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By Scott Bettencourt


AGNES OF GOD - Georges Delerue
OUT OF AFRICA - John Barry (the winner)
SILVERADO - Bruce Broughton
WITNESS - Maurice Jarre


BACK TO THE FUTURE - Alan Silvestri

Alan Silvestri's orchestral score for this enormously successful time travel comedy, full of youthful energy (even though the composer was already 35) and capped by an irresistible main theme, was barely recognizable as the work of the composer of the previous year's Romancing the Stone (also for director Robert Zemeckis). The soundtrack album was largely dominated by songs, featuring only eleven and a half minutes of Silvestri's score, which unfortunately still has yet to see an expanded release. (Back to the Future received 4 Oscar nominations)

COCOON - James Horner

Horner's warm, gentle score for this surprise smash about geriatrics rejuvenated by contact with friendly aliens was the first of seven collaborations (so far) with director Ron Howard. (Cocoon was originally to be directed by Robert Zemeckis, but 20th Century Fox replaced him after dissatisfaction with early cuts of Romancing the Stone. Ironically, Stone proved to be a big hit and leaving Cocoon freed him to make Back to the Future, one of the year's top grossers and a much bigger hit than Cocoon). With the help of orchestrator Billy May, Horner deftly worked big band music into his score, but though his music was consistently effective, his style had lost much of the youthful enthusiasm he'd shown only a few years earlier, and one section of the climactic boat chase was a direct steal from his Star Trek II score. (2 Oscar nominations)


This elaborate sequel to First Blood set aside the postwar psychological torment of the original film and turned its troubled protagonist into a full-fledged action hero, sending him back to Vietnam to rescue MIAs in a plot similar to Uncommon Valor. The film benefited from an elegantly simple structure (courtesy of co-writer James Cameron) and impressively (and coherently) staged action setpieces, as well Goldsmith's thunderous score. Goldsmith was an inevitable choice, having scored not only First Blood but also The Cassandra Crossing for Rambo director George P. Cosmatos. Goldsmith's score reused his Rambo theme from the first film, while combining it with a new motif (used in the end title song "Peace In Our Lives"), and the type of Asian orchestrations Goldsmith has always excelled at. Varese's thrilling soundtrack LP/CD was expanded 14 years later by Silva with 15 more minutes of music. (1 Oscar nomination)

RAN - Toru Takemitsu

Though he went on to make three more features, Ran was the final epic from director Akira Kurosawa, a visually stunning reimagining of Shakespeare's King Lear. The director had previously worked with Takemitsu (one of Japan's most respected composers, both in cinema and in the concert realm) on one of his few films set in the present, Dodes'ka-den, and for Ran Takemitsu composed an impressive and brooding orchestral score which gave the battle scenes an appropriate undertone of tragedy and dread. Even Bernard Herrmann was a fan of Takemitsu, speaking highly of his score to 1964's Woman in the Dunes, a score so experimental it made Herrmann's scores seem like Max Steiner's in comparison. The original Ran soundtrack (released on CD by Milan) featured 32 minutes of music, but Toho Music's three recent boxed set collections of Kurosawa scores expanded Ran into a two-disc set. (4 Oscar nominations)

REVOLUTION - John Corigliano

One of the biggest boxoffice disasters of the decade, this historical drama from director Hugh Hudson tried the opposite approach of his previous film, Greystoke -- Greystoke took pulpy material (the Tarzan novels) and gave it a lush, Masterpiece Theater treatment, while Revolution took a pivotal (if seldom depicted in features) era of American history and filmed it largely with hand-held cameras, trying to bring a documentary-style immediacy to the potentially stuffy subject matter. Despite Bernard Lutic's striking photography, the attempt failed, and the film is remarkably abrasive (the British officers are portrayed as nasal fops and villainous pederasts, if that isn't redundant), compounded by a weak script, bad looping, a confusion of accents, an utterly perfunctory romance and a showy performance by Al Pacino that threatens to make every scene go on forever. John Corigliano was unhappy with his experience on the film (and many of his cues in the final version are suspiciously short), and didn't return to movie scoring until his Oscar winning work on The Red Violin, where he was allowed unusual control over his music and its use in the film. Corigliano's work on Revolution (performed by the National Philharmonic and featuring solos by James Galway) was typically outstanding, giving the scored sequences impressive intensity and almost redeeming the hopeless love story with genuinely romantic music reminiscent of the warmer passages from his Altered States score. Despite his dissatisfaction, the score is given great prominence in some of the major setpieces, especially the first battle scene where the sound effects are deliberately muted and the score is the dominant aural element. There is also a rousing fox hunt piece (there's something about fox hunts that bring out the best in a composer -- Marnie, The List of Adrian Messenger, The Final Conflict), and an intense cue where Pacino and his son are stalked through the woods by Indians working for the British. A soundtrack album was announced but cancelled once the film's failure became obvious; the book My Indecision is Final, by Jake Eberts and Terry Ilott, has much fascinating information on the film's troubled history.


