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Black Sunday
  • Composed by John Williams
  • Film Score Monthly Vol. 12 No. 19 / 2010 / 64:12

Thomas Harris’s 1975 novel about a terrorist attack on the Superbowl Black Sunday was prime territory to be filmed; and Paramount did so a couple of years later, hiring no less than Ernest Lehman to write the screenplay and John Frankenheimer to direct.  Frankenheimer worked with so many great film composers; and for this movie, released in the same year as Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, he worked with the great John Williams.  To tell the truth, the first half-hour or so of the score is particularly subdued.  It’s full of growling menace, leaving the listener in no doubt that unpleasant things are going to happen; and it’s very effective in the film.  On album, it can lead to a feeling of the point being rather laboured – and I suspect that if there had been an album release in 1977, that half-hour would have been cut back by 20 minutes by Williams.

Then – starting with a great cue, “Preparations” – the score explodes (excuse me) into life.  It remains dark – given the subject matter, it could hardly do anything else – but there is real energy in the music.  “The Blimp and the Bomb” is one classic piece of Williams action music, brassy and aggressive and very exciting; the later “Air Chase, Parts 2 & 3 / The Blimp Hits” (a word on the track title in a moment) another, the score’s primary themes being dressed up in furious arrangements.  There are two main themes, both good – and the composer does a fine job of developing them thoroughly through the course of the score.  With a little pruning of the first half of the score, this could be a great album – it’s still a good one, presenting one of the last important previously-unreleased Williams scores in good sound and with good liner notes.  (But, that word on the track titles – is there really nobody who could come up with a more imaginative title than “Air Chase, Parts 2 & 3 / The Blimp Hits”?  Couldn’t it just be “The Blimp Hits”?  I know it doesn’t really matter, but still…)  *** 1/2

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  1. Simes (Reply) on Wednesday 11 August, 2010 at 21:52

    This score never did that much for me, but the movie was a good one. As you say, the album needn’t have been quite as long as it was.

    Incidentally the novel was written by Thomas Harris, not Robert.

  2. James Southall (Reply) on Wednesday 11 August, 2010 at 23:39

    Thanks for pointing out my error! I like both authors – but they’re not ones who should be confused with one another!