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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Score Season #57
by Richard Jack Smith

Below are more soundtrack reviews of recent and archival releases.

The Charge of the Light Brigade (John Addison, 1968) *** Apart from the title and the subject matter, John Addison's music for The Charge of the Light Brigade differs entirely from Max Steiner's 1936 soundtrack. Where Steiner's effort felt like "once more unto the breach, dear friends," Addison adopts an armchair view. Yet each score proves equally valid. Indeed, Addison's work seems neither complacent nor lazy as the choral elements reflect how mortals struggle to overcome the inevitability of their fates. If you have yet to discover his orchestral works, The Charge of the Light Brigade should be a decent starting point. 

The Constant Gardener (Alberto Iglesias, 2005) **** I like it when a composer experiments. Unbound by logic, they are free to express the chaotic emotional experiences of the characters. Such a circumstance occurs in The Constant Gardener. Here Alberto Iglesias juxtaposes dark atmospheric textures against ethnic percussion of many nationalities. As such, this could prove to be a Marmite score, which listeners will either openly embrace or immediately despise. Personally, Iglesias remains on the right side of creative. There are broad, expressive tones and gestures which indicate long experience in dangerous lands. A brave and uncompromising effort, The Constant Gardener reminds us that taking chances, sharing a point of view and understanding the moods of different cultures has value. I learned a lot while hearing this music. Not something which can be said of every encounter. 

Dorian Gray (Charlie Mole, 2009) **** Composer Charlie Mole made some thrilling but mostly overblown underscore for the 1995 version of Othello. With Dorian Gray, he has extra meat to plunder albeit from a different classical source, Oscar Wilde. The latter remains one of my favourite authors for so many reasons. He was an enlightened personality whose inspiration was boundless. How does Mole fare? Pretty well actually. His music felt haunting with the lovely piano evoking "Dorian's Theme." Elsewhere, the mystery spreads via intuitive layers of orchestra and electronics for "Basil Paint." Meanwhile, "Sybil's Theme" spins sizzling intoxication like Jerry Goldsmith's Basic Instinct and John Barry's Body Heat. Up to this point, Mole has risen to the occasion by giving this Oscar Wilde adaptation the thought and development it requires. Only "Vanes Chase" deposits a cliche by robbing "Nothing to Trade" from Thomas Newman's Road to Perdition. Overall, the primary identity for Dorian Gray might be hanging out of reach like the painting which keeps the protagonist youthful, yet a fine atmospheric impression remains. Finally, "Extravaganza" matches the description perfectly, exploding from a place wholly new and chaotic. 

The McCullochs (Ernest Gold, 1975) **** Composer Ernest Gold won an Academy Award for Exodus. Regarding The  McCullochs -- also known as The Wild McCullochs -- he depicts a cheery outlook. Jazzy tones combine with suspenseful dramatic lines and lighthearted acoustics which are always a pleasure. There's a sweetness here that was absent from Exodus. Meanwhile, record label Monstrous Movie Music have painstakingly re-recorded every note. Thus, the orchestrations emerge as clear and sublime. With freedom in his heart, Gold reflects the truculent and mischievous behaviours of the McCulloch family.

Tarzan (David Newman, 2013) * Bizarre dislocation in those jungle vines. The whip threw generic schemes into the abyss and expected a sunrise. Thus, David Newman's Tarzan can swing in theory, yet it doesn't move me. The heart was left in the same condition from beginning to final curtain call. Music should allow the journey to course through your nervous system, leaving itty bitty spots of interest, markers which inspire the need to return. Imagine the soundtrack of your childhood from the merry go round to Christmas and the school play -- all these celebrations got tangled in Newman's overwrought draft. I wanted the flutes to breeze, the strings to dance in rhythmic circles and a new dialogue to open up. Instead, we got recycled formulas and staggered reveries busy to the tune of a large orchestra. 

