Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Chew the Fat: Spectacular Film Soundracks!

Redartz:  We all love a good movie. We all love good music. So it only seems logical that we'd all love a good movie soundtrack. 

I certainly do; and the past week has put a couple of them onto my radar. I recently acquired the soundtrack cd of John Williams' "Jurassic Park", and was gifted the lp of Prince' "Purple Rain" (which certainly qualifies, as it was all film music). Both are favorites of mine. 
John Williams, of course, has many film scores on his lengthy resume. Quite likely some of them will be named as favorites among you all. But of all his works, my personal picks are "Jaws" and "Jurassic Park"; largely for the same reason. In both cases the musical score melds so effectively with the action onscreen that they are practically inseparable. Everyone recognizes the classic intro to "Jaws", just a few of those low notes will bring to mind the impending doom of that young swimmer. Well, William's work on JP is equally evocative. 

As for Prince: his talent needs no explanation from this unworthy one. But "Purple Rain" worked so beautifully as a whole; it seemed like a music video in full movie form. And each song was ...perfect. One of the best , if not the best, musical films of the 80's. And it still sounds excellent today. 


I could go on, and probably will as the conversation gets going. I will just mention one more, one less familiar to many than the two discussed above. Mike Oldfield did the soundtrack for the film "The Killing Fields". Most folks will recognize him from "The Exorcist", which utilized his composition "Tubular Bells". The music he created for "Fields" is remarkable. Wide ranging in approach, from powerful symphonic elements to delicate pan flute to bizarre electronica, it stunned me upon my first viewing of the film. So much so that I went immediately out to the record store and picked up the soundtrack lp. Which is saying something; a movie ticket and a record album cost a good bit of money to a humble art student at the time.

Okay, you know where this is all leading to. What film scores gave you the shivers? Which stand out and which are essentially forgettable? Which composers did/do you favor? What soundtracks really 'made' the movie, and which ones nearly sank it? The curtains are rising and the orchestra is warming up; have at it!


dangermash aka The Artistic Actuary said...

Ennio Morricone died only yesterday and I've been watching the final shootout in The Good, The Bad And The Ugly over and over again. I want the music from the shootout played at my funeral.

That film soundtrack blows everything else out of the water as far as I’m concerned.

Colin Jones said...

I've owned only two movie soundtrack albums:

1) 'Cabaret' featuring such songs as...er, Cabaret (Come to the cabaret, old chum), Money Makes The World Go Round, Two Ladies and Tomorrow Belongs To Me.

2) 'South Park - Bigger, Longer And Uncut' featuring such classics as Blame Canada, Mountain Town and Shut Your F*****g Mouth Uncle F****r.

I recall also buying a James Bond Greatest Hits in the late '80s featuring all the theme songs up to that time plus other Bond songs like Underneath The Mango Tree (from Dr. No).

And around the same time (late '80s) I remember buying an album featuring music from the "Spaghetti Westerns" by Ennio Morricone who died just a few days ago, aged 91.

B McMolo said...

"The Killing Fields" is an excellent pick.

My favorite soundtracks:

- Jason and the Argonauts (chills galore, especially the Talos and Skeletons parts.)
- Raiders of the Lost Ark (all of it, but "The Map Room" is perfection.)
- All James Barry Bond sountracks (but especially Moonraker, particularly "Bond Lured to the Pyramid" and "Into Space")
- Mark Mothersbaugh's soundtrack to "Bottle Rocket," which is like a happy-mood transcribed and arranged into sound.
- Flash Gordon ("HE'LL SAVE EVERYONE OF US!")
- Does John Carpenter's "Lost Themes" count? It should. Awesome stuff.
- Young Sherlock Holmes (rama-teeeep... rama-tep!)
- Hunt for Red October ("Dos-veeeee-dannnnya!"_
- Alexander Nevsky (One of the all-time great soundtracks and ripped off/ homage-d perhaps more than any other. I once heard "Battle of the Ice" at top volume (as I was afraid to move my hands from the wheel to lower it lest I get blown off the highway or skid out of control) while driving through what I later learned was the edge of a tornado. I've not been the same since.
- And finally "Trinity and Beyond" by William Stromberg. The soundtrack to the atomic bomb documentary narrated by Shatner. Worth tracking down or you-tubing, particularly this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hOQ3EQjIo5I
As one reviewer puts it, "this ain't a soundtrack; this is a gd declassified opera."
- Honorable mentions: Elmer Bernstein, "Robocop," and Henry Mancini.

