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 Posted:   Jun 9, 2015 - 7:47 AM   
 By:   DeputyRiley   (Member)

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 The Pelican Brief (1993) by James Horner.

James Horner’s score for the 1993 John Grisham legal thriller The Pelican Brief is an average suspense score from the composer. Parts of the score are beautifully evocative and appropriately dramatic with some tense suspense moments with effective clipped horn bursts and snare rhythms that I dig (“Garage Chase” a highlight). That “Main Title” is just gorgeous in a minimalistic way, it’s so creative and I really appreciate the simple woodblock percussion opening and piano melody. The typical drawn-out Horner high-end finale dramatics tend to be a little overblown for my taste in this particular film, but they are well done.

However, some of the score is awful, man. I mean like how did it ever make it into such a high-profile film, it’s such brazenly terrible, poorly rendered cheap-sounding synth crash-bang noise that completely interrupts the pleasant listening experience of the CD. Tracks such as “Hotel Chase” and “Chasing Gray” are so abysmal (you don’t even want to hear the unreleased cue “The Meet”) particularly when compared to the more refined and mature action and suspense stylings of “Planting the Bomb” and “Garage Chase”.

The director of The Pelican Brief was the late Alan J. Pakula, who also directed the Horner-scored The Devil’s Own, and as with that film, this one is relatively brief on score – 55 and ½ complete film score in a 141-minute film. Pakula seems to prefer his Horner music much more spaced out, which can be effective. In the case of this movie, this results in about 15 minutes of unreleased score.

However, in actuality, “new” material actually comes in closer to 10 minutes, because nearly 5 minutes of unreleased material are variations on the “Main Title” theme, with little to no variation. These 5 minutes are found in an alternate film version of the CD track “The Pelican Brief” which contains 3:52 of “Main Title”-type music instead of the CD track more subdued underscore, as well as a documentary video in the film that contains more “Main Title” music. This leaves about 10 minutes of unreleased material that includes a couple of short cues, a different opening to “Hotel Chase”, a different ending to “Planting the Bomb”, the awful synth cue “The Meet” (where Stanley Tucci gets it), and two rather good unreleased cues: “The Stranger Arrives” and “House of Cards”.

I don’t think this score needs an expansion at all. Perhaps a replacement edition where “Hotel Chase” and “Chasing Gray” are replaced with “The Stranger Arrives” (atmospheric rhythmic slow build to climax) and “House of Cards” (“Airport Goodbye”-esque orchestral material as assorted bad guys get their comeuppance at the end of the film)?

Side note: the CD track “Darby’s Theme” was not used in the film.

CURRENT CD RELEASE RUNTIME: 52min 00sec
COMPLETE SCORE RUNTIME (AS HEARD IN FILM): 55min 35sec
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): 61min 45sec

UNRELEASED SCORE RUNTIME: 15min 10sec

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. Main Title (2:16)
2. The Stranger Arrives (1:44) +
3. Researching the Brief (1:18)
4. Bourbon Street (4:05)
5. Hotel Chase (4:05) + – (features alternate opening 30 seconds not on CD)
6. The Killing (3:15)
7. The Meet (3:33) +
8. The Pelican Brief (3:52) + – (alternate film version utilizing “Main Title” theme)
9. Documentary Video (0:55) + – (composed by Horner, utilizing “Main Title” music)
10. Chasing Gray (1:00) – (edited from CD track)
11. Darby’s Emotions (3:34)
12. Evil Meeting (0:26) +
13. Partners (0:46) +
14. Planting the Bomb (5:26) + – (extended film version; tracks in music from “Darby’s Emotions”; features unreleased final 1:50 not on CD)
15. Garage Chase (5:04)
16. Morgan’s Final Testament (1:56)
17. House of Cards (1:42) +
18. Airport Goodbye (10:30)

Current CD Release Track Titles and Track Times:

1. Main Title (2:31)
2. The Pelican Brief (3:51) -- (CD version)
3. Researching the Brief (1:33)
4. Hotel Chase (4:02)
5. The Killing (3:17)
6. Bourbon Street (4:06)
7. Planting the Bomb (4:17)
8. Chasing Gray (3:16)
9. Darby’s Emotions (3:38)
10. Darby’s Theme (3:57) – (unused in film)
11. Morgan’s Final Testament (1:50)
12. Garage Chase (5:03)
13. Airport Goodbye (10:37)

Thanks for reading, see you next time!

