Archive

Monthly Archives: September 2013

Epic films are larger than life. They project into the movie screens with an aura of greatness what the human spirit is able to aspire to, and what it can ultimately is able to endure.

“As God is my witness, I’ll never be hungry again!” (Gone with the Wind, 1939)

Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler turbulent love affair during the Civil War and Reconstruction is the most successful film in box-office history. Max Steiner’s haunting and spectacular “Tara’s Theme” is a true musical treasure, and one of the most famous melodies in film history. The score for which “the father of film music” is possibly best known, led to the conversion of many skeptics. The film producer David O. Selznick, who has previously been opposed to original film scores, turned into a true believer, as revealed by his well-known comment “really fine musicians are recognizing that scoring is a new form of musical art.”

“May God grant me vengeance, I pray that you live till I return” (Ben-Hur, 1959)

Miklos Rozsa blessed the ultimate Biblical epic with a powerful, magnificent, and glorious score. “Circus Parade (Parade Of The Charioteers)” during the chariot race is not only the climax of this blockbuster film, but also possibly the pinnacle of all epic film music. Watching this movie in the big screen is one of my childhood’s treasured cinematic memories.

“He was a poet, a scholar and a mighty warrior…He was also the most shameless exhibitionist since Barnum & Bailey” (Lawrence Of Arabia, 1962)

Maurice Jarre’s evocative, majestic and breathtaking score is a film and musical composition masterpiece. The sweeping, romantic, and exotic overture is epic on a grand scale. The melodic music mesmerizes you like the incredible power and vastness of the Arabian Desert.

“Now take back the soul of Denys George Finch Hatton, whom You have shared with us. He brought us joy…we loved him well. He was not ours. He was not mine.” (Out Of Africa, 1985)

The inspiring, lavish, and all-encompassing music for this epic romantic drama film is one of the most memorable scores ever written. “Main Title (I Had A Farm In Africa)” is stunningly beautiful with gloomy undertones that are somehow emotionally over-whelming. Only a very skillful master like John Barry could conjure in melody the fundamental nature of Denys and Karen’s relationship. The composer of Somewhere in Time (1980) and Born Free (1966) had an incredible gift to transport us to other times, and to melodically depict the astounding African scenery “at the foot of the Ngong Hills.”

“So, your Holiness, now your priests are dead, and I am left alive. But in truth it is I who am dead, and they who live. For as always, your Holiness, the spirit of the dead will survive in the memory of the living.” (The Mission, 1986)

The film portrays the moral and spiritual conflicts faced by Jesuit priests converting natives of South America into Christianity, as they are confronted with the need to conform to Portuguese and Spanish politics of colonization and slavery. The natural beauties of the Iguazu pierced by a crucified priest flowing down the falls.  The ugliness of human sin and suffering transformed through religious penance into the beauty of liberation. A slave trader reading about charity and pure love in Corinthians Chapter 13, right before choosing to take up priesthood. Robert Bolt (a former Marxist) deciding to write the script of a stirring religious movie. An inspired Ennio Morricone producing exquisite acoustic splendor through violin and oboe. As Cardinal Altamirano, one has to see the hand of God in all these labors of love.

Although some may argued that the golden era of epic films has passed, I believed that as long as humans can hope, dream and love new epic masterpieces will continue to be forged. Don’t despair; new epic musical works of genius will continue to reach our ears and our hearts for years to come.Image

Notable Epic Film Scores

Captain Blood (1935) – Erich Wolfgang Korngold

The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) – Erich Wolfgang Korngold

