This is another entry in my Complete Score Breakdown Series, focusing on the complete scores to films that have had abbreviated previous releases or have gone unreleased.
Today we are looking at Red Heat (1988) by James Horner.
I know that James Horner’s 1988 score to Red Heat is not held in particularly high regard by fans of his work, but it’s a score that I’ve always enjoyed to a certain degree. There’s something about his scores for his Schwarzenegger films, Commando (the better of the two) and Red Heat; on the surface there’s not that much outstanding quality or depth, but there is plenty of fun to be had and a lot of creative ideas, rhythms, and instrumentation going on, often with some very impressively and intricately layered percussion.
The opening and closing titles for Red Heat are decent enough adaptations of Prokofiev, although that kind of thing doesn’t do a lot for me personally, but I do recognize that they are impressive adaptations, despite their infamous lack of credit to the original composer. The track on the original CD “Cleanhead Bust” is not very good at all honestly, with scattered jazz bass licks and saxophone (an instrument I’ve never been able to tolerate) that go on far too long.
Having said all of that, the rest of the score I do quite enjoy. All synth, very dark suspense and action material featuring shakuhachi, ticking and rock percussion, Horner’s trademark synth female vocals (a favorite of mine), and his deep rumbling synth pad that was also used prominently in Thunderheart make up the bulk of the material. There is a somewhat harsh echoing metallic sound that I could do without, but I think the music is effective in the film.
I wasn’t sure how much missing music would be found when viewing the film; when I watched another of director Walter Hill’s Horner-scored films (Another 48 Hrs.) to find out how much music was missing, I was disappointed to find out there wasn’t much. It seems that Hill doesn’t use too much score in his films when Horner is on duty, and Red Heat is no exception. The existing CD runs 44 minutes, and the complete known film score only runs over 52 minutes, resulting in over 8 minutes of missing material. Not much at all.
I was fooled! When Red Heat began, it literally started right away with an unreleased cue that turned out to be by far and away the longest of the unreleased score at 3 and ½ minutes. What a promising start, I thought! It was a great atmosphere-setting cue, very spare but effective as it was played against picture with no sound effects and no dialogue – just a single, prominent, focused shakuhachi performance, a sliding rumbling synth pad, and insanely high-pitched strings adding suspense to Schwarzenegger’s stroll through the Russian bathhouse. Hoping that I was in for a good amount of new music, I pushed on, but the film was front-loaded with unreleased music, and there was barely any in it. Even the final unreleased cue, 1 and ½ minutes of the 8 minutes of unreleased score (a cue I call “Soviet Showdown”) I’m pretty sure could have been tracked in from the CD track “The Hotel”.
This is definitely not a score that I would push for an expansion, personally. Maybe a reissue. I was a little disappointed there was not more missing music because I do enjoy this kind of old-school Horner work now and then. I do think Horner fans should give it a listen if they haven’t already, although again it may not be for everyone, but a lot of Horner fans (and there are a ton of them out there) may be curious to see what he did for the film.
CURRENT CD RELEASE RUNTIME: 44min 15sec COMPLETE FILM VERSION SCORE RUNTIME: 49min 05sec UNRELEASED SCORE RUNTIME: 8min 40sec
ALL KNOWN ORIGINAL MUSIC WRITTEN FOR THE FILM (INCLUDING UNEDITED CD TRACKS, UNUSED TRACKS, AND/OR ALTERNATE FILM VERSIONS, WITH NO IDENTICAL DUPLICATION REGARDING FILM TRACKS & CD TRACKS): 52min 25sec
Complete Score Cue Titles and Cue Times (unreleased cues named by me for the sake of identification):
+ – previously unreleased (or includes previously unreleased material)
1. The Baths (3:36) + 2. Main Title (2:42) 3. Arrest (1:29) + 4. Russian Streets (2:05) + – (extended film version featuring an extra unreleased 0:30 at end of cue) 5. The Arrangement (2:15) – (Part 1 of CD track “Cleanhead Bust”) 6. Cleanhead Bust (1:05) – (Part 2 of CD track “Cleanhead Bust”) 7. Waiting (0:40) + 8. Viktor Escapes (2:50) 9. Kat Spies (0:25) + 10. Tailing Kat / The Setup (8:05) 11. Hospital Chase (4:30) 12. The Hotel (6:15) 13. Kat’s Death (0:30) + 14. Ride to Bus Station (0:29) – (Part 1 of CD track “Bus Station”) 15. Bus Station (6:29) – (Part 2 of CD track “Bus Station”) 16. Bus Crash (0:45) – (Part 3 of CD track “Bus Station”) 17. Soviet Showdown (1:30) + 18. End Title (4:05)
Current CD Release Track Titles and Track Times:
1. Main Title (3:00) 2. Russian Streets (1:35) 3. Cleanhead Bust (4:16) 4. Viktor Escapes (2:53) 5. Tailing Kat / The Setup (7:55) 6. Hospital Chase (4:30) 7. The Hotel (6:21) 8. Bus Station (9:34) 9. End Credits (4:04)
You have to give some brownie points to Horner for ripping off Prokofiev's October Cantata at a time when this work was all but unknown in the West. The first "modern" recording, Neeme Järvi's on CHANDOS, didn't happen until a few years after RED HEAT. So when Horner says he admired Prokofiev, he really knew what he was talking about.
Of course, his "injection" of percussion riffs into the Prokofiev is nothing more than a dacapo of what he did in Gorky Park - and who could blame him.
Of the Virgin Movie Music James Horner releases from back then, WILLOW and GLORY top my list for expansions/remasters. I haven't played this CD in many years and was somewhat appalled to hear how liberally the October Revolution Cantata had been applied in the credits sequences (although I love Horner's more aggressive/propulsive take on it). Some of the long atmospheric 48 Hrs styled tracks go on a bit too long, but it was the other side of 80s Horner that still offers up interesting ideas and soundscapes.
Agreed on all the Virgin releases, especially Glory. Not familiar with classical music so the borrowings don’t bother me as much as others... Of all the more synthy “atmospheric” scores of his Red Heat tops my list.
This is one I would buy. The existing album has terrible sound quality. Needs an upgrade.
I agree The Mutant. I always have to turn up the sound on my computer to hear the music better.
Thank you for doing the break down DeputyRiley. I hope either LLL or Intrada will consider this guilty pleasure of mine. I would love to hear the opening/closing credits w/o the chorus as extra tracks.
But maybe Horner composed alternate or unused music that don't know of?
Sorry to ramble...
Regarding the question above, sorry if it's silly. Would it be possible to have the choir removed from the opening/closing credits?