Soundtrack Shelf: Cherry 2000/The House of God (Basil Poledouris, 1987/1984)

cherry 2000It seems only fitting that following Edward Scissorhands, my next pick from the soundtrack shelf would be this charming double-bill from the late, great Basil Poledouris, as the Cherry 2000 soundtrack shares the same quirky, irreverent sense of inventiveness as Elfman’s score. The film itself was a b-movie sci-fi Western with inevitable nods to Blade Runner and Mad Max, which languished on the studio shelf for two years before getting an eventual release (I think it turned up late at night on television many years ago, don’t think I even managed to get through all of it- which was my loss, as it might have been nice to have heard the score years before I eventually did). The House of God, meanwhile, suffered an even worse fate- completed in 1980, it was eventually dumped onto television/cable networks in 1984, and I’ve never seen it. So with this Intrada release (hey, another link with Edward Scissorhands) we’re in the realm of blind-buying soundtracks for films we’ve never seen, either from recommendations online or simply due to the composer’s name.  Its something of a wonder either of these scores got an official release, but they certainly deserve to. Cherry 2000 is part orchestral, part electronic, reminiscent of his Robocop score (both would have been written around the same time, I imagine) but is a much lighter score, blessed with a gorgeous love theme that demonstrates the composers gift for melody. The electronics work really well, my favourite track is Drive, which thanks to the magic of Youtube I can offer a link to below-

I must say there is something utterly magical and fun about the Cherry 2000 score. Whenever I listen to it, it always brings a smile to my face. Its electronics are certainly of its time, adding a nostalgic bent to it with memories of other Poledouris scores, and also Jerry Goldsmith’s scores of the time, like Gremlins, Twilight Zone: The MovieExplorers and InnerSpace, among others, which often seemed to share that same ‘sound’. There are tender, intimate moments using that achingly sweet love theme, and big, brassy moments of almost traditional Western Movie scoring that hint at Poledouris’ later triumphs (Lonesome Dove for one) and sadly remind listeners that he later willingly dropped out of scoring Dances With Wolves.

Giving a telling insight to Poledouris’ range and ability, his score for The House of God is a rather baroque, chamber-orchestra piece, rather sombre and intimate and quite beautiful. Its got something of an Ennio Morricone feel to it. The penultimate track, The Turf of Jo, is one of the most exquisite pieces of score music I have ever heard, and to think it’s part of a 17-minute score that few have possibly heard (for a film few have likely had opportunity to see) is really quite depressing. I’ve included a youtube link below to a suite from the score- the track The Turf of Jo is featured at about 8:50.

As usual for my soundtrack CD collection, the Intrada disc I have is now OOP. Which is a pity, as both are very fine scores that demonstrate some of the sublime genius of Poledouris, a composer who never really seemed to get his due in Hollywood. I have several of his scores on disc and I’m sure I’ll feature some of them later in this series of Soundtrack Shelf posts, if only because I really should listen to them more often. I’ve really enjoyed revisiting this disc and shall have to do so more often.

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More Blade Runner art

brart1Here’s another poster for Blade Runner. I quite like this one, So much so, infact, that I’ve cropped it into square format and used it for the cover for an unofficial album (yeah, yet another Blade Runner bootleg, Vangelis might as well release the damn thing officially at this point) of the complete score in my Windows media/usb stick in my car:

brart1 (2)Hey, it’s not perfect but it looks kinda neat on the in-car dash screen when listening to the score on my commutes to work. I must have listened to the Blade Runner score, in its various forms, so many times over the years, it’s probably the most-listened to music of my life, now that I think about it. Which is possibly incredibly sad/profound (delete as appropriate) – really, I suppose most people read this wondering what all the fuss is about. Its an old movie with an old electronic score… and in just the same way as Orson Welles later in life was likely irritated/sick unto death about hearing about Citizen Kane, I would imagine Vangelis absolutely abhors any mention of Blade Runner at this point.

Which reminds me, it was Vangelis’ birthday back on 29th March. A very happy (albeit belated) birthday, maestro. I still think Blade Runner is your masterpiece.

Soundtrack Shelf: Edward Scissorhands OST (Danny Elfman, 1990)

int7146_booklet.inddSaw this just sitting there, looking awfully pretty as most of these score expansions do, and I hadn’t played the disc for awhile so I dropped it into the CD deck in the spare room to listen to a few tracks and… it took a longer time than usual to spin and read the disc and after awhile it refused to even play. Hmm, cause for alarm. Checked the disc, it looked fine, and fortunately a little later it played okay on my main player, so all was well (some players just don’t like certain discs, or maybe that old deck is on the way out).

