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Keeping Score

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Mark Kermode | 13:26 UK time, Friday, 26 November 2010

Fritz Lang's brilliant sci-fi epic Metropolis arrives on DVD and Blu-Ray this week looking richer and more beautiful than at any time since its original release. A genuine eye opener it also arrives with a full orchestral score rather than the Giorgio Moroder techno version specially commissioned a few years ago. Which begs the following question: Just how important is the right score for a movie?

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  • Comment number 1.

    The Lord of the Ring. Twee, puny, Enya, and pointless.

  • Comment number 2.

    Doubt this was a studio choice, but more recently I can recall the soundtrack to WATCHMEN - Jimi Hendrix, Simon & Garfunkel, Billie Holiday, Leonard Cohen, sure, cool artists, cool songs, but it was incredibly distracting and didn't make any aesthetic sense whatsoever (besides having Zack Snyder telling the audience that he "got" the subtle reference to those songs in the GN).

  • Comment number 3.

    Another Kubrick example would be ”A Clockwork Orange”, a film we know is scored by Erika Eigen and Wendy Carlos.
    In the beginning Kubrick wanted to use the band Pink Floyd’s 24 minute song Atom Heart Mother from the album with the same name, and it was going to happen because Floyd was ready to loan it for this one time (they otherwise did not lend songs, just like Beatles and Zeppelin).
    But Kubrick wanted the rights to the song witch Floyd wouldn’t give, so the whole thing fell apart.
    But if you look closely in the scene at the record store, you can see the album (picture of a cow) together with Magical Mystery Tour and the 2001 soundtrack.

  • Comment number 4.

    The Andromeda Strain(1971). I found this soundtrack so tedious it's put me off watching the film in full.

  • Comment number 5.

    I recently re-watched "Heat" (1995), a classy film enhanced by an excellent soundtrack by Elliot Goldenthal plus other existing recordings. Many of those were from the 4AD stable (Michael Brook, Lisa Gerrard, Terje Rypdal), or related to Brian Eno (Passengers, James). Eno's piece "Force Marker" was used in the pivotal bank robbery scene, and only served to ramp up the tension. The original pieces feature the "Dead Elk Guitar Orchestra" as well as more conventional "strings".

    I also have a soft spot for Vincent Gallo's use of Progressive Rock music on the soundtrack of "Buffalo '66" - such as King Crimson's "Moonchild", or Yes' "Heart Of The Sunrise". The latter is a rather "hippy" song that wouldn't seem a natural match for the bar scene in which Bobby imagines blowing someone's head off, but it somehow works.

  • Comment number 6.

    Who can endure watching The Sting without wincing when The Entertainer starts up? Truly excruciating.

  • Comment number 7.

    The most grating piece of music in any film is simply the Run DMC version of the Ghostbusters theme on Ghostbusters 2. When the original film had such a classic theme why they picked to do such an awful parady of it always escapes me.

    I always think a good pointer to a bad soundtrack is if they get an actor to sing. Recently there have been two notable crimes, Mama Mia and Sweeny Todd. Mama Mia has less singing talect than a boozed up Kareoke night and in Sweeny Todd they even manage to badly act while recording the songs.

    On the subject os silent movies and new music there's an interesting video I found on youtube a few months ago, merging of The Sisters of Mercy's Body Electric with Metropolis. It works rather well

  • Comment number 8.

    If I recall large sections of the Jerry Goldsmith's score for Ridley Scott's Alien was thrown out and re-scored to go with something darker and more sinister. Personally, I am pleased with change as I felt the final score suited the tone more appropriately than the original 'flight of fancy magical space adventure'-esq score. Though Goldsmith was never happy with the change.

  • Comment number 9.

    I still shudder if I think of the disgustingly sirupy nightmare that was the soundtrack of Disney's "Lion King". Maybe the movie was good (probably not), but this made it impossible not to guffaw at. I stopped seeing Disney animations for a long while after that.

  • Comment number 10.

    James Horner's soundtrack to Braveheart is one of the most cringiest of all time. He also wrote for Cocoon and Titanic. Does the evil man have no mercy?

  • Comment number 11.

    Without a doubt the most incongruous score for a film I've ever seen is Mike Oldfield's dreadful prog nonsense in The Killing Fields. Everything else about that film is top notch, from the harrowing images to the compelling acting and the real life story of atrocities but how can you take it seriously when cheesy electronic noises are dominating the soundtrack?

  • Comment number 12.

    As for a film having two soundtracks and one of them not being used, Clive Barker's Hellraiser was originally going to have a score by the experimental industrial band Coil (incidentally, R.I.P. Peter Chrisopherson) but it was replaced by Christopher Young's more traditional orchestral soundtrack. That's a real shame because the Coil soundtrack would really have given the film an even stranger and darker atmosphere than it already has. I'm glad they released it on CD though because it really is great, as is just about everything that Coil did.

  • Comment number 13.

    I've only ever seen The Princess Bride with a horrible, nasally synthesiser score. The music itself is fine and I really like the film, but the instrumentation is just so cheap and unpleasant. I don't know whether the copy I saw (which isn't a DVD, it was...pirated) had been given a knock-off score of bad library music, or if this is the real score. Somebody clarify?

  • Comment number 14.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 15.

    The single worse score for any film ever is Andrew Powell's score for Ladyhawke. It's bad enough that they chose to place synth pop over a medieval film, where anybody with ears would immediately know it was out of place, but the score itself sounded like something that you should find dubbed over one of those public domain educational videos that we used to watch in health class. I kept expecting a voice over to break in and start informing the audience on transmitted diseases and the dangers of teen pregnancy.

    Granted, the film itself is no masterpiece, but I can't imagine the film that would deserve the score it was saddled with. Maybe White Chicks.

  • Comment number 16.

