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The Return of the Temp Score Extravaganza -- Part 3/4

A stream of "temporary" consciousness on temp track influences

By Luke Goljan



Don Davis' score to both Wachowski Brothers movies contain similar sounding snippets from other scores. His score to Bound has chase music virtually identical to that from Basic Instinct (the same portion, by the way, repeatedly used in movie trailers to emphasize the film as a serious thriller). Davis' score to The Matrix, strikingly original and refreshingly different-sounding from the current synth-action sound of today's action movies, bears some similar sound qualities during chase sequences with a film it is also accused of ripping off in regards to plot: Dark City. While it's fair to assume that Davis may have been working under a temp-track set down by someone who once again obeyed the this-movie-had-a-similar-plot-and-therefore-its-music-will-fit-perfectly rule, its also possible that his Post-Modern approach is shared by Trevor Jones. Maybe they both really like Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring," which both films also sound a lot like. Or maybe someone just noticed that the protagonist was running around in an artificially created world and men in black were following after him. Either argument holds water. Neo's waking up in the machine-dmoniated world also bears an interesting resemblance to Capt. Picard's awakening inside the Borg ship in First Contact. The orchestra bursts faster and faster until the choir joins in for the wide shot. Maybe this was a temp-track, most likely it's a coincidence, but you have to admit both scenes are quite similar…having the music sound such is just plain strange.

Let's get one thing clear here: True Romance is a rip-off of Badlands from A to Z. Not only is the plot similar, but somewhere along the line someone decided to have Hans Zimmer rip off the main title music from it too. This is one of the most blatant copies I have ever heard and I honestly don't know how they ever expected to pass it off as an homage since it sounds virtually identical. Honestly, I like True Romance, and I like Badlands, but it's a bit like trying to admit to liking Orgy's cover of "Blue Monday." As cool as it is, it was done before and you're really not bringing anything new to the table.

A Zimmer protégé, Mark Mancina made his mark with the exciting score to Speed and discovered himself typecast instantly. Fortunately, he has had a few chances to showcase his talent in other genres and a fantastic example is the beautiful score to the Disney lukewarm hit Tarzan. Mancina wasn't actually the first choice to do the score, it was supposed to be Alan Silvestri. Due to scheduling conflicts however, Silvestri had to pass on the score and Mancina found himself faced with writing music around both annoying Phil Collins pop songs and Silvestri temp-tracks. Thus, every time the music gets really emotional and crescendoes to showcase a discovery, it sounds like the Abyss music that was undoubtably put there by someone who thought they'd be helping the future composer by using his own work. Mancina tries to cover it with a shakuhachi flute, but you can still tell. It sure is pretty, though.

Another fan of the Zimmer style of scoring, Trevor Rabin provided more Abyss rips in his score to the surprisingly good Deep Blue Sea. It's not like composers ever rip off any portion of The Abyss other than the "Main Titles" and "Back on the Air" cues. Always the choral stuff. No offense, but its always painfully obvious. Deep Blue Sea also finds it's inspiration for track 3 in the pacing and theme of John Frizzell's Dante's Peak (or is that James Newton Howard's Dante's Peak, since he wrote the main theme?). And later crashing action music that increases in speed and intensity has another Frizzell source: Alien Resurrection, insultingly enough grabbed from a sequence where the Aliens attack underwater. Whoever temps this stuff isn't awfully creative in their thinking. Sort of like the use of music from The X-Files in the trailer for X-Men or music from The Thirteenth Floor under the Thirteen Ghosts trailer. Why not put Antz in the Spider Man promo?