This was an especially difficult year to limit myself to only five "outstanding scores," so I'm forced to relegate such fine scores as Brazil, The Bride, The Company of Wolves, The Goonies, The Journey of Natty Gann, Lifeforce, Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, Spies Like Us, and A View to a Kill to the "Rest of the Year in Film Music" section of this column.

EXPLORERS - Jerry Goldsmith

Fresh off the huge success of Gremlins, Joe Dante made Explorers, a lavish sci-fi shaggy dog story that is probably remembered mostly today for its then obscure child stars -- Ethan Hawke and River Phoenix (back when Hawke was the cute one and Phoenix was the chubby kid). The film was a boxoffice dud but was lovingly made, with terrific ILM effects including a robot spider that looked like it crawled off the cover of a 50s sci-fi magazine. Goldsmith's score was an absolute delight, far surpassing his work on Gremlins with a soaring main theme and a keener than usual comic touch. The MCA LP (and later Varese CD) featured many of the best cues but left out some terrific material, especially the evocative motif for Dick Miller's character.

FLESH + BLOOD - Basil Poledouris

Paul Verhoeven's first English language film was reportedly an unsatisfying experience for all involved, especially its director. Part of his inspiration was Peckinpah's classic The Wild Bunch, and he wanted to expand upon that film's relationship between the outlaw leader (William Holden) and the former comrade (Robert Ryan) who is helping the authorities pursue him. Verhoeven and his regular screenwriter Gerard Soeteman created a similar scenario transposed to medieval Europe, but Orion, the film's American financier, insisted on the script focusing on the romantic triangle, which emphasized the story's resemblance to the Patty Hearst saga. It was also Verhoeven's final film with his regular star Rutger Hauer, but having attained Hollywood success the actor's relationship with his director was far less congenial than in the past. The film received only a brief theatrical release, and still hasn't been released on video in its original scope aspect ratio, and apart from myself it has few defenders, but one of its undeniable strengths is Basil Poeldouris' marvelous score, which gave the exceptionally brutal film a welcome sense of adventure and momentum, and included some of the composer's finest themes -- a stirring main theme for Hauer ("like a Gregorian chant, but more the way pirates would sing it instead of monks" explained the composer), a powerful love theme for Hauer and Jennifer Jason Leigh, as well as deftly scored setpieces like the invasion of the castle and "The Box." The original Varese LP (later released by their CD Club) was superbly sequenced but sometimes you can't have too much of a good thing, so in 2002 Prometheus released a complete edition, with all the extra cues in good sounding mono.

PLENTY - Bruce Smeaton

This David Hare adaptation of his own play, directed by Fred Schepisi, was one of the year's finest films but was completely ignored at Oscar time in favor of another Meryl Streep vehicle, the more audience-friendly Out of Africa. This witty and wrenching drama about an Englishwoman who works with the Resistance in France during World War II and finds postwar life unsatisfying and anticlimactic benefited from Ian Baker's spacious widescreen photography, Richard MacDonald's outstanding design, and an impressively eclectic cast including Streep, Sam Neill, Charles Dance, Sting, Ian McKellen, an irresistible Tracey Ullman, and a magnificent John Gielgud. Bruce Smeaton's delicate score (performed by the London Symphony Orchestra) was yet another of the film's prime assets, dominated by a rueful theme which represented Streep's character and her nostalgia for her wartime life. There was no soundtrack album, not surprisingly since Smeaton's score featured only twenty three minutes of music, with most of the cues less than a minute long. In 1988 Smeaton recorded a compilation of his movie and TV themes which featured a 3:54 suite from Plenty, and that same year saw the release of A Cry in the Dark (which introduced the phrase "a dingo ate my baby" into American culture) which reunited Schepisi, Smeaton, Streep and Neill but proved to be the last film Smeaton would score for the director.

