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“Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy . . . but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” (To Kill a Mockingbird, 1962)

Harper Lee’s uplifting and magnificent story, including the damaged (but pure-hearted) Arthur “Boo” Radley saving the children from Bob Ewel, and Atticus’ moral imperative to defend the vulnerable are all priceless gifts that give humanity some hope.  The utterly moving music created by the inspired maestro Elmer Bernstein catapults the film to heartbreakingly beautiful heights.

“I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse.” (Godfather, 1972)

The great film composer Nino Rota’s score is truly an offer no one can refuse. Prepare to be captivated by Italian folk themes, amazing instrumentation, and emotionally charged melodies that capture the amazingly complex moods of one of the best films of all time. Without doubt, it stands as one of the most beautiful and inspired instrumental scores ever written.

“Forget it, Jake, it’s Chinatown.” (Chinatown, 1974)

Roman Polanski’s neo-noir is a stylish depiction of evil, greed, and corruption connected to land dealings and water rights’ disputes in California. The mysteriously haunting score composed by Jerry Goldsmith in only ten days is a perfect match for the film. Considered by many as one best scores of all time in great part due to the memorable mournful trumpet solos.

“You talkin’ to me?” (Taxi Driver, 1976)

Bernard Herrmann’s last film score was for Martin Scorsese’s brilliant portrait of urban alienation and decadence. The unforgettable jazzy and orchestral music is dark and ominous, strange and ethereal, subliminal and dissonant. It is the perfect companion for Travis Bickle descent into a nightmarish world of madness, delusion and violence.

“I tell you those voices soared, higher and farther than anybody in a grey place dares to dream. It was like some beautiful bird flapped into our drab little cage and made these walls dissolve away, and for the briefest of moments, every last man in Shawshank felt free (The Shawshank Redemption, 1994)

‘Red’ (Morgan Freeman) and the other residents of Shawshank were unchained by the ‘Italian ladies’ singing “Canzonetta sull’ aria” (Mozart, “Le Nozze di Figaro”). Prepared to also fall in love with the haunting, dark and dramatic original piano music composed by Thomas Newman. The score is truly inspirational and a central element of this brilliant and miraculous story.

“The weed of crime bears bitter fruit. Crime does not pay!” (Radio Show The Shadow, 1930). James Cagney would reply “that’s for yaps and small-timers on shoestrings” (Angels with Dirty Faces, 1938). As far as musical inspiration for great film composers go, the weed of crime does pay indeed.

Crime

Notable Crime Tunes

On the Waterfront (1954) – Leonard Bernstein

Perry Mason (1957 TV Series) – Fred Steiner

To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) – Elmer Bernstein

Dr. No (1962) “James Bond Theme” – Monty Norman, arranged by John Barry

The Pink Panther (1963) – Henry Mancini

Mission: Impossible (1966 TV series) – Lalo Schifrin

Wait Until Dark (1967) – Elmer Bernstein

Cool Hand Luke (1967) – Lalo Schifrin

Ironside (1967 TV series) – Quincy Jones

The Thomas Crown Affair (1968) – Michel Legrand

The French Connection (1971) – Don Ellis

Dirty Harry (1971) – Lalo Schifrin

Klute (1971) – Michael Small

The Godfather (1972) – Nino Rota

Papillon (1973) – Jerry Goldsmith

Serpico (1973) – Mikis Theodorakis

The Sting (1973) – Marvin Hamlisch and Scott Joplin

Chinatown (1974) – Jerry Goldsmith

The Godfather: Part II (1974) – Nino Rota, Carmine Coppola

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974) – David Shire

Night Moves – (1975) – Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band

Midnight Express (1978) – Giorgio Moroder, “Chase”

Dressed to Kill, 1980 – Pino Donaggio

Body Heat (1981) – John Barrry

Blade Runner (1982) – Vangelis

Once Upon a Time in America (1984) – Ennio Morricone

Beverly Hills Cop (1984) – Harold Faltermeyer, “Axel F.”