    Mark, I am shocked and stunned that you haven't mentioned The Exorcist, which I believe did originally have a score composed Lalo Schifrin rejected by Friedkin but still available on some CDs. Apparently he also would have had Tangerine Dream compose the score for the Exorcist had he been aware of them before working on Sorceror. Imagine how terrible the Exorcist would have been with a soundtrack similar to Near Dark. **cringe**

  • Comment number 17.

    Kenneth Anger's Lucifer Rising: Jimmy Page vs. Bobby Beausoleil
    A lot of people like Beausoleil's soundtrack and that has become the standard version, but I think Jimmy Page's darker soundtrack fits the film much better. Beausoleil's version, though not bad for a prison recording, sounds like a glorified jam session at times.

  • Comment number 18.

    It does seem sacrosanct, but Morriconie's soundtrack for "For a Few Dollars More" was just a wee bit crappy, though having said that, Man With a Harmonica from Once Upon a Time in the West is still one of my all time faves.

  • Comment number 19.

    I remember seeing 'A Knight's Tale' and I couldn't decide if the stadium rock soundtrack was one of the best things in the movie or one of it's worst crimes. Truth be told, I still can't quite decide.

  • Comment number 20.

    Mark - slightly surprised that the Moroder version is the last one you saw... Not only is the soundtrack awful, but he tinted the movie in ways that Fritz Lang never intended, recut it, and showed it at the wrong speed.

    Prior to the new version, there was already a "best available" restoration in the 1990s, which came with the original score. Like many silent films, there was a soundtrack composed for it, which could be bashed out by a single pianist or played by an orchestra, depending on how fancy the cinema was.

    It also regularly pops up with live accompaniment, which I've been lucky enough to see a few times. The flat-out worst I've heard for it was a guy who thought it was a brilliant idea to lift Maria from West Side Story and use it as a theme any time Maria came on.

  • Comment number 21.

    I remember having seen Tod Browning's The Unknown (on a double-bill with Freaks) on TV years ago : it was COMPLETELY silent ... 4 years ago I bought the Freaks DVD with, as a bonus, The Unknown ; I was thrilled to be able to watch it again, but then something went wrong : they had add an AWFULLY DISGUSTING muzak made/created/played on a mere synthesizer !! (including a fake synth "bang" when there's a gun shot)... I was disgusted of course, and from then on I watch this movie with my TV set on 'Mute'.

    As for a lost soundtrack : Kubrick wanted Atom Heart Mother by Pink Floyd for A Clockwork Orange... They wanted to create a completely new score for the film, but as Kubrick stubbornely wanted the "old" piece, they de"cided not to give him the track and they were not asked to compose either.

    Another famous double soundtrack is for Romero's Dawn Of The Dead : one by the Goblin, the other cut by Romero from the DeWolfe Music Library...

    Thanx for your reviews,
    From France with care & attention,

  • Comment number 22.

    @ Will Chadwick

    " Mark, I am shocked and stunned that you haven't mentioned The Exorcist, which I believe did originally have a score composed Lalo Schifrin rejected by Friedkin but still available on some CDs. Apparently he also would have had Tangerine Dream compose the score for the Exorcist had he been aware of them before working on Sorceror. Imagine how terrible the Exorcist would have been with a soundtrack similar to Near Dark. **cringe**"

    If that Exorcist soundtrack would've been anything like the Tangerine Dream album Zeit, then it would've been otherworldly.

  • Comment number 23.

    I was watching "Gallipoli" on film4 the other night and was somewhat bewildered by accompaniment of the first running race scene by "Oxygene (part Deux)" by Jean Michel Jarre (and "Jarre" it did!). I'm a bit rusty on my WW1-era Australian history but I'm pretty sure they didn't have any synths back then...

  • Comment number 24.

    This thread does seem to be making a case against pop/rock musicians making movie soundtracks. Moroder, Toto, Enya and Jarre are prime examples.
    I'm not sure I get the problem with modern day instruments being used to accompany a film set in the past. Surely it's better than the faux folk music twaddle you get from the Braveheart soundtrack.

  • Comment number 25.

    "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves".

    OK, we only have to suffer Bryan Adams maundering on over the closing credits but, Blimey O'Reilly, it's just wrong.

  • Comment number 26.

    I didn't like the soundtrack changes that were made to the Director's Cut of Donnie Darko. But then, that's probably in large part because I didn't like the Director's Cut.

    I can't think of dreadful soundtracks off hand right now, but I do recall that many Brian De Palma films feature pretty awful musical moments, usually going hand in hand with dance sequences - Scarface being one that springs to mind. I remember Mark Cousins on railing against it on Moviedrome some years ago.

  • Comment number 27.

    If I can twist this on it's head slightly - an example of an incongruous, but excellent, soundtrack, was the one Craig Armstrong did for Plunkett & Macleane. I know the film got some dire reviews, but I rather like it.

  • Comment number 28.

    Dawn of the Dead (the original) came with two different soundtracks. the Italian cut had wall to wall Goblin where the Romero cut had the mall Musak. It made for a very different feel to many of the scenes including the dinner scene between Steve and Fran which sounded almost like a 70's porno because of the cheesy sax track Argento used. Also incidentally the Goblin soundtrack got used in several other films including rather extensively in Zombie Creeping Flesh, so there you have an example of a soundtrack being transplanted verbatim from one film to another which felt very odd to watch I have to say.

  • Comment number 29.

    Michael Mann's The Keep right at the end in the big climax for some reason has Tangerine Dreams version of The Snowman's Theme at full volume while Nazi's battle against ancient unspeakable evil in very sssssslow motion.

  • Comment number 30.

    I know that you have already covered this, but I really thought that Jonny Greenwood's score for "there will be blood" was hit and, mostly, miss. At times it worked in detaching you from the portrayed reality of the film, but on all other occasions it was boring, forgettable, or annoying.

  • Comment number 31.