The First Great Train Robbery (Jerry Goldsmith, 1978) ** When Jerry Goldsmith's music has the occasion to be heard, it nestles safely within the "sore thumb" variety. Indeed, the theme for The First Great Train Robbery doesn't meet the exact requirements. It seems to rush ahead before anything can catch on. If it were any more giddy, then a music student might have composed it in the dark while heavily intoxicated. 

Now for a poem:

For a theme built on whimsy

Impression felt a tad flimsy.

Yet The First Great Train Robbery

Rarely displays ego or snobbery.


The film was careful and bright

The matter deserves more light.

Regarding themes, it's a broken waltz

Forgiven for lacking schmaltz.


The collector might find a reason

To buy this score during the season.

Personally, more must be applied

Lest such funds be denied.

JFK (John Williams, 1991) **** Time to rhyme:

Talk about a man on Mars

Mixing tragedy and triumph in opening bars.

Yet technique and philosophy was the goal

More so than Alien3 by Goldenthal.


Creeping woodwinds in "Garrison's Obsession."

Sounds like a worthy confession.

Meanwhile, the piano, strings and horns

Appropriately warns.


"The Conspirators" ticks on doomy clock

Like a prisoner waiting at the dock.

"The Witnesses" was an avalanche of snaky terror

With nary a point in error.


Although this work might be one of his darkest,

It's certainly not the starkest.

For that, I nominate Minority Report.

Simply observe and deport.


"Arlington" felt like a weepie.

Nothing melodramatic or sleepy.

This was sheer absorption

With little need for caution.


Last Flight Out (Bruce Broughton, 2004) **

Laid back guitar in the tropics

Music makes for imaginative optics.

Piano warns of something gnarly

The percussion less than snarly.


"On the Beach" all is well

Taking stock for a spell.

"Too Much Water" was an okay song

Although the lyrics were wrong.


The moment this effort falls

A lack of climbable walls.

It was fair to middling

Broughton was fond of fiddling.


A one time only experience

Lacking the necessary resilience.

Last Flight Out somewhat bumpy

Don't expect anything jumpy.


One for the collection?

Not much to my recollection.

Man of a Thousand Faces (Frank Skinner, 1957) **** A poem:

Filling the heart with hope.

Main title fluke? Nope.

One might invite to dinner

The gentleman known as Frank Skinner.


Expect cool tones and a fine menu

With the chance to renew.

Dancing lilies on golden lit pond

Of such pictures I am fond.


Strings of festive cheer

In good hands, have no fear.

Some composers know how to behave

With poignancy on every stave.


Man of a Thousand Faces

Was better than car chases.

Melodies at the core

Too good to ignore.



The Brain from Planet Arous (Walter Greene, 1957) ***** The biggest compliment to be paid Walter Greene would be "bravo, sir!" Equally, record label Monstrous Movie Music deserves heaps of praise for resurrecting The Brain from Planet Arous. A score which might have been forgotten or taken for granted, Greene's effort represents the very definition of science fiction. The melodies amble in zero gravity, shifting with the shape of things to come. There's seduction and madness aplenty. One initial benefit from a re-recording might be the audio quality. Yet, that's elementary if such preservation doesn't hew close enough to the original. Thankfully, Monstrous Movie Music have seamlessly recreated every nuance of Greene's classic score. 

A poem to close:

For this evil alien floating brain,

Walter Greene relied on a chain.

Four saxophones in place of strings

A supremacy between mites and kings.


Three notes offer conclusive proof

That this identity shall not remain aloof.

Dastardly woodwinds assault

In a soundtrack without fault.


There's romance, suspense and mystery

A combination unique throughout history.

Appealing to every kind of taste

With rarely a note to waste.


Monstrous Movie Music at their best

They track scores for man, beast and pest.

A legacy based on the limited edition

Achieves ultimate fruition.


The Brain from Planet Arous knows

Humanly desires and woes.

It was cheesy and campy fun

As delicious as a hot cross bun!


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