Monday, December 9, 2013

Film Score of the Month - Alien (1979) Intrada Edition

JohnnyTwoToes revisits the masterpiece from the late Jerry Goldsmith 

When Alien first came out in 1979, it redefined the science fiction/horror genre of film making. Ridley Scott had made a relatively low budget film but one that was simply terrifying. Even today, after I have watched it numerous times, it still scares the crap out of me, part of the reason is the direction and the stellar cinematography. Knowing where to place the cameras and how a scene flows and very few films have gotten in right the way Ridley Scott has. You never really see the Alien completely and Scott is smart to let people's imagination do the terrifying. 

In the first 45 minutes of the film virtually nothing happens, but the mood of this film is already set creepy and ghastly from the opening credits sequence thanks to Scott's choosing of the late Jerry Goldsmith (1929 – 2004) to score Alien. When the score was originally released, it was only available on cassettes and vinyl. Since the technology was such that they could only hold, record and release about 30-45 minutes of music on cassettes and vinyl consumers were left with a minute amount of music. The actual released running time of the score's original release was 35:44, hardly enough to do it justice. Until Intrada Records released the complete 2 disc score in 2007. 

The entire score is simply one of the very best in the history of film scoring. Goldsmith and Scott had many go arounds about what Goldsmith wanted to do (a heroically brave sounding score) as opposed to Scott's desire for an abrasively scary score. Most of the time I would side with the composer, however in this case I am so glad the film makers opted for a creepy and terrifying score. The Intrada version has its share of the heroic side of Goldsmith's score but it has restored a great deal, if not all, of the terror inducing music that makes Alien such a treat. 

Disc 1 features the complete original score and the Main Title track is the heroic theme Goldsmith was going for. Hyper Sleep is a track that features a lone trumpet with some strings and backup horns and it is a beautiful track of a ship coming to life. The next few tracks, The Landing, The Terrain (very effectively chilling), The Craft, The Passage and The Skeleton all set up the horror that befalls the spaceship, Nostromo and her crew. The Passage features some very ominous wind like instruments coupled with some straining strings which will give you chills (at least, they did for me). There are a couple of pretty tracks like Nothing To Say, a mournfully light track. 

Most of Alien, though is wonderful array of screeching strings, belching brass and punctuating percussion. The remainder of the tracks are racingly terrifying as the battle for survival begins to take shape. Goldsmith has an entire orchestra (The National Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Lionel Newman) at his disposal and he uses sounds from every section. As I said, brass, strings, percussion and surprisingly some pretty scary elements from the woodwinds. There are a few elements which also employed the use of electronics, something which Goldsmith incorporated in many of his action scores in the years following Alien, most notably in the Rambo scores. 

The last seven tracks on disc 1, 'the rescored alternate cues' are my favorite. Starting with the original opening theme that only appeared in its entirety on the re release of the director's cut which is PERFECT for what follows in the film. It should have been in the original cut to begin with, but Scott let Goldsmith insert his own choice. Both are great tracks, but the restored, rescored alternate cue is much better; perfection. 

Disc 2 features the original released soundtrack album which is decent but incomplete, however they have restored some more alternate bonus tracks like a film version of the Main Title which is a great track. Virtually all of the extra tracks on this 2 disc masterpiece are alternate, unused inserts and versions that are as hair raising as the complete score itself. 

Intrada Records has done a phenomenal job going back to the original masters and digitally remastering this score from start to finish. With 2 discs, 47 tracks and over two hours of music nothing, to my knowledge has been left out. Alien is a classic horror film that terrifies me 34 years later. Now, the music will do that, too. Enjoy!


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