    Dawn of The Dead, the original has 2 majorly different scores between its European (Argento) version - which uses The Goblins music and American (Romero) version - Which uses a more comic booky sounding score.

    Also Monty Python and the Holy Grail originally had a score written by Neil Innes utilising medieval instruments that, as far as I am aware, to this day has not been heard. They instead, to make it more of a Hollywood parody used big cinematic overblown pieces from the DeWolfe library.

    Lastly for a film that uses a completely inappropriate soundtrack choice:
    Kevin Smith's utterly bizarre and incorrect use of the theme song from Fletch, that actually calls the character by name "Fletch is working over time!!!", as the play out/credits music for Cop Out when he actually had the original composer Harold Faltermeyer working on the film is a bigger cinematic crime than the film itself, which was also surprisingly terrible...
    I love Fletch, for me it was adding insult to injury and just seemed like a spectacularly lazy choice.

  • Comment number 32.

    Oh and Tarantino using tracks form old scores in his new films is lazy, annoying and is basically plagiarism!

  • Comment number 33.

    How can we mention film scores, without talking about the best of all time. Vangelis's Blade Runner Blues.

  • Comment number 34.

    Peter Bogdanovich loudly complained when MCA/Universal removed Bruce Springsteen's songs from "Mask" (1985) in favor of their own recording artist Bob Seger, ostensibly because the Boss wanted too much money. In fact, the company had a legacy of not clearing video rights for their theatrical scores, among them "9/30/55" (later corrected) and "Resurrection." They could be experimental, however, laying a Philip Glass score onto Tod Browning's "Dracula" in an optional DVD track. Francis Coppola yanked his father Carmine's romantic score from "The Outsiders" when he recut and restored it for video choosing his original idea of pop music over Pop music. Irwin Kostal "updated" the symphonic score for Disney's 1982 reissue of "Fantasia." Alfred Hitchcock pulled Benny Herrmann's score for "Torn Curtain" and replaced it with one from John Addison.

  • Comment number 35.

    I love soundtracks - they are also incredibly important. James Newton Howard is incredible and, currently, I am really digging Clint Mansell. Film music can sometimes make or break a film and - it always the added touch to give that emotional punch to a sequence.


  • Comment number 36.

    I thought the blaring Hermann-esque score in the opening few minutes of SHUTTER ISLAND was very distracting and kind of silly.

  • Comment number 37.

    The Drums Of TROY

    I am certainly not a fan of TROY (2004), but there are two or three nice scenes. The most outstanding of the action sequences is (or: was), the duel between Achilles and Hector (Eric Bana and Brat Pitt).

    It was powerful, well edited, and above all, gave me an outerworldly feeling, that ancient greece 1280 B.C. must have been not just bearded europeans wearing sheets but a strange and exotic place.

    The style of fighting with spear and shield had to be made up by the choreographers, it reminds you of asian martial arts, but then it isn't.
    And it was propelled by a score reminding you of japanese kodo-drums, unusual for sword-and-sandal films.

    In 2007 Wolfgang Petersen released a director's cut, in which about everything was re-edited: new scenes, new gore, new nudity, new colours - new music.

    The drums have been replaced with some cheesey full orchestra tootling standard by James Horner.

    The feeling is gone. The scene is dead. Wolfgang killed it.

  • Comment number 38.

    Amber has hit the nail on the head (or the needle on the record).

    The score to Ladyhawke is quite simply one of the worst ever commited to celluloid. An atrocious sonic mess from start to finish. God only knows what Richard Donner was thinking in allowing Powell's misguided efforts to completly sink an otherwise servicable entry into the 80's fantasy genre.

    Amber, you might also be impressed with the musical stylings accompanying that other 80's fantasy 'classic', Hawk The Slayer. Lovely.

  • Comment number 39.

    I thought Trent Reznor's score for The Social Network was very impressive, although I am a big fan of his work anyway. 'The Shining' soundtrack by Wendy Carlos must rank as one of the most highly-sought after, definitely deserves an official release.
    I have an unrelated question for you Dr. Mark - what do you make of all the hysteria surrounding 'A Serbian Film', do you plan on watching/reviewing it, and if so could you make it the subject of one of your future blogs??

  • Comment number 40.

    I cannot imagine The Lord of The Rings trilogy without its soundtrack. Even if there was no video it would still be my favourite movie trilogy of all time.

  • Comment number 41.

    Tangerine Dream is 'synth-o-pop'? Pop???? Mark there's no answer to that :(. IMHO their score fits Scott's deeply flawed film perfectly, although I should add that replacing a single note by Jerry Goldsmith (in any movie) was a very bad idea. TD were brought in at the very last minute (only having 2 or 3 weeks to complete the entire music), in fact any criticism of their version of the soundtrack must be tempered against Ridley's comments about them at the time...I seem to remember he said something like 'Thank god for TD'.

    As several people have mentioned Friedkin (how could they not?) it might be of interest to note that Tangerine Dream themselves fell under the studio's scissors when then they scored the excellent Sorcerer, with anything up to 45 minutes of their music being cut out (the band having provided almost 90 minutes of music famously without seeing a single frame). Sadly the budget cuts also effecte the entire production, even affecting how the film was projected (Billy Friedkin wanted the film projected onto a 100ft screen, with the audience lifted up in the air...IMAX before IMAX???) Sorcerer is also noteworthy (musically) as it features quite a bit from Keith Jarrett (from his Spheres album, part III I think?). Regarding TD being asked to do the music for The Exorcist (re the Near Dark comments earlier) you really need to know that the band were are very different animal in the early 70's and would have probably provided something VERY different to their 1980's scores, much darker and brooding (perhaps nearer to Zeit meets Phaedra).

  • Comment number 42.

    Not so much a soundtrack to a film, but the trailer of Clint Eastwood's 1985 film Pale Rider uses the same score as the Channel 4 news program.
    That aside, great film.

  • Comment number 43.