Alexander Nevsky (1938) – Sergei Prokofiev

Gone with the Wind (1939) – Max Steiner

Henry V (1944) – William Walton

Ivan the Terrible (1944) – Sergei Prokofiev

Captain from Castile (1947) – Alfred Newman

Samson and Delilah (1949) – Victor Young

Quo Vadis (1951) – Miklós Rózsa

Ivanhoe (1952) – Miklós Rózsa

The Robe (1953) – Alfred Newman

Prince Valiant (1954) – Franz Waxman

The Ten Commandments (1956) – Elmer Bernstein

The Inn of the Sixth Happiness (1958) – Malcolm Arnold

Ben-Hur (1959) – Miklós Rózsa

Spartacus (1960) – Alex North

King of Kings (1961) – Miklós Rózsa

El Cid (1961) – Miklós Rózsa

Lawrence of Arabia (1962) – Maurice Jarre

Taras Bulba (1962) – Franz Waxman

Cleopatra (1963) – Alex North

The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964) – Dimitri Tiomkin

Becket (1964 film) – Laurence Rosenthal

Lord Jim (1965) – Bronislau Kaper

The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965) – Alfred Newman

Doctor Zhivago (1965) – Maurice Jarre

A Man For All Seasons (1966) – Georges de la Rue

War and Peace (1966) – Nino Rota

The Lion in the Winter (1968) – John Barry

Ryan’s Daughter (1970) – Maurice Jarre

Papillon (1973) – Jerry Goldsmith

The Wind and the Lion (1973) – Jerry Goldsmith

Barry Lyndon (1975) – “Sarabande” from Suite in D minor (HWV 437) by George Frideric Handel

Gandhi (1982) – George Fenton, Ravi Shankar

A Passage To India (1984) – Maurice Jarre

Out of Africa (1985) – John Barry

Henry V (1989) – Patrick Doyle

1492: Conquest of Paradise (1992) – Vangelis

Braveheart (1995) – James Horner

The English Patient (1996) – Gabriel Yared

Titanic (1997) – James Horner

Joan of Arc (1999) – Éric Serra

The 13th Warrior (1999) – Jerry Goldsmith “”Valhalla”

Gladiator (2000) – Hans Zimmer and Lisa Gerrard

The Passion of The Christ (2004) – John Debney

Troy (2004) – James Horner (replacement score) / Gabriel Jarred (rejected score)

Alexander (2004) – Vangelis

Kingdom of Heaven (2005) – Harry Gregson-Williams

The Painted Veil (2006) – Alexandre Desplat

Tristan & Isolde (2006) – Anne Dudley

Atonement (2008) – Dario Marianelli

Australia (2008) – David Hirschfelder

“It’s A Bird… It’s A Plane… It’s Superman”

Superheros are characters that need no introduction. We are exposed to the iconic crime fighters and protectors of the people through comics, TV series, and flicks since we are little kids. We all dreamed of possessing their extraordinary superpowers, and dressed up like them for Halloween and other costume parties.

 

Wonder Woman’s lasso and bracelets, Iron Man’s powered armor suits, Thor’s hammer, and Green Lantern’s power ring are no match for John Williams’ brilliant heroic march (Superman, 1978). The first major superhero film featuring Christopher Reeve lives in our memories and in our hearts. Get ready to be propelled into space, and fly into a fantastic and melodic journey.

 

The Joker, the Riddler, Two-Face, Poison Ivy and other psychotic criminals at the Arkham Asylum are probably asking themselves “Can somebody tell me what kind of a world do we live in, where a man dressed as a bat gets all of my press?” (Batman, 1989) The Penguin, Catwoman, and Mr. Freeze will probably tell them that is hard to compete with Bruce Wayne alter ego when he is driving the Batmobile with Danny Elfman’s “The Batman Theme” soaring in the background. The dark, gothic, powerful and mysterious superhero score is truly awesome and highly memorable.

 

The Dark Knight again landed a great musical score in the film Batman Begins (2005). Composers Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard collaboration is the second best example of how two composers can complement each other (sorry Lennon and McCartney still win). The music evokes feelings of sadness, mourning, terror, tension, and provides powerful driving music for the action scenes. “Molossus” and “Antrozous” are my favorite tracks.

 

“In a stunning turn of events, a superhero is being sued for saving someone who, apparently, didn’t want to be saved” (The Incredibles, 2004). Michael Giacchino’s score for the animated superhero movie features lots of brass, saxophone, and 1960’s spy film nostalgia. “The Glory Days” is a perfect blend of big band jazz and classic John Barry-esque music. “The Incredits” is the best superhero score for closing credits since an amazing piano piece was used for the impulsive alter ego of Dr. Bruce Banner (“The Lonely Man Theme” by Joe Harnell from The Incredible Hulk TV series, 1977).

 

“Spider-Man, Spider-Man, does whatever a spider can.” The theme song of the 1967 cartoon (re-recorded by Michael Bublé in 2002) still remains the most memorable tune for Peter Parker, despite two excellent scores penned by legendary composers Danny Elfman (Spider-Man, 2002) and James Horner (The Amazing Spider-Man, 2012).