RETURN TO OZ - David Shire

Like a tree falling in the forest for no one to hear, sometimes a composer writes a stunning score for a film that no one sees. David Shire's score for ace editor Walter Murch's only feature as a director, the imaginative but uneven Return to Oz, was an outstanding achievement unlike anything else in his body of work, a varied fantasy score that unlike most genre scores of the era owed no debt to John Williams. Its themes ranged from a heartbreakingly gentle theme for Dorothy (a young Fairuza Balk) to a ragtime theme for the robot Tick-Tock. Though the film has been all too little seen since, luckily the soundtrack was eventually made available, first as a Sonic Atmospheres LP and later as a Bay Cities CD. If the film had garnered the attention of Back to the Future or Cocoon, Shire's score might have helped him turn his feature career around (his only money-making feature after 1985 was the dismal Short Circuit), but unfortunately within a few years he had largely abandoned features and was concentrating on television and stage musicals (like his revue Closer Than Ever and the Broadway musical of the movie Big).


Silverado was Broughton's breakthrough score of 1985, winning him an Oscar nomination and moving him securely into the feature realm, but Young Sherlock Holmes is arguably his finest score, with a rousing sense of adventure and a wonderful assortment of main themes. There's ominous, faux-Egyptian music for the film's disappointing "Temple of Doom" plot, a poignant love theme for Holmes and his lady love, a sprightly theme for Holmes himself, and, best of all, Broughton's intricate "investigating" theme, heard first during the main titles and featuring a wonderful musical effect which suggests carriage wheels passing over cobblestone streets. The score was released on a well-sequenced LP from MCA, and the marvelous full score was released on a two-disc composer promo that unfortunately became instantly impossible to find, though it's worth the price if you ever do track it down.


John Addison scored his final feature, the barely released World War II spy thriller CODE NAME: EMERALD, starring Ed Harris.

Richard Band wrote his most popular score for the classic horror comedy RE-ANIMATOR, with a bouncy main title that paid controversial homage to Herrmann's Psycho.

Along with his Oscar winning score for Out of Africa, John Barry scored the final Roger Moore James Bond film (Pierce Brosnan is the only Bond actor he never composed for), A VIEW TO A KILL, whose Duran Duran title song was the only later Barry/Bond song to hit the pop charts. Barry's typically elegant score also included an action theme (introduced in the pre-credits ski chase) pleasantly reminiscent of his great On Her Majesty's Secret Service theme. His other score of the year was for another boxoffice hit, the courtroom romantic thriller JAGGED EDGE, and his atypical electronic score (assisted by Jonathan Elias) featured a properly spooky main theme.

The British drama THE RETURN OF THE SOLDIER had a belated, brief release in early '85, and featured a passionate, romantic score by Richard Rodney Bennett.

Elmer Bernstein wrote one of his finest John Landis scores for the uneven comedy SPIES LIKE US, a marvelous musical pastiche featuring an especially rousing main title, "The Ace Tomato Company." He wrote a large and varied fantasy adventure score for Disney's animated flop THE BLACK CAULDRON, giving the villain a theme reminiscent of his Ghostbusters score, and he also scored the little seen JFK biopic PRINCE JACK.

George Burt (who went on to write the book The Art of Film Music) provided a restrained score for Robert Altman's unsatisfying filming of Sam Shepard's FOOL FOR LOVE, pleasantly reminiscent of the music of Leonard Rosenman.

Carter Burwell wrote his first film score for, of course, the Coen Brothers. BLOOD SIMPLE featured a suitably spooky main motif but the score overall emphasized sound and ambience over melody.

Jay Chattaway wrote a traditional B-movie action score for the Chuck Norris vehicle INVASION U.S.A., and gave the Stephen King scripted SILVER BULLET a main theme reminiscent of "Flying Dreams" from Goldsmith's Secret of N.I.M.H.

Bill Conti wrote a lively score for the youth-oriented spy adventure GOTCHA!, but the soundtrack album was largely a song compilation.

Ry Cooder reteamed with Walter Hill for an unusual project for the director -- the Richard Pryor remake of the comedy BREWSTER'S MILLIONS. He also scored the little seen Louis Malle drama ALAMO BAY.

Carl Davis gave the much maligned Biblical biopic KING DAVID a suitably serious and restrained orchestral score.

