It’s fair to say that Jerry Goldsmith’s score to Lionheart is considerably more remembered than the film for which it was written. Directed by his good friend and longtime collaborator Franklin J. Schaffner, Lionheart was a troubled production that underwent significant cuts after Goldsmith scored the film. This resulted in most of the score being cut and manipulated (often sped up, sometimes slowed down) for the final theatrical cut. On at least four occasions, cues were omitted entirely (“Bondage,” “The Black Prince,” “The Future” and “Final Fight”), while at other times they would be dialed out for no apparent reason, such as the lengthy “Robert and Blanche,” which plays for only half a minute in the picture.
Journalist Tim Greiving, who wrote the liner notes to Varèse Sarabande’s new Deluxe Edition of the score, offered some informed speculation on The Goldsmith Odyssey podcast that Schaffner probably did not have final cut on his film, and therefore was not responsible for the terrible treatment of his friend’s music in the finished product. It is hard to imagine that the director would have opted to remove the three cues “Robert and Blanche,” “Bondage” and “The Black Prince” in particular, as they are all instrumental in establishing thematic material for characters and relationships in the film. When restored to picture, each of these three fit their respective scene perfectly with no additional editing, clearly indicating that they were not removed merely as a consequence of failing to fit the sequences after the movie was altered.
“Robert and Blanche” plays in the film for only 35 seconds, beginning on a shot of the moon and then underscoring Blanche’s dream sequence where she sees a vision of King Richard and his crusaders, banners held high, galloping along a beach and accompanied by King Richard’s fanfare-like theme on synths. The cue in the movie ends as Blanche awakens just after a hint of Robert’s theme accompanies a shot of his spurs appearing in the foreground, and the characters’ subsequent first scene together plays without any musical accompaniment.
As restored to the film, the full length of Goldsmith’s almost four-minute cue perfectly hits every turn of the scene. Robert’s theme first returns, tying the vision of his spurs in Blanche’s dream to her seeing them again in real life upon awakening. Blanche’s theme plays delicately as the two characters regard each other for the first time. Her melody is briefly interrupted by hints of the playful theme for her brother Michael, which sound as he wakes up as well, and a bit too eagerly denies the theft in which he recently took part. A particularly lovely rendition of Blanche’s melody plays as Robert dismounts and examines her injured ankle, and the melody swells again for a shot of them traversing the landscape as a party of three. Michael’s mischievous theme then returns for the subsequent sequence of he and Blanche looting a farm for supplies. The cue ultimately ends on a skillful string sustain as the film returns to another shot of the moon, bookending the full cue as intended, with it deftly tying together the events of a single day and the forging of a new relationship.
The subsequent two cues in question (intended to appear back-to-back in the movie) fared even worse, being not only excised entirely, but also omitted from all versions of the soundtrack album until their premiere on this month’s Deluxe Edition, thanks to Douglass Fake of Intrada saving a dupe tape of the recording sessions for reference purposes. Alas, we do not have these in the same sound quality as the rest of the score, but when restored to picture, they make a huge difference as they introduce a new character theme and accompany the introduction of the film’s primary antagonist, The Black Prince, played by Gabriel Byrne. “Bondage” is intended for a scene of Blanche doing a tarot card reading as our protagonists shelter from a storm in a secluded abbey. The evil Black Prince himself appears in the very next scene, spied by Robert from above after he enters the abbey.
The “Bondage” scene was supposed to begin with a lovely rendition of Blanche’s theme that plays for two thirds of the cue, calming fears when she turns over a tarot card representing Death. But when she flips another ominous card shortly after, with a horned figure on horseback pulling along two children in chains, we discover the inspiration for the cue title and the first appearance of the Black Prince theme on synth serpent. As Blanche struggles to find a less disturbing explanation for this card, Goldsmith tells us through the music that all is not well, and the cue ends shortly after she hurriedly gathers up her cards and puts them away.
The subsequent, “The Black Prince,” begins strikingly as the hooded villain turns suddenly to face Robert’s direction, just after a peal of thunder disturbs him. The remainder of the two-minute cue goes through a thorough development of his material, probably the most medieval-sounding element in the score thanks to its instrumentation as well as its melodic kinship with medieval chants. A particularly haunting, urgent rendition of the melody plays after the Prince has left the abbey, as Robert and Blanche rush down to the confessional together only to discover that the kind Abbot (who took them in for the night) has been murdered by the intruder. A unique appearance of the theme on hammered dulcimer sounds as Robert calls out for him, receiving no response, and the cue ends with a low string stinger as the body tumbles out of the confessional.
These two ominous cues are possibly the most significant and unfortunate musical omissions from the film, because they firmly establish the sound of the antagonist. Without them, the Black Prince’s striking theme only appears in bits and fragments (starting in the next cue, “Children in Bondage”), mixed with other elements without having been strongly established on its own. The entrances and exits of themes within a film score are as important as the entrances and exits of characters within a film—but for whatever reason, it must have been decided that this music was wrong for the movie, because in multiple later action cues it is also trimmed out, and its final intended appearance, “Final Fight,” is another cue that’s omitted entirely. Perhaps, similar to the synth horns in Goldsmith’s later score to Timeline, there was an opposition to the unusual instrumental timbre, more than the thematic material itself. Or perhaps it was thought that Byrne’s performance, easily the best part of the film aside from Goldsmith’s score, should be allowed to stand on its own. (In the opinion of this author, these two strongest elements of the movie work perfectly hand-in-hand.) Regardless, for whatever reason, these cues were excised, and Goldsmith fans can now judge whether or not the music would have aided this troubled film.
Don’t forget to check out this month’s cue-by-cue breakdown of Lionheart, along with the album review of the deluxe edition.