The light was falling outside, damp and dreary, as if more Autumn than Spring, and I had the house to myself (other than Ed, who sitting by the window was more concerned with what was going on out in the darkening night than what I was doing). So I ended up listening to Danny Elfman’s magical score for longer than I had intended to, the music fitting the mood of the fading light outside and the warm glow of the lamp in the corner…

I saw Edward Scissorhands back when it released in 1990 at the cinema, and I really enjoyed it, although I haven’t really watched it many times since- it is likely Tim Burton’s best film, and it certainly boasts Danny Elfman’s best score. I recall, like most people I would imagine, being quite captivated by the score, a huge part of the film’s success. My cousin bought the original OST on CD, and as many of us did back in those days, I did a copy on cassette which would suit me fine. I didn’t buy it on CD until this edition was released by Intrada back in 2015, celebrating the films twenty-fifth anniversary (yes, another film anniversary). Its not massively expanded, as I think the original OST was about 50 minutes and featured the majority (and best) of the score- this disc totals 71 minutes, including the trailer music, an alternate and some Christmas source music and, er, that Tom Jones song. For once though, thanks to my cousin buying that 1990 edition, this was my first purchase rather than the dreaded double-dip upgrade that so many of these score expansions have been of late (it’s now OOP unfortunately, but I don’t know what the limited run was). I noticed that it was produced by the late Nick Redman, another sober reminder of how much fine work he did over the years.

Its a funny thing though, that I bought this disc when it first came out and have seldom listened to it over the three years since, even though the music is very beautiful and it remains one of the most distinctive film scores ever released- its music often features on tv commercials and you can tell when films have been temp-tracked with it, as Edward-like moments frequently turn up scores in a ‘I know what you’re doing there’ kind of way.

I really enjoyed just sitting back and listening to it. Years ago in my youth I used to sit back on my bed and listen to scores intently- maybe I simply had more time back then, maybe there’s just too many distractions now. Too often these days my soundtrack and general music listening is in the background or during my commute to/from work- perfectly fine but its not actually old-style ‘proper’ listening. I found the Edward Scissorhands score quite relaxing, and quirky and fun in that particularly Danny Elfman way.

So it occurs to me I really should dust off a few more CDs on my soundtrack shelf that I somehow fail to play much (instead of just looking at them all the time, thinking, ‘yeah, I really should play that again’ but seldom getting around to it).  So we’ll see; this then is the inaugural post of my ‘Soundtrack Shelf’ series, where I’ll make a point of listening to those scores and writing about them here- we’ll just see how successful I am in listening to them. But I think it’s rather fitting that the first one is Edward Scissorhands.

(I own only two Danny Elfman scores- the first being the original OST CD of his Batman soundtrack. Unfortunately, as thirty years of buying discs is wont to cause, I have no idea where that Batman disc is, and I never bought the expanded edition released by La La Land Records (twice), so unless something fairly miraculous occurs and it somehow arises from whatever dark corner/box it is in, this will be the only Danny Elfman score in this series.) 

 

 

37 Years From Home

etWell, here’s a twist. I’ve finally succumbed and ordered La La Land’s two-disc edition of the E.T. soundtrack. Released back in 2017 to celebrate the film’s 35th anniversary (as if I needed reminding I’m getting old) in an edition of 5,000 copies, La La Land revealed last week that the last batch of 500 copies have arrived from their manufacturer. So it seemed that the time was nigh to finally pull the trigger. Considering I’ve brought most of the other John Williams expansions of the last few years (really a quite remarkable run of discs/scores) buying this one was inevitable, but I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with this little critter in particular. The music is fine I guess (I had the original soundtrack release on cassette, eventually, once it dropped into a bargain bin) but it’s the damn movie, and the fact that it was such a flip-side of Blade Runner, both in style and in popular and critical response. Well, I guess I have to admit I bore a grudge for all these years, but I really struggled to even watch the film over those years since, considering it full of  Spielberg’s worst traits and excesses. I have a Blu-ray steelbook that I bought for some strange reason years ago that I have never watched.

But it does seem weird and rather silly on my part that the  music has always been lumped in with my general apathy for the film. Maybe this edition will make me warm to its charms. I will say this- listening to John William’s great scores again over this past few years of expansions, what has perhaps impressed me most is how well they have aged, and how well they stand up to the current crop of what passes for film scores these days. Jaws 1 & 2, The Fury, CE3K, 1941, Dracula, Superman: The Movie, The Empire of the Sun, and to a lesser extent Hook, are superb works that really shine brightly now that their style of film scoring has apparently become so redundant of late.

If only Vangelis’ Blade Runner score had received such care and attention for its own 35th anniversary. Well, I guess there’s always the fortieth anniversary (if we’re still buying music on CD by then)….