    Can't believe someone mentioned Hans Zimmer's score for THE LION KING as a bad score.

    It's the best score ever written for an animated movie. Fact.

  • Comment number 44.

    I can't believe that nobody has mentioned the new editions of the Star Wars films.

    CGI cantina pap? Replace the Yub Nub song?

    No sale Mr Lucas.

  • Comment number 45.

    Hi Mark

    Here is an interesting fact, a couple of years ago when Disney were doing English dubs for the Studio Ghibli films they commissioned composer Jo Hisaishi to rework and extend his original soundtrack on Miyazaki's "Tenku No Shiro Rapyuta" ("Laputa: Castle in the Sky"). Basically the intention of this was - as you put it - to make the film more accessible to western audiences. The original score was 40-45 minutes of music, the rework is 90 minutes. Miyazaki approved of the new score but for me, who saw "Laputa" on TV in the 80's for the first time with the original streamline English dub, the new score takes away something from the film, plus the dub was terrible. The DVD has both versions on.

  • Comment number 46.

    Aw... my post got deleted because I used a swear! That'll teach me to use a direct quote from William Friedkin.
    Will Chadwick (#16) mentioned the same thing- The rejected Lalo Schifrin Exorcist score. I think there's no doubt that the score that was used for the film is iconic but, as a fan of Schifrin, I'd love to see what the film would sound like with the original soundtrack. I've heard bits of it and it's chilling stuff!

    I usually don't like films being altered from their original versions (extended cuts, any George Lucas style 're-tweaking' etc.) but I recently watched the 1931 version of Dracula with a new soundtrack performed by Philip Glass and the Kronos Quartet and, in my honest opinion, it greatly improved the film! The original hardly uses any music and comparing the two is a good way of seeing how music can help shape the tone and texture of a film.

    I'd also like to see a version of Torn Curtain with Bernard Hermann's original score.

  • Comment number 47.

    Not strictly relevant but could you help a budding film-maker out by watching this:

  • Comment number 48.

    #39. I've read a few reviews of 'A Serbian Film, mainly from those that saw an uncut version at a horror fest in the USA. (These guys are used to watching hardcore horror movies). The best that is said about it is that it is well made (it doesn't look like a cheap exploitation movie).

    To cut to the chase, crux scenes in it involve children and torture porn & porn torture. One reviewer (he runs the horror movie blog: Bloody Disgusting) described it as 'having his soul raped'.

    This from critic Alison Willmore: "Movies can use transgressive topics and imagery toward great artistic resonance. They can also just use them for pure shock/novelty/boundary-pushing, which is where I'd group Serbian Film. That it comes from a country that's spent decades deep in violent conflict, civil unrest, corruption and ethnic tensions makes it tempting to read more into the film than I think it actually offer - ultimately, it has as much to say about its country of origin as Hostel does about America, which is a little, but nothing on the scale its title suggests."

    The director has tried to defend it, in a vague way as being about 'our molestation by the Serbian government'.

    As a few have noted, when pressed on this, elaboration becomes very, very vague. (What would A Rwandan Film look like? Or A Zimbabwean Film? A Chechnyan Film? An Iraqian Film? A Somalian Film?)

    Are there limits in the censorship/freedom for an adult to decide debate?
    For me yes, and it's where a film depicts (and quite graphically apparently) sexual and violent acts against children.

    I'm happy to discuss this movie and the issues it raises (though none will have seen the original, unless downloaded a pirated version).

    It might be interesting to hear Mark's response; after all there's lots of videos available on the Internet he doesn't review either. Some of those he (and you) probably wouldn't want to watch either.

  • Comment number 49.

    When I went to see "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" at the cinema, during the big farewell scene at the end, some charmingly considerate individual decided to play "Where is the Love" by the Black Eyed Peas through their mobile phone speakers. However, for a good 15-20 seconds I thought that it was part of the original film soundtrack, causing me to think it was the most insane music choice in the history of cinema.

  • Comment number 50.

    Being an avid fan of movie soundtracks, I have often remarked that sometimes really good scores accompany lousy films (most of Jerry Goldsmith's excellent music is set to lame cinematic turkeys like The Cassandra Crossing), while John Barry, of all people, gave us a terrific score for The Black Hole, which is hardly Disney at its best! As to your question, I would say that an incongruous score for me would be Roy Budd's totally oddball music for the otherwise excellent The Omega Man, starring Charlton Heston. Then again, seeing as the film itself is very much off the wall, maybe it's just me! Even so, I still find the music for the film not so much complimenting the action and emotions of the story, but rather sticking out like the proverbial thumb!

  • Comment number 51.

    @ danbrownshyamalan

    "This thread does seem to be making a case against pop/rock musicians making movie soundtracks. Moroder, Toto, Enya and Jarre are prime examples.
    I'm not sure I get the problem with modern day instruments being used to accompany a film set in the past. Surely it's better than the faux folk music twaddle you get from the Braveheart soundtrack."

    On the plus side, though, look at Peter Gabriel's score for The Last Temptation Of Christ, Jonny Greenwood's score for There Will Be Blood or Nick Cave's contributions to Jesse James (and John Hillcoat's films, of course).

    Speaking of great film composers, how can we not mention Michael Nyman and Toru Takemitsu? Both brilliant composers, the scores to Peter Greenaway's films from the former and Kwaidan, Imamura's Black Rain and Hiroshi Teshigahara's work from the latter being some of the finest music ever made for film.

  • Comment number 52.

    I have often found Spike Lee's use of music to be quite off putting, the best example of which I believe to be Malcolm X. Loud, incidental music plays over nearly every single scene. The feel of the music is often at odds with what's happening in the story and the sheer voume of it obscures the dialogue and totally undermines the performances.

  • Comment number 53.

