PROMETHEUS PCR 506
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Set in the 1920s, this fictionalised adventure in the life of writer
Dashiell Hammett benefits from an evocative, strongly atmospheric score.
And as you might imagine the music is very influenced by the twenties era
itself, employing a kind of sultry blues feel that conjures up images of
smoke-filled gin joints and dark back alleys.
The Main Titles is a piano led blues piece with lead clarinet
that has an alluring quality, but more satisfying still is Hammetts
Dream which develops the theme and adds a discordant, disturbing twist
which is typically Barry and all the better for it.
Chinatown Incident limits the actual ethnic elements to some
subtle percussion and instead creates a much fuller orchestral sound with
strings predominant. Wild Pipa on the other hand fully embraces
the Chinese influences in the story with authentic traditional playing, although
I have to be frank and say its pretty hard to sit through.
The intense, strikingly rhythmic strings of The Opium Den/Escape From
Fongs make a strong impression though, as does Barrys familiar
brooding piano and strings in The Wrap Up/Finale (almost inevitably
this has moments very reminiscent of his Bond movies).
There are a number of suspenseful variations on the main theme in tracks
such as Waterfront Rendezvous and You Cant Forget
Her/Dont be a Chump/Let Her Go!, the latter benefiting from a
sense of underlying menace and concluding on a big and bold dramatic note.
The End Credits features a much lower-key version that is not
quite as rewarding.
A source music suite is also included with a mixture of musical styles from
jazz to Dixie. These cues are used as purely background ambience, but are
hardly memorable in their own right. But then they werent really supposed
to be. To be honest, Im not particularly enthusiastic about this notion
of supplying source music with a score, even if (as is the case here) it
was actually written by the composer himself. But I expect completists would
There are certainly some fine moments to be savoured here, but really the
main weakness is that there really isnt enough original music to sustain
the soundtrack (if you discount the source material). Of course every Barry
collector wont mind that too much. But for new fans of film music this
may not seem quite as worthwhile.