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Slapsticks, parodies, spoofs, screwballs and romantic comedy films have been brightening up our lives with laughter, humor and amusement for generations.

 

“Yes, I can see now”

In my opinion, City Lights (1931) stands at the pinnacle of both silent and romantic comedy film. The music takes us through a wide range of emotional responses as the Tramp falls in love with a blind flower girl, and develops a friendship with a millionaire. Charlie Chaplin composed a true symphony of laughs, tears, and love. Holding my hand to my heart, I rejoice with hope as I witness the triumph of the human spirit over poverty, infirmity, sorrow, and despair.

 

“I, Lord Kelvin, hereby vow to surrender my position as minister of science to Phileas Fogg if he can circumnavigate the globe… in no more than 80 days” (Around The World In 80 Days, 1956)

The unforgettable score for this adventure comedy film allow us to musically circumnavigate the globe, sampling vibrant exotic tunes as English gentleman Phileas Fogg (David Niven) and his valet Passepartout (my beloved comedian Cantinflas) progress in their 80 days journey. Victor Young was a master of melody and one of the finest film composers of his generation. Prepare to be captivated as you embark in this acoustic voyage. Like leaving Paris in a hot air balloon, it is truly an unforgettable emotional tour de force.

 

“It’s buried under a big W, I tell you. A big W” (It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, 1963)

The W stands for Wonderful. The sunny, sweet and pleasant music score by Ernest Gold sets the mood for the incredible adventures of Spencer Tracy and a very talented cast. They will endure about three hours of furiously paced tribulations, as they drive, fly, drill, dynamite, and double-cross their way to $350,000 in stolen cash. This epic comedy film and its irresistible score will stay with you forever.

 

“If you look deep into the stone, you will perceive the tiniest discoloration. It resembles an animal” (The Pink Panther, 1963)

The Pink Panther is a fictional diamond with a distinctive flaw, which resembles a leaping panther. The great Henry Mancini composed a mysterious, highly sophisticated, and utterly original theme for the Blake Edwards’ comedy masterpiece.  This beautiful, seductive, and jazzy instrumental diamond has no flaw.

 

“No, it’s pronounced Fronkensteen” (Young Frankenstein, 1974)

We may never know why the horses rear up and neigh madly in fright every time they hear the name of Fra Blucher, but we all know this Mel Brooks’ film is one of the funniest movies of all time. The black-and-white comedy features a descendant of the infamous mad scientist Dr. Frankenstein (Gene Wilder), and his re-animated creature (Peter Boyle). They dance with top hats and tails to the song “Puttin’ on the Ritz” (originally written by Irving Berlin in 1929), which parodies Fred Astaire’s Blue Skies (1946) version. The film also features a beautiful violin score “Transylvanian Lullaby” by Brooks’ longtime composer John Morris.

 

“There’s no reason to be alarmed and we hope you enjoy the rest of your flight. By the way, is there anyone on board who knows how to fly a plane?“

Airplane! (1980) is a genial spoof of airport and other disaster movies. Elmer Bernstein took his job of scoring this ridiculous parody seriously. I love the segments when he makes fun of John Williams’ Jaws. The music film auteur also wrote very well crafted compositions for the comedies Trading Places (1983), and Ghostbusters (1984).

 

Let’s close as we started with a silent romantic comedy film score, the amazing music written by Ludovic Bource for The Artist (2011). It is lighthearted, uplifting, and very emotionally touching. “I love people who make me laugh. I honestly think it’s the thing I like most, to laugh.” (Audrey Hepburn)

 

Comedy Chaplin

Notable Comedy Tunes

 

City Lights (1931) – Charles Chaplin

Modern Times (1936) – Charles Chaplin

The Three Stooges short subjects (1939 through 1959) – jazzy “Three Blind Mice”

The Philadelphia Story (1940) – Franz Waxman

The Ladykillers (1955) – Tristram Cary

Around the World in Eighty Days (1956) – Victor Young

Some Like It Hot (1959) – Adolph Deutsch

The Apartment (1960) – “Theme from The Apartment” , originally “Jealous Lover” (1949) by Charles Williams)

Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) – Henry Mancini

The Pink Panther (1963) – Henry Mancini

Charade (1963) – Henry Mancini

It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963) – Ernest Gold

Casino Royale (1967) – Burt Bacharach

The Producers (1968) – John Morris

Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid (1969) – Burt Bacharach

Reivers (1969) – John Williams

MASH (1970) – Johnny Mandel

Les Aventures de Rabbi Jacob (1973) – Vladimir Cosma

The Sting (1973) – “The Entertainer”, “Solace” (Written by Scott Joplin/Conducted and Adapted by Marvin Hamlisch)

Young Frankenstein (1974) – John Morris

Blazing Saddles (1974) – John Morris

1941 (1979) – “The March From 1941” (John Williams)

Airplane! (1980) – Elmer Bernstein

Tootsie (1982) – Dave Grusin

Trading Places (1983) – Elmer Bernstein

Ghostbusters (1984) – Elmer Bernstein

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

Romancing the Stone (1984) – Alan Silvestri

Back to the Future (1985) – Alan Silvestri

Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (1985) – Danny Elfman

Princess Bride (1987) – Mark Knopler

Spaceballs (1987) – John Morris

Beetlejuice (1988) – Danny Elfman

Scrooged (1988) – Danny Elfman

Big (1988) – Howard Shore

The Burbs (1989) – Jerry Goldsmith

City Slickers (1991) – Marc Shaiman

Mrs. Doubtfire (1993) – Howard Shore

Much Ado About Nothing (1993) – Patrick Doyle

Groundhog Day (1993) – George Fenton

Ed Wood (1994) – Howard Shore

Il Postino (1994) – Luis Bacalov

Emma (1996) – Rachel Portman

Life is Beautiful (1997) – Nicola Piovani

Austin Powers (1997) – “Soul Bossa Nova” (1962) by Quincy Jones

As Good As It Gets (1997) – Hans Zimmer

Chocolat (2000) – Rachel Portman

Amélie (2001) – Yann Tiersen

Sideways (2004) – Rolfe Kent

The Artist (2011) – Ludovic Bource

 

 

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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