NOT EVEN NOMINATED, PART SIX
THE YEAR IN FILM MUSIC: 1985
By Scott Bettencourt
THE REAL NOMINEES
AGNES OF GOD - Georges Delerue
THE COLOR PURPLE
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)
RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II - Jerry Goldsmith
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.
FIVE MORE OUTSTANDING SCORES OF 1985
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).
YOUNG SHERLOCK HOLMES - Bruce Broughton
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.
THE REST OF THE YEAR IN FILM MUSIC:
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
THE JOURNEY OF NATTY GANN (Elmer Bernstein)
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
PAGE COOK'S BEST AND WORST OF 1985
From Page Cook's year end wrap-up of 1985's scores in Films in Review
BEST SCORES OF THE YEAR
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)
WORST SCORES OF THE YEAR
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
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
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).
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.
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,
can be accessed on the website.
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