George Delerue brought his usual light touch to the ghost comedy MAXIE, which quickly disappeared from theaters despite an impressive cast headed by Glenn Close.

Bill Conti took a brief vacation from the Rocky series and Vince Di Cola scored the high grossing ROCKY IV, giving the franchise a more overtly pop sound than Conti's contribution.

Thomas Dolby received the scoring credit for writer-director Richard Brooks' final film, the entertaining-for-all-the-wrong-reasons gambling drama FEVER PITCH, but the most memorable piece of music was the prominent use of "Money Runner" from Quincy Jones' score to Brooks' $.

Though he'd scored 1980's Forbidden Zone for his brother Richard, PEE-WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE was Danny Elfman's first venture into (relatively) mainstream scoring, and his delightful homage to Nino Rota, perfectly pitched and full of infectious energy, was one of the cult favorite (and boxoffice hit)'s greatest assets.

Harold Faltermeyer's score for FLETCH featured a main theme as infectious as his "Axel F" but much less well remembered, as well as a catchy song, "Bit by Bit," performed by Stephanie Mills.

For his first project with writer/director Neil Jordan, THE COMPANY OF WOLVES, George Fenton wrote one of his finest scores, a lush and properly spooky work with a powerful main theme.

Though he's most famous for his Terminator theme, Brad Fiedel wrote his finest score for COMPROMISING POSITIONS, a charming score that deftly balanced the film's mix of comedy and mystery. He also wrote a comparatively dull score for the overrated FRIGHT NIGHT, and scored the college comedy FRATERNITY VACATION.

Dominic Frontiere scored one of his few features of the decade, the barely released period romantic drama THE AVIATOR, pairing Christopher Reeve and Rosanna Arquette.

Before Rambo and Explorers, Jerry Goldsmith scored BABY: SECRET OF THE LOST LEGEND (produced by Under Fire director Roger Spottiswoode), a dinosaur adventure burdened by unimpressive visual effects. His music for the parent dinos was suitably grand and threatening, but his baby dinosaur theme was a little cutesy. He also scored the terrible Cannon remake of KING SOLOMON'S MINES, and his Indiana Jones-ish score (which used Ride of the Valkyries as the villain's theme) was not one of his more inspired efforts, but it was his last fully orchestral score for nearly a decade and was full of lively action cues, proving to be a highly enjoyable listening experience apart from the film.

Dave Grusin wrote one of his finest and most popular (at least with film music fans) scores for THE GOONIES, giving the nearly unwatchable children's adventure (which, inexplicably, has developed a cult following) a lively and more traditional score than his frequently jazz-inflected work.

Jan Hammer gave the teen comedy SECRET ADMIRER a synth score with an evocative main theme.

Lee Holdridge scored the monster comedy TRANSYVLANIA 6-5000, and his effective pastiche score was much better than the strenuously unfunny comedy deserved. He also scored the equestrian drama SYLVESTER, though the soundtrack LP featured only pop songs.

Though his biggest hit of 1985 was Cocoon, James Horner's best work of the year was his stirring, somber Americana score for THE JOURNEY OF NATTY GANN (replacing an Elmer Bernstein score which was even used in the film's trailers). He reunited with Star Trek II director Nicholas Meyer for the Tom Hanks comedy VOLUNTEERS, and though the film was a disappointment (it's remembered mostly as the project that introduced Hanks to his future wife, Rita Wilson), Horner's score was a rousing delight which has unfortunately never seen a soundtrack release. His score for COMMANDO sounded largely like random action cues from 48 Hrs. (with emphasis on the steel drums), another sign that producer Joel Silver rarely demanded much from his composers. Horner reportedly had to record three different versions of his score for the Catholic school comedy HEAVEN HELP US -- the second time basing his score on Mozart, and the third time reworking his first attempt with the Irish orchestrations toned down.

THE PURPLE ROSE OF CAIRO was one of the few later Woody Allen films to have an original score (as well as his final film with cinematographer par excellence Gordon Willis), courtesy of his frequent music director Dick Hyman, who composed a poignant theme for Mia Farrow's Cecilia.

Mark Isham scored the first of nine scores for Alan Rudolph, the arthouse noir TROUBLE IN MIND, and the composer's sinuous jazz proved an apt match for the director's evanescent style.

