Disney’s Something Wicked This Way Comes, directed by Jack Clayton and based on Ray Bradbury’s famous novel, was a film that suffered from bad audience reactions at preview screenings, just as Blade Runner had several months before. As with Blade Runner, much of the problem came from audience expectations. SWTWC was a slow-paced, atmospheric horror film, a morality tale and study of the innocence of youth and regrets of old age, but was being released in the wake of Poltergeist and The Thing that summer. Audiences now expected their horror films to be big and effects-driven modern spectacles, and what effects there were in SWTWC were very old-school and subdued. Disney panicked at the negative audience reactions and ordered reshoots with extra visual effects, increasing the pace and spectacle to better approximate what audiences expected. As an inevitable consequence of the re-editing and added visual effects, the original score by Georges Delerue was dropped, replaced by a score created by rising composer James Horner, hot from the success of his score for that summer’s hit Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
I’ve never seen Clayton’s original cut of SWTWC- far as I know very few people have, certainly not since 1982 as I believe it does not exist anymore in its complete form. When it finally came out in 1983 SWTWC was a fairly average film that was neither the atmospheric character-based horror film originally intended nor the exciting effects showcase Disney tried to later turn it into, but rather something in between, pleasing few. One of the few things positive about it was Horner’s replacement score, which I believe he wrote in something like two weeks. It’s impossible to say which version of the film was better; even members of the creative team admit there were issues with the original cut, while fans of the final version admit it is badly flawed. The film came out, did little business, and has been largely forgotten.
Delerue’s original score, meanwhile, passed into film-score fan-myth, one of those ‘lost’ scores like Yared’s original Troy score (which was also, in an odd twist of fate, replaced by a last-minute Horner score). Years later Delerue’s music was the subject of much interest when some of it finally came to light from the composer’s own personal copy on an audio tape. Some of it was released on a French CD with understandably poor sound quality a few years ago and circulated on the internet on sites like Youtube.
Fortunately archivists at Disney recently discovered the scoring session masters from 1982 and now Intrada have released the complete score on CD. It’s a fascinating glimpse into what the original cut of SWTWC must have been like, as the music sounds nothing like the Horner score and hardly represents the film as we know it today. It’s a dark, moody piece of work, dominated by an opening piece reminiscent of the opening of Bernard Herrmann’s Citizen Kane score, that proceeds to run through a score full of regret and yearning. Its dramatic, its moody, its quite eerie and its really very sad; but its hardly music for the exciting edge-of-your-seat shocks that films like Poltergeist deliver. Its clearly a score for a very different kind of horror film.
We’re very lucky to have this score available to us, and comparing this release with Intrada’s earlier release of the James Horner score that replaced it, is a fascinating insight into how different music can have an impact on a film, and how changes to a film can impact the music. There’s certainly no way the film as it turned out could have used this Delerue score, as fine as it is, so it’s understandable why it was dropped, regrettable at it may have been.
Another example of this kind of situation would be the Legend scores; Jerry Goldsmith’s original and the Tangerine Dream score that replaced it in the US- one richly orchestral, the other drone-like electronica. We can hear both scores on the two alternate cuts of Legend on the Blu-ray release from a few years back. In a similar situation to what happened with SWTWC, the studio wanted to increase the pace and excitement of Ridley Scott’s original (European) cut and hired a prog-rock band to score it. It didn’t work at all but we can hear both soundtracks and see how they do and don’t work on the Blu-ray. We can’t do that with SWTWC because the full original cut does not apparently exist. Maybe one day, somehow, the original cut of the film will surface, if only in a rough workprint form as an extra on a future blu-ray release of SWTWC. As the film isn’t particularly popular though, any such release of the film seems very unlikely. But at any rate, at least we can listen to this new Intrada CD and wonder.