common ostinato. However, we get the impression of speed and force. Several things I admire about Venom: 1) Embracing aleatoric measures 2) Goransson doesn’t shove the music in our faces every chance he gets 3) He reinvents modern scoring sensibilities via emotion rather than ear-splitting mayhem. Actually, “Self Defense” proves to be the catalyst, igniting a flurry of high-octane cues. Ultimately, the beast arrives as “Venom Rampage” obliterates all notions of subtlety. As a pace-setter, it’s only upstaged by the mammoth “Battle on the Launch Pad.” What a monster!
The Wonders of Aladdin (Angelo Francesco Lavagnino, 1961) ** A poem:
First impressions dulled by vexation.
Needing a fresh genie for relaxation.
The Wonders of Aladdin?
More like the Blunders of Gunga Din.
Music so sprightly
I cannot take lightly.
Yet there’s dumb or fun
Not much thought behind this one.
SCORE OF THE MOMENT
Black Sea Raid (Terry Plumeri, 1996) ***** Because I consider Terry Plumeri a kindred spirit, his music resonates deeper than most. He was a genius who mastered the musical vocabulary for action (Diamondbacks), horror (Scarecrows), drama (Ambushed) and fantasy (Raging Angels). His soundtracks come across as sacred artefacts, so crisply recorded the orchestra shares your space. Remarkable attention to detail and thematic development are backed by world class pacing and a consistent tone. Meanwhile, daggers brush complacency from the sniper’s breath; Black Sea Raid unearthing one good hand after another, like the chosen one at poker. Steel fashioned in the shape of a baton, wielded with the pointedness of a hammer backs away from legend. A myth created in its own fingerprints, the blank slate birthing ideas a global enemy might resist. Locking horns with an eyeless serpent, fangs chiselled down; the shallowness of depth a pinch to remember. I want all these luxuries framed on the mountain wall so the galaxy might pause… in awe.