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  • Composed by Jerry Goldsmith
  • Intrada / 2013 / 94m (score 55m)

One of the most notorious movie disasters of all time, Inchon was made at staggering expense and told the tale of the American invasion of the port of Inchon during the Korean war, led by General Douglas MacArthur, played by the great Laurence Olivier, who attracted an extraordinary amount of ridicule for his performance; indeed, the whole enterprise is generally considered execrable.  The movie was bankrolled by Sun Myung Moon, leader of the religious cult, and was many years in production, with Terence Young (who directed some of the decent Bond movies) having a nightmare time on set.  Originally John Williams was set to score the film, but Williams seems to have an eye for potential disasters and he was eventually to be replaced by Jerry Goldsmith.

Only Jerry Goldsmith could possibly score two films about General Douglas MacArthur within a couple of years of each other – he had tackled MacArthur back in 1977.  And only Jerry Goldsmith could write a score as sophisticated and complex as Inchon‘s for a film like Inchon – the ultimate professional.  Apart from MacArthur himself being represented musically by a strident march, the two scores have little in common – Goldsmith’s music for the earlier biopic was largely contemplative and surprisingly low-key.

Jerry Goldsmith

Jerry Goldsmith

There is little low-key about the portentous opening music here, which introduces two of the score’s main themes – the colourful theme for Inchon itself, then the strident Battle Theme.  “The Bridge” is an early piece of aggressive action music, and also introduces another major theme, for the Korean Lim, a haunting, strained melody that is quite exquisite.  The oddly-titled “Medley” gives the first proper airing to MacArthur’s theme, a full-bodied, memorable, thrilling march; and also introduces a lovely, sweet theme for the Korean children.  The final theme arrives in track five, “Love Theme” – it’s very romantic but feels gossamer-thin, as if a mere waft of wind would shatter it.  Five tracks in, six major, memorable themes already introduced – that’s Jerry Goldsmith.

The score is built exceptionally from these building blocks.  “The Tanks” is an exceptional piece of action music, also an ingenious musical construction – stabbing violin figures contrast with Lim’s Theme, then the roles are reversed as the stabbing figures are taken over by horns and the strings take over the melody.  This segues seamlessly into the thrilling Battle Theme, then a brief period of calm preludes the strident, bold, brassy conclusion.  It’s a masterpiece of film scoring, really.  It also highlights the array