October 2000 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

index page/monthly listings/October/



  VARÈSE SARABANDE VSD-6171   [51:31]

Following Total Recall and Basic Instinct, Hollow Man is Jerry Goldsmith's third film with director Paul Verhoven. It is also Verhoven's fourth Hollywood SF movie, coming after Robocop, Total Recall and Starship Troopers. Verhoven films are famed for their extreme violence (and sometimes, graphic sex), and noted for a satirical, outsider's interpretation of standard American genre tropes (Verhoven is Dutch). He is the complete film-maker, concerned with every aspect of his movies, sufficiently so that they have such a distinctive personality we might call him an auteur. This level of involvement extends to his understanding of the importance of music, such that we can all but take it for granted that a Paul Verhoven film will sport a superior musical score.

Exactly a decade ago, Goldsmith graced Total Recall with a score which many consider a landmark. I wouldn't rate it that highly, but it is a powerful work which greatly enhances the film. They reunited for the director's next film, Basic Instinct, the result a cool, elegant, slyly witty post-Hitchcockian thriller for which Goldsmith penned a cool, elegant and sensual post-Herrmann score. It remains one of Goldsmith's finest achievements of the 1990's. So, expectations are high for Hollow Man, a typically bloody and pyrotechnic Verhoven vehicle which reworks H.G. Well's The Invisible Man into a showcase for the state-of-the CGI art.

On playing this CD the initial reaction may be one of disappointment. This is a slow-burning score which takes several spins to burrow its way into the subconscious, and contains considerably more subtlety than is first apparent. The main theme perhaps deliberately evokes the iciness of Basic Instinct, while the following early suspense cues make much of striking high violin writing, building musical drama around propulsive motifs which echo the muscularity of late 70's Goldsmith SF scores: 'Isabelle Comes Back' will resonate with anyone whose memory extends back to Capricorn One. This is a fine 6:04 long set-piece, leading to an attractive and nicely underplayed love theme, while 'This is Science' is another 6-minute plus suspense cue with a neo-baroque clarity to its interwoven lines, developing at the halfway mark into a passage evocative of the composer's rugged The Edge.

Very much an album of two halves, the all-action slaughter is played out through the closing four tracks which comprise the last 20 minutes of the disc. As usual Goldsmith is several cuts above the average Hollywood mayhem, with ferocious excitement arising from well structured and typically robust writing which benefits both from imagination and restraint. Unlike some composers, Goldsmith does not employ the kitchen sink, but depends upon driving rhythm, some fine biting brass and caustic strings: 'Find Him' is a marvellous set-piece in it's own right, 'The Bloody Floor' perhaps inevitably less shapely at almost ten minutes. 'The Elevator' boarders on 'Mickey-Mouse' music as over a relentless ticking pulse the strings rise ever higher (contrast and compare with Bernard Herrmann's music for the volcano ascent in Journey to the Center of the Earth), before 'The Big Climb' takes it to the top with scorching synth effects. An end title would have been nice as the album does just stop rather than end, but perhaps this is where a rock ballad takes over. Without having yet seen the film it is impossible to comment specifically on how everything works, but I imagine it does. As an album it's strong modern Goldsmith which should please fans of both Basic Instinct and The Thirteenth Warrior, but may well leave those who long for the delicacy of 60's and early 70's Goldsmith yearning for the never existent 'Silver Age'.

Gary S. Dalkin


Ian Lace adds:-

Varèse Sarabande boast that this score debuts new technology being the first soundtrack recorded to use the revolutionary new DSD (Direct Stream Digital) technology. Apparently, DSD samples the musical signal at a phenomenal 2.8 million times a second! The result, according to the blurb, is an extremely smooth digital waveform with unparalleled frequency response and dynamic range.

Well, is it so special? If the "gnat's knee-cap" sharpness of the high violin harmonics, particularly the very rapid staccatos, often pp, that are major feature of this score, then I would say that I was impressed. This feature is omnipresent throughout this score, the early tracks of which are the most interesting. The opening 'The Hollow Man' demonstrates that Goldsmith is on form and still experimenting It is a cleverly conceived multi-stranded creation that not only expresses probing, cutting-edge and potentially dangerous new technology but also the vulnerability, loneliness and isolation of the Kevin Bacon character, The Hollow Man. 'Isdobella Comes Back' establishes the slow persistent heart-beat rhythms with vibraphone, pizzicato strings and probing horns. This is very imaginative writing with tension building slowly, quietly, remorselessly until it explodes with growling and counterpointed brass choirs. Much of this of material is developed in succeeding cues notably 'This is Science'. Rather than cover this score in the detail that Gary has done, I would just mention another track that impressed me - the more relaxed and romantic and contemplative 'Linda and Sebastian' with strings and piano predominant. I was less impressed with the more routine 'horror and chase' material that comprises much of the latter part of this album even though Goldsmith's writing is way above the average.

An interesting score and one of Goldsmith's best of late; and much praise is due to Alexander Courage's marvellous orchestrations

Ian Lace



Gary S. Dalkin
Ian Lace

Reviews from previous months

You can purchase CDs, tickets and musician's accessories and Save around 22% with these retailers :

BlackStar.co.uk - The UK's Biggest Video Store

Concert and Show tickets


Musicians accessories

Click here to visit piedog.com

Return to Index