Blue Velvet (1986) – Angelo Bedalamenti

Miller’s Crossing (1990) – Carter Burwell

The Silence of the Lambs (1991) – Howard Shore

Basic Instinct (1992) – Jerry Goldsmith

The Shawshank Redemption (1994) – Thomas Newman

Se7en – (1995) – Howard Shore

The Usual Suspects (1995) – John Ottman

Fargo (1996)  – Carter Burwell

Hamlet (1996) – Patrick Doyle

L.A. Confidential (1997) – Jerry Goldsmith

Dark City (1998) – Trevor Jones

Mulholland Drive (2001) – Angelo Badalamenti

Road to Perdition (2002) – Thomas Newman

Mystic River (2003) – Clint Eastwood

Sin City (2005) – Robert Rodriguez, assisted by John Debney & Graeme Revell

Zodiac (2007) – David Shire

Sherlock Holmes (2009) – Hans Zimmer, “Discombobulate”

The Town (2010) – Harry Gregson-Williams, David Buckley

Sherlock (2010 TV Series) – David Arnold

Drive (2011) – Cliff Martinez

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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

When I chose to undertake the “haunting” task of reviewing the horror scores for this blog, I found myself in a similar position as police chief Brody (Roy Scheider) when he realized how big his fishy nemesis monstrous shark actually was. I told myself “You’re Gonna Need a Bigger Boat” (Jaws, 1975). I decided to split the scores into three broad categories: Paranormal & Psychological Terror, Monster Movies, and Slasher/Splatter Films. This post is the result of my efforts in the first category.

The Paranormal includes curses, haunted-houses, ghosts, evil spirit possession, demons, Satanism, the macabre, the occult, parapsychology and other phenomena that appear outside or beside the natural. Psychological terror stories deal with the inner workings of the human mind, guilt, grief, primal fears, phobias, revulsions, emotional instability, schizophrenia or other abnormal psychology, nightmares, hallucinations, dream-like states, and other altered states of consciousness.

“La la la la… What, have they done to its eyes?!” (Rosemary’s Baby, 1968)

A disturbing baby soothing song, “Rosemary’s Lullaby”, was a perfect match for the plot of the film. A woman discovers that her pregnancy is actually part of a satanic ritual. The composer Krzysztof Komeda tragically suffered a head injury and departed this life the same year the movie had its premiere. His death foreshadowed the “curse” believed by some to be linked to the premature deaths of several people associated with other horror films. Infamous examples include the terror franchises Poltergeist, Exorcist, and Omen; as well as the films Twilight Zone: The Movie, The Crow, and Queen of the Damned.

“From the Eternal Sea, He rises, creating armies on either shore, turning man against his brother, till man exists, no more.” (The Omen, 1976)

An American ambassador is repulsed to learn that his son is the bona fide Antichrist. “Ave Satani” is a sinister choral work that bears a spine-tingling dark resemblance to a liturgical celebration. The score by Jerry Goldsmith remains to this day one of the most prominent works of the master composer, and his only Academy Award after receiving 18 nominations over the course of his career. He also demonstrated his amazing gift for macabre scoring when he wrote the frightening and chilling music for the film Poltergeist referenced above.

“The churches belong to God, but he doesn’t seem to care about them” (Don’t Look Now, 1973)

The story follows a couple working through their grief after the drowning death of their daughter. The film is based on a short story of Daphne du Maurier, the same author of Hitchcock’s Rebecca. Famed scenes of John and Laura (Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie) having explicit sex, intercut with more mundane scenes of them dressing afterwards, lived on in our memories and had caused much controversy throughout the years. The enchantingly diabolical score, composed by Pino Donaggio, emotionally submerge us in sorrow, precognition, and horror from beyond in the canals of beautiful and menacing Venice. The musician also wrote the score for Stephen King’s first novel Carrie and other Brian De Palma’s thrillers.

