CD Review: Boys From Brazil and Not Without My Daughter by Jerry Goldsmith

By • October 15, 2008

Composer: Jerry Goldsmith
Label: Intrada and La La Land
Suggested Retail Price: $29.99 and $19.98
Grade: A+ and B+

For a composer who inspired every composer and soundtrack fan worth their salt, Jerry Goldsmith was a workaday industry guy who just happened to churn out greatness like TOTAL RECALL, A PATCH OF BLUE and CHINATOWN. When faced with his fans’ desire to have everything he composed, Goldsmith is said to have referred to their pursuit as akin to collecting “bottle caps.” If that’s indeed the case, then it’s a mighty good day in musical Perrier land with the insanely-awaited release of a complete BOYS FROM BRAZIL, as well as the pleasant surprise of an unexpurgated NOT WITHOUT MY DAUGHTER. While these two thrillers might be derided as camp and politically incorrect by some (though certainly not by me), these new limited editions are further proof that we’re in a Renaissance of one soundtrack treasure after another being unleashed with unleashed with almost daily frequency.

Having put out a complete ALIEN and THE WIND AND THE LION, THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL is another feather for Intrada’s Goldsmith cap. The sound of this two-CD release is nothing less than amazing, with every brass goosestep of the score walloping you with its intensity. Few composers gave inadvertent glory to the German war machine like Goldsmith, first in WWI with the beautifully soaring music of THE BLUE MAX. But where George Peppard’s ace of the skies and bedroom could be considered an anti-hero who just happened to shoot down allied planes to Strauss-ian strains, there’s nothing remotely pleasant about Gregory Peck’s Josef Mengele, the Nazi “angel of death” responsible for uncounted atrocities.

In the 1978 BOYS, Mengele’s plan is to insure that his clones of Adolph Hitler reach maturity with the bloody incidents of Der Fuhrer’s life replicated- especially the death of his father. With Peck’s accented baritone and natty fashion sense, Mengele is nothing if not swaggering. And Goldsmith latches onto the idea in true Strauss-ian fashion once again, with a joyous waltz theme, whose brass trumpets the character’s darkness. Goldsmith’s ostinato march makes the idea even more explicit, complete with drum timpani that conjures undead goose-steppers. Playfully evil winds sink in the German waltz roots of Hitler, while Latin rhythms get across an ex-Nazi’s favorite hideout. It’s an approach that’s thrilling and ominous at once, a musical guilty pleasure if there ever was one.

Mengele is about as close as we’ll get to a real Doctor Frankenstein, a maniac who tried to perfect a master race through ungodly experiments. Part of Goldsmith’s Oscar-nominated genius for BOYS is treating him with the melodic equivalent of mad science strum und drang, especially in “The Hospital” as brass blasts away to gynecological images of Hitler’s seed being implanted in Nazi wenches, the orchestra rising with twisted Wagnerian beauty for the pollination of the Hitler babies. Sure Goldsmith may have conjured satanic evil around Gregory Peck in THE OMEN, but the man-made nature of this horror is even more chilling, and magnificent.

Thankfully for us, we’ve also got Laurence Olivier’s Nazi-hunting Ezra Lieberman (i.e. Simon Wiesenthal) to save the day. And Goldsmith gives him a more pleasant, even tender Viennese waltz theme, with an accent on the fiddle. But melodic danger is all around Lieberman’s quest to uncover Mengele’s scheme, as Goldsmith engages in the kind of suspense that made the late 1970’s an especially notable time for him, with the kind of syncopated string and brass writing that gets especially violent here. When Lieberman and Mengele finally have it out in “You!” the orchestra positively shrieks with the gashing combat between the forces of good and evil- not to mention the pouncing brass death by Doberman that gives Mengele one of the nastiest just deserts in cinematic history.

Jerry Goldsmith would often re-sequence his scores for their soundtrack release for what he viewed as the best listen. Subsequently, THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL was available as a 40-minute release (including one 20 minute suite and his pop song “We’re Home Again”). While that album is on CD 2, the 56 minutes of the original, complete score confirms Goldsmith’s position as the Mozart of this business- even if he would have shirked that description in a second. And that’s not mentioning the bonus tracks where Goldsmith gets to conduct the real works of Strauss and Wagner, whose spirit he’s applied to brilliantly malefic ends in THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL.

Best remembered for the image of Sally Field in a Birka, 1991’s NOT WITHOUT MY DAUGHTER dealt with the real horror story of Beth Mahmoody’s journey to, and escape from Iran with her young child. Goldsmith relief heavily on combos of orchestra and electronics that typified such dramatic scores from the early 90’s like RUDY, FOREVER YOUNG and THE RUSSIA HOUSE, let alone past action hits like RAMBO III and EXTREME PREJUDICE. If anything, DAUGHTER comes across as a kinder, gentler spin on Goldsmith’s classic Stallone scores. Here the heroine has to use her wits instead of a machine gun to get past her husband’s devout family . To do this, Goldsmith establishes a beautifully melodic theme for Field and her daughter in happier times. But it’s also one whose doubt grows with dark, creeping synths after her unstable husband decides Iran would be a happy home. It’s once Field tries to get out of this forbidding land that Goldsmith unleashes rapid-fire electric percussion, along with the creative use of Arabic-sounding synths. The tension is ratcheted up without ever losing sight of the character’s humanity, and vulnerability against seemingly insurmountable odds. The result is sinister, and moving at the same time, much like Goldsmith’s other oppressed woman’s classic SLEEPING WITH THE ENEMY. And for those infidels who might find the electronics here a bit dated, the new La La Land release includes a twenty-minute orchestral suite from DAUGHTER that shows Goldsmith’s masterful, melodic touch- now with the veil off of a score that now steps up several rungs in an amazing cannon of bottle caps. Here’s hoping for more twist-offs from the most brilliant everyman in film music history.

Clone Jerry Goldsmith’s BOYS HERE, then take his DAUGHTER HERE

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