October 2000 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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Wild Rovers / The Last Run  
  OSTs; Studio orchestras (Wild Rovers conducted by Sydney Sax)
  Chapter III Records CHA 0135   [63:37]

Wild Rovers was an ambitious but unsuccessful attempt at a Western by writer-director Blake Edwards. However, Jerry Goldsmith wrote for it one of his best -- but largely unheralded -- Western scores. I don't know if he intended it as an homage to Copland, but much of it sounds that way -- even down to his main theme's opening notes that would seem to come directly from El Salon de Mexico. The 1971 film is about two ranch hands -- played by William Holden and Ryan O'Neal -- who decide to rob a bank and live high on the hog, even if only fleetingly, after seeing a fellow cowhand die suddenly and violently. The film's opening scenes depict their sparse, hardbitten lifestyle, accompanied on the CD by occasional horse whinnying alongside Goldsmith's orchestral groans suggestive of a tired cowhand's slow, reluctant awakening. This leads slowly into the song 'The Wild Rover' which, despite vocalist Ellen Smith's twangy country-western style, merges eventually with Goldsmith's music into a wonderfully evocative, lyrical opening piece.

This theme is the backbone of the score, and Goldsmith uses it both economically and effectively, never more so than in the cue 'Bronco Bustin'' -- a stirring, set-piece that deservedly has found a place in the composer's concert offerings. Also noteworthy is 'The Knife' cue, which underscores the scene in which Holden amputates the wounded O'Neal's leg. Goldsmith perfectly captures the white-hot glow of the blade and Holden's sweaty-palmed tension with mixed trngs and woodwinds.

The CD's penultimate cue, 'Final Destination,' features his trademark -- and highly effective -- use of contrasting drums and high strings. It also includes a ballad 'Texas Rangers'-- again sung by Smith -- which is seemingly unrelated to the film. All of which may have something to do with the fact that MGM took Wild Rovers out of director Edwards' hands, in the end, and released a version apparently very unlike what he'd intended. The ballad may have made sense at one point, and perhaps was contractually inlcuded in the original soundtrack album, which this Chapter III Classics release is drawn from. I can only speculate, because the liner notes offer no comment on any of the cues!

Although I consider Wild Rovers the more significant of the two scores offered on this CD, Chapter III has chosen to lead it with The Last Run, which Goldsmith scored that same year. While I know nothing of the film, it appears to be about a former getaway driver who takes one, final job. The musical sound here is clearly the '70s -- lots of strings, often electric but sometimes solo, slowly enunciating thematic ideas. But get inside this score, just past the main title, and you'll find music noteworthy as much for Goldsmith's endlessly inventive orchestration as for its pure loveliness. 'Border Crossing' opens with a slowly building tension that suddenly explodes about halfway through its 3-minute running time as Goldsmith dramatically ratchets up the rhythmic interplay of his various strings, along with a touch of percussive punctuation. This is followed by a lovely cue, 'Spanish Coast,' for a scene that must have provided the same geographic inspiration that Goldsmith felt in The Wind and the Lion, his masterwork of four years later.

'Rickard Escapes' offers more of Goldsmith's muscular orchestration, with what sounds like a spinnet racing furiously through a maelstrom of strings and drums. (Again, the liner notes offer no clue to what these cues are about, but their titles, at least, are descriptive.) The score also contains the (then obligatory) pop-instrumental version of the main theme as well as song version, sung here by Steve Lawrence. He's fine, but frankly I enjoyed Ellen Smith's contributions to Wild Rovers more.

This is one of 25 CDs of MGM film scores from the Turner Classic Movie vaults that Chapter III Records says it intends to release. Most, like this one, will be double features - and all, presumably, direct from the original LP soundtracks. While this is indeed good news, it would be nice to see more effort put into researching the scores, so that detailed cue descriptions can be provided. And, while the net result will be more, good scores available on CD, the apparent plan to limit each release to the half-hour or so contained on the LP means that some major scores that long have deserved to be heard in more complete form may never be available in that format. Given that these scores belong to Turner Classic Movie Music which, in association with Rhino Movie Music, has offered some of the best full-score releases of epic scores (along with exquisitely detailed liner notes!), this could be a serious loss. Keep your fingers crossed.

John Huether



John Huether


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