Thursday, November 13, 2014
JohnnyTwoToes recalls one of the early 90s' most notable film scores
1990's Tenant from Hell Thriller Pacific Heights is not one that most people remember as a 90s' classic. This underrated mystery starring Michael Keaton, Melanie Griffith, Mathew Modine & directed by the Oscar winning John Schlesinger (Midnight Cowboy) only received a lukewarm reception from critics and audiences when it was released.
This film however marked the debut of Michael Keaton into the foray of 'the villain' realm as up until this point he had played likable buffoons and all around good guys and German-born Composer Hans Zimmer moving into new musical territory.
Zimmer scored a slew of big films in the late 80's and early 1990 and garnered a lot of attention including Oscar nominations with scores for Rainman, Black Rain (two of my personal favorites), Driving Miss Daisy, Bird On A Wire and Days of Thunder. Pacific Heights was an under-the-radar film and the score that was released is in four movements from Varese Sarabande.
As the film is structured, so is the score. Movement one starts with a mysterious crescendo of chords and that blossom into a bouncy piece featuring saxophonist Gene Cipriano and vocalist Carmen Twilley. Uses of the Zimmer staple percussion, an added mandolin played by Jim Matheos and lovely piano work by Mike Lang (who has worked with John Carpenter on some of his scores) make the first movement a fitting start; creepy and unnerving. Walt Fowler adds some nourish tones with his muted trumpet for the end of Movement One into Movement Two and throughout, while Chuck Domanico has some cool bass sprinkled in as well. Movement Two starts with Lang's soft piano as the music gives way to Zimmer's more acoustical side with some woodwinds and some additional horns conducted by Shirley Walker.
Pacific Heights continues to combine all of these elements throughout the entire album. It is constructed as a film only here, it is without the visuals. Zimmer shows his diverse side in Movement Three with a nod to the far east with the introduction to the film's wise character, Toshio Watanabe played by the always reliable Mako, who is the first one to really suspect Mr. Hayes is trouble. Zimmer really cuts it loose for Movements Three and Four as the heroes really begin to uncover what Hayes is all about. The score does not follow a specific pattern but, therein is its charm. As in the film, the score slows up to allow us to soak up the beautiful and quiet moments but Zimmer, who can do action as well as anyone can, knows when to ramp up the action.
In Movement Four Zimmer's score has a theme, so to speak, of determination for our heroes, as they uncover more plans of the evil Hayes. When Zimmer punches it, the score is frightful and chilling and one of his better scores. It is a nice mix of electronics mostly with some orchestral arrangements and the other players, here really compliment this score and enhance a familiar but effective film.
If you want piece of 90's film scores with elements of power electronics and modern classical, this is the original motion picture soundtrack that you must be listening to. Besides, Hans Zimmer currently in the limelight again for his Interstellar score never disappoints.