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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Score Season #68
by Richard Jack Smith

Below are more soundtrack reviews of recent and archival releases.

City of Angels (Gabriel Yared, 1998) **** Cue the psychedelic review. A fortunate anomaly - incandescent and cavernous. The depths build high, a kingdom fashioned in sentiment. Tingling melodious clusters sight heavenly groups. Colours beyond shade. City of Angels towers beneath the eye, a view to review humanity's pure song. Interactive rhythms define a fall. Jump closer into destiny's hug. Celestial beings beam brightly upon a three note theme.

Gang War in Milan/Milano rovente (Carlo Rustichelli, 1973) **** Carlo Rustichelli was one of the most original film composers Italy has ever produced. He had a knack for crafting subtle, expressive and romantic scores across a wide range of genres. Throughout Gang War in Milan, he harnesses intriguing counterpoint under themes which touch upon avarice, crime and integrity. Confident in every breath, the accumulative effect proves staggering indeed. The flow behind each composition speaks to Rustichelli's innate ability to tell stories via organic means. Filled with longing as well as foreboding, the score adopts a rare technique: unbeatable pacing in line with mastery over tone, motif and the incidental. Treasure this voyage. 

Mr. Majestyk (Charles Bernstein, 1974) *** Not a classic score but one worth checking out, Mr. Majestyk tracks working class sensibilities in view of larger concerns. The main character desires peace and routine, yet forces conspire to make things complicated. For this scenario, composer Charles Bernstein operates on the minimalist front with percussion, guitars and harmonica gaining the spotlight. There's enough variety to keep this short album engaging. Thematically, it's a little rigid, while the action rhythms eschew the orchestral potency of similar productions. Even Lalo Schifrin's Dirty Harry felt busier than this. Go in with expectations light, and this dance might leave you satisfied.

Parasite (Richard Band, 1982) *** A bizarre beast, Richard Band's Parasite defies thematic labelling. It's an experiment in stasis, pent up to a fault. Instrumentally, the colours prove intriguing. Orchestral groups usurp any electronic features, and the suspense guarantees a polarising outcome. For example, "Ricus" and "Parasite Grows" owe much to the free association normally found in Jerry Goldsmith's work. Actually, I am compelled to hear this score again because Band bravely ventures into the unknown. Forms remain spectral at best, a wisp short of disappearing mist. Then again, tonal shades entice the listener to behold a dastardly premise. While challenging by design and limited in scope, Parasite comes across as clean, clinical terror. For the creativity behind its rumblings and tinklings, this one achieves a passable grade.

Slipstream (Elmer Bernstein, 1989) **** As Byron (played by Bob Peck) runs across the rugged terrain, a nearby plane known as a Brookland Aerospace Optica 0A7 stalks him. The pilots are Tasker (Mark Hamill) and Belitski (Kitty Aldridge). They enforce the law. Their target: a dangerous fugitive. Run this scenario by most composers, and you'll hear the obvious. Elaborate melodic constructions which mimic the Golden Age without feeling any part of it. Yet composer Elmer Bernstein establishes the hook right away. According to the liner notes, "... rolling waves of massive brass chords, soaring over a staccato cadence of strings and timpani" set the scene. This made me sit forward, turn my head a little to the left and soak in the excitement. On album, this cue goes by the rather generic designation "Prologue and Pursuit." However, it's more indicative of the new world order, reinvention via musical expression. Personal yet profound. Of course, this proves to be a mere iceberg skim relative to the wonders which will soon unfold. For added value, please consider "Slipstream People" and "Travel to Dance." Excellent compositions both, though the climactic piece "Revenge and Resolution" could be the heavyweight contender.

Time to rhyme:

River of wind earned a symphony

A triumph of brass, strings and timpani.

"Prologue and Pursuit" offered the winning take

Making friends in its wake.


Elmer Bernstein broke the mould

Hatching pure soundtrack gold.

A spooky ambience registers thus

Every voice and shimmer a plus.


In the law abiding plane

Mark Hamill achieved rare harmonic lane.

Those bold, brassy chords

Worthy of judgemental lords.


Heights seldom reached

Soundalikes often beached.

When original form was uttered

The bread was truly buttered.

The Faithful Woman/Une femme fidele (Mort Shuman and Pierre Porte, 1976) **** A poem:

Formalities in the pursuit of art

Classical training makes for a good start.

Flighty as love first struck

Twitterpation for the lonely duck.


Such outstanding musical figures

Posit deeply felt triggers.

Pleasant thoughts before bed

Like a well kept bottle of red.


What allows for parity?

The woodwinds are startling in their clarity.

Every note relates a tale

In the diary of this female.

The Four Feathers (James Horner, 2002) ** A poem:

A soulful and airy backing

Prior to vocal stacking.

Honour and pride in The Four Feathers

Less reliant than most on Horner's tethers.


Indulgent pacing and the wrong note

Horner dons his favourite coat.

Only the requisite thief

Would reference the danger motif.


Such clashing lines of code

Rarely offer friendly abode.

Heart sinking minor chords

Appear as fallen swords.


Can "The Mahdi" save this cause

Or simply respect previous pause?

Breathy and low at first

Before Glory burst.


Ideas were announced then dropped

As though all thinking stopped.

It's extremely slow and messy

Somewhat overly dressy.

The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing (John Williams, 1973) **** A poem:

Free from any type of prancing

The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing.

John Williams getting into his stride

With themes personal and wide.


Piano and harmonica in tune

The light of a pleasant dune.

There's drama as well

A keen story he must tell.


An Americana vibe

Like the sacred tribe.

Flutes stole the show

Let those harmonies grow.


A ray of sun on the soul

Pulls every wayward being from the hole.

The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing

So effective and life enhancing.


What allows for parity?

The woodwinds are startling in their clarity.

Every note relates a tale

In the diary of this female.

Nomad: The Warrior (Carlo Siliotto, 2005) **** A poem:

As distinctive as the magic hour,

Hear chords of wisdom and power.

Efficient as a farrier

Behold Nomad: The Warrior.


When enemies have a score to settle

This truly tests a composer's mettle.

On one side, an emotional high.

For the defeated, bitter sigh.


Such shades of grey

Determine yay or nay.

Thus a mega task was near

Carlo Siliotto lost all fear.


He rode on metaphorical wings

Telling a story worthy of kings.



Dillinger (Dimitri Tiomkin, 1945) ***** The composer with the million dollar notes, Dimitri Tiomkin turns John Dillinger's crime spree into a compelling musical universe. Like serials from the period, we hear a fanfare which instantly captures the imagination. It's got many friends. Ultimately, he delivers what could be deemed a "pulp" score. Scene by scene, motivations remain uncomplicated and largely eschew the modern tendency towards decoration. Comparing Tiomkin's score to Elliot Goldenthal's Public Enemies, another film which follows Dillinger, yields some fascinating contrasts. The finale in the latter comes across as overwrought, a painfully menacing drone for such an outcome. Meanwhile, Dillinger plays like a bandit caper. Firm chords enunciate the drama and suspense.

 A poem to close:

Few composers can paint

And leave patrons without a complaint.

Dillinger contains that rainbow shine

The musical figures straight and fine.


Presented without the need for pandering

And made to bypass the meandering.

An experience coated in maple

The most excellent staple.


Only cash in a pile

Could make Dillinger smile.

So Tiomkin knew the risks

Failure meant broken discs.


Every stave a battle to win

Such gorgeous fanfares, hear them spin.

Please note: as of this writing, no official CD or digital download for Dimitri Tiomkin's Dillinger exists. Therefore, I reviewed the score as heard in the film.

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