April 2001 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Founder Len Mullenger

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I like Tangerine Dream, I really do. Their music for the underrated The Keep (1983) was compelling and imaginative and I was just as impressed by their stylish work on the vampire thriller Near Dark (1987).

But here's the problem. This score for Legend is nothing short of a travesty.

And I'm not really blaming poor old Tangerine Dream. They simply took on a job of work. But I can't help feeling that something nagged at the back of their collective mind during the scoring process, something which might explain their apparent lack of inspiration (they are much better composers than this would suggest). And that something was undoubtedly a question that most of us have asked more than once over the years.

Why throw away an existing score by Jerry Goldsmith that not only enhanced Ridley Scott's visuals a thousand-fold, but was actually one of the composer's best efforts of the period?

Why, oh why, oh Why!?

Well the answer is simple, at least on the surface. It all comes down to consumerism. Or more to the point, the American versus the European market. Yes, that was indeed the thinking behind such a lamentable decision. While Goldsmith's original score worked okay for we Europeans (who unusually saw a release of Legend before the US), apparently, according to the powers that be, the American's wouldn't take to something a little artistically refined. Apparently. Plus this was in 1985, at the height of the 'we must have a hit song to really pull in the bucks' syndrome. So not only was Goldsmith's score replaced by this wishy-washy, new-agey Tangerine Dream debacle, but also two inappropriate pop songs were inserted into the movie (Bryan Ferry's 'Is Your Love Strong Enough' and Jon Anderson's 'Loved by the Sun').

Now I don't know how many of you have seen the movie in either of its incarnations, but currently on UK terrestrial television it's the Tangerine Dream version that can be seen, although Sky television did recently show the original (a welcome surprise!). Personally, I've seen them both. And all I can tell you is that in my view the Goldsmith cut sparkles with a dark, magical life, while the Tangerine Dream rehash splutters like a damp squib. So many scenes that soared with Goldsmith's melodies are reduced to blandness with this lifeless replacement to support them. In many ways it's almost a master-class in the power of music within film. Just watch the two versions back-to-back and learn. And there's no better example than the sequence where the heroine is seduced by the forces of darkness, which becomes striking and eerily poetic with Goldsmith's 'The Dress Waltz' to drive it, but once you remove that music and substitute Tangerine Dream's dreary 'The Dance', it simply falls flat. Okay, to be scrupulously fair there are one or two moments where the new music is relatively effective ('Darkness' for instance), but even here it always remains vastly inferior to its predecessor.

I really like to believe that Ridley Scott utterly despises the bastardised American release and with his current clout (post Gladiator and Hannibal) it would be very gratifying to see him come out with some kind of definitive statement, supporting his original Goldsmith cut as the only version of the film that has his own personal seal of approval (maybe he already has and I just haven't heard about it!).

As an example of studio interference based on perceived commerce over artistic merit and good taste, this score represents a fascinating slice of cinematic and musical history. However, as a simple fact of life it just makes me very angry.

Mark Hockley

Ian Lace invites more comment:-

Hear, hear! I totally agree with every word of Mark's review - Jerry Goldsmith's Legend score was, in my opinion, one of the very best he has ever written. Perhaps Ridley Scott might like to comment???

Ian Lace

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