Thursday, February 21, 2019

you know the score

I really enjoyed contributing to the Pitchfork lists of The 50 Best Movie Scores of All Time and  The 50 Best Movie Soundtracks of All Time. The original plan was for a single unified list but there were so many suggestions from the electorate that it got split into two, although the distinction between score and soundtrack can get blurry with some films having a mixture of all-new and preexisting musical elements.

For Scores, I wrote about Blade Runner, Walkabout, and Solaris.

For Soundtracks, I wrote about Performance and McCabe & Mrs. Miller.

In these lists, there are lots of films with great scores and soundtracks I'd forgotten about, and  many that I didn't know at all -  loads here to investigate and read about.

Quite a few of the ones I voted for didn't make the cut - below are some faves that did not get ratified by the electorate.

BEDAZZLED – Dudley Moore
As well as starring as the hapless Stanley Moon, who sells his soul to the devil for seven wishes, Dudley Moore -  being a jazz pianist, songwriter and arranger of considerable talent -  wrote the score to this Sixties Brit caper, variations on a theme that are rendered by turns insouciant, idyllic, poignant, and snazzy. There’s also a pair of brilliant Sixties pop parodies: “Love Me” (performed by Moore with moist passion) and “Bedazzled”, on which Peter Cook deadpans his disdain and indifference to all amorous advances - ‘you fill me with INERTIA”.

RIP Stanley Donen, the director.

FORBIDDEN PLANET – Louis and Bebe Barron
For one of the superior science fiction movies of the 1950s, this husband and wife team created the first entirely electronic score in movie history: an abstract, virtually atonal sequence of drones, shrieks, groans and pulsations that seem to reverberate from the coldest, blackest recesses of deep space. But because the Barrons were credited ambiguously with "electronic tonalities", they were cheated of a chance to contend for an Oscar for Best Soundtrack.

A sci-fi thriller about scientists investigating a lethal super-virus of extraterrestrial origin in an isolated white-walled underground laboratory gets an appropriately chilly and sterile-sounding score from jazzer turned instrument-inventor. Melle used found industrial sounds like jet propulsion lab blasts and roars and  transformed them by tape-editing. 

ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK  - John Carpenter
One of the director/composer's best, ranging from bloodcurdling, borderline-abstract sequences like "The Crazies Come Out" to more melodic synth-pulse propelled tunes like "Orientation #2," which glides along like an empty monorail car coldly surveying the ravaged city below.

BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS – Stu Philips & Bob Stone, et al

Russ Meyer’s mischievously over-the-top camp satire of the rock biz and Los Angeles decadence gets an equally ersatz superb set of songs. Performed in the movie by the fictitious all-girl group The Carrie Nations, the vocals actually came from the off-screen session singer Lynn Carey, a blue-eyed soul powerhouse. There’s also contributions by “real” psych pop group Strawberry Alarm Clock and a kitschy theme song by The Sandpipers,

LOGAN’S RUN – Jerry Goldsmith
Partly orchestral, partly synth, the veteran movie composer’s O/S/T is particularly stunning on the icy electronica of “Flameout” and “Fatal Games” and the pulsating pornodelia of  "Love Shop," which scores a sequence in which the hero and heroine's escape through a strobe-blitzed brothel of the future.

THE LONG GOOD FRIDAY – Francis Monkman
Formerly of prog rock group Curved Air, Monkman whips together an unexpectedly jazzy and funky OST for this Brit gangland thriller – at its most strutting and flamboyant on the main theme, which bookends the movie and accompanies the abrupt downfall of Bob Hoskins’s East London mobster to make for one of cinema’s most exhilarating outro sequences.

THX 1138  - OST by Lalo Schifrin; “sound montages” by Walter Murch
Schifrin’s orchestral score for George Lucas’s dystopian movie is somber and impressive in its own right. But what really makes THX such a compellingly total audio-visual experience are Murch’s sound design, effects and underscores: sourceless shudders and judders, abject squelches, android death-rattles, shearing-metal groans, and, not least,  the electronic garbling and distortion applied to the voices of the bureaucrats who surveil every citizen constantly.

Here's some other faves that did not get the nod.

The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle
Rosemary’s Baby
Liquid Sky
Dark Star
Gregory’s Girl
The Draughtsman's Contract
The Parallax View

And these are ones I voted for that did get ratified 

Under the Skin
Dazed and Confused
The Good the Bad and the Ugly
Taxi Driver
2001, A Space Odyssey
The Wicker Man
Midnight Cowboy