July 2000 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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the composer conducting the National Philharmonic Orchestra * Orchestrated by Arthur Morton
Silva Screen FILMCD 132 * [77:52]
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Two composers consistently come out as the most acclaimed and popular in contemporary Hollywood, and there must be times when Jerry Goldsmith wonders why the other one gets the pick of the best jobs. John Williams had Star Wars and Superman, and Jerry Goldsmith got Star Trek and Supergirl (1984). Boldly going where Williams declined (or wasn't asked) to go, Goldsmith had the thankless task of scoring the third-rate adventures of Clarke Kent's younger cousin. Yes, I did see the full European cut of the film (126 minutes, against the re-edited 114 minute American version) well presented in a good cinema, so I'm not repeating hearsay. The film was competently mediocre. Fortunately, Goldsmith didn't let that deter him, and he crafted a strong, colourful and rousing score. It's not a great all-time film music classic like Williams' Superman, but given the difference in overall quality between the two films, it would be astonishing if it was.

The CD is a straight reissue of Silva Screen's expanded score album first released in 1993. There are some alternate versions of cues included, and some different versions to those on the previous original soundtrack album. For instance, 'The Flying Ballet' appears in the version used in the full-length cut of the film, as well as in the version for the shorter American release; the variance being mainly the addition of some extra electronic synthesiser 'whooshes'. Elsewhere, the cue 'Main Title & Argo City' is slower than that which appeared on the original album, and is the version actually used in the film. Likewise, 'The Storm Monster' contains more electronics than the version previously issued, and is the version used in the movie. The cues 'Argo City Mall', 'The Journey Begins', 'Chicago Lights/Street Attack', 'Ethan Spellbound', 'Flying Ballet-Alternate Version', 'The Map-Alternate Version', 'First Kiss', 'The Phantom Zone', 'The Final Showdown & Victory / End Title - Short Version' are all (or were when this version of the soundtrack was first issued 1993) previously unreleased. Given that the last of these runs over 12 minutes, this is a considerable amount of 'new' music. Indeed, this is a particularly lengthy album, clocking at very nearly 78 minutes. It's doubtful though that many people will want to listen to it all the way through in a sitting very often, for as is the nature of film music, there is a considerable amount of repetition. This is not to suggest that I would ever argue to leave cues off a soundtrack release, simply to note that its good to have the choice of which ones to play.

The album opens with an 'Overture' which is actually an unused, extended end title. As the notes point out, it features the films three major themes, the Supergirl March, the love theme, and the 'monster' theme for the villain's evil creations. Goldsmith's Supergirl march has the impossible task of standing against William's Superman theme, and still the composer acquits himself splendidly. His theme is built around a big, bold brassy rift augmented by lots of synthesisers which whoosh heroically. And that is the point, it is a heroic, jubilant, vibrant and youthful theme. Deliberately, and appropriately, it lacks the slow-building dignity and nobility of the Superman march. It is less memorable than Williams' creation, but it does what it sets out to do admirably.

There are frequent returns to the main theme plus developments of a tender love theme and the menacing 'monster' theme, while the orchestrations are full of lush glitter and fantasy are akin to Goldsmith's work on The Secret of Nimh (1982) and Legend (1985). The choral writing is likewise in this vein. Some of the synthesiser sounds will be familiar from Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1980), and reappear in Legend, while the more robust diving action music looks back to the muscular assault of such 70's scores as Capricorn One (1978).

Both the playing and the sound are first rate. The brass in particular really is burnished, blistering forth proud and true, while the recording has tremendous depth, clarity and punch. This is especially so when compared to Howard Blake's Flash Gordon (1980) (which I also review this month on FMOTW) and which was also performed by the National Philharmonic. One would think it had been committed to tape 20, rather than four years earlier than Supergirl, such is the difference in sound quality. Apart from some tape hiss Goldsmith's score might have been in the studio this month.

For Goldsmith devotees this album is essential; likewise for collectors of lavish SF / fantasy scores, and for comic-book aficionados. For others this isn't as necessary as Star Trek The Motion Picture or Legend, but is probably about on a par with The Mummy (1999), which tracks like the epic 'The Monster Tractor' somewhat prefigure (actually, there is a strange and disconcerting edit in this track at just past the 6 minute mark which is surprisingly clumsy). Generally though, it gets better the further you turn the volume up, and turn it far enough and the result is often breathtaking, exhilarating and spine-tingling. 'The Final Showdown & Victory / End Title - Short Version' presents complete just the sort of rousing feel-good finale the music enables us to image the film having: forget the screen, listen to Goldsmith scoring the film they should have made.


Gary S. Dalkin


Gary S. Dalkin

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