I will also like to highlight two recent fine compositions in the Marvel superhero universe:  the great epic action romp “Driving With the Top Down” by Ramin Djawadi (Iron Man, 2008), and the soaring “Captain America March” by Alan Silvestri (Captain America: The First Avenger, 2011).

 

Finally, let’s close with the extremely memorable “Flight of the Bumblebee” (Green Hornet TV Series, 1966), arranged by Billy May from an original composition of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. It features an amazing solo by Al Hirt, a true trumpet superhero.

 

Superhero Superman

Notable Superhero Scores

 

Adventures of Superman (TV series 1952) – Leon Klatzkin “Superman March”

Batman (TV series) 1966) – Neal Hefti “Batman Theme”

Green Hornet (TV Series 1966) – Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov “Flight of the Bumblebee”

Wonder Woman (TV series 1975) – Charles Fox (music) and Norman Gimbel (lyrics)

Incredible Hulk (TV series 1977) – Joe Harnell “The Lonely Man Theme”

Superman (1978) – John Williams

Superman II (1980) – Ken Thorne

Flash (1980) – Queen

The Greatest American Hero (TV Series 1981) – Joey Scarbury

Supergirl (1984) – Jerry Goldsmith “Overture”

Robocop (1987) – Basil Poledouris

Batman (1989) – Danny Elfman “The Batman Theme”

The Punisher (1989) – Dennis Dreith

The Flash (TV Series 1990) – Danny Elfman

The Rocketeer (1991) – James Horner “To the Rescue”

Batman Returns (1992) – Danny Elfman

Batman: The Animated Series (TV Series 1992) – Shirley Walker

Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman (TV Series 1993) – Jay Gruska (the son in-law of John Williams)

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers (TV Series 1993) – Ron Wasserman “Go Go Power Rangers”

The Crow (1994) – Graeme Revell

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (TV Series 1994) – Nerf Herder

Superman: The Animated Series (TV Series 1996) – Shirley Walker

Batman & Robin (1997) – Elliot Goldenthal “A Batman Overture”

Spawn (1997) – Filter and the Crystal Method “(Can’t You) Trip Like I Do”

Blade (1998) – Mark Isham

Batman Beyond (TV Series 1999) – Shirley Walker

X-Men (2000) – Michael Kamen

Unbreakable (2000) – James Newton Howard “Visions”

Smallville (TV Series 2001) – Remy Zero “Save Me”

Spider-Man (2002) – Danny Elfman “Main Titles”

Blade II (2002) – Marco Beltrami

Daredevil (2003) – Graeme Revell “Daredevil Theme”

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003) – Trevor Jones

Hulk (2003) – Danny Elfman

X2: X-Men United (2003) – John Ottman “Suite from X2”

Spider-Man 2 (2004) – Danny Elfman “Main Title”

Blade: Trinity (2004) – RZA

Catwoman (2004) – Klaus Badelt

Hellboy (2004) – Marco Beltrami “Main Title”, “Fathers Funeral”

The Punisher (2004) – Carlo Siliotto

The Incredibles (2004) – Michael Giacchino

Batman Begins (2005) – Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard

Fantastic Four (2005) – John Ottman

Elektra (2005) – Christophe Beck (from Buffy and Angel TV Series)

Superman Returns (2006) – John Ottman “Main Titles”

X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) – John Powell

TMNT (2007) – Klaus Badelt

Spider-Man 3 (2007) – Christopher Young

Ghost Rider (2007) – Christopher Young

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007) – John Ottman “Silver Surfer Theme”

Iron Man (2008) – Ramin Djawadi “ Driving With the Top Down”

The Incredible Hulk (2008) – Craig Armstrong

Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008) – Danny Elfman

The Dark Knight (2008) – Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard “Aggressive Expansion”

X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) – Harry Gregson-Williams

Watchmen (2009) – Tyler Bates “Rescue Mission”

Iron Man 2 (2011) – John Debney “I Am Iron Man”

The Green Hornet (2011) – James Newton Howard

Green Lantern (2011) – James Newton Howard “We’re Going To Fly Now”

X-Men: First Class (2011) – Henry Jackman “Magneto”

Thor (2011) – Patrick Doyle “Sons of Odin”

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) – Alan Silvestri “Captain America March”

The Avengers (2012) – Alan Silvestri “The Avengers”

The Dark Knight Rises (2012) – Hans Zimmer “Rise”

The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) – James Horner “Main Title – Young Peter”, “Saving New York”

Man of Steel (2013) – Hans Zimmer

Films with fantastic themes often have an element of magic, myth, and wonder. They allow us to escape to imaginary lands, whimsical worlds, and extraordinary alternate realities.

