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Bandolero!
  • Composed by Jerry Goldsmith
  • La-La Land Records / 2013 / 78m (score 44m)

A dark and somewhat nihilistic western, Bandolero! tells the story of a pair of brothers (played by Jimmy Stewart and Dean Martin) being pursued by a ruthless sheriff (George Kennedy) after one of them was involved in a botched robbery which left a woman (Racquel Welsh) widowed.  The western had changed by 1968 and was about to disappear almost completely, and this change is reflected in many of composer Jerry Goldsmith’s scores in the genre; he only really worked in it at the tail end of its popularity, when the good-guys-riding-into-town, defeating the bad guys formula had been replaced by something far darker and less well-defined.  Bandolero! was a year before The Wild Bunch, and it’s from a more conventional mould than most of the films in the genre after that game-changer, but it’s certainly not The Searchers (in any way!)

Bandolero! – despite all that – is fundamentally a very melodic score, frequently rollicking, moreso than some of Goldsmith’s others in the genre.  After an enjoyable piece of saloon source music (which is actually based around the main theme), it gets going with a great, memorable, whistled version of that theme, a real crowd-pleaser that would surely be on all the “Great western themes” compilations if the film were a little better-known.  “Procession to the Gallows” is another version of the main theme, this time considerably darker, grittier; and later there is some particularly aggressive action music in “Ambushed”, though it does end with a highly-moving theme for low flute, guitar and strings.  “A Bad Day for Hanging” sees a series of variations around the main theme in various small ensembles being punctuated by large statements by the full orchestra – an impressive piece.  “Across the River” is a great standalone gallop, related to the main theme but standing on its own.

Jerry Goldsmith in the 1960s

Jerry Goldsmith in the 1960s

A great love theme of sorts is introduced in “The Bait”, a duet between marimba and guitar, again highly melodic and very satisfying.  “El Jefe” is a Goldsmith action classic, which only lasts for fifty-three seconds: the orchestra’s brass section simply explodes with power.  “Sabinas” is a great piece of suspense scoring, tense and slightly uncomfortable but highly musically-satisfying.  “Dee’s Proposal” is an extended version of the tender love theme, subtle and moving music is extremely evocative of a happier style of storytelling regarding the Old West.  The finale, “A Better Way”, begins with a particularly sombre piece for winds and strings, but despite the fact that both main characters die, it concludes with a pulsating and rousing fully orchestral performance of the main theme.

Bandolero! was one of the earliest of Goldsmith’s western scores to appear on CD and stuck around a very long time without selling many copies (around 1,500 were sold in ten years, apparently).  Then along came the limited edition game and the same label managed to shift 1,500 copies in a few days in 2004.  The extra music added is excellent (there’s some 17 minutes of it) but even more impressive was the remastering, which added colours to the score which had never before been apparent.  Now, La-La Land has pressed another version, this time limited to 2,000, and added one additional bonus track (a version of the main theme without the whistle – not entirely sure why you’d want that but perhaps something eludes me).  The sound quality is even better, Jim Titus’s art direction is tremendous and there are excellent notes by Julie Kirgo to complete the package.  Is it worth the upgrade if you have the Intrada extension already?  Well, that’s arguable.  But if you don’t have the previous release, there’s little to think about – this is one of the great composer’s finest, most straightforwardly entertaining western scores.

Rating: ****

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  1. Chris Avis (Reply) on Monday 20 May, 2013 at 03:45

    Great score and totally agree with the review James. I love the improved art direction on this release but didn’t find the sonic improvement that noteworthy this time around. Now the Challenge on the other hand benefits tremendously from the new edition.

    Chris

  2. ANDRÉ - CAPE TOWN. (Reply) on Monday 20 May, 2013 at 13:36

    James – that melody Goldsmith utiles throughout the score, plus the percussive accompaniment & orchestration makes BANDOLERO one of my most listened to scores. I have INTRADA’s 1993 release [transferred digitally for the first time from the original stereo sessions]…. comprising 10 tracks and totalling 27’50”. Your justifiably enthusiastic review refers to a tantalising additional 17′ of music > but you never critiqued these new additions, prefering to focus on the previously released titles. Do the new cues not impact as enjoyably as the 1993 musical assembly??

  3. Spielboy (Reply) on Monday 20 May, 2013 at 21:01

    SPOILERS!!!

  4. Spielboy (Reply) on Wednesday 22 May, 2013 at 12:24

    “A Better Way”, begins with a particularly sombre piece for winds and strings, but despite the fact that *********************+

    !!!!!

  5. James Southall (Reply) on Wednesday 22 May, 2013 at 18:38

    Ah yes… spoilers!

  6. mastadge (Reply) on Wednesday 22 May, 2013 at 18:48

    I think 45 years is long enough that we don’t have to worry about spoilers.