Official Nominations: The Way We Were. Cinderella Liberty. The Day Of The Dolphin. Papillon. A Touch Of Class. The Sting. Jesus Christ Superstar. Tom Sawyer.
The Way We Were and The Sting were the respective winners this year, and it’s hard to argue against the choices. Marvin Halmlisch’s score was a huge success, mainly thanks to the title song which we all know – misty water coloured memories and all that. The rest of the soundtrack is fine, easy jazz and romantic string led compositions. John Williams is back again with Cinderella Liberty – a film no-one knows but which is perfectly fine. It’s not one of the great man’s greatest in that it lacks a major theme instead rambling through loose jazz albeit in an energetic style. The Day Of The Dolphin is one even fewer people know (about dolphin assassins) – it does have a lovely main theme and some extravagant horn pieces but much of the soundtrack is your standard mixture of watery harps and creepy strings. Jerry Goldsmith is back with Papillon, a French inspired score of evocative strings and accordions which convey yearning and fear. A Touch Of Class is another case of ‘it has a popular song so we’d better nominate the soundtrack’. It’s average and it doesn’t need to be here.
The Sting is The Sting. It’s one of the only film scores one of my music teachers in school would ever allow discussion of. Hamlisch got his second win of the night (in the same category no less) for it, adapting a bunch of Scott Joplin standards while adding his own bonuses. Not really my style, but it’s so damn catchy and fun you can’t really complain. Andrew Lloyd Webber and Andre Previn adapt Jesus Christ Superstar – a mammoth score fusing many styles – it’s pretty chaotic too but good stuff.
My Winner: Papillon.
My Nominations: Papillon. Jesus Christ Superstar. The Sting. The Exorcist. American Graffiti. Badlands. Don’t Look Now. Enter The Dragon. Live And Let Die. Robin Hood. Serpico. The Wicker Man.
If we’re good with having soundtracks that are purely adaptation or mostly filled with songs, then we have to have American Graffiti here. I mean I don’t really agree with simply selecting songs, especially here when it’s so easy to pick songs from an era to evoke a feeling for that era. Then again, the songs do fit and the songs are good, so I’m caught. I’m not going to pick it as a winner anyway, but it does feel right including it. If there’s one film from 1972 whose soundtrack is instantly recognizable, and impossible to separate from the film, it’s The Exorcist. The moment you hear those opening sinister notes of Tubular Bells, you know what it is and where it’s from, even if you haven’t seen the movie – it’s probably the second most famous horror movie them ever, after Jaws. I sometimes terrorize my kids by playing horror movie themes on car journeys, and even though they are decades away from watching the movie, they know there’s something terrifying about this one. One interesting thing about the soundtrack is much of it doesn’t even appear in the movie, but is still creepy as hell.
Sticking with iconic horror movie scores, another one I blast in my car is The Wicker Man – one which is a world away from the futuristic Eastern influences of The Exorcist. Celtic and other folk music is the star here, many loves songs and pieces which are just ‘off’ enough to be unsettling. Pino Donaggio was a singer and musician when Roeg approached him to score Don’t Look Now, even though he had no experience with movie soundtracks. It is peppered with tender piano pieces, string notes stretched and held to torturous lengths, and unnerving funeral rites organ sections. Moving away from Horror but keeping away from the US we find Enter The Dragon, probably the most famous martial arts soundtrack ever – ground zero for almost everything which has come since.
Over to the US and Badlands would influence a host of later soundtracks, most notably True Romance, while highlighting a mixture of carefree innocence and unknown threat. Serpico is a strange one, with the tracks ranging from cheesy US soap type themes to more classic 70s dramatic pieces. Disney wasn’t firing on all cylinders in the 70s, but Robin Hood stands out for being particularly anarchic and having plenty of whistle-along tunes while Live And Let Die has one of the best Bond songs and a great all round score – the first one not to feature John Barry. It’s a tough call and I would happy with at lest three or four of these to win.
My Winner: The Exorcist