Back in late 1995, when I was a reader and budding contributor to Film Score Monthly magazine (now an on-line publication), editor Lukas Kendall asked us to contribute our personal lists of “Desert Island Movies” – the specific criteria being great movies with great scores that we could watch over and over. Here is my list, with the comments I added:
The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947), Bernard Herrmann – This films makes even David Letterman tear up. The Third Man (1949), Anton Karas – Orson Welles, Joseph Cotton, post-war Vienna, Graham Greene’s words, Carol Reed’s over-the-top shadows and camera angles…and one man and a zither. The Night of the Hunter (1955), Walter Schumann – Wrenching, beautiful. [2007 note: I’ve long been fond of another thing I said about this film: “The Night of the Hunter made me want to throw up. I mean that in the best possible way.”] Spartacus (1960), Alex North – Spartacus! Spartacus kicks ass! [2007 note: Those four words imitate the opening eight notes of North’s main title music. That comment got cut from FSM for space, and perhaps for not enough people being likely to get what I was singing to. It’s a great, if spectacularly in-your-face score; I remember when I read a local review of Spartacus when it had a revival showing, and the reviewer said the music was one of the worst scores ever; I really wanted to tell that reviewer, “OK, you just showed me that you don’t know what you’re talking about. I don’t have to pay attention to you ever again.” Yes, I’m a little protective of that flick and its music (I say more about why in my review of Gladiator); it’s why I’m an Alex North fan.] Chinatown (1974), Jerry Goldsmith – Goldsmith’s first noir-ish, kinky, California-based detective story to be directed by a stylish foreign director…which blows the second (Basic Instinct) out of the water. Taxi Driver (1976), Bernard Herrmann. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), John Williams. The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1989), Michael Kamen. Edward Scissorhands (1990), Danny Elfman – It’s rare that a movie gets me to cry. This does. The Silence of the Lambs (1991), Howard Shore – Beautiful, mournful, unnerving…reminds me of The Night of the Hunter.