Hi there. I decided to take a little moment to step outside the comic/review-weekly cycle for a change, and as one of my many film-related enthusiasms has always been the musical aspect of films – namely the film scores – I decided to go with that old, effective-proven lazy man’s route; making lists.
Nope – not really doing any TOP-lists or any of that thing that uses numericses.
Numbers. That was the word I was looking for. “1-5” and all that sort of thing.
None of that. I’m basically going to go through some of my favorite composers, and give my 2 cents worth of opinions about their favorite works. With some carefully selected audio samples(“carefully selected” meaning “is it on YouTube or isn’t it?”) to go with those works. I’m sure there will be a lot of “well, why didn’t you pick THIS score – or THAT score?” in the comments, but this is my list and everyone is free to make their own one. Also – I’m not gonna make this overlong – so this will be the first one of several(I know; I have like 4 other article series going on already – but whaddya do? At least gives me some leeway to choose from) So here we go:
JERRY GOLDSMITH (1929-2004)
There’s not much to say about the late, great maestro – he was one of a kind. He did everything. Not afraid to go BIG, and not afraid to go lyrical. And also not afraid to experiment – combining peculiar electronic sounds with the good old-fashioned orchestra. And he is one of those guys who can make the entire orchestra sound like a percussion instrument. And he did EVERY genre; just look at the man’s filmography. It was a great loss, when he passed away.
Planet of the Apes (1968)
This might’ve been his first “experimental” score, using some very strange percussive and animalistic sounds. And the track “The Hunt” reflects terrifically the type of batshit crazy situation where Charlton Heston and his fellow astronauts find themselves.
Star Trek – The Motion Picture (1979)
I know – everybody expected me to pick his march-y “Star Trek”-theme, didn’t they? Well, it’s a great track for sure, but this slowly-building theme from when the Enterprise finally enters the V’ger cloud has always been my favorite.
First Blood (1982)
I doubt that “First Blood” would’ve been the action classic that it’s regarded nowadays without Goldsmith’s score. He really was the one that created the sound of Rambo – this first score is pure adrenaline. Makes you wanna run through the woods.
The ‘burbs (1989)
Goldsmith showed his most whimsical side when working with Joe Dante. He scored all in all 8 of Dante’s films – starting with “Gremlins”, all the way to 2003’s “Looney Tunes – Back in Action” which he didn’t actually finish completely because of his ailing health. My favorite of these collaborations is “The ‘ burbs” – it basically allowed Goldsmith to play with genres and even do a little bit of self-parody with using his “Patton”-theme whenever Bruce Dern’s character appears on screen.
The Shadow (1994)
“The Shadow” was a larger than life, pulpy movie – so it needed a larger than life, pulpy score. And Goldsmith delivered. There’s a pure adventurous spirit that comes across in this score – which I understand has been a fan-favorite everywhere – and it doesn’t take itself too seriously….just like the film.
MICHAEL KAMEN (1948-2003)
Kamen started as a ballet composed and an orchestral arranger for pop/rock groups/artists such as Pink Floyd, Queen, David Bowie etc. He started to get attention as a film composer in the early 80’s with scoring David Cronenberg’s “The Dead Zone”, Terry Gilliam’s “Brazil” and co-composing the TV-miniseries “Edge of Darkness” with Eric Clapton. You can certainly hear the ballet-influences in Kamen’s work, as well as a vast knowledge of classical music, which he quotes occasionally. Kamen’s filmography.
I know that when the music of “Highlander” is mentioned, 9 times out of 10 it’s the Queen songs that come up. But one should remember that there is a damn fine Kamen score backing things up there. The best track is without a doubt this lyrical piece, that plays as Sean Connery’s character is training the Highlander.
Lethal Weapon (1987)
Kamen scored all four “Lethal Weapon”-films with Eric Clapton and saxophone-player David Sanborn. It really is a unique combination for an action film; Clapton’s guitar basically underscoring the Riggs character and Sanborn’s sax for the Murtaugh parts. And all this is tied up with Kamen’s orchestral work. In this track, things finally explode into full action.
Die Hard (1988)
Besides “Lethal Weapon”, “Die Hard” was another Joel Silver-produced action-franchise that Kamen created the sound for. The “Die Hard” score is probably one of the most playful action film-scores; Kamen combines the original underscore with little nods to “Singing in the Rain”, Beethoven’s 9th Symphony and several other classical works, as well as christmas songs. This 8+ minute track is a good example of all the different styles going on here.
Robin Hood – Prince of Thieves (1991)
I don’t think anything spells “High Adventure” as much as Kamen’s main title theme of “Robin Hood – Prince of Thieves”. Hell – the studio, Morgan Creek, liked it so much that it became their company logo theme ever since.
The Iron Giant (1999)
Underrated movie, underrated score. “The Iron Giant” is the only animated movie Kamen ever scored, but it one damn epic piece of work. To go for an “old-fashioned” sound, he recorder this with the Czech Philharmonic orchestra in Prague.
Best known for his Robert Zemeckis-collaborations(15th film together coming up next) as well as Marvel’s “Captain America: The First Avenger” and “The Avengers”, but there’s much much more to this man; he’s made action, drama, comedy, horror, children’s movies – you name it. I am particularly fond of his exceptional use of snare drums. Look up the Silvestri’s work.
Back To The Future (1985)
Silvestri’s second Zemeckis film(first being “Romancing the Stone”) was really when all the pieces finally clicked together, and magic happened. The BTTF theme is probably one of the most recognizable main themes in the last 30 years. This over 10 minute cue from the final action scene really cover most of the thematic work from this film.
Hard-hitting score for a hard-hitting action movie. The main theme is pretty well known, so I picked a later track from the score, which has a slightly different variation of it. Silvestri returned to the first sequel as well, and there is some pretty wild percussion stuff in that which I actually like even more that the cues in this first one.
The Quick And The Dead (1995)
Basically Silvestri’s third visit to the Western-genre – the previous ones being “Back To the Future 3” and “Young Guns 2” – but there’s something pastiche-like in his approach here. It’s a slightly heightened version of a traditional western score(love the whip cracks) – as is Sam Raimi’s film.
Mouse Hunt (1997)
The score for Gore Verbinski’s first(and still in my opinion the best) feature film just makes me in a good mood, when I put it on. The main title track almost forces you to hum along.
What Lies Beneath (2000)
Some horror for the last. For this Zemeckis film, Silvestri got to do a very Bernard Herrmann-esque score. And it really manages to raise the hairs on the back of your neck in places. I dig the hell out of this film itself, too.
To be continued….