The quasi-futuristic Schwarzenegger action flick The Sixth Day borrows its track 12 from track 10 of the quasi-futuristic Stallone flick Demolition Man, scored by Elliot Goldenthal. Rabin adds in his own little flourishes, but it all sounds akin to slapping on extra pieces to someone else's work (and why the hell does that film have an Irish-sounding theme anyway?). It seems Arnold and Sly's friendly rivalry has seeped into even the music department. As for Rabin's Gone in 60 Seconds music, a friend of mine discovered a song by Michael Brook called "Ultramarine," that sounds exactly the same as the floating vocal-melody-over-guitars which appears for the first time in track 2. Not a score rip-off, but blatant enough that I felt it should be pointed out.

John Frizzell's work consistently comes very close to copying the temp-track, but always manages to avoid it. Beavis and Butthead do America obviously used Edward Scissorhands to underscore the walk into the sunset, but Frizzell manages to make it sound different enough, as he does with the Godzilla/King Kong music in the opening. Dante's Peak has a bit of action-car-music that could be Speed, but it escapes without treading too familiar ground. And Teaching Mrs. Tingle, which has been described as Christopher Young meets Danny Elfman also seemed to have some influences of Alan Silvestri's Who Framed Roger Rabbit, with pieces recreating the feel of the Judge Doom final-villian-rant music.

Still, only on Thirteen Ghosts does he really copy anything. The action music sounds similar to both Deep Rising and Aliens and when Frizzell finally just goes all out in track 7, the music copies Horner's underscore to Bill Paxton's death in Aliens and the origin is firmly established. Also odd about this score is the fact that although the main theme sounds nothing like Don Davis' House on Haunted Hill score, the two movies have virtually identical plots and sweeping main themes that play out in the same meter. A group of people gather in a brilliantly designed setpiece of a house and walk around while the music blasts. A quirky usually-comedic-actor-in-a-dramatic-turn tells them to leave right away when suddenly the house locks itself up, shutting them inside to be at the mercy of the ghosts who live in the basement. It then becomes a chase movie and a race to discover the true intent of the person who invited them to the house. And these movies were made by the same company!

The late Brian May also fell victim to the perils of the temp-track at least once. His opening titles music to Dr. Giggles copies a theme directly from Darkman, even going so far as to utilize the same instrumentation. Of course, May's music has been temped under plenty of films as well. The score to The Road Warrior is frequently used as a default action music track.

I mentioned before that it's unfair to use the Edward Scissorhands critique on a score that happens to use a choir section, but Bruce Broughton's Baby's Day Out is a particularly obvious example. As the police surround the robber's hideout to retrieve baby Bink, the music rips Scissorhands off thematically right down to the chord (2:29 into the track, to be specific). You can find this music as track 17 ("The End of the Story") on an extraodinarily expensive promo if you want to put up with the rest of the score, most of which sounds like John Williams lite. Whoever temp-tracked Mr. Deeds seemed to have the same idea, since Teddy Castellucci's music ends up sounding very similar. Amusingly enough, the same track on Baby's Day Out also steals Kahn's theme from James Horner's Wrath of Khan!

Broughton has also drawn inspiration from Jerry Goldsmith, as his score to The Shadow Conspiracy reveals. Track 1 is very Goldsmith, with a touch of Kamen here and there, while the main theme in Track 2 sounds a bit like a Goldsmith theme played along with a John Barry score. Is there any obvious temp-tracking? Perhaps not, but the music sounds enough like Goldsmith (and Williams, as is par for the course with Broughton) to get mention here. The director, George P. Cosmatos, directed Rambo: First Blood Part 2, which was scored by Goldsmith, so temping it with familiar music would make sense. Broughton was also called in as Goldsmith's replacement for Lost in Space, indicating that he is viewed in more than one circle as a suitable replacement.

Young Sherlock Holmes meandered into legal territory finally this year with a nice two disc promo. Looking at this lush ILM-coated spectacle, it's surprising to not hear John Williams under it, but Broughton makes up for that by sounding similar (his 'creepy' music particularly notable for this). Besides Williams, Broughton also snags little bits from Herrmann's Psycho for track 7 of CD 1, three minutes in (it sounds like the aftermath of the murder). One minute into track 9 he's going after Poltergeist's storytelling music. And doesn't that chant sound like they're saying 'Bobbit?'