 

“And the secret of steel has always carried with it a mystery. You must learn its riddle, Conan, you must learn its discipline, for no one, no one in this world can you trust, not men, not women, not beasts… This you can trust” (Conan the Barbarian, 1982)

Basil Poleudoris musically painted a richly colored mythical landscape full of magic and power, hope and sorrow, beauty and danger, metal and fire. This great musical triumph was accomplished with haunting chorals, thunderous percussion, lavish melodies, and great orchestral sound. He created in the process one of the greatest music masterpieces in fantasy-adventure film history.

 

“Eddie. The guys and I were talking, we’d like want to invite you to our card game on Friday night. Would you like that? Only thing is, you can’t cut!” (Edward Scissorhands, 1990)

A young, innocent, shy, eccentric and weird-looking man named Edward (Johnny Depp), whose hands are made of scissors, is adopted by the kind hearted Peg Boggs. Danny Elfman’s music, like Edward’s scissor-handy works (garden sculptures, hairstyles), is highly imaginative, truly beautiful, and breathtaking. A haunting and inspiring musical journey that is melancholic but fun, tragic but hopeful, wintery but heart-warming, and dark but not evil. Tim Burton’s tender, dreamy, heartbreaking, and inspiring movie has, as it deserves, one of the best fantasy film scores ever written.

 

“Long ago, when man was young and the dragon already old, the wisest of our race took pity on man. He gathered together all the dragons, making them vow to watch over man, always” (Dragonheart, 1996)

The majestic and uplifting Randy Edelman’s score really breathe fire into my heart. “To The Stars” theme is magical, awe inspiring, commanding, stunning, and truly unforgettable. This majestic score is able to transcend tears, sadness, and sorrow. It lifts our spirits to a triumphant state of remembrance, commemoration, and glory.

 

“Once upon a time there was a boy named Peter Pan, who decided not to grow up”

(Peter Pan, 2003)

Inspiring, exciting and delightful, this score is one of James Newton Howard finest accomplishments. The sweet and poignant composition “Flying” is an amazing and uplifting magical adventure. Sweet harps, graceful bells, lovely choral works and soaring melody fill our imagination with mystery, hope and tender feelings. He is able to capture for our enjoyment the wonderful dreamy world of Neverland.

 

“You’re getting older, and you’ll see that life isn’t like your fairy tales. The world is a cruel place. And you’ll learn that, even if it hurts (Pan’s Labyrinth, 2006)

It was hard not to fall in love with Guillermo del Toro’s fantasy film masterpiece. The beautiful but tenebrous universe blends a haunted fairy tale with the ugliness of reality. Javier Navarrete’s fantastic lullaby magically captures the mystery of the movie. The score can be at times relaxing and soothing, but the composer’s sweeping imagination combined with violin, brass and strings can conjure dark, majestic and sweeping melodies. The music induces a feeling of incantation, placing us under a comforting spell that helps us go through fear inducing imagery that would otherwise lead to a heightened state of dread and anxiety. It is without doubt one of the best film scores composed in the past decade.

 

I did not dare to overlook the epic fantasy films based on the works of J. R. R Tolkien and J.K. Rolling. I plan to review their beautiful music in a future blog about great fantasy film sagas.

 

Heart of Summer

Notable Fantasy Film Scores

 

The Wizard of Oz (1933) – Herbert Stothart

Beauty and the Beast (1946) – Georges Auric

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947) – Bernard Herrmann

Alice in Wonderland (1951) – Oliver G. Wallace

A Christmas Carol (1951) – Richard Addinsell

The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958) – Bernard Herrmann

Scrooge (1970) – Leslie Bricusse

Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971) – Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) – John Williams

Excalibur (1981) – Trevor Jones (featuring mainly music by Richard Wagner and Carl Orff)

Dragonslayer (1981) – Alex North

Legend (1985) – Jerry Goldsmith (European release) / Tangerine Dream (American release)

