March 2001 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

index page/ monthly listings /March01/


ALEPH RECORDS 021 (50:29)
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The 1970s was the decade of the disaster movie, from The Poseidon Adventure (1972) to The Towering Inferno (1974) through to lesser examples such as The Swarm (1978). Although Rollercoaster is not strictly in that genre, it was undoubtedly spawned because of the box-office draw of these types of movies and its tale of a bomber targeting a busy amusement park actually stands up pretty well as a solid suspense thriller. To augment the opposing themes of fun and jeopardy, composer Lalo Schifrin delivered a score with plenty of variety, although personally I feel it worked rather better in the film than it does bereft of its visuals. Even so, for those who enjoy a little 70s nostalgia this will probably provide some entertainment.

The 'Prologue, Montage' is a very good potted view of the score as a whole, with a fairground motif shifting into post Shaft funk territory and just as rapidly into some drawing-room classical, before an eerie merry-go-round theme with sharp string backing takes centre stage. Finally a more upbeat, percussive melody is heard, becoming overtly disco in the closing moments. Entirely different stylistically, the subdued 'Portrait of Harry' has a desolate trumpet led theme for the protagonist and this is imaginatively counter-balanced by the small ensemble semi-classical piece, 'Movement from String Quartette (Young Man's Theme)', to signal his adversary.

Sadly, the disco-based material on tracks like 'Rollercoaster' has become very dated now and the 'Magic Carousel' theme with its bouncy rhythm guitar and synth backing also suffers from the ravages of time and taste. But there are a number of Schifrin suspense cues on offer, all expertly devised and thoroughly effective ('Reflections in the Window', 'That's Him'), plus an unexpectedly catchy pop theme in 'Tension Rock', that's really good enough to have been a TV theme to a 70s action series! The composer also demonstrates his musical versatility with a ragtime pastiche on 'Cotton Candy' and the laid-back big brass band sound of 'Apple Turnover' for those who enjoy such things.

Despite highlighting some stalwart action/suspense work, it's the disco material that really let's the score down. As a reminder of a musical style long since forsaken this will appeal to some, while others with more modern sensibilities will probably find it all rather twee and outdated. Certainly, the dramatic pieces (the reprise of the sinister merry-go-round motif on 'Calliope of Death' in particular) are well worth attention and there are one or two fun up-tempo numbers, but it's an uneven, bumpy ride. Indispensable to Schifrin lovers nonetheless.

Mark Hockley

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