Party like it’s 1989

I’m always slightly amused by studios and/or their marketing departments focusing so much on anniversaries when releasing or re-releasing films on disc. I’d buy a copy of Alien on 4K disc whatever year it came out, it doesn’t have to be the film’s fortieth anniversary, but hey ho, there you go. So anyway, this year we seem to be getting reminded of certain film’s 30th anniversaries this year- The Abyss appears to be getting a new 4K scan or master for release later this year (originally released 9th August 1989, I guess it will slip a bit later than that for a disc release in the Autumn), and Field of Dreams is getting a 4K disc release in May. Unannounced but surely coming is Tim Burton’s Batman, another film from 1989 (looking back, I always feel like 1989 was the year of Batman– it was all over the place in the media, a huge ‘event’ film in the same way Star Wars was). Before all these, Pet Sematary gets a 4K release next week, partly due to its thirtieth anniversary but also thanks to an incoming remake/reboot (hey, before you watch the new one, here’s the old one to watch first so we can make a bit more money out of it).

So anyway, its been getting me a little nostalgic for 1989, which on the face of it never occurs to me as a great year for films, but now that I think of it (and consider those 4K disc/Blu ray release schedules) I have to admit, maybe it wasn’t such a bad year at all. I used to go to the cinema quite a bit back then, and can vividly recall shedding a tear or two to Field of Dreams (in a good way, it’s not as if it was a terrible film or anything, I’d reserve that kind of emotional reaction to something like Black Rain), and coming out of a matinee screening of The Abyss into a full-blown storm, torrential rain lashing across the cineplex car-park in a tempestuous gale that was like I’d brought the film out there with me, one of those disorientating moments that last with you forever.

I remember watching Born on the Fourth of July and Glory on the same day. We went to see Born on the Fourth of July in the afternoon, went home to have a chip tea then went back in the evening to see Glory. Now, the funny thing about that was, we all expected July to be the better film, but were totally amazed by Glory, really swept up by it. It had a phenomenal score by James Horner, and a great score is something I always react to in films, no doubt a big part of why I enjoyed it so much. Another film I saw at the cinema that year with a great score was The ‘Burbs, and I remember scouring record stores looking for that soundtrack for months in vain. Yeah, it was a good year for soundtracks, as I recall, though it would take years for me to finally get a copy of The ‘Burbs score on disc.

Not every cinema trip was as thrilling, mind. 1989 was also the year of Star Trek V: The FInal Frontier, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, and, yes, Black Rain, and The Fly 2. Not films I recall really enjoying at all. I remember coming out of Pet Sematary more impressed by the music than the film- I bought the Varese CD and years later the La La Land expansion, but never actually saw the film itself again at all. It was also the year of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, a film I enjoyed at the time but has really worn thin on me over the years since. Its a funny thing, how films you were once wowed by later lose their charm, but films you didn’t ‘get’ the first time around sneak up on you (Munchausen is such a crazy maddening folly of a film I eventually couldn’t help but fall in love with it).

Thirty years, though- scary. Mind, I was looking up both Glory and Born on the Fourth of July online and they were released in December 1989 in the States, and it certainly wasn’t December when I saw them, so suspect it was later in 1990 when I saw them that day over here in the UK- release dates could be really staggered back then. After so many years it’s hard to remember very clearly, although I can remember sitting in the cinema at the time and looking over at my mate Andy after Glory ended, both of us shell-shocked by having watched not just two war films at the cinema that same day, but two damn good films at that.  It would never happen again- it’s funny sometimes, you just never know, in the moment, just how special/unusual or unique a day really is. They just come and go but perspective lends us clarity- and thirty/twenty-nine years, whatever it is, it’s certainly some kind of perspective.

Bohemian Rhapsody 4K UHD (2018)

bohem1.jpgWell, you can’t accuse the producers of this film of letting the truth get in the way of a really good story. Basically a sanitised story about the great rock band Queen, it definitely is not a warts-and-all biopic of its frontman Freddie Mercury. The fascinating drama I expected, of drugs, sex and rock and roll and living life to the max isn’t really here. Instead this film follows a somewhat pedestrian, formulaic narrative of four outsiders creating a legendary rock band, ts various plot threads leading to a somewhat dubious finale in which the band single-handedly saves Live Aid, the recreation of which is pretty astonishing (but as a finale it feels too obvious/manufactured).

So in some ways it does seem to be a terribly wasted opportunity- on the other hand, though, it’s simply a great yarn simply told, with an absolutely killer soundtrack of classic songs throughout. Its pretty much nigh on irresistible.