Deputy Riley

smile

 
 Posted:   Jun 9, 2015 - 7:58 AM   
 By:   LMR   (Member)

thanks for your breakdown, I always thought there was more music in the film razz

and the "Airport Goodbye" track is AWESOME!!!

 
 Posted:   Jun 9, 2015 - 8:13 AM   
 By:   Shaun Rutherford   (Member)

What? The cue you call "The Meet" is one of my favorite unreleased cues of that era! How you'd like Thunderheart and not this is crazy! "Hotel Chase" turns into a synthfest in the second half, but what about the first half of the cue??

Here's the Riverwalk sequence at 59:15:

 
 
 Posted:   Jun 9, 2015 - 8:45 AM   
 By:   connorb93   (Member)

I thought for sure there would be more music, from what I remember in the film. Oh well, I always enjoyed Horner's score, even if it's a bit derivative. Not a fan of those synths either but it works very well in the movie.

An expansion would be nice; it definitely needs a remaster.

 
 Posted:   Jun 9, 2015 - 9:40 AM   
 By:   Shaun Rutherford   (Member)

Quick question: why does it definitely need a remaster?

 
 
 Posted:   Jun 9, 2015 - 7:42 PM   
 By:   Avatarded   (Member)

Quick question: why does it definitely need a remaster?

There is quite a bit of clipping in the cues "Darby's Emotions" and "Garage Chase".

It could be inherent in the recording itself, but it's doubtful. There was a lot of clipping in the North American "Braveheart" album that was not present in the UK edition.

Aside from that if you have good quality speakers and / or a subwoofer you want to give a workout, this album does the trick!

 
 Posted:   Jun 9, 2015 - 7:43 PM   
 By:   Shaun Rutherford   (Member)

Quick question: why does it definitely need a remaster?

There is quite a bit of clipping in the cues "Darby's Emotions" and "Garage Chase".

It could be inherent in the recording itself, but it's doubtful. There was a lot of clipping in the North American "Braveheart" album that was not present in the UK edition.

Aside from that if you have good quality speakers and / or a subwoofer you want to give a workout, this album does the trick!


Really? I never noticed it in nearly 22 years! Point me there, Avatarded!

 
 Posted:   Jun 9, 2015 - 8:44 PM   
 By:   MutualRevolver   (Member)

What? The cue you call "The Meet" is one of my favorite unreleased cues of that era! How you'd like Thunderheart and not this is crazy!

Agreed! The Riverwalk cue comes from (IMO) the best scene in the film; the way that Khamel is introduced with that sliding synth as soon as he steps off the trolley, and that continuous, thrumming piano line just propels the sequence to its violent conclusion. It's one of the most distinctive cues from that score, and I wish it was released

 
 Posted:   Jun 9, 2015 - 8:59 PM   
 By:   Shaun Rutherford   (Member)

What? The cue you call "The Meet" is one of my favorite unreleased cues of that era! How you'd like Thunderheart and not this is crazy!

Agreed! The Riverwalk cue comes from (IMO) the best scene in the film; the way that Khamel is introduced with that sliding synth as soon as he steps off the trolley, and that continuous, thrumming piano line just propels the sequence to its violent conclusion. It's one of the most distinctive cues from that score, and I wish it was released


If LLL released expanded versions of Forever Young, Dennis The Menace and Searching For Bobby Fischer, this has be coming one of these days.