With the help of assistant Christopher Palmer, Maurice Jarre did some impressive work in the sci-fi and horror genres. THE BRIDE, a failed reworking of The Bride of Frankenstein, featured one of Jarre's lushest and most romantic scores. His work for MAD MAX BEYOND THUNDERDOME, though lacking a theme as memorably elegiac as Brian May's Road Warrior, was an exciting and varied work, while his ENEMY MINE score blended orchestra and electronics and built to an emotionally satisfying finale.

Trevor Jones' score for the Oscar nominated RUNAWAY TRAIN was disappointingly dour, lacking the expansive sound of his earlier work, though the CD has become a collector's item.

Michael Kamen wrote one of his finest and most critically acclaimed scores for Terry Gilliam's BRAZIL. Though there were many original cues in the score, the most memorable moments came from Kamen's arrangements of the title song, especially the up-tempo version depicting the hubbub of Jonathan Pryce's office and the ominously slowed down rendition when Robert DeNiro's character is fatally entombed by bits of loose paper.

Normally hired by Hollywood only for romances, Francis Lai wrote a restrained and serious score for the gripping docudrama MARIE, which gave future Senator Fred Dalton Thompson his first acting role as -- Fred Dalton Thompson.

The strangest composer casting of 1985 turned out to be one of the year's most pleasant surprises, as Henry Mancini's score for LIFFORCE (formerly titled Space Vampires) was a moody and melodic work with a thrilling main title theme. Unfortunately Cannon drastically reedited the film shortly before its release, chopping up Mancini's score and replacing some cues with more traditionally spooky Michael Kamen music (the DVD restores the original, longer, Mancini-only cut). He also wrote a charming, big scale score for SANTA CLAUS, featuring several songs written with Leslie Bricusse.

Harry Manfredini scored the fifth and worst of the still running series, FRIDAY THE 13TH: A NEW BEGINNING, and not surprisingly was not inspired to provide anything especially new.

David Mansfield reunited with Heaven's Gate director Michael Cimino for the stylish cop thriller YEAR OF THE DRAGON, though the striking main title was composed by Lucia Hwong.

Brian May wrote a relatively generic action score for the Chuck Norris prequel MISSING IN ACTION 2: THE BEGINNING.

Acclaimed guitarist Pat Metheny teamed with Lyle Mays to score the spy docudrama THE FALCON AND THE SNOWMAN, which introduced the David Bowie song "This Is Not America," and Metheny alone scored the Oscar nominated marital drama TWICE IN A LIFETIME.

Along with his many European projects, Ennio Morricone scored the Robert E. Howard sword-and-sorcery adventure RED SONJA, and his music was much less adventurous and memorable than Poledouris' scores for the Howard-based Conan films, though Morricone's main theme was oddly catchy.

John Morris' status as Mel Brooks's favorite composer led him to score Brooks's production of THE DOCTOR AND THE DEVILS, a reworking of a famous Dylan Thomas screenplay based on the body snatchers Burke & Hare, and featuring an impressive cast including Timothy Dalton, Jonathan Pryce, Stephen Rea and Julian Sands, though unfortunately the promised soundtrack album never materialized. Morris also worked in more typical territory with the movie version of the board game CLUE.

Stanley Myers wrote one of his finest scores for the moving DREAM CHILD, a Dennis Potter script about the woman (Coral Browne) who inspired Alice in Wonderland, and her childhood memories of Lewis Carroll (Ian Holm).

Ira Newborn wrote a full-bodied, jazzy score for INTO THE NIGHT (John Landis' first big studio film without Elmer Bernstein) including a title song performed by B.B King, and scored one of his many John Hughes projects, the cult classic WEIRD SCIENCE.

While continuing with youth oriented projects like GIRLS JUST WANT TO HAVE FUN (teaming Sarah Jessica Parker and Helen Hunt) and the terrific REAL GENIUS, Thomas Newman scored the cult hit DESPERATELY SEEKING SUSAN, which helped secure his place as the composer for quirky, urban farce. He also scored the American version of The Tall Blonde Man With One Black Shoe, THE MAN WITH ONE RED SHOE, and some of his music sounded surprisingly derivative of Tangerine Dream.

Lennie Niehaus cemented his role as Clint Eastwood's in-house composer with his somber score for the Western PALE RIDER.

Presumably because of his working relationship with star/producer Michael Douglas, Jack Nitzsche was hired for the Romancing the Stone sequel THE JEWEL OF THE NILE, but his music lacked the spirit of romance and adventure necessary for the genre.