Also RIP Ennio!

Anonymous said...

Wow, so many...

Red, your mention of Oldfield’s KILLING FIELDS soundtrack reminds me of a few lesser-known favorites of my own : Philip Glass’ majestic and mesmerizing score for MISHIMA, and Peter Gabriel’s LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST score.

JAWS was probably my first soundtrack. Man, I wore that thing out! Jerry Goldsmith’s LOGAN’S RUN was another early soundtrack purchase. I still love both of ‘em.

If you’re gonna pick Prince’s (excellent) PURPLE RAIN song-score, I’m gonna mention one of MY favorites, Paul Williams’ PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE. Oh! And Giorgio Moroder’s insane disco/pop/electronica METROPOLIS soundtrack featuring Pat Benatar, Billy Squier and other ‘I LOVE THE 80s’ artists...and the STREETS OF FIRE soundtrack...and HEAVY METAL...

But like I said, there are just so many — John Barry and all those amazing Bond scores (and KING KONG and OUT OF AFRICA and ZULU and THE BLACK HOLE etc ) — Bernard Herrmann, NORTH BY NORTHWEST —Alex North, SPARTACUS— Basil Poleidorus, CONAN THE BARBARIAN and ROBOCOP — Tangerine Dream, SORCERER and THIEF — Criminey, I’m barely scratching the surface here...


Redartz said...

Great comments all! Will respond more later, but wanted to echo the love for John Barry's Bond scores. "Thunderball" is on heavy rotation on my playlist...

And yes, saddened to hear of the passing of Ennio Morricone. Great great talent.

B McMolo said...

My kingdom for an edit-comment button re: "James Barry..." Ugh!!

BobC said...

Mike Oldfield! I loved him as a kid, especially the album Hergest Ridge

Redartz said...

Dangermash- Morricone was incredible, can't deny that. The Musical Heavenly Hall of Fame is getting as crowded as the Comics Heavenly Hall.

Colin J- "Cabaret" is great! Love Joel Gray. Maybe a Show Tunes post should be forthcoming.

B McMolo- Quite a list, most impressive! And I second your opinion regarding "The Map Room" on the Indiana Jones soundtrack. Back in college we had a Dungeons and Dragons group, and we'd frequently play the Raiders lp as background music. And often we'd play and replay "Map Room"; absolutely perfect mood music for debating entry into some dusty dungeon.

b.t.- You also have given us a terrific list! Good call on Giorgio Moroder. Plus you give some love to some earlier greats; "North by Northwest" is phenomenal. You're right, there are SO MANY, we can only begin to address them. As Colin mentioned "Cabaret", I'm tempted to bring up Leonard Bernstein and "West Side Story", but again, I think musicals will be visited in an upcoming discussion (are you listening, HB?).

BobC- You and I are in total agreement. Love Oldfield's work; have been seeking out his cds bit by bit over the last couple of years (as cds become cheaper, and many people are parting with them, it's easier and less expensive to acquire a good collection).

Humanbelly said...

Man-- SO busy this week--- I dearly wish I had time to lay fully into the much-beloved topic!

I may tend to latch on specific themes more than entire soundtracks, BUT STILL---

I know Basil Poleidorus gets well-deserved love for CONAN & ROBOCOP--- but his main theme from QUIGLEY DOWN UNDER (a mildly charming Australian "Western") is his flippin' masterpiece. It is one of my favorite musical pieces of all time-- although I would say the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra recording is superior to the actual film soundtrack. It is a slice of honky-tonk community band joy. . .

Did anyone mention Hans Zimmer's PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN soundtrack? It did get overplayed, sure-- but with good reason.

John Williams may have more than 20 movie themes that I love (plus the original LOST IN SPACE-!)-- but his best-- his BEST-- is the March From 1941. The film's notable failure is probably what kept this theme from being a bigger Williams hit, I imagine. It is tied for first place for Best Movie March in Film History with------

Elmer Bernstein's Theme From THE GREAT ESCAPE. Both of these marches capture unbridled joy in 4/4 (or perhaps 2/2?) time-- and speak to the soul of every dedicated marching band kid that still lives somewhere inside our ageing bodies, eh? They create more of a "move your body to the music" fervor in me than even Rock & Roll. . .

And hey, could I do a shout-out for the YELLOW SUBMARINE album? That Side Two-- with the orchestral tracks, is an extremely enjoyable listening experience, put together largely by Sir George Martin, IIRC.

