CD Review: Outland / The Edge (Expanded Limited Editions) – Original Soundtracks

By • July 12, 2010

Composer: Jerry Goldsmith
Label: Film Score Monthly / La La Land
Suggested Retail Price: $24.95 / $19.98
Grade: A


Whether he was scoring the fighter plane-filled skies of THE BLUE MAX, the terminal shopping mall world of LOGAN’S RUN or a spaceship’s confines in ALIEN, the late Jerry Goldsmith still stands as the maestro when it came to weaving thematic suspense from visuals that could range from vastness to outright claustrophobia. And two thriller scores better convey his melodic extremes like 1981’s OUTLAND and 1997’s THE EDGE, films in which moral avarice becomes a bigger musical danger than an explosive atmospheric pressure, or an enraged bear. Now, their soundtracks are all out to hear in their respective glory for these complete, limited editions- long-awaited releases that are rapidly filling this year with enough Goldsmith bottle caps to supply a soundtrack Pepsi plant.

With the famed sci-fi horror film only two years behind him, it’s easy to see why Goldsmith was an obvious choice for multi-hyphenate filmmaker Peter Hyams when it came to scoring his sci-fi re-working of HIGH NOON. For both ALIEN, and OUTLAND had heroes evading merciless foes in the heavily set-designed, outer reaches of our universe. Except, as OUTLAND’s tagline put it, “Even in space, the ultimate enemy is still man.” And assassins come aplenty after space marshal Sean Connery when he dares muck about a drug smuggling ring, whose wares are causing no small amount of fleshy combustions in a mining colony located on Jupiter’s moon of Io.

Though Hyams starts OUTLAND with a slowly revealed title a la ALIEN (for which Goldsmith would score here with brooding similarity), this film goes for all of ALIEN’s “truckers in space” grime, minus the creature. And while the results might be notorious for their scientific inaccuracy, OUTLAND continues to stand out as a taut, visually impressive thriller that received no small amount of suspense from Goldsmith. Having last teamed with Hyams on the Earth-bound space mission for 1978’s CAPRICORN ONE, Goldsmith strips this score of the latter’s patriotically-flavored suspense to concentrate on slow-building danger, though “The Mine” that he tunnels down to has a sweeping grandeur, complete with percolating synths to complement the film’s outwardly sci-fi aspects. It’s also during OUTLAND’s opening sections that Goldsmith has a bit of devilish fun. Having egged-on THE OMEN’s Rube-Goldberg deaths, Goldsmith gets to musically one-up them here with “Spiders” and “The Airlock,” two cues that mercilessly follow every step of two ghastly, drug-induced deaths, relentlessly hammering in the tempo as one junkie drills a hole in his spacesuit, while methodically playing the other’s elevator descent to a blood-splattered end.

Much of OUTLAND’s newly revealed cues make this soundtrack play like a best-of combo between Goldsmith’s ALIEN and COMA (this score would share ALIEN’s National Philharmonic Orchestra), with darkly lush string suspense that painstakingly details the marshal’s investigation, the music subtly biding its time before truly exploding with “Hot Water.” Between this film and THE PRESIDIO, few directors have shown better dexterity at staging a foot chases. And OUTLAND’s remains one of the cinema’s best, as Goldsmith’s themes rapidly become breathless as Connery pursues his prey through what seems to be six soundstages of sets, the brilliantly escalating melody at last turning into a furious dance before pounding percussion gets ends the pursuit.

Hyams also wasn’t evidently the easiest director for some musicians to work with, resulting in numerous dropped and reworked cues in the case of OUTLAND, with some music re-scored by other composers. My two favorites here aren’t even score cues as such, but the throbbing, pre-electronica of the recreation room source music. These blue-lit live sex shows were scored by Michael Boddicker (later to compose BUCKAROO BANZAI) under the name of “Ganymede.” There’s a sensuous voice energy to these throbbing synths and undulating voices, their music imagining what me playing in a hive of scum and villainy a couple of centuries hence- and pre-figuring the sound of electronica while they were at it. Goldsmith’s own, unused cues for “The Rec Room” are cool enough, but don’t have the truly futuristic techno energy of Ganymede’s, which sound hipper than ever. When it comes to the score proper, a few of OUTLAND’s newly released highlights include “The Bags,” which uses a chirping string that could have suited an facehugger, while “Early Estimate / Early Arrival” grippingly begins the marshal’s cat and mouse game with the assassins.