Alex North adapted opera themes for his score to John Huston's Best Picture nominee PRIZZI'S HONOR.

Andrew Powell's unusually anachronistic pop score for the lushly mounted fantasy swashbuckler LADYHAWKE infuriated purists, but, like many 80s cultural artifacts, it has developed a cult following over the years.

Arthur B. Rubinstein wrote a charming comedy score for Albert Brooks' LOST IN AMERICA, at times sounding like a less manic version of Ernest Gold's It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, and Brooks even tracked in the cue "The Big W" from Gold's score.

Carig Safan gave the hero's theme from REMO WILLIAMS: THE ADVENTURE BEGINS an opening riff similar to his Last Starfighter theme but from then on his theme turned distressingly pop, though his theme for sidekick/master Chiun (Joel Grey) was unexpectedly lovely. His score for THE LEGEND OF BILLIE JEAN was forgettable, while his synth score for WARNING SIGN was an interesting experiment though it sounded better on the album than in the movie, where it came across as cheap and tinny.

Lalo Schifrin scored the unconvincing but enjoyable serial killer thriller THE MEAN SEASON, which was almost directed by Robert Wise, as well as the medical school comedy BAD MEDICINE and Sean S. Cunningham's high school thriller THE NEW KIDS, written by future arthouse director (and father of Jake & Maggie) Stephen Gyllenhaal.

John Scott provided a moving and discreet classically tinged score to the Rules of the Game-influenced drama THE SHOOTING PARTY, which featured James Mason's last great performance.

Howard Shore wrote his first score for a major director besides David Cronenberg -- Martin Scorsese's AFTER HOURS (Scorsese's low-budget attempt to revitalize his own interest in filmmaking after the costly boxoffice failures of New York New York, Raging Bull and King of Comedy -- all fascinating and worthy films). Shore's sparsely spotted percussive music evoked a clock ticking down the hours of Griffin Dunne's ill-fated night in SoHo.

Before scoring Back to the Future, Alan Silvestri had his first experience conducting his own orchestral music for the barely released Kevin Reynolds film FANDANGO. He also wrote a forgettable score for the dreary Carl Reiner comedy, SUMMER RENTAL, and an uncharacteristically cheesy and repetitive synth score for Stephen King's CAT'S EYE.

Michael Small reunited with several collaborators from 1975's terrific Night Moves -- director Arthur Penn, writer Alan Sharp, and star Gene Hackman, but the result, the spy thriller TARGET (featuring one of Small's few electronic scores) was no Night Moves.

Bruce Smeaton scored his only Hollywood film not for Fred Schepisi, the failed adaptation of Nicholas Gage's non-fiction bestseller ELENI (with John Malkovich as Gage and Kate Nelligan as his martyred mother), and Smeaton's score was suitably emotional and Greek-accented.

William Friedkin's attempt to recapture the gritty excitement of The French Connection, TO LIVE AND DIE IN L.A., featured a pop score by the group Wang Chung (Jack Hues & Nick Feldman) including a memorable title song.

Christopher Young scored two of the B-movies that overpopulated his early career, the post-apocalyptic DEF-CON 4 and the prostitute thriller AVENGING ANGEL.



These are all the score LPs from 1985 movies produced around the time of their films' release (titles with an asterisk also received a CD release around the same time):

Agnes of God, Alamo Bay, The Aviator, The Black Cauldron (re-recording)*, The Bride, Cocoon*, Code of Silence, The Color Purple*, The Company of Wolves, Dance With a Stranger, Def-Con 4, The Emerald Forest*, Enemy Mine, Explorers, The Falcon and the Snowman, Flesh + Blood, Jagged Edge, King Solomon's Mines, Ladyhawke, Lifeforce, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, Marie, Out of Africa*, The Purple Rose of Cairo, Rambo: First Blood Part II*, Ran, Re-Animator, Red Sonja, Return of the Soldier, Return to Oz, Runaway Train, Santa Claus, The Shooting Party, Silver Bullet, Silverado, Spies Like Us*, To Live and Die in L.A., Trouble in Mind, A View to a Kill, Warning Sign, Witness*, Year of the Dragon, Young Sherlock Holmes


From Page Cook's year end wrap-up of 1985's scores in Films in Review magazine:


