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SCORE! The 150 greatest OST’s – pt. 11 (of 15)

We’re heading down the home stretch with the cream of the crop- the top 50 soundtracks! Don’t forget to leave feedback and share any thoughts you may have on the Herculean/Sisyphean task of reducing the entire history of film music into a subjective and arbitrary expression of one individual’s tastes.

50.) Merchant of Venice (2004) - Jocelyn Pook

Michael Radford directs William Shakespeare‘s classic play starring Al Pacino, Jeremy Irons, and Joseph Fiennes in the well known drama in which a feuding moneylender named Shylock demands his pound of flesh from the man he begrudges, in a tale that reminds us not to sign contracts we are not prepared to fulfill. Pook’s score is haunting and ornate, full of soothing ethereal vocals. Here’s the opening track, With Wand’ring Steps”:

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and track 2, “Her Gentle Spirit”:

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and track 16, “Banquet for Shylock Tourdion”:

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49.) Aguirre: the Wrath of God (1972) – Popol Vuh

Werner Herzog‘s masterpiece Aguirre: der Zorn Gottes stars Klaus Kinski as Don Lope de Aguirre, whose quest through the Amazon to find El Dorado, the lost city of gold, drives him to madness and threatens to bring his party of conquistadors to ruin. The dreamlike visuals which fill this “Heart of Darkness”-like meditation on ambition and power are enhanced by the soundtrack by German krautrockers Popol Vuh, who also provided the scores for Herzog’s Nosferatu, Fitzcarraldo, and Herz aus Glas (Heart of Glass). Here is the haunting “Aguirre”:

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and track 2, “Flote”:

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48.) Spellbound (1945) – Miklós Rósza

Alfred Hitchcock‘s Freudian mystery, set in a mental hospital and starring the beautiful Ingrid Bergman, features a legendary target=”_blank”>dream sequence designed by Salvador Dalí and an eerie theremin-infused score provided by the great Miklós Rósza, who also scored Ben-Hur and the revolutionary The Lost Weekend. Check out track 3, “Scherzo”:

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and track 14, “Joanna In Paris”:

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as well as track 15, “Off On The Great Adventure”:

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47.) Escape from New York (1981) – John Carpenter & Alan Howarth

John Carpenter has scored or been involved in scoring most of his movies, including Halloween, Assault on Precinct 13, They Live! and The Thing. This may be his best, as he gets help from electronic maestro Alan Howarth and beefs up his usual trance-like repetition with some inventive electronics, dramatic swells, and heavy bass lines which serve as the perfect companion to the classic tale starring Kurt Russell as the eye-patch wearing anti-hero Snake Plissken. Here’s the main title:

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and track 5, “He’s Still Alive”:

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and enjoy this snippet of dialogue from the soundtrack:

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46.) Full Circle [The Haunting of Julia] (1977) – Colin Towns

Richard Loncraine directs this ghost story starring Mia Farrow as a wealthy American woman living in London who leaves her husband following the death of their daughter only to buy a house haunted by a vengeful spirit who wishes to torment both the mom and deceased daughter. That’s two planes of torment – one physical, one astral – for those keeping score. Colin Towns, a prominent figure in the British prog scene, who played with the Ian Gillan band, also scored Robert A. Heinlein’s The Puppet Masters. Here he contributes a fabulous soundtrack full of electronics, powerful keyboards, and haunting melodies. Here’s track 2, “Have you got a Magnificent Problem?”:

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and track 4, “Kate”:

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45.) Shaft in Africa (1973) – Johnny Pate

John Guillermin directs Richard Roundtree in a blaxploitation flick whose title says it all: John Shaft in Africa. In case you were wondering, he’s there to bust a slave trafficking racket. Johnny Pate also scored Brother on the Run. This is the superior outing, featuring the wonderful vocals of the legendary Four Tops. Here’s track 5, “Headman”:

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and the awesome featured song, “Are You Man Enough”:

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44.) The Terminator (1984) – Brad Fiedel

Before James Cameron was spending billions of dollars on ridiculously extravagant tech-fests with “script by numbers” narratives, he was making low budget magic. Who can forget a menacing Arnold Schwarzenegger scrolling through the phone book for all Sarah Connors? Or popping an eyeball out of a poorly made latex mask? Or Randy Moss lookalike (I’m taking credit for that one) Michael Biehn‘s turn as Kyle Reese, future father of John Connors. Or tough-gal babe Linda Hamilton as the would-be victim of a cyborg sent to the past to kill machine public enemy #1? This feature that started a franchise mixes sci-fi and horror perfectly, aided by a magnificent Brad Fiedel score.