    Similarly to it's prequel, the score to "2010: The Year We Make Contact" (1984) was originally composed by Tony Banks (keyboardist of the progressive pop band Genesis), but Banks' score was ultimately dropped. David Shire was brought on board to do the final score for the film. Tony Banks later used parts of his score for the film "Starship" (1984), and was released on his "Soundtracks" album.


  • Comment number 54.

    Police Academy 6: City Under Siege. As Time Out's review succinctly put it, the highlight of the film is the terrible dubbing of an inappropriate backing track over an a capella rap performance. A rare case of studio interference inproving a movie, however inadvertedly.

  • Comment number 55.

    Several things come to mind: 1. in the original version of The Last House on the Left there's a ridiculously tender folk type song that plays over the rape scene as I recall that completely spoils the mood. 2. The music in the S&M gay club in Friedkin's Crusing is simply ludicrous--if only gay bars played music that bearable. Should have been Donna Summer, which would have been quite perversely amusing. 3. Someone mentioned De Palma's use of bad music in dance scenes, but the tacky music in films like Body Double or in the icky club in Scarface seem just right. However, the implementation of Joe Cocker's "You are so beautiful" when Penelope Anne Miller makes Al Pacino bust into her apartment to get to her and the camera begins swirling around them romantically is so cringe worthy that I couldn't even laugh at it.

    Also, in the eighties movie Teen Witch there's a fantastically hideous musical number, which can be viewed on youtube, called Top That, a suburban hip-hopesque bit that makes one vomit slightly in one's mouth, but in a good way. On There Will be Blood. While I actually preferred the music to the rather empty movie I was thrown by the use of Brahms' violin concerto at the film's end--what did it mean? I also thought Anderson's use of Jesse's Girl in Boogie Nights was perhaps less ironic than it should have been. Oh and check out the rock song that plays over the credits at the end of the original version of Nightmare On Elm Street. It's hilarious. "No it's a nightmare...It's just a dream, dream."

  • Comment number 56.

    The choice of soundtracks can make or break a film. Would Platoon have been as great without White Rabbit, Tracks Of My Tears and of course Adagio For Strings? Star Wars without John Williams? Manhunter with In A Gada Da Vida or Strong As I Am or that brilliant synth? Everything in Bill & Ted?

    And then you have films simply ruined or made jarring by the soundtracks. The last one I saw that did that to me was Clerks 2 which was funny (if purile) but had a 3-4 minute driving scene where they just played 1979 by Smashing Pumpkins. I love that band but inserting the song into the middle of the film was very distracting from the story. Others would be the (very) 80s Top Gun soundtrack, anything with music by Enya or Celine Dion in it and Hardboiled with that bloody jazz soundtrack...

  • Comment number 57.

    Can I add another vote for the truly dreadful "Ladyhawke" 'score.
    WHAT was Richard Donner thinking of?
    I don't think any other film comes close to the awfulness of that.

  • Comment number 58.

    A little bit off question but I found John Williams score for A.I. often at odds to the cold, sterile mood of the film.

  • Comment number 59.

    As a lifelong Peckinpah fan I have always wondered about the score for The Getaway, if I recollect correctly McQueen had the original score by Jerry Fielding discarded and replaced with the Quincy Jones one with its very grating harmonica, that after awhile becomes immensely annoying and makes the film far colder than it should be, after all its a love story.

    Sadly I've never come across a cut with the Fielding score back in.

  • Comment number 60.

    the vangelis score for blade runner is one of my favorite scores ever and had that not been in the film i don't think i would have liked it as much in any of the five versions of the film (the diffinative 2007 cut is the only one i've seen)

  • Comment number 61.

    Anyone seen "Rumblefish" and specifically listened to it's percussive soundtrack composed by Stuart Copeland (of The Police)?

    I couldn't really decide if it was a total mess, or if it was just simply a product of the time it was made in (namely, the early 80s).

  • Comment number 62.

    Romero's original NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD had a score entirely dropped in from the Capitol Hi-Q music library (some cues also used in stuff like Teenagers From Outer Space). When they did a hideously botched "extended cut" for the 25th Anniversary, using newly filmed footage edited in, they also added a new synthesiser score that completely falis to achieve anything, and this score, combined with the hackjob new scenes, make the film quite literally unwatchable.

    The trouble with a lot of modern scores is that the directors and editors put on a "temp track" of existing music in the editing process but become so wedded to it that they basically hire the composer to essentially duplicate that. The reason the opening of Mel Gibson's PAYBACK sounds like a ripoff of David Shire's blaring 12-tone serial jazz-funk from THE TAKING OF PELHAM 123 is that the makers had used PELHAM as the guide music and then told Chris Boardman "write something like THAT."

    That's how pieces from Goldsmith's FREUD score ended up in ALIEN. And, as big a fan of Goldsmith as I am and as regularly unimpressed by Ridley Scott as I am, I have to say the musical choices in ALIEN are good ones. The end title music, needle-dropped in from a Howard Hanson symphony, and the hurriedly written replacement music for the opening credits are to me as much a part of the film as the performances and design and I can't imagine the film working as well with Goldsmith's intended score.

    There are dozens, hundreds of rejected scores. The biggest one in recent years was TROY, where Gabriel Yared's magnificent score was dumped after negative test results and they got James Horner in to write something that was quite simply average. Jerry Goldsmith's beautiful love theme from THE RUSSIA HOUSE was originally written for WALL STREET but it wasn't what Oliver Stone wanted; he electronified it for ALIEN NATION and it was tossed from that as well! Henry Mancini wrote and recorded a full score for Hitchcock's FRENZY and Hitch dumped it with the words "If I'd wanted Bernard Herrmann, I'd have hired Bernard Herrmann!"

    The most famously incongruous score for me, though, is NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN, the rival Bond movie for which they crucially couldn't use The James Bond Theme. They did ask John Barry to score it but he turned it down out of loyalty to the Broccolis (he was scoring OCTOPUSSY around this time). For NEVER SAY, they got Michel Legrand and his approach just doesn't fit. Years later, someone got hold of a copy of the film without its music track - just dialogue and sound effects, and pasted tracks from the official Bond scores onto it. Naughty, but the film kind of works better with Bondesque music on it.

