Music Webmaster Len Mullenger


John OTTMAN Apt Pupil  RCA Victor 09026-63319-2 [45:20]



Surprise extras are always a treat. Your first is the brief but neat "Phoenix Pictures Presents" logo jingle. Then in closing you get Liane & The Boheme Bar Trio crooning the highly appropriate "Das Ist Berlin". In-between comes a score recorded in October of ‘97, and which has sat awaiting distribution interminably since then. Thank goodness the wait is over.

Apt Pupil is the second big screen between Ottman (as composer and editor) for director Bryan Singer. Their other was the masterful The Usual Suspects. Everyone on the planet will be making that same connection in any analysis, but what occurred to me was how musically the opening of both films share some commonality as well. Cyclic harp motif, and then a string bridge into a very lush wash of sound. A solo violin plays with piano. Am I making this up ? Suspects’ title theme is almost concert piece in its development however, so there the similarities (if any) end. Pupil follows a small wild ride from the lush beginnings into dangerous undertones that speak of the McKellan character’s Nazi background.

The body of the score is largely divisible into two distinct styles. The first and more accessible stems from the innocent theme introduced in the "Main Titles". It often begins by violin solo before moving into full orchestral splendour ("I want to hear about it"). Style Number Two would be the crashing walls of sound effects generated by innovative use of the orchestra. "The Chamber" stabs with some enormous hits of atonality and dissonance. Here we are simply following the trademark shocks of author Stephen King which always translate into gory spectacle on film. Since this was penned under his Richard Bachman pseudonym, it is actually a little more of a cerebral affair than his other popcorn reads. Singer optioned the script looking to get into the morality clashes brought up by a teen fascinated with war atrocities. So the echoing bombast in many of these cues is not merely ‘hitting’ shots of the ‘sudden corpse’ tradition. There is an entire subtext of sanity and psychological horror that it represents.

Be prepared for one seemingly out-of-place surprise. "Cat Bake" features the almost Carry On movie school of comical scoring with an extract from a Larry Groupe piece - "Cat Dance". Without spoiling the effect too much, if you consider this cue’s title and thereby ascertain what’ happening on screen you can see that every attempt is made to curtail musical expectations here. That is the score’s success story. The album might leave you a little cold if you don’t have the film in mind to recall. For the first grouped style of innocence it is definitely worth any secondary chill however.


Paul Tonks


Paul Tonks

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