“A boy’s best friend is his mother.” (Psycho, 1960)

After stealing a large sum of money, a secretary arrives to the Bates Motel and encounters a young man under the control of his mother. The terror of the legendary “shower scene” is undoubtedly magnified by Bernard Herrmann’s magnum opus score. The 1959 novel Psycho by Robert Bloch served as basis for the unforgettable Alfred Hitchcock’s film.

Finally, I will like to pay homage to the master author of contemporary horror Stephen King and borrow Bloch famous quote (often misattributed to the author of Carrie, The Shining, and Misery):

“Despite my ghoulish reputation, I really have the heart of a small boy. I keep it in a jar on my desk.”

 

Psych Dont_look_now

Notable Paranormal & Psychological Terror Scores

Les Diaboliques (1955) – absence of music

The Innocents (1961) – Georges Auric and Paul Dehn

Eyes Without A Face (1962) – Maurice Jarre

The Haunting (1963) – Jehuda Ewert

Wait Until Dark (1967)  – Henry Mancini

Twisted Nerve (1968) – Bernard Herrmann

The Devil Rides Out (1968) – James Bernard

Duel (TV 1971) – Billy Goldenberg

The Exorcist (1973) – Tubular Bells by Mike Oldfield (non-original music on the soundtrack)

Sisters (1973) – Bernard Herrman

Obsession (1976) – Bernard Herrman “Valse Lente”

Carrie (1976) – Pino Donaggio “School in Flames”

Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977) – Ennio Morricone “Regan’s Theme”

The Fury (1978) – John Williams

Damien: Omen II (1978) – Jerry Goldsmith

Phantasm (1979) – Fred Myron & Malcolm Seagrave

The Fog (1980) – John Carpenter

Omen III: The Final Conflict (1981) – Jerry Goldsmith

The Changeling (1980) – Ken Wannberg, Howard Blake, Rick Wilkins

Altered States (1980) – John Corigliano

The Shining (1980) – Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta by Béla Bartók (non-original music on the soundtrack)

Evil Dead (1981) – Joseph LoDuca

The Entity (1982) – Charles Bernstein

Poltergeist (1982) – Jerry Goldsmith

Videodrome (1983) – Howard Shore

Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983)- Jerry Goldsmith

Terror in the Aisles (1984) – John Beal

Poltergeist II: The Other Side (1986) – Jerry Goldsmith

Ghostbusters (1986) – Elmer Bernstein

Evil Dead II (1987) – Joseph LoDuca

The Witches of Eastwick (1987) – John Williams

Beetlejuice (1988) – Danny Elfman

Dressed To Kill (1988) – Pino Donaggio

Pet Sematary (1989) – Elliot Goldenthal

Jacob’s Ladder (1990) – Maurice Jarre

Arachnophobia (1990) – Trevor Jones “Dilbert’s Theme”

Misery (1990) – Marc Shaiman

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) – Danny Elfman

Silence of the Lambs (1991) – Howard Shore

Army of Darkness [Evil Dead III] (1992) – Joseph LoDuca (except for “March of the Dead” written by Danny Elfman)

The Sixth Sense (1999) – James Newton Howard

Stir of Echoes (1999) – James Newton Howard

The Haunting (1999) – Jerry Goldsmith

Hannibal (2001) – Hans Zimmer (except for the aria “Vide Cor Meum” by Patrick Cassidy)

The Others (2001) – Alejandro Amenábar

The Ring (2002) – Hans Zimmer “This Is Going to Hurt”

The Mothman Prophecies (2002) – Tomandandy (Tom Hajdu and Andy Milburn)

Frailty (2002) – Brian Tyler

Gothika (2003) – John Ottman

The Grudge (2004) – Christopher Young

The Village (2004) – James Newton Howard

Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) – Javier Navarrete

1408 (2007) – Gabriel Yared

The Mist (2007) – Mark Isham

Zodiac (2007) – David Shire “Graysmith’s Theme”

Sunshine (2007) – John Murphy “Adagio in D Minor”

Drag Me to Hell (2009) – Christopher Young

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (2011) – Marco Beltrami and Buck Sanders

Sinister (2012) – Christopher Young

The Woman in Black (2012) – Marco Beltrami