  • Comment number 63.

    Although it has been mentioned by a number of people below it must be said that perhaps the most unusual decision made for a film was opposing the use of the completed score for Hitchcock's Torn Curtain by Bernard Herrmann in favour of a more popular type of music score by John Addison. The studio, which ultimately Hitchcock agreed with, wanted to go for a more popular type of music, what they failed to understand is that part of the success of Hitchcock's movies in that mid 50's to early 60's period was the collaboration with Herrmann.

  • Comment number 64.

    One movie with different soundtracks is the animated version of Street Fighter from the 90s (not the horrible live action Jean Claude mess).

    Whilst the American version has a soundtrack consisting largely of heavy rock elements (including closing soundtrack by Korn) the Japanese original has a far more orchestral and classical score which completely changes the feeling of several scenes (the difference in the Chun-Li/Vega fight is the most pronounced).

    the Japanese version is far superior and I can only assume it was felt Western audiences wouldn't be able to deal with it and so simple and obvious rock needed to replace it.

  • Comment number 65.

    Pino Donaggio's score for Carrie is completely wrong for that movie. I can't understand how anyone would have thought it appropriate.

  • Comment number 66.

    Almost forgot Limp Bizkit's Mission Impossible song. Manages to spoil a simple theme tune long enjoyed by many.

  • Comment number 67.


    Concerning 'Troy', the original score for the film, which is fantastic i might add, was actually recorded by Gabriel Yared. It was ultimately rejected by studio execs due to the fact it simply wasn't 'dynamic' enough e.g. It doesn't sound like Hans Zimmer; who is still the epitome of how a big budget Hollywood blockbuster has to sound.

    The replacement score, composed by James Horner, was composed in two weeks. BUT in the directors cut the fight between Hector and Achilles actually features music by Danny Elfman written for Planet of the Apes.......weird? I'm not sure why they felt the need to do this but they did it anyway. Much to the bemusement of everyone who watched it.

    The Wolfman (2010) was an intresting one. Danny Elfman wrote the original score but when the film was edited the music ran 'wall-to-wall' in the film. When the studio heard the final cut they deemed Elfmans rich creaky gothic horror tone too old fashioned and jettisoned it. They then got in....PAUL HASLINGER!!! YAY!!! Who proceeded to write some sort of strange techno up-tempo futuristic composition that threatened to turn the remake of The Wolfman into something resembling Underworld. The studio, much to their credit, realised their mistake, re-instated Elfmans score....and still the film was rubbish. Changing director didn't help.

    Cursed. Right from the outset.

  • Comment number 68.

    The worst crime that any director or studio can do in my opinion is to hire a composer for 'their sound' and then promptly ask them to copy another composer's style. You might as well ask Motorhead to do country and western (are they available?). Sadly Hollywood composers (bar something like 10 odd top big names) now have to tow the party line to maintain their lifestyles, studios or orchestral bills, and therefore have to produce whatever dull rubbish the director 'thinks' he wants (and let's be honest here, quite a few directors know next to nothing about music). Can we be surprised when a score ends up dull, cliched and not memorable on any level?
    Compare most of the recent 'put part A into hole B' movies scores with the true classics of Hollywood's past.

  • Comment number 69.

    On the plus side, though, look at Peter Gabriel's score for The Last Temptation Of Christ, Jonny Greenwood's score for There Will Be Blood or Nick Cave's contributions to Jesse James (and John Hillcoat's films, of course).

    Speaking of great film composers, how can we not mention Michael Nyman and Toru Takemitsu? Both brilliant composers, the scores to Peter Greenaway's films from the former and Kwaidan, Imamura's Black Rain and Hiroshi Teshigahara's work from the latter being some of the finest music ever made for film."

    Neil Young's outstanding contribution to Deadman is also an exception to the rule. My problem with popstars writing songs for movies is their egos and big hair draw attention away from the film.
    Michael Nyman is a fine composer and contributes greatly to the films he scores for, unlike Philip Glass, who can only make a rehash of the few dreary tunes he has in his head.

  • Comment number 70.

    I'm a huge Metropolis fan, and I've watched the film with a lot of different music. The Dirty Three make a particularly fun soundtrack!

  • Comment number 71.

    Nobody's spoken of the abysmal Xanadu. Granted the film would be bad even with a great soundtrack, but ELO and Olivia Newton John are names that will haunt me for a long time. I went to see this film with my girlfriend only because Michael Beck from The Warriors starred in it. At the time the disapointment made me feel how Phil Daniels in Quadrophenia felt when he sees Ace Face dressed up as a bellboy. Bad, bad film.

  • Comment number 72.

    Agree with the comment about Philip Glass. His soundtrack to Dracula is dull and tedious, and is not befitting this wonderful film. I'm sure the art crowd will disagree, but they're not horror fans, so they're opinions don't count.

  • Comment number 73.

    Jerry Goldsmith spoiled the end of Logans Run with his syrupy chirpy soundtrack.

  • Comment number 74.

    Dear Dr Mark,

    How about the score to 'Educating Rita', I like the film, but the music is amateur night at the synthesizer club doing a shcool production.

    It makes my toes curl every time. Talk about cheap and nasty and that bloody awful song they sing in the pub - did they just stop caring?

  • Comment number 75.

    Danny Elfman composed a complete score for Spider-Man 2 that was rejected and it seems many of the pieces he did make were repeated in the final film. Apparently the negative experience he had of working on the film was the reason why he wasn't involved in the third installment.

    I think that Danny Elfman's score really contributed to the first film and his limited presence in the second helped too and that Elfman is a composer that has really added elements of purpose and structure to films like these that are ultimately spectacle based (other examples being Burton & Schumacher's Batman movies). Perhaps a reason that Spider-Man 1 succeeded more in rounded storytelling was because of the complete Elfman score and a reason Spider-Man 3 utterly failed (amongst other reasons) was Danny Elfman's absence.

  • Comment number 76.

    Whatever happened to Barbara Dickson?

  • Comment number 77.

    @driftin #12
    I'm intrigued by your mention of the alternative Coil soundtrack for Hellraiser.
    However Christopher Young's score is one of my favourites. The main theme is romantic and soaring with a slight melancholy edge, a fine soundtrack indeed.

    I'm probably going to get some cries of Nooooo! for this but however good the tune, I find the Goblin main theme to Suspiria intrusive, repetitive and a little bit annoying. Don't get me wrong, I do like the composition I just think it's a bit overdone in the movie. There I've said it!

    Got to back up whoever mentioned Clint Mansell, his score for Moon is just perfect. Special mention must also go to Maurice Jarre for his soundtrack to Jacob's Ladder and the genius use of Al Jolson's Sonny Boy, it gets me everytime! Jerry Goldsmith's score for Planet of the Apes is another perfect composition, it's weird and jangly and completely expresses the "turned on its head" world that Taylor finds himself in.

    I have far more soundtracks that I love and find it difficult to think of ones that bother me. Occasionally I may see a movie and think that the soundtrack is encroaching on my concentration on the plot, but nothing stands out right now.

  • Comment number 78.

    It is my hope that one day we'll get to see Peter Jackson's King Kong juxtaposed with score by Howard Shore, as initially intended - the old 'creative differences' spanner-in-the-works saw Shore replaced by James Newton Howard, whose music for the film - to me - sounds repetitious and thin; like butter scraped over too much bread, to quote a line from another Jackson production.

  • Comment number 79.

    @ 15 Amber wrote:
    "The single worse score for any film ever is Andrew Powell's score for Ladyhawke."

    Much as I respect your opinions and LOL at your observations, Amber, I reckon I can trump you with the worst soundtrack eva going to Liquid Sky:

    I powered up the DVD prepared for a weirded out cult film before I started rolling on the floor screaming "make it stop, make it stop".

    It's some sort of techno nightmare perpetrated by someone with access to peyote and an amplifier.

    Seriously, I searched for the subtitle option so that I could watch the film with subtitles (the dialogue was supposed to be witty) and no sound. Unfortunately cheap, hard-to-find, cult films don't come with many DVD extras. I couldn't watch the film.

  • Comment number 80.

    What really gets me about modern soundtracks is the heavy use of Taiko drums. Just listen to the new Robin Hood trailer. Why so bloody loud?

  • Comment number 81.

    But the thing about LADYHAWKE is that while the Alan Parsons Project sound was historically anachronistic for a film set in the Middle Ages, it's only slightly mroe historically anachronistic than the standard symphony orchestra sound would have been. If they'd wanted historically accurate music the whole film should have been scored with madrigals, lutes and plainsong. Not as inauthentic as THE CLAN OF THE CAVE BEAR, a caveman movie scored with a Synclavier.

    It's argued, though, that the Alan Parsons sound of LADYHAWKE does root the movie in the 1980s whereas a Williams, Barry or Goldsmith score would have made it feel more timeless as a film.

    The long-out-of-print CD soundtrack to LIQUID SKY is very rare and commands pretty high prices when it does show up on eBay.

  • Comment number 82.

    Oh geez, Alina.

    Okay, so this friend of mine, my very best friend, is a noise enthusiast. I don't know how well known the genre is, but it is, for lack of better description, arrhythmic "music" made from found noises. Entire albums comprised of broken box springs beaten again windows juxtaposed with incoherent screams, chalkboard nails and barking dogs. Really ridiculous experimental nonsense. Sometimes he purchases albums over the internet and they are delivered wrapped in bags of feces with photos of a stranger's genitals thrown in for good measure.
    We actually have a lot of common ground - we both love Sunn O))), Jan Svankmajer and David Lynch and are appreciators of industrial sound design, for example - but when he comes around and announces that he has something amazing he needs to show me, I know to be terrified. Because I know that he has a five-minute track of a Japanese man masturbating into a microphone or a live concert tape of a group of naked fat men throwing spaghetti at each other that he wants to share. One time we watched a thirty-minute art movie together of a person disemboweling themselves with a hara-kiri knife.

    Point is, he LOVES Liquid Sky. I don't dislike it myself. Actually, I think the film itself is pretty excellent, but some of the soundtrack (some would argue all) is really out there. The part where Adrian performs My Heart is A Rhythmbox is one of the cringest things ever, but I kind of love it for being so terrible. My friend thinks that bit is brilliant, of course.

    There was a point to this but I've forgotten it and now I have to leave for work. But I do like Liquid Sky. :)

  • Comment number 83.

    Michael Small wrote a score for The China Syndrome which was ultimately dumped. The unused score was released a few years back in a limited run on cd. Some fans once uploaded clips which included Small's score onto YouTube but now you can't even see those due to rights violations etc. I've never even seen The China Syndrome, so I won't go into any judgments about whether it would have been improved by Small's score, but the guy was one of the best film composers (the Parallax View score is fantastic) and his work is so difficult to get hold of as it is. The continual lack of audibility of Small's work is damn shame.

  • Comment number 84.

    A film with two very distincly different soundtracks (and endings), is Le Grand Bleu by Luc Besson. The French score, by Eric Serra, won a Cesar but was deemed too boring for the US version, which was rescored by Bill Conti. I actually think that the Bill Conti score is not bad, but I do much prefer the original score by Eric Serra, which for me somehow seems to better capture the mood of the film.

  • Comment number 85.

    "Let The Right One In" - Fantastic Film, Fantastic Score

    "Let me In" - Alright Film, Utterly Forgettable Score

    Johan Söderqvist VS Michael Giacchino

    There is no competition, Johan wins. (Oh, and sorry Mark but I think that "Let Me In" is an alright remake, even though there were many many flaws...)

  • Comment number 86.


    interesting fact about Troy, thank you.

    But now I'm confused. Let me try to get this straight:
    The drum beats in the old version (changing to those wonderful female vocals when Hector dies) are from and by Yared - although they would suit Planet Of The Apes.
    But then the director's cut version of the fight features Danny Elfman, although this particular piece doesn't sound like POTA but like some melodramatic standard tune?

    Don't you think that it is Elfman to be heared in the older cinematic version? I'm just asking. Would make sense.
    Greetings, J.

  • Comment number 87.

    The Prince songs placed in Tim Burton's original "Batman".

    Completely jarring and hilariously bad, even for a Batman film.

  • Comment number 88.

    Like several replying... I immediately thought, Bernard Herrmann being replaced by John Addison on 'Torn Curtain'.

    I thought, however, I might point you to Justin Broggan's exellent and rather exhaustive list of replaced filmscores throughout cinema history...

    A really nice reference site.

    On a side note... At the very opening scene in 'Star Wars', where the Blockade runner is captured, doesn't John Williams' work sound awfully similar to cues in 'Ice Cold in Alex'? When I rewatched 'Alex' the other week, I was struck at how similar the two cues seemed.

  • Comment number 89.

    PS... I love 'Alien'... both its score and the film. I regret that Jerry Goldsmith's score was messed about with, but I can see why Scott and Rawlings did what they did, even if I am unsure whether I agree with them or not.

    The only thing I really dislike though, is the removal of Goldsmith's End Credits cue. Howard Hanson's music just feels awkward and unsuited... too sweet following what has gone before in the film. Too sweet and relaxed. To this day, I feel Goldsmith's haunting End Title music much better suited to finish off that film experience. What is on the film feels completely out of place.

    I've thought this about many recent End Titles (usually some pop song rather than anything related to the score) feels completely out of tone with the film that has just gone before. I don't mind songs on the end of films, so long as they are the same tone as what has gone before in a film... for instance, 'The Lord of the Rings' films, or 'An American Werewolf in London', however, time and time again, they haul you roughly out of the film experience, rather than suiting the material.

  • Comment number 90.

    "Ladyhawke," definitely. A medieval film using instruments that require electricity disallows any suspension of disbelief. The pop records used in "Shrek" were equally stupid.

    On the subject of Alex North's "2001" score, Kubrick made one of his best decisions ever when he rejected that extremely contemporary (and conventional) movie score which would have dated the surprisingly timeless film solidly as a product of the mid 60's.

  • Comment number 91.

    Has anyone mentioned Madonna's Bond theme for Die Another Day? OMG that has to be one of the worst things I've ever heard. I actually clamped my hands over my ears when I saw it for the first (and only) time at the cinema.

  • Comment number 92.

    Nobody's mentioned The Third Man yet?

  • Comment number 93.

    Human Traffic is a film that had it's score changed against the will of the director by the money holders, and the subsequent Human Traffic: Remixed is the only one I've seen.

    The huuuuuuge Daft Punk fan that I am, the Tron Legacy soundtrack and film are very exciting. I also have never seen the original Tron, which I may have to *ahem* download if I cant find a VHS or DVD copy somewhere.

  • Comment number 94.

    2 of the great "lost" soundtracks are The Germs' soundtrack to "Cruising" and Belle & Sebastian's for "Storytelling".

  • Comment number 95.

    Sometimes a mismatched score can be one of a film's biggest strengths. The acts of violence in 'Cannibal Holocaust' are bad enough on their own. With Riz Ortolani's lush, romantic score overlaid, they are beyond devastating. The dissonance between what is coming through your ears and what is coming through your eyes adds a complexity that I think plays a big part of why that particular movie has gained the stature that it has. When I was finished watching it for the first time, I didn't feel scared - or disgusted really - but I did come away with a deep melancholy that took about two days to fully dissipate. I largely credit that score for this.

    P.S. You forgot to mention in your reveiw of 'Let Me In' that if people opt to see the remake, they will be missing out on the flawless score that accompanied the original.

  • Comment number 96.

    There's too much Tangerine Dream bashing here. Sure their scores have been rubbish but their studio albums have been brilliant.

    As Alejandro said they're very capable of creating very cinematic and strange music, such as 'Zeit', which in my opinion wouldn't sound out of place in a David Lynch film.

    Don't blame TD, blame the filmmakers for their decisions against their own artwork.

  • Comment number 97.

    @ Amber_, 82

    Your post was excellent and very funny. Was the film you mentioned the brutal 'Begotten'? I love that.

    David Lynch, noise music, industrial music, Svankmajer and uncompromising performance art - sounds like you and I would get on very well.

  • Comment number 98.

    Fans of alternative soundtracks can always look to the foreign language audio on dvds for various examples where the local studio has license localised pop music; the German soundtrack for Mystic Pizza replaces some of the well chosen Italianesque musings with German Eurorock sometimes entirely in German which as you'd imagine doesn't work at all well with the pictures.

    Alternatively, the English soundtrack to Crouching Tiger has the theme song sung in English. Also, the dvd of Notting Hill offers two almost identical audio options, except that Elvis Costello cover of "She" can be replaced with the Charles Aznavour original.

  • Comment number 99.

    Oh and I just remembered that Tartan's VHS release of Pandora's Box, the silent, suggests selections from Tangerine Dream as an alternative to the crackly recording of Eroica they slapped on.

  • Comment number 100.

    What? Jonny Greenwood's There Will Be Blood score was brilliant, but i agree about the Watchmen soundtrack, yeah good songs but they didn't seem to fit at all, it just seemed like something i could do. Phillip Glass is great. Also with Inception, sometimes thought the score was too loud and i couldn't actually hear what the characters said, i can't be the only one?


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