While Goldsmith temps are fresh in my mind, I should mention Richard Marvin's score to U-571, the main theme of which sounds suspiciously similar to Air Force One. Both very patriotic movies, so the temping would make sense. If you want another Kevin Bacon-esque degree of connection, the German film Das Boot about men performing derring-do in a submarine was directed by Wolfgang Peterson, who directed Air Force One. U-571, being a movie with a submarine in it, inevitably drew comparisons with Das Boot. Maybe somewhere, some studio executive made this connection. Or maybe it's a coincidence. Go ask the editor.

Patrick Doyle's love of classical music always lands him distinguished period piece scores and dramas. Consequently, his scores usually avoid sounding like anything that have come before them. This excepts Needful Things, however, which contains multiple usages of the Vertigo tragic/love theme. Maybe he and Joel McNeely were hanging out that week.

Mark Snow's music has been lauded critically for helping define the dark realm of the now defunct X-Files. Indeed, it's often so dark that, as one friend said "I can't get into it…every time Mulder goes to say something sweet to Scully, I keep thinking he's going to slit her throat." That is, of course, the charm of the show. Or was, at least. Snow made the transition to the big screen fairly easily, his feature film score making the jump easily from the TV sound to the 'big movie' sound. It also heralded a departure from the music concrete soundscape of the show and the introduction of evident temp-tracks. Most evident of these is the reworking of the Speed theme 50 seconds into track 3, (and if you don't hear it at first, it's unmistakable 1:20 in!). Track 17 yields infinite variations on that strange theme heard in Usual Suspects, I Know What You Did Last Summer and Alien: Resurrection. In a track not present on the soundtrack but audible in the film itself, Snow knocks off Debney's climactic chase music from The Relic as Mulder and Scully rush to escape the alien compound. Unique to this instance however is that unlike other temp-tracks, the cues borrowed from share no similiarities with the scenes they were eventually reworked into.

J. Peter Robinson consistently provides some of the most top-notch synth work out there. When finally given a chance at "big-time" movies (and I use this term loosely) he made the transition over to a larger sound pretty well, but retained some temp-track influences. His score to Wes Craven's New Nightmare completely rips off The Omen (track 16, 1:23 it becomes quite evident) and even the world's most obvious score: Jaws (track 31, 1:17). Most of the rest of the score splashes excitedly about in varying synth/orchestra textures, but these two total rip-offs stand out defiantly. His score to the Howie Long epic, Firestorm, not only sounds a lot like The Fugitive (for a scene where the bad guy changes his appearance and escapes from prison no less…how original), it also sounds a bit like Terminal Velocity, another unabashedly cheesy action movie. There are also times it sounds similar to Dante's Peak, which makes sense since the forest is on fire in this movie too.

Stephen Endelman's score to Jawbreaker sounds nothing like Heathers, but describing it makes it easy to see where the concept to Endelman's catchy score originated. Teens cope with death in a flippant manner while learning some important lessons about self-esteem and life in general while pop music melds with a synth-pop beat-driven soundtrack reminiscent of Danny Elfman in places. Which one was I describing?

George S. Clinton did a great job of capturing the feel of the old spy movies without actually ripping them off with his Austin Powers scores. Except in one place, however. As Austin and Felicity emerge from the water in The Spy Who Shagged Me, the music playing is a retread of You Only Live Twice. Another instance of temp-tracking with Clinton is his score to Wild Things, which contains a 'sad' female solo theme akin to Scream's female solo theme. Both films contain Neve Campbell, who was a hot marketing commodity at the time.

David Kitay's Scary Movie score has intentional similarities (mostly during the first track) with the music from Scream. It's not worth going into much, since this was obviously intentional, as it was in Spy Hard, where Bill Conti deliberately copies Speed, True Lies and Home Alone.

To Be Concluded...


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