In 1987, Paul Verhoeven’s explosive appearance in American film sent a censorship-straining ripple through the industry. Love it or loath it, Robocop was a powerfully memorable film. As always, the cult classic’s reputation that precedes it centres around gory effect and sardonic humour. What should never be overlooked though is how much of a contribution Basil Poledouris’ generally bleak and industrial score made to the ‘look’ of the film.
It was certainly overlooked for the painful mis-fire of Robocop 2 in 1990, with Leonard Rosenman clanking all over the place. Poledouris then merely re-trod the original’s thematic territory for the watered-down action and plotting of Robocop 3 in 1993. And then things didn’t get any better for the transferral to TV in 1994 for a short run, followed by an animated series of all things! From blood-soaked carnage to kids-friendly cartoon in a decade.
Wisely the franchise was left alone for a few years. Now comes a 4-part TV marathon made up of "Dark Justice", "Meltdown", "Resurrection", and "Crash & Burn" to equal Prime Directives. It’s 10 years beyond the original film’s setting, and good old Delta City is now ‘The Safest Place On Earth!’ thanks to Robocop. The show’s drama centres around Robo’s (i.e. Murphy’s) grown-up son becoming a part of the OCP corporation’s higher echelons where skulduggerous goings-on continue. There’s some interesting adaptation of the premise (Robocop beginning to feel old!), but little else.
The pleasant surprise is the score. With former credits like The First 9 1/2 Weeks and Ski Hard (from someone sometimes credited as ‘Compostera’), you might be forgiven for approaching this disc with trepidation whether you’re a fan of any of the franchise so far or not. It is an almost all-synth action-oriented piece, but with enough divergence to single itself out from the dearth of so much that can sound so similar.
Straight way, only a few seconds into "Prime Directive Overture" the big surprise is the new Robocop hero theme. It’s an extended matador fanfare! Perhaps it’ll take a moment or 2 to wrap your thinking around the application of that, but by Golly it works! The trumpeter William Sperandei must have been in seventh heaven getting to do something like this in contemporary television.
Backing up this twist on atypical thinking, are some very nice quiet moments to underscore Murphy’s ruminations on the past. Acoustic guitar takes the quiet in pleasing directions in contrast to the inevitable crash and burn of shoot-outs and car chases. The tracks on this album are of mammoth length, making it hard to pinpoint moments or comment on sustained mood. That said 6 minutes into the 11 minutes of "Death Of A Hero" is the best example of all-out synth noise – but in a good way! 4 minutes into the 12-minute "Clash Of The Titans" is a recurring march rhythm incredibly similar to Richard Band’s Goa’uld theme from Stargate SG-1. But the flipside of this lengthiness (the penultimate track "Legion" is 15:19!) is it distances itself from regular TV output (again) by not being elusively bitty.
It won’t change the world, but it’s pleasing to find someone trying something a little different. This release’s only downside is a splendid looking package that doesn’t actually tell you anything about the show. And just take look at Orenstein’s hair…