Clash of the Titans (1981) – Laurence Rosenthal

Time Bandits (1981) – Trevor Jones

Conan the Barbarian (1982) – Basil Poleudoris

The Dark Crystal (1982) – Trevor Jones

Krull (1983) – James Horner

Fire and Ice (1983) – William Kraft

Brazil (1985) – Michael Kamen

Lady Hawke (1985) – Andrew Powell and Alan Parsons

The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1986) – Michel Kamen

The Pricess Bride (1987) – Mark Knopfler

Willow (1988) – James Horner

Scrooged (1988) – Danny Elfman

Highlander (1986) – Michael Kamen and Queen

Labyrinth (1986) – Trevor Jones and David Bowie

Edward Scissorhands (1990) – Danny Elfman

The Green Mile (1999) – Thomas Newman

Groundhog Day (1993) – Thomas Newman

Hook (1991) – John Williams

Dragonheart (1996) – Randy Edelman

Meet Joe Black (1998) – Thomas Newman

Peter Pan (2003) – James Newton Howard

Big Fish (2003) – Danny Elfman

Corpse Bride (2005) – Danny Elfman

Brothers Grimm (2005) – Dario Marianelli

Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) –Javier Navarrete

Lady in the Water (2006) – James Newton Howard

Eragon (2006) – Patrick Doyle

The Golden Compass (2007) – Alexandre Desplat

Bridge to Terabithia (2007) – Aaron Zigman

Stardust (2007) – Ilan Eshkeri

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008) – Alexandre Desplat

The Spiderwick Chronicles (2008) – James Horner

Avatar (2009) – James Horner

Alice in Wonderland (2010) – Danny Elfman

Clash of the Titans (2010) – Ramin Djawadi

Prince of Persia: Sands of Time (2010) – Harry Gregson-Williams

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (2010) – Trevor Rabin

Hugo (2011) – Howard Shore

Conan the Barbarian (2011) – Tyler Bates

Your Highness (2011) – Steve Jablonsky

Wrath of the Titans (2012) – Javier Navarrete

John Carter (2012) – Michael Giacchino

Dark Shadows (2012) – Danny Elfman

Life of Pi (2012) – Michael Danna

Snowman and the Huntsman (2012) – James Newton Howard

During the 1940s and 50s, gifted directors together with Hollywood legends (Lauren Bacall, Barbara Stanwyck, William Holden, Humphrey Bogart) crafted stylish crime dramas combining the following elements:

– a deceitful, manipulative, double-crossing, but extremely beautiful and sexually appealing lady (a “Femme Fatale”);

– a cynical, and ethically compromised male main character, usually (but not necessarily) a private eye, or a detective;

– a visual style that emphasizes black-and-white photography, high-contrast lighting, distorted shadows, dark city streets, cigarette smoke, and fog.

The French critic Nino Frank coined the term “Film Noir” in 1946 to describe these films.

 

Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson) dramatically descends her grand staircase and, proving she has completed her plunge into a delusional state of mind, delivers the film’s most famous line: “All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.” Sunset Boulevard (1950), one of the greatest films of American cinema, stands at the pinnacle of the “genre”. Franz Waxman composed a poetic, reflective and unforgettable score for the movie.

 

“Goodbye, Laura. Goodbye, my love.” Columnist Waldo Lydecker, police detective Mark McPherson, playboy Shelby Carpenter and every other man in the film will fall under the love spell (and eventually become obsessed with) the beautiful and highly successful advertising executive Laura Hunt (Gene Tierney), or with her notorious portrait. Composed over one weekend by David Raksin, the exceptionally sophisticated and haunting title theme song “Laura” will become one of the most recorded and performed songs of the 20th century (lyrics by Johnny Mercer). It clearly has become one of the film’s most endurable legacies. Both Laura (1944) and Sunset Boulevard (above) were honored in 2005 as two of the top 25 film scores in the American Film Institute’s “100 Years of Film Scores” list.

 

“In Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, they had five hundred years of democracy and peace – and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.” (Written by Orson Welles to be delivered by his character Harry Lime). The Theme from The Third Man (1949) is simply brilliant, full of suspense, shadowy betrayal, and postwar fear. Anton Karas wrote and performed the score using only the zither (a string musical instrument). It was no cuckoo clock; it easily topped most international music charts in 1950.

 

“The Fault… is Not in Our Stars, But in Ourselves…” (William Shakespeare).