1. Lifeforce - Henry Mancini
2. The Shooting Party - John Scott
3. The Doctor and The Devils - John Morris
4. Return to Oz - David Shire
5. Prizzi's Honor - Alex North


Desperately Seeking Susan, Enemy Mine, Lost in America, Plenty, Silverado, Sommerkimen (score by Per Christensen)


Agnes of God, The Black Cauldron, Cocoon ("sophomoric and witless"), The Color Purple ("drivelling slush"), Jagged Edge, King David ("lethal lethargy"), Ladyhawke, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, Out of Africa ("a trowell of glucose"), Witness, Young Sherlock Holmes ("an inanity")

I can find no record of a film called Sommerkimen or a composer named Per Christensen, so I suspect that both film and composer are more of the late Mr. Cook's fanciful creations, but as you can read below I was wrong about Edward David Zeliff.

FROM: "Ross Amico"
SUBJECT: Not Even Nominated, Part Five

What Scott Bettencourt may or may not realize is that some very important cues in John Scott's score to "Greystoke" were lifted directly (and appropriately, given the era and setting) from Sir Edward Elgar, and I suspect the "noble main theme" he refers to is the motive which threads that composer's First Symphony. Also, the "Chanson de Matin" (or perhaps "de Nuit" -- I forget which, not having seen the film in years) was employed. Unfortunately, my copy of the soundtrack album is stashed away someplace with the rest of my LPs. The film's trailer is also notable as perhaps the earliest in my memory to use Holst's "Mars." If it were being marketed today, I would expect an anachronistic drumbeat and wailing electric guitars (shades of "The Planet of the Apes" remake -- a trailer which actually kept me away from a film I would have, out of curiosity, gone to see). But "Greystoke" was far, far too leisurely paced and artfully done to score a major release today.

Kudos for citing Elmer Bernstein's music for "Ghostbusters." Even at the time, I couldn't believe the pop music-heavy soundtrack which was released in conjunction with the film. What kind of treatment was this for the composer of "The Ten Commandments," "The Magnificent Seven," and "To Kill a Mockingbird?" Sadly, the orchestral selections from the Reitman-produced "Animal House" received similar treatment (but at least the songs were good). Perhaps this would be a good project for you guys -- licensing issues permitting, of course -- a disc of extended orchestral selections from the Reitman comedies, with discarded material.

Page Cook's assessments of "worst scores" contain some real howlers, but I stand firmly behind Conti's "The Right Stuff" as "the year's most hideous score" (1983). I'm aware the music has its defenders, but surely the hodge-podge of Glazunov, Tchaikovsky, Gliere, etc. (an odd assortment in a film celebrating America's achievements in the Cold War), stands as one of the most blatant crib-sheets since the silent era. In fact, I would cite "The Right Stuff" as a perfect example of how a great film can still survive a terrible score.

There were indeed explicitly credited classical cues featured in Greystoke, but I believe that Scott's main theme is his own composition. One of the many non-Conti cues tracked into The Right Stuff was Henry Mancini's theme from Philip Kaufman's earlier film The White Dawn (all this may help to explain why John Barry left the project).

FROM: "Alan Lasky"

SUBJECT: Edward David Zeliff
Yes, Edward David Zeliff does or did exist! I have an AEI LP, "The Living Word", by Zeliff. It's a religious documentary with appropriate music -- decent, but not outstanding. Attached is a small bio about Zeliff scanned from the back of the LP:

EDWARD DAVID ZELIFF is a composer, arranger and conductor of numerous scores for films and television, together with records and the musical theatre. In addition to his studies at the California Institute of the Arts, where he received his Bachelor of Music degree, he did post-graduate work at the University of California at Santa Barbara and holds a degree in English. As a second career he is successful in the world of maritime art, painting the romantic vessels of yesteryear.

Zeliff's contributions to film music have been recognized by such critics of note as Page Cook of Films in Review, whose "Best of 1980 Film Scores" has the composer's score for Pilate's Easter second only to Alex North's score for Carny. Edward David Zeliff's music can also be heard in the nationwide release of the feature film Beyond the Next Mountain, and he is presently engaged in a new project in Los Angeles.

Thanks again to reader Marc Levy for inspiring this series. Previous articles in this series covering the years 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, and 1984 can be accessed on the website.

Any e-mails sent to Film Score Monthly should have a very specific, film music related subject heading, or else they may be inadvertently deleted along with the literally hundreds of spam e-mails we receive daily. Thank you.

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