Here’s the “Theme from Terminator”:

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and track 5, “Sarah on her Motorbike”:

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and track 6, “Gun Shop / Reese In Alley”:

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43.) Vampyros Lesbos (1971) – Manfred Hübler & Siegfried Schwab

Cult auteur and sleaze-maestro Jesus Franco directs this soft-core lesbian vampire flick, which can only be recommended for its incredible soundtrack, the occasional vistas of Istanbul, and a nude Soledad Miranda. In fact most people sought out this film in the late 90’s after the soundtrack was released on the Crippled Dick Hot Wax label and quickly became a staple of living room bong-hits and college radio stations, thanks to its fantastic album cover and a mixture of deep bass, electronic noodling, and general weirdness-for-weirdness’ sake. Here’s the opening track, “Droge CX9″:

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and track 7, “People’s Playground Version B”:

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and track 9, “Necromania”:

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42.) The Devil in Miss Jones (1973) – Alden Shuman

Written, directed and produced by Gerard Damiano, The Devil in Miss Jones stars Georgina Spelvin as a lonely, depressed spinster who slits her wrists in a bathtub only to find herself confronted by angelic bureaucracy in the afterlife, where she is told she’s too good for Hell and yet unfit for Heaven (on account of the suicide). She asks to return to Earth and earn her place in Hell through lustful sexual escapades, involving various partners. And though it sounds fun, it’s actually a rather bleak and “serious” film, highlighted by a memorable finale in which Miss Jones begs frantically for sex (like an addict going through withdrawal) from a disgusting, impotent man more interested in catching imaginary flies: Is this Hell, and is he Beelzebub? You’ll just have to find out for- actually I’ll save you the trouble- yes it is and yes he is. One of the other ways the filmmakers establish it as an “art film” is by ditching the chicka-chicka-brow-brow porn music and hiring a professional. Surprisingly enough, he puts together a beautiful soundtrack. Here’s the opening track, “In the Beginning”:

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and track 2, “Hellcat”:

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and track 4, “The Teacher,” played in the film by porn thespian Harry Reems:

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41.) Siberiade (1979) – Edward Artemiev

Andrey Konchalovskiy directs this Russian masterpiece about a small village in Siberia, where three generations search for happiness in the harshest of conditions – after all, as far as shit-holes go, Siberia is still number one. Following this film, the director was given the opportunity to direct 1985’s Runaway Train, which was based on a screenplay by Akira Kurosawa. Following that, he made Tango & Cash. That’s what you call an exponential slide. The magnificent soundtrack, which fuses traditional Russian folk music with electronic sounds, is provided by frequent Tarkovsky collaborator Artemiev, who scored Solaris, Stalker, and Zerkalo [the Mirror]. Here’s track 2, “Le Soleil”:

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and track 11, “Les Balancoires”:

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and track 12, “La Mort Du Heros”:

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Click to see part 1 (OST’s #141-150) , part 2 (131-140),  part 3 (121-130), part 4 (111-120), part 5 (101-110), part 6 (91-100), part 7 (81-90), part 8 (71-80), part 9 (61-70), part 10 (51-60), part 11 (41-50), part 12 (31-40), part 13 (21-30), part 14 (11-20) and part 15 (1-10).

And don’t forget to leave feedback!

 

November 1, 2010   No Comments

SCORE! The 150 greatest OST’s – pt. 8 (of 15)

80.) Gothic (1986) – Thomas Dolby

Ken Russell directs the fictionalized account of the much-ballyhooed night that Mary Shelley gave birth to the horror classic Frankenstein at Lord Byron’s manor. Ghost stories, personal horrors, fantasies and drug-induced nightmares come to life as sweet Mary is tempted by the sexual appetites of her lover Shelley and cousin Claire, while holding sway over all the evil Lord Byron toys with his guest’s souls. Starring Gabriel Byrne, Julian Sands, and Natasha Richardson in her feature film debut as Mary Shelley, with a soundtrack by 80’s electronics whiz Thomas Dolby. Here’s track 5, “Party Games”:

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and track 6, “Gypsy Girl”:

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79.) Sin Nombre (2009) – Marcelo Zarvos

Written and directed by Cary Fukunaga, this film tells the stories of those seeking a better life for themselves on the trains bound for the US, as their hopes and dreams clash with the realities involved in smuggling them in. The soundtrack is somber and beautiful, full of pulsing accordion, probing guitar, and mournful strings. Here’s track 1, “The Journey”:

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and track 3, “Vera Cruz”:

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78.) Conan the Barbarian (1982) - Basil Poledouris

John Milius and Oliver Stone wrote this adaptation of Robert E. Howard’s adventure stories, which Milius directs, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, James Earl Jones and Max von Sydow. It tells the story of the eponymous warrior searching for the evil sorcerer and leader of the Snake Cult, Thulsa Doom, the man responsible for the death of his parents. Basil Poledouris’ soundtrack is a classic, perfect for a testosterone-fueled quest for vengeance. Here’s the Prologue, narrated by the legendary Mako, which leads into “Anvil of Crom”:

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and track 6, “Theology / Civilization”:

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77.) Yellow Canary (1963) – Kenyon Hopkins

Buzz Kulik directs this Rod Serling-penned mystery which stars Pat Boone as a nightclub singer whose child is kidnapped and Barbara Eden (of TV’s I Dream of Jeannie) as his wife, with Jack Klugman as the Lieutenant in charge of the investigation. 20 years ago you’d know who all these people were. All you need to know is that the soundtrack, by Kenyon Hopkins, is full of some of the best, coolest jazz you’ve never heard. Here’s track 5, “The Spindrift”:

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and track 10, “The Menace”:

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76.) Le Passager de la Pluie [Rider on the Rain] (1970) – Francis Lai

René Clément, avid Hitchcock admirer, directs fan favorite Charles Bronson in this mystery set on the French Riviera, in which a woman shoots and kills a masked man who rapes her, dumps his body, and then out of nowhere meets a man who seems to know all about what she’s done. Bronson and co-star Marlène Jobert’s chemistry is palpable, and the odd artsy tone is not unlike the director’s own Purple Noon. Francis Lai, better known for his A Man and A Woman theme, delivers his best score ever. Here’s track 2, “Dobb’s Dualite”:

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and track 20, “Theme Mellie”:

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75.) Beetlejuice (1988) – Danny Elfman

Tim Burton’s classic horror/comedy/fantasy stars Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis as a recently deceased couple who need to exorcise the living (played by Catherine O’Hara, Jeffrey Jones and Winona Ryder) and enlist the aid of Michael Keaton’s title character to do so. It features one of prolific composer Danny Elfman’s most complete scores, full of kooky chanting, crashing crescendos, and a hint of calypso. Here’s track 2, “Travel Music”:

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and track 19, “End Credits”:

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74.) Stone (1974) - Billy Green

Sandy Harbutt stars in and directs this cult film about the Grave Diggers, a bike club whose members are being murdered one by one. Full of nudity, violence, gore and motorcycle stunts, Stone stars several actors who would later make up the core of George Miller’s Mad Max. It’s a low budget, dated exploitation movie, but like other cult Australian films (Stunt Rock, The Man From Hong Kong) it’s got that unique Aussie brand of fun (check out Mark Hartley’s Not Quite Hollywood for more info). The soundtrack is eclectic and zany, full of didgeridoos, funky wah-wah, and even some crazy banjo, like on track 2, “Septic”:

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and track 12, “Stone”:

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73.) Blood on Satan’s Claw (1971) – Marc Wilkinson

Piers Haggard directs this low-budget horror film set in 17th century England about a farmer who unearths inhuman, fur-covered remains that seem to cause the townsfolk commit horrific acts, and may have something to do with the satanic rituals the town children begin performing in a desecrated church in the woods. Atmospheric and beautifully shot, the performances are strong, including Patrick Wymark’s, who died soon after. The soundtrack is creepy and elegant, befitting such a sophisticated take on witchcraft. Here’s track 9, “Mark Alone”:

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and track 21, “Ralph Chops Tree”:

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72.) Les Gants Blancs Du Diable (1973) – Karl-Heinz Schäfer

Karl Heinz Schäfer’s moody, psychedelic score for László Szabó’s rarely seen crime drama (which translates to White Gloves of the Devil) features some inventive instrumentation and is a mixture of soothing and startling sounds that make me wonder what the movie which accompanies them might be like. You can do the same as you listen to track 1, “La Victime”:

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and track 3, “Kidnapping”:

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and track 7, “La Couleur Des Yeux”:

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71.) Himalaya (1999) – Bruno Coulais

Eric Valli directs this tale of an aging Nepalese chief whose only son dies returning from Tibet’s salt lakes, and who blames Karma, his son’s friend, for the death, refusing to make him the new chief in his son’s place. What follows is a battle of wills and a glimpse into the inner politics of a group we don’t get to see much, all set to the sounds of traditional singing arranged by Coulais. It was a difficult choice, as I also love his soundtrack to Coraline, but this score got the nod for it’s sheer unadulterated beauty. Here’s track 6, “The Night”:

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and track 9, “The Songs”:

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and track 11, “Karma”:

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Click to see part 1 (OST’s #141-150) , part 2 (131-140),  part 3 (121-130), part 4 (111-120), part 5 (101-110), part 6 (91-100), part 7 (81-90), part 8 (71-80), part 9 (61-70), part 10 (51-60), part 11 (41-50), part 12 (31-40), part 13 (21-30), part 14 (11-20) and part 15 (1-10).

October 11, 2010   No Comments

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