Dr. Constance Petersen (Ingrid Bergman) is a psychoanalyst at a mental hospital in Vermont. She protects the identity of an amnesiac patient accused of murder. Miklós Rózsa bejeweled the famous dream sequence (designed by Salvador Dalí) of the film Spellbound (1945) with one of the most moving, thrilling, passionate and beautifully paranoid orchestral scores ever composed. Although the score won the Academy Award, Alfred Hitchcock didn’t like the music because “it got in the way of his direction” (quote from Rózsa).

 

Finally, I would like to highlight the scores from two late film noirs: Sweet Smell of Success (1957), and Touch of Evil (1958). Elmer Bernstein and Henry Mancini, two young and upcoming composers at the time, crafted these works of genius. Bernstein’s furious jazz and orchestral score done in collaboration with the Chico Hamilton Quintet is one of the top film music masterpieces in the 1950s.  Mancini’s crime jazz score is sinister, sleazy, swinging, and very cool.

 

 

 Image

 

 

Notable Film Noir Scores

 

The Letter (1940)- Max Steiner

Rebecca (1940) – Franz Waxman

The Maltese Falcon (1941) – Adolph Deutsch

High Sierra (1941) – Adolph Deutsch

Laura (1944) – David Raksin

Double Indemnity (1944)  – Miklós Rózsa

Spellbound (1945) – Miklós Rózsa

The Lost Weekend – (1945) – Miklós Rózsa

Mildred Pierce (1945) – Max Steiner

The Big Sleep (1946) – Max Steiner

The Killers (1946) – Miklós Rózsa

The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946) – George Bassman

Dark Passage (1947) – Franz Waxman

Brute Force (1947) -Miklós Rózsa

Force of Evil (1948) – David Raksin

Key Largo (1948) – Max Steiner

The Third Man (1949) – Anton Karas

White Heat (1949) – Max Steiner

Sunset Boulevard (1950) – Franz Waxman

The Asphalt Jungle  (1950) – Miklós Rózsa

D.O.A (1950) – Dimitri Tiomkin

Strangers On A Train – (1951) – Dimitri Tiomkin

Suddenly (1954) – David Raksin

The Night Of The Hunter (1955) – Walter Schumann

Kiss Me Deadly (1955) – Frank DeVol

The Killing (1956) – Gerald Fried

Sweet Smell of Success (1957) – Elmer Bernstein

Touch of Evil (1958) – Henry Mancini

Star Trek depicts a balanced human society where technology is mainly used to enhance their quality of life.  The opposite is true in a large portion of the sci-fi universe known as dystopian futures. The evolution toward excessive “optimization” of societies that dominate every aspect of human life, sentient technology or rapid advances in non-sentient technology may lead to radical changes in the social order, dehumanization, totalitarian governments, environmental disaster or other cataclysmic events.

 

A dystopia is a community or society that is in some fundamental way undesirable or frightening.  In order to continue to be human and not a robot, the individual needs to preserve certain degree of unattached intricacy essential to his different biosocial rank. Loss of our emotional depth, independent thought and power to choose freely will lead to the destruction of our humanity. Lower standards of living, or pleasure-packed but emotionally barren lives will result (“Lots of love-making, but no love”).

 

“You Maniacs! You Blew It Up! Oh, Dawn You! Goddawn You All To Hell!”

 

At the top of this list one have to place the truly original, shocking, visceral, chaotic, modern-primitive and utterly unpredictable score of Planet of the Apes (1967). Composed by the genial chameleon Jerry Goldsmith, it is full of thunderous odd percussion, piercing strings, and animal-like sounds. It constitutes a true landmark and a turning point in movie score history.

 

“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. [laughs] Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like [coughs] tears in rain. Time to die.” (speech improvised by Rutger Hauer, the actor who plays the replicant Roy Batty).

 

The ultimate “cyberpunk” cult film Blade Runner (1982) has one of the most evocative, haunting, and thought-provoking scores. “Tears in Rain”, the last track of the official score for the film by Vangelis, will always be an integral part of  “the most moving death soliloquy in cinematic history” (The Philosopher at the End of the Universe). Unfortunately, due to creative disputes, the true Vangelis score has never been released. All the different commercially available incarnations are “replicant” scores. There is no written score of the music, and trying to reversed engineer the music has proven to be a haunting task, given the improvisational nature of the score and the use of vintage electronic technology and synthesizers.

