La-La Land’s ongoing series of Jerry Goldsmith soundtracks continues with this radical expansion of the composer’s 1987 sci-fi comedy, and a novel film that reteamed him again with director Joe Dante, after having scored Explorers (1985), Gremlins (1984), and Dante’s segment of Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983).
In 1987, Goldsmith was the composer in film music, partially because he had already established a formidable reputation after scoring some of the more important action (Capricorn One), sci-fi (Alien, Star Trek: The Motion Picture), horror (The Omen), and suspense (The Boys from Brazil, Chinatown) films of the seventies.
Dante was perhaps the main director who managed to mine the composer’s patented genre sounds and make them work within the comedic realm, because films like Twilight Zone, Matinee (1993), Explorers, and The ‘burbs (1989) were wry and respective homage to classic TV shows from the sixties, a love for fifties, gimmicky bug-eyed monster movies, Ray Harryhausen fantasy films (albeit with a Looney Tunes twist), and satires of suburban paranoia.
(It’s worth noting that while Steven Spielberg executive produced Dante’s Gremlins, Innerspace, and Twilight Zone segment, Dante’s view of suburbia is far less benign than the idyllic PG-rated worlds in Spielberg’s in his own E.T. or executive produced works like *batteries not included or the TV series Amazing Stories. One only need listen to Goldsmith's music for Spielberg's "Kick the Can" segment in Twilight Zone and note the darker worldview Goldsmith projected for Dante's "It's a Good Life" segment.)
Innerspace is important within Goldsmith’s canon because it’s also a rare example where his use of synths and period electronica didn’t dominate and date the score (much like Link, or Extreme Prejudice). In tracks like “State of the Art/The Charge,” one is treated to muscular orchestral writing with a robust use of brass and percussion. The trumpet passages are definitely evocative of Goldsmith’s sad First Blood (1982) theme/lament, whereas the swirling motif that dominates the cue’s second half recalls the fantastical energy of Star Trek, as well as vintage fifties and sixties fantasy films wherein composers had to support man’s journey to the moon, inner earth, or get shrunk down to pinhead size, and move around the human body, as happens in Innerspace.
Goldsmith filled his tracks with varying amounts of fine subtleties that are easily overlooked when the major attraction in cues like “Gas Attack” is the propulsive action motif, with bass and brass right up front. The reason his action writing ranks as the best in the field is due to his eye and ear for matching what’s onscreen and making sure the music reflects and supports what’s in motion, and what levels of tension a character is experiencing physically and emotionally. There is no monotony or lazily repeated sections in his writing because he’s aware of how the music relates to what events come before and after a scene.
Subtleties include transitions between brass and thunderous percussion, a synthetic mechanical rhythm that presages the chase material in Total Recall (1990), and the integration of a synth heartbeat (“No Messenger”). There’s also the crystal clarity of each cue’s orchestrations, with beautifully defined harmonies and sudden shifts in moods.
Because Innerspace is primarily a comedy, the score generally moves between moments of danger, and a kind of amusement shared by the characters as well as audiences, but there are a number of previously unreleased (as well as unused) gems that show off Goldsmith’s gift for interwoven rhythmic patterns, and building suspense with just a handful of sounds.
A fine example is “Hold It,” which is noteworthy for the interplay between muted lower brass and a lumbering rhythm reminiscent of Boys from Brazil, as well as short stretches of atonal material not unlike Goldsmith's Freud (albeit synthetic tones on keyboards). There’s also a short combo of low brass, circular rhythm and sharp trumpet accents that recall Michael Kamen’s Die Hard (1988).
In terms of period electronica, synthetic sounds are kept on an even or restricted level with orchestral elements, and the emulations – such as the synth saxophone in “Woman in Red” – don’t come off as gimmicky, which was apparent but largely appropriate for the goofball tone of The ‘burbs. (Goldsmith does use a cheeky twang and Morricone electro-whistle in “The Cowboy,” though, and a loftier variation in “Transformed” and “No Red Lights”)
La-La Land’s album offers over 78 mins. of score, and the mastering is first-rate. The bass is fat, the brass has potent resonance (“Optic Nerve” is particularly juicy), and the subtle electronic gestures are much clearer than in the original Geffen album. That early release was typical and endemic of what film music fans had to settle for: a half n’ half combo of score and songs for a total album length of 45 mins. on average.
The lack of a full score release was somewhat covered by a 1998 bootleg CD from the once-notorious Soundtrack Library, but it is perhaps surprising that it took 22 years for this gem to enjoy a legit commercial release. Part of the delay probably included a combo of re-use fees, rights agreements, and perhaps when Goldsmith was alive, his known pickiness in being more conservative in deciding what cues would appear on an expanded album rather than what the fans of the film and score wanted to hear.
It’s hard to say whether the late composer would be content with complete score albums of his work, but the selected cues on this CD offer up a wonderfully rich journey. The newly released material varies in length, but it’s testimony to Goldsmith’s inimitable style and skills, and the score ought to provoke some of his more picky admirers (myself included) to revisit his eighties work – if not for the vintage sounds, than perhaps for the subtleties which have become the benchmark in action scoring.
© 2010 Mark R. Hasan