I’m not a die-hard fan of the band so I’m certainly no expert, but I’m pretty certain some of the timeline is questionable, and to be honest there was a point midway through at which I just felt I was being taken for a mug but should just go along with it. The film feels more of a rock and roll fantasy than a docu-drama, and the way it manipulates with close-up shots of smiling, happy faces towards the end, tieing up any loose ends with valedictory character beats for Freddie’s freinds, family and colleagues, feels awfully… managed, even cynical. We’re going to have a happy, positive flag-waving finale even though we know where Freddie’s own story is ultimately heading: it’s only a movie and this one isn’t going to end like Philadelphia (which may be a pity, really, because that was deeply powerful, and maybe this film might have benefited from doing that- but this just isn’t that movie).

Its a decidedly PC-era film about a decidedly un-PC era, leaving me wondering if there’s a danger nowadays of us rewriting history simply to make it more palatable. I’ve read and heard of some pretty incredible stories of bands and rock stars in the 1970s- drugs, sex, wild parties, great music, monumental fights, terrible scandals; but how much of that can you get way with now without upsetting/insulting/horrifying the tender audiences of today’s more enlightened society? I’ve read of some of Freddies parties, the wild debauchery of which could be hugely extravagant and ridiculous but there is little to suggest that here other than people getting drunk and playing music loud. Then again, we might know that it all happened, but do we need to see it, does it add anything to the narrative in a film where we aren’t really getting into who Freddie was? Instead he remains an icon, and something of an enigma- and a fantastic performer and musician. I just think its a little unfortunate that the film is so obviously intent on protecting Freddie and his legacy when it doesn’t really need to- his fans know everything and love him all the more. He was human, flawed and fragile and hugely charismatic and talented- we get a glimpse of the ‘real’ Freddie but not all we might have in a more daring film.

But what the hell, it’s still a hell of a story.

 

 

Superman Returns Expanded OST

suprmn retTo get me in the mood for the (hopefully imminent) arrival of La La Land’s 3-disc Superman: The Movie soundtrack, I’ve been listening to John Ottman’s score for the ill-fated Superman Returns from 2006- well, the expanded 2-disc edition that La La Land released in 2013. It might seem a perverse choice, but I really like Ottman’s score – mainly because it re-uses so many of John William’s original themes. Its almost a Superman Greatest Hits, with plenty of Horner’s Brainstorm score also thrown in, partly from the choral sections which accentuate the films rather ill-judged religious tensions regards our Kryptonian hero, but yeah, there’s a lot of Brainstorm in passages of this score. I think it’s a really nice, melodic and thematic old-fashioned superhero score – inevitably it owes a huge part of its success to those timeless classic William’s themes and motifs, but as a fan of that original score it was lovely reprise. You just can’t make a Superman film without John William’s music- God knows Hans Zimmer later tried, but Man of Steel etc are woeful, frankly, compared to William’s masterpiece. Whenever Ottman reprises the Superman main theme, I always get a tingle, and the frequent use of the Fortress of Solitude music is lovely, lending it something of an importance not present in the original film.

Admittedly I’m not best equipped to really comment on the 2006 film,  I haven’t seen the film for some time, probably back when it first came out on Blu-ray over a decade ago. When I first saw it at the cinema (and subsequently on disc) I really enjoyed it but I’m open to a rewatch recalibrating my opinions somewhat. Time inevitably changes things. Back when it came out I was overjoyed by its sense of heritage, its honouring of Richard Donner’s original – it felt like the Superman III we deserved back in the day. And the music! As a lover of William’s original score, how could I not be bewitched by hearing it again?

Looking back on it, maybe the film was just too faithful and sincere to the original and needed a fresher, more unique voice of its own- it’s a shame the same creative team didn’t get to make a sequel that, having set up the return of our hero, actually gave him an adventure worthy of the Big Screen (that being said, one of the things I remember enjoying of Superman Returns was how intimate and character-based it seemed). Instead the franchise stalled again and took a decidedly different approach with Man of Steel etc.

Anyway, I’ve certainly been enjoying exploring this score again. I hadn’t given it a spin for awhile, but it certainly holds up pretty well. Indeed, considering how film music (and superhero scores in  particular) have been going lately with the almost mundane background muzak of the Marvel films etc, it’s almost a great surprise. supermanalbumSure, in the great scheme of things its a poor shadow of the Williams classic in comparison, and I’m sure the 3-disc edition of the original will blow this out of the water, but that’s true of most scores compared to that 1978 colossus.  But this hasn’t been a bad way of getting me in the mood for that lovely old album I used to love listening to, an album assembly that features on disc 3 of the new set and that I’m really looking forward to hearing again.

Ah hell. Time I dug out my old vinyl and jumped back to being a thirteen-year-old kid again, lying on my bed with the gatefold on my lap, listening to the music and dreaming of heroes and villains.