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John OTTMAN - Cruel Intentions : Film Music CD Reviews- February 2001

February 2001 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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Cruel Intentions   and other themes;

Cruel Intentions (rejected score), plus suites and themes from Fantasy Island (co-composed with Joe Kraemer), Incognito (three tracks), Halloween H20, Snow White: A Tale of Terror, The Cable Guy, Apt Pupil, Lake Placid

xxxxx Cruel Intentions (rejected score - one track co-composed with Joe Kraemer), plus suites and themes from Fantasy Island, Incognito (three tracks), Halloween H20, Snow White: A Tale of Terror, The Cable Guy, Apt Pupil, Lake Placid


Here's irony. This album is billed on the front cover as Music Inspired by the Film Cruel Intentions, and also, elsewhere on the cover, Suites and Themes from the Scores of John Ottman. The irony is that, according to the booklet, "Just after he (Ottman) signed on to score Cruel Intentions, the producers decided that instead of a classical approach, the score should be more contemporary, hip-hoppish. Instead of bowing out, John took the challenge and wrote a strikingly unique, emotionally deep score with an eccentric blend of beat rhythms, synths, a string trio and female soloist." Then the producers rejected it, hiring Edward Shearmur, who had crafted a fine orchestral score for The Wings of the Dove (1997), which likewise dealt with sexual and emotional manipulation among beautiful young people, to pen the sort of score they had originally hired Ottman for. Here for the first time ten tracks from Ottman's rejected score appear on CD - some of his score can also be heard on the deleted scenes featured on the Region 1 DVD (and possibly the R2 disc as well).

Ottman's Cruel Intentions is far less radically off-the-wall and different to his usual work than the booklet description might lead one to believe. Indeed, this is pure Ottman, the composer's dark, luxuriant melodic style instantly recognisable, the only thing at odds being the orchestration. Those fearing a 'dance' score can rest easy; there are electronic beats in most of the cues, but they are far from the relentless pounding pulses one things of in regard to 'dance' and 'hip-hop', being used subtly and mixed comparatively low. The use of rhythm is spare, skeletal in places, minimal, each beat counting for something in these mid-temp excursions into beautifully appointed alienation. Ottman builds his melodies using a range of atmospheric keyboard sounds, the aforementioned string trio and the lovely wordless soprano of Lisa Donahue, all complimented by piano (which is possibly sampled) and a range of precisely honed and imaginative tuned percussion samples. If you like John Ottman's music you have nothing to worry about in Cruel Intentions and I would love to see the film with this score. On disc it is one of his most enjoyable releases, as appealing as Incognito or Snow White: A Tale of Terror. If the disc just contained Cruel Intentions I would be recommending it, but that is just half of the story. There are nine further tracks, some of which have not been released before or which are rather hard to find.

These nine tracks showcase the most melodic side of Ottman's music and make a wonderful introduction to his world. That three of them are from Incognito indicates the quality of that virtually unknown score. However, they are presented here "from the original master, unretouched and exactly as John had intended." And the reason: "When Incognito was originally recorded, there were some pops and crackles throughout the recording due to a defective Dolby card in the control room. Prior to the original soundtrack album release, the cues were passed through a filtering device to remove the glitches. As a result the score sounded 'thinner' than was actually recorded." There are no pops or crackles here, and the music does sound wonderfully rich.


The suite from Fantasy Island is lush, busy and playful and it's splendid to have themes from The Cable Guy and Apt Pupil , and a short suite from Lake Placid collected together. Particularly striking is Ottman's take on John Carpenter's iconic Halloween theme, given a strong orchestral treatment for the main titles of Halloween H20 . The result is unmistakably the work of both composers, with the famed piano riff gradually buried under layers of Ottman's own suspense writing. Carpenter could never do anything this musically sophisticated, yet it is his simple melody which still chills the most.

This is a simply splendid album, and one which all Ottman fans will surely relish. Forget Urban Legends Final Cut , this is the composer at the top of his game. My only grumble is about the cover design: what sort of person seriously thinks tiny, and I do mean tiny, black print on a dark blue background is a good idea? I'm 38, with very good eye sight and I can only read it with difficulty under bright light. There will be many people for whom this is simply illegible, and that isn't good enough. I'm not the only one to think so; there is an alternative, and superior design available for download on John Ottman's website at

Gary S. Dalkin


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