CS Score! Reviews The River by John Williams
Hey there, fellow film score lovers! We’re back with an all-new edition of CS Score! This time I’m taking a look at Intrada’s expanded edition of John Williams’ The River and Varese Sarabande’s recently released Deluxe Edition of Harold Faltermeyer’s The Running Man. Plus, a look at La-La Land’s 4-CD release for The Thin Red Line (which came out a while back, but is still worth exploring.)
Let’s do this thing!
The River Expanded Edition By John Williams
The River is one of those random mid-80s John Williams soundtracks that came and went without much fanfare partly due to releasing on the heels of the more extravagant Return of the Jedi and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Williams has long enjoyed the occasional miniscule score — The Accidental Tourist, Born on the Fourth of July, Sleepers, and Stepmom, for example — and while The River features many of his trademark flourishes, the soundtrack never quite reaches the heights of the composer’s greatest work.
Of course, that’s like saying Babe Ruth occasionally hit triples.
Working in collaboration with director Mark Rydell for the fourth and final time following 1969’s The Reivers, 1972’s terrific The Cowboys, and 1973’s Cinderella Liberty, Williams employs a number of themes to tell the story of Tom and Mae Garvey (played in the film by Mel Gibson and Sissy Spacek, respectively) and their struggles to maintain their farm amidst turbulent times in the Tennessee valley. The film deals with issues such as labor strikes and floods and works as a mildly interesting character study filled with strong performances but doesn’t require an extravagant soundtrack to tell its story. In point of fact, while Williams’ music is quite good, it often feels too lavish for this production and contrasts with the film on screen.
In actuality, the most interesting aspects about the score are the ideas Williams would later explore for other projects such as Saving Private Ryan, War Horse, JFK, Stepmom and even the latest batch of Star Wars films.
For The River, Williams utilizes three themes. The first, a memorable cheerful melody filled with guitars, drums, piano and light orchestra; the second, a decidedly more downbeat theme comprised of flute and trumpet that sounds like music you’d hear in one of those old detective flicks (curiously, bits of this piece are heard almost note for note in The Rise of Skywalker’s final track, “A New Home”); while the third theme, heard most prominently in the terrific track, “The Ancestral Home,” has Williams employing the same Americana style heard during the Smallville bits in Superman: The Movie.
The original soundtrack ran a scant 37 minutes, and now Intrada has released a fully remastered album comprised of 20 additional minutes of score. This edition probably only serves Williams enthusiasts, as the original soundtrack more or less featured a majority of the score minus a few additional tidbits. I’m happy to add it to my ever-growing CD collection, even if my enthusiasm for the music is mild at best. The presentation is solid; and the linear notes found in the CD casing offers some unique insight into Williams’ process.
The Running Man: The Deluxe Edition By Harold Faltermeyer
Paul Michael Glaser’s The Running Man is one of those odd action flicks of the 1980s that still manages to charm thanks to its goofy nature and over-the-top violence. No, it hasn’t aged well, mainly due to its reliance on “future” technology, but some of the action scenes still pack a punch; and Arnold Schwarzenegger has a blast dispatching hordes of baddies in gruesome fashion while cracking his trademark one liners.
The score, composed by Harold Faltermeyer (of Top Gun fame), is pure 80s synth and non-stop electronic noise that fits the movie well, but fails to leave much an impression on its own. Fans of the film will balk at such a charge; and indeed, there are elements to the soundtrack that work quite well. The main theme, for example, is pure melodramatic electronic cheese, but lingers in the brain far longer than it has any right to. A majority of the action music follows the same styles and beats Faltermeyer used in his scores for Beverly Hills Cop and Fletch. There are several moments that sound vaguely similar to the noises used by Brad Fiedel during the T-1000 chase scenes in his score Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
There is much to enjoy in The Running Man and diehard fans of the flick will likely flock to Varese Sarabande’s brand new Deluxe Edition of the score, which presents the music as heard in the film along with a number of unused and alternate cues. Each track comprises roughly two minutes of score, so the album is fairly brief, but, again, enjoyable as an long-forgotten 80s relic.
The Thin Red Line – 20th Anniversary Expanded Edition
I finally broke the bank and purchased La-Lan Land Records’ 4-CD 20th Anniversary Edition of Hans Zimmer’s masterwork for The Thin Red Line. (See how much I love this score and where I rank it amongst Zimmer’s other works here.) I’ll do a full breakdown at some point — it’s a lot to take in — but I wanted to show the physical aspects of the release, including the CD presentation and booklet that comes with it.
The album consists of over two hours of Zimmer’s music assembled on the first two CDs as heard in the film (if memory serves). Like a lot of Terrence Malick flicks, a majority of the score composed for the picture was cut, so I’m pretty sure the music presented here is Zimmer’s original intention. Of course, I’ve only seen the movie twice, and have yet to actually hear the album. So, I’ll have to do a comparison and some more research on the matter.
CDs three and four consist of the original soundtrack album and the Melanesian Choirs the figured prominently in the war epic. I’m not sure I needed an hour’s worth of Melanesian chants, but for completionism’s sake, I’ll take it.