 
 
 Posted:   Jun 10, 2015 - 9:43 AM   
 By:   connorb93   (Member)

Quick question: why does it definitely need a remaster?

At least for my ears, the synth elements are just poorly mixed at too low a volume. Basically for the general score, the quiet portions are too quiet, making the loud parts grating on the ears.

 
 Posted:   Jun 10, 2015 - 10:46 AM   
 By:   Shaun Rutherford   (Member)

Quick question: why does it definitely need a remaster?

At least for my ears, the synth elements are just poorly mixed at too low a volume. Basically for the general score, the quiet portions are too quiet, making the loud parts grating on the ears.


Hmm, I don't know, I always thought it sounded pretty good. I love the stuttering/throbbing (hey-ohhhh) electronic drums that go with the otherwise shitty synth endings for a couple of the tracks.

 
 Posted:   Jun 11, 2015 - 8:32 AM   
 By:   Mike Esssss   (Member)

It could be inherent in the recording itself, but it's doubtful. There was a lot of clipping in the North American "Braveheart" album that was not present in the UK edition.

Interesting. I own both versions and I never noticed this before. Can I trouble you for one or two examples? Not arguing, just curious to hear it.

 
 Posted:   Apr 26, 2017 - 12:39 PM   
 By:   Mike Esssss   (Member)

I caught this last night on cable and had a few thoughts:

I agree 150% with Shaun R about the Riverwalk cue. I perked up when I heard it and immediately got bummed out when I realized it wasn't on the OST.

While Horner wrote many better scores, he wrote very few as effective in elevating the material as this one. The main theme is among the very best things he ever wrote and gives the proceedings a haunted, melancholic tone that really underlines Darby's solitude and lends the film a specific personality that carries it through all the rote suspense stuff. Just like PATRIOT GAMES, it takes a standard thriller and gives it enough thick atmosphere to make it seem a lot richer than it is.

What's notable too is that in the architecture of the score Horner seems much more interested in the Pelican theme than Darby's theme. Though the story centers on Darby and it would've made sense to rely on her theme throughout, Horner prefers to lean on the Pelican theme to express her isolation and at the same time tie her story to the others who tried to tell it. Darby's theme gets a few minor key winks here and there but doesn't fully present until the airport scene, when it explodes in a classic big Horner moment. Horner could write something like Darby's theme in his sleep but I think he knew he'd struck gold with the Pelican theme.

 
 Posted:   Apr 26, 2017 - 1:07 PM   
 By:   Shaun Rutherford   (Member)

Fuck it, I'm watching this again tonight!

 
 Posted:   May 24, 2019 - 7:53 PM   
 By:   MutualRevolver   (Member)

And GEMA has unearthed the official title of that "awful synth cue" for the Riverwalk scene: Khamel's Death!

 
 
 Posted:   May 24, 2019 - 9:40 PM   
 By:   Tobias   (Member)

This score along with his Patriot Games are my 2 very first CD soundtracks by James Horner. So it was therefore nice to read this complete score breakdown.

 
 Posted:   May 25, 2019 - 5:40 AM   
 By:   Shaun Rutherford   (Member)

And GEMA has unearthed the official title of that "awful synth cue" for the Riverwalk scene: Khamel's Death!

Get La La Land in here for this. I’m calling it Riverwalk no matter what.

 
 
 Posted:   Jun 11, 2019 - 12:01 PM   
 By:   BKGUY1978   (Member)

By the way, does anyone know the title of the music used in the Theatre Killing Scene? It's a bit of period-heavy new age sleaze and I'd love to find out what it's called? The scene itself is quite disturbing and it's certainly made more disturbing by the "erotic" film music.

Here's a link (viewer discretion advised): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=djz-xcinRYA

 
 Posted:   Jun 11, 2019 - 12:45 PM   
 By:   Shaun Rutherford   (Member)

I know, that gay porn music is hilarious and should be included for sure. It reminded me of "Lily Was Here" a little, just without the sax.

 
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