And--- gotta go-- (listening to a Sci-Fi movie/TV themes CD while I paint the kitchen, as it happens!)


Anonymous said...

Some spooky stuff:

Pino Donaggio, CARRIE and THE HOWLING — two of my favorite 80s horror movies, both with GORGEOUS scores.

Wojciech Kilar, BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA — i think the movie is hit and miss, but the score is divine.

James Bernard, TONS of great Hammer scores — I’ll just pick two at near-random: DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE and THE DEVIL RIDES OUT.

Ron Grainer, THE OMEGA MAN — not a particularly scary score (or movie) but I love it. It sounds VERY 70s..

Goblin, PROFONDO ROSSO and SUSPIRIA — creeeeepy prog horror. Witch!


Colin Jones said...

Nobody has mentioned Psycho - the music accompanying the shower scene must rank alongside the Jaws music as the most terrifying in movie history. Planet Of The Apes (1968) had a great score too. And don't forget the theme from Star Wars!

I forgot to mention that I owned an album called "Themes" by Vangelis which included music from such films as Chariots Of Fire and Blade Runner. But although the album was called "Themes" it sadly didn't include the wonderful theme tune "Heaven And Hell" from the TV series Cosmos.

BobC said...

Humanbelly--good "seeing you" again! It's been years!

Humanbelly said...

Hey there, BobC!
How delightful that you found your way here to Red & Marti's extremely well-maintained extension of the ol' BABs community-- ! And I noticed recently that Google finally, FINALLY recognizes our existence, so hopefully we'll see more and more old pals showing up, eh? (As well as curious new ones. . . ).

ColinJ-- I have an out-of-print CD of selections from Hitchcock films, and the final track is a recording of Bernard Herrmann giving a lecture (don't recall where) on film music/film composition--- and it's really a very cool curiosity. He's not a particularly. . . dynamic. . . speaker, but his matter-of-fact passion for his work is clearly on display. And it's enhanced by the fact that he has this very workaday, middle-class New York accident-- so when he's (correctly) expanding on the fact that there can be no such thing as film w/out music supporting it, it sounds exactly like a guy who might be talking about the importance of using a good primer before painting raw wood. . .


dangermash aka The Artistic Actuary said...

"Has anybody seen that film Jaws? It's about a shark that plays the 'cello."
- Billy Connolly

Anonymous said...

Somewhere around here I have a cassette called ‘SUDDEN IMPACT and the Best of Dirty Harry’, with lots of jazzy ‘Tough Guy’ tracks from the first four movies by Lalo Schiffrin and Jerry Fielding. I should go dig it up, see if it still plays. Schiffrin’s ENTER THE DRAGON score is pretty bad-ass too.

Quincy Jones’ score for THE GETAWAY is great — unfortunately I don’t think it’s ever been officially released on vinyl or CD.

- b.t.

Colin Jones said...

HB, when you say that Bernard Hermann has a workaday, middle-class New York "accident" I assume you mean accent :)

And on the subject of film without music supporting it - I've read that Hitchcock originally intended the Psycho shower scene to be silent!

Humanbelly said...

Ha! Yes-- totally missed the mis-type there, Colin J-!

And that shower-scene note does ring a bell--
You can certainly see it as a choice to consider-- but boy, it would really have made that whole scene land SO differently. I think dead silence would, if anything, have separated the audience from what was going on, 'cause it would have been so unnatural. Bernard's shrieking violins-- in a crowded theater, full of terrified people-- are the PERFECT cue to get the audience to surrender to screaming themselves at that moment. Heck, I guess we can credit Hitch with recognizing a better choice than his own when it was presented to him-- not always his strong-suit--- heh---


Redartz said...

Glad some of you have entered some notables from the horror genre. Speaking of which, the subject of Hitchcock's shower scene is fascinating. It's truly hard to imagine that scene being anywhere near as effective without the music. Oh, and the chocolate syrup used to simulate the blood...

Anonymous said...

My vote goes to the magnificent Howard Shore for his work on - what else? - the Lord of the Rings soundtrack. I even bought the CDs some years ago. Great stuff!

- Mike 'I look like an Asian hobbit' from Trinidad & Tobago.

BobC said...

Hey HB!! I remember that you LOVED the Hulk!

Humanbelly said...

Oho-- and still do, BobC--!
(I got a delightful Hulk chef's apron for Christmas this year-!)


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