 

“Human decisions are removed from strategic defense. Skynet begins to learn at a geometric rate. It becomes self-aware. In a panic, they try to pull the plug. Skynet fights back.”

 

The eerie and bizarre Brad Fiedel’s score is as much a character of the Terminator 2 (1991) as the shape-shifting mimetic polyalloy T-1000.

 

“What is “real”? How do you define “real”?”

 

Nightmarish, strangely intense and very thrilling, the minimalist score composed by Don Davis is definitely a big contributor to the excitement of The Matrix (1999).

 

The groundbreaking and exhilarating scores of these films catapult them to otherwise unachievable cinematic heights. These compositions recall Igor Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring” and Bela Bartok’s “Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta”. Devoid of recognizable melodies and classical-like orchestration, these dystopian scores stand opposite to Romantic-like scores like Star Wars (John Williams) and Star Trek (Jerry Goldsmith).

 

The astronaut Taylor, the replicant Roy Batty, the living tissue over a metal endoskeleton Terminator, and the captain of the Nebuchadnezzar should all be proud of the incredible body of musical work created for their dystopian futures.

 

Dystopian Bladerunner

Notable dystopian futures, time travel and “mind-bending plot” film scores:

 

Twilight Zone (1959 TV Series, s1/s2) – Bernard Herrmann/ Marius Constant

The Outer Limits (1963 TV Series) – Dominic Frontiere

HG Wells’ The Time Machine (1960) – Russell Garcia

The Time Tunnel (1966 TV Series) – John Williams

Planet of the Apes (1968) – Jerry Goldsmith

Logan’s Run (1976) – Jerry Goldsmith

Logan’s Run: TV Series (1977) – Bruce Broughton, Laurence Rosenthal

Back to the Future (1985) – Alan Silvestri

Brazil (1985) – Michael Kamen

Highlander (1986) – Queen

RoboCop (1987) – Basil Poledouris

Quantum Leap (1989 TV Series) – Velton Ray Bunch and Mike Post

The X-Files (1993 TV Series) – Mark Snow

Twelve Monkeys (1995) – Paul Buckmaster

The City of Lost Children (1995) – Angelo Badalamenti

Gattaca (1997) – Michael Nyman

Dark City (1998) – Trevor Jones

Being John Malkovich (1999)- Carter Burwell

Dark Angel (2000 TV Series) – Joel McNeely

Memento (2000) – David Julyan

A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001) – John Williams

Minority Report (2002) – John Williams

28 Days Later (2002) – John Murphy

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) – Jon Brion

Lost (2004 TV Series) – Michael Giacchino

Battlestar Galactica (2004 TV Series) – Bear McCreary

V for Vendetta (2006) – Dario Marianelli

WALL·E (2008) – Thomas Newman

Fringe (2008 TV Series) – Michael Giacchino

Inception (2010) – Hans Zimmer

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) – Patrick Doyle

Prometheus (2012)- Marc Streitenfeld & Harry Gregson-Williams

A slasher is a horror film involving a mysterious killer stalking and killing a sequence of victims usually in a graphically violent manner. Serial killers may be psychopaths, cannibals, “explorers” of carnal experience (cenobites), or reanimated mindless corpses (zombies). Paranormal entities (ghosts, demons), or iconic monsters (vampires, werewolves, aliens), had already been discussed in my two previous horror tune blogs.

Important forerunners to the slasher genre include Peeping Tom (1960), Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960), and the Italian horror and psychological thrillers known as “giallo” (yellow). The name pays homage to the cheap paperback mystery novels with trademark yellow covers that served as inspiration for the films. Besides being very influential in the genre, these films also helped to set a new level of tolerability for violence and deviant behavior in movies.

Splatter films came to life in the early sixties with the film Blood Feast (1963). Director Herschell Gordon Lewis, who up to that point was producing low-budget nudie films, was searching for a new exploitative angle. He settled on graphic portrayals of gore and graphic violence, a niche that virtually no one had explored.

“You can’t kill the boogeyman!” (Halloween, 1978)

The slasher film subgenre reached its peak in the early eighties. The famous trio of psychopathic killers Michael Myers (Halloween), Jason Voorhees (Friday the 13th) and Freddy Krueger (A Nightmare on Elm Street) cemented their fame and horror franchises around that time. The “master of terror” John Carpenter created a perfectly simple, tense, creepy, terror-filled, stalking, synthesizer-based theme song that has been chilling us with a disturbing sense of impending doom every Halloween ever since.

“I told you not to hang up on me” (Scream, 1996)

In the mid 1990s, slasher films experienced a revival with satirical-suspenseful storylines, more developed-clever characters, and less focus on gore. Ghostface and The Fisherman “put to good use” a hunting knife and a meat hook to become pop culture horror symbols. “Sidney’s Lament” a brilliant, pretty scary composition by Marco Beltrami fills us with intense fear. Although I know that “the flame that burns twice as bright burns half as long” (Lao Tzu), I still wish it was a little longer.

“You kids shouldn’t have messed with that little girl. You brought this all on yourself” (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, 2003)

Producer Michael Bay revamped the 1973 original film, and gave Leatherface and the slasher genre new life. Using a blank sheet music “made of human skin,” chainsaw wielding composer Steve Jablonsky conjured a sinister, creepy, and disturbing score. It will leave even cold-blooded killers panic-stricken.

“When there’s no more room in hell, the dead will walk the earth”  (Dawn of the Dead, 1978).

The term “splatter cinema” was first use by George A. Romero to describe “one of the best horror films ever made” (Roger Ebert). This rather complex gem was a sequel for the Night of the Living Dead (1968), where Romero has attempted to replicate on film the atmosphere and gore of EC’s horror comics like Tales from the Crypt. Dawn of the Dead has been attributed higher meaning, as it relates to the destruction of modern society by solitude and greed. Besides it is also somewhat exploitative for its own sake, and its over-the-top gore involving evisceration can turned out to be very comical (“splatstick”). Dario Argento’s cut of Zombi: Dawn of the Dead features a versatile terror soundtrack by the Italian progressive rock band Goblin. They combined Mellotron, twin guitars, funk bass to produce a wide variety of pieces ranging from slow jam, techno-jazz, and pseudo-country, to violent tribal-disco.

“He doesn’t want us to cut through our chains. He wants us to cut through our feet” (Saw, 2004)

A new breed of splatter films labeled “torture porn” (or “gorno”) surface at the dawn of the new millennia. These movies were characterized by graphic depictions of extreme violence, nudity, torture, mutilation and sadism. Nathan Barr masterfully composed dark, epic, heart-racing music for Saw. The dramatic “Hello Zepp” makes you feel like the music is starring at you with murderous intent.

As the very successful recent TV series Dexter (2006) and The Walking Dead (2010) demonstrate, slasher and splatter have made it into our living rooms. The music themes by Rolfe Kent and Bear McCreary hook us to our flat screens, take us on a roller coaster ride, and haunt us in our dreams. Let’s put our bladed gloves on and continue to celebrate Halloween on Elm Street and Camp Crystal Lake to the scary tunes of our favorite mass murderers.

Image

Notable slasher/splatter music scores

Suspiria (1977) – Goblin

Friday the 13th (1980) – Harry Manfredini

Halloween II (1981) – John Carpenter

The Funhouse (1981) – John Beal

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) – Charles Bernstein

Re-Animator (1985) – Richard Band

Hellraiser (1987) – Christopher Young

Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988) – Christopher Young

They Live (1988) – John Carpenter

Village of the Damned (1995) – John Carpenter “March of the Children”

I Still Know What You Did Last Summer (1998) – John Frizzell “Julie’s Theme”

Final Destination (2000 – Shirley Walker

28 Days Later (2002) – John Murphy “In the House – In a Heartbeat”

Dawn of the Dead (2004) – Tyler Bates

The Amityville Horror (2005) – Steve Jablonsky

Hostel (2005) – Nathan Barr

The Devil’s Rejects (2005) – Tyler Bates

House of Wax (2005) – John Ottman

The Hills Have Eyes (2006) – Tomandandy

Black Christmas (2006) – Shirley Walker

Halloween I & II (2007 & 2009) – Tyler Bates

The Final Destination (2009) – Brian Tyler

My Bloody Valentine 3D (2009) – Michael Wandmacher “Buried Alive”

Friday the 13th (2009)  – Steve Jablonsky

The Crazies (2010) – Mark Isham

A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010) – Steve Jablonsky