November 2001 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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Battle Beyond The Stars & Humanoids From The Deep *  
  GNP Crescendo 8075   [Total: 76:53 * Battle Beyond The Stars: 42:38 * Humanoids From The Deep: 34:15]

Battle beyond the Stars and Humanoids from the Deep

At 76 minutes this CD contains what are presumably the complete contents of the original Battle Beyond The Stars soundtrack album, and all, or most of, the music from the Humanoids From The Deep album. The booklet is not clear on this matter, though the back cover contains a note to the effect that the CD was "produced from the best available analog and vinyl masters" and so we can assume some of the music is taken direct from LP. What the two films have in common is they were consecutively scored by James Horner in 1980, near the beginning of his career when he was working for Roger Corman's New World Pictures.

Battle Beyond The Stars is a necessarily derivative score. Akira Kurosawa was influenced by Hollywood westerns in making his classic Samurai movies. The Magnificent Seven (1960) was a Hollywood Western remake of his Seven Samurai (1954). George Lucas' Star Wars (1977) was inspired in-part by Kurosawa's The Hidden Fortress (1958). Battle Beyond The Stars was essentially a remake of Seven Samurai / The Magnificent Seven in a Star Wars setting. It even starred Robert Vaughan, one of the original Magnificent Seven. It is therefore unsurprising that James Horner's score proved to be in classic horse opera / space opera mode. Performed with a 62 piece orchestra which certainly isn't the LSO, the recording may lack the gravitas of Star Wars, but the sensibility is clear. There is a rousing main theme filled with glitter and the spirit of adventure, an attractive love theme and much stirring action music.

Those who accuse James Horner of appropriating passages from specific scores have ample evidence for their case here with reference to Jerry Goldsmith's masterpiece, Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1980). For apart from anticipating his own Krull (1983) fanfares in "The Battle Begins", the cue (together with "The Hunter") draws close parallels with Goldsmith's Klingon battle music from ST: TMP. Rhythmic motifs are all but identical, suddenly breaking away to identical electronic sounds. One simply can not listen to this music without thinking of Goldsmith's superb original. Which is a shame as it greatly detracts from the integrity of an otherwise appealing though minor league score for a minor league film.

Humanoids From The Deep was a nasty piece of exploitative nonsense translating elements of Alien (1979) into a Jaws (1975) setting, i.e. the sea. A really rather misogynistic grade z movie, it has rightly been forgotten by all but genre buffs. It is enough to say that Horner's score shows some invention and manages to be quite exciting, drawing a line somewhere between Bernard Herrmann's Psycho (1960) and other horror music and the more atmospheric passages of John Williams Jaws, yet only rarely treading so close as to be explicitly derivative of either. That said, a close cousin of the Psycho shower murder does make a guest appearance in "The Bucket-O". There is some attractively romantic sea music and several effective cyclic suspense riffs in the strings. Percussion is thoughtfully understated to the extend that some modern horror movies could learn a thing or two about how less really can be more. It really is much better than the film ever deserved, which is not to say that over 20 years later it should seriously interest anyone bar hardcore Horner fans. Despite the warning on the sleeve the sound is fine.

Gary S. Dalkin

Battle Beyond The Stars - **(*); Humanoids From The Deep - ***

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