Back in the 1990s, a British film music fan gifted me with a cassette tape that I still have: several of the DeWolfe library music cues that the guys in Monty Python chopped up and used for both underscore and comedic effect in their classic film Monty Python and the Holy Grail. (Not -- repeat NOT -- titled Monty Python and the Quest for the Holy Grail, which so many people seem to think it is, and I wonder if that's because of the 1996 video game called that or not, because it seems people were calling it by the wrong title even before that, but I digress...) Like the Wilhelm Scream, DeWolfe library music gets used all over the place. There needs to be many moods of music to fit the many moods of a film. How to get those moods? Base them on music that's even earlier!
See, the fan told me that "Homeward Bound," the Jack Trombey music used for several moments of King Arthur traveling heroically through England, was written to "sound as much like [Ron Goodwin's score to] Where Eagles Dare without being sued." "Homeward Bound" sounds like this:
And the "Main Title" to Where Eagles Dare (1968) sounds like this. (I can't embed it, so click through and ignore the comments, as you should do on most of the Internet.)
So is that how close you can get to already existing music and not get in trouble for it? I might as well just ask that rhetorically, because honestly, I'm more amused than anything. Maybe bemused, at most. Because music for Clint Eastwood fighting World War II "inspired" music for generic derring-do, music then used in ways never intended: for guys running around mideval England banging together coconuts and cutting off peoples' limbs in what's still one of the funniest films I've ever seen. It shouldn't work, but it works. It shouldn't affect me and get me caught up, but it does -- it makes me want to pull out my DVD of Holy Grail and watch it again. And marvel at how good the film sounds, because even the generic music adds grandeur, and how good the film looks; it's genuinely lovely, and is more epic than it almost has to be. (I love the climactic boat journey to the final castle, set to gigantic music -- "The Promised Land" by Stanley Black from, of course, DeWolfe -- and done live and in-camera instead of the originally intended animation (which is how the script describes the sequence). Had the scene been animated, my hunch is that it would've been more joke-y, like the animated Dreaded Black Beast of Arrrrrrrrrrrgh earlier in the film; but as they did it, it's, in fact, epic and affecting. Bravo. Sometimes it actually is best for comedy to be serious. Makes it funnier when the final scene happens and just completely takes the piss out of everything.
This has been "I know loads about film music and Monty Python Corner." You're welcome.