As he climbs out via spacesuit to take care of business in “The Hunter” and “The Greenhouse,” Goldsmith’s eerie sustains, subtle false scares and orchestral shimmers reflecting both the inner, metallic passages of the Con-Am facility, while also playing the lunar landscape outside of their incredible miniatures, the cues bursting with triumph as Connery ingeniously gets the drop on his pursuers. Goldsmith’s frequent collaborator Morton Stevens was brought in to “adapt” probably the most requested OUTLAND cue to appear here with “The Last Battle (Broken Hose).” It’s great, swirling Saturday matinee stuff for the anti-gravity fight, with a mite tinnier sound than the rest of the cues, its clanging bells, and military percussion desperately building to the subtitle. Finally, Goldsmith signals true relief with the lovely, swelling romantic theme of “The Message” before reprising his opening with “End Credits.”

Next to ALIEN, OUTLAND continues to stand as what might be Goldsmith’s best, melodically constructed “space” score, with Film Score Monthly’s release capturing the lush, dark magic of the soundtrack, complete with alternates and a second CD of its first album wherein Goldsmith reworked his music for more conventional listening pleasure (I admittedly did the liner notes its first CD release many a moon ago when GNP / Crescendo’s paired the score with CAPRICORN ONE). Now Jeff Bond and Lukas Kendall who do a terrific job of detailing the OUTLAND release us fans have always hoped for, along with a surprisingly frank interview with Hyams and a tech-centric essay by Boddicker about how he achieved his hypnotic club vibes.

Goldsmith authority Jeff Bond is once again on hand to chronicle how Jerry took on Bart the Bear for La La Land’s complete release of THE EDGE, a score as beautiful, and dangerous as the great outdoors it so spectacularly conveys. Here it’s the snow-capped wilds of Alaska that Goldsmith’s proud nature-centric “Edge” theme arrives at, his swelling, string-heavy melody embodying the landscape’s proud, untamed spirit. And it’s exactly the latter that lurks throughout his score in the growling brass motif for the nastiest bigscreen bear outside of PROPHECY’s mutant mammal Katahdin. While low-key menace drove OUTLAND, Goldsmith is far more overt about the threat in THE EDGE, at first interplaying the bucolic splendor of his nature music (complete with flute bird cries) with the lurching sound of the Kodiak as it ominously spies on stars Anthony Hopkins and Alec Baldwin (whose wife-cheating character is already plotting his friend’s murder).

Finally, all pounding, percussive hell breaks lose with “The Ravine,” as the bear motiff comes to the fore with the kind of great, piano-driven action ostinatos that the composer did like no one’s business. Indeed, the ferociously exciting monster bear chases of THE EDGE don’t so much center of impressionist horror (a la ALIEN) as they do two-fisted fury, much like the creature feature scores of a latter period that included DEEP RISING, THE MUMMY, CONGO and THE HOLLOW MAN. But with this David Mamet-scripted film originally titled BOOKWORM, Goldsmith is far more interested in playing the smarts of Hopkins’ erudite hero than just plain panic. It’s an approach that further compliments his intelligent, calculating series of musical evasions and attacks between man and beast, with even his once-beautiful nature theme twisted against the protagonists. There’s a drum-driven military feel to their efforts, culminating with the terrifically exciting “Deadfall / Bear Fight” as raging, tribal orchestrations charge into the wilderness’ heart of darkness. If you weren’t told this was man vs. bear, it’s easy to hear the music as Rambo vs. Russians- a testament to how Goldsmith inimitable action approach could work for any genre.

Even with Bart getting his comeuppance, the danger isn’t over yet for Goldsmith as the methodical, military suspense for drum, piano and strings comes to a subtle head with “The Discovery / Turn Your Back,” its slow-burn sense of danger also reminiscent of Goldsmith’s acclaimed, Oscar-nominated score that year for L.A. CONFIDENTIAL. While “Rescued” restores his nature theme to its full, trumpeting glory, THE EDGE’s end title does thrown one of the more notorious curveballs in Goldsmith’s career, as the symphonic momentum he’s built goes out over closing credits not with a bang, but with lite jazz strut that might seem better at home in CONFIDENTIAL, let alone the composer’s far more urbane SIX DEGREES OF SEPARATION. Yet it all somehow works for a musical trip back to civilization, and the cocktail parties that Hopkins’ character will likely be attending with far more frequency than further outdoors excursions.

La La Land’s release of THE EDGE sounds, and looks terrific, complete with alternate takes and a lavish booklet for Jeff Bond’s liner notes to accompany. And there’s that jazz end, once more for feeling. In space, or Alaska, no one might hear you scream. But thankfully, Goldsmith’s thoroughly missed thematic talents know exactly what those build-ups to the big yell should sound like.


Think OUTLAND over here, then take on Bart the Bear here

Comments

By Robert Feigenblatt on September 26th, 2010 at 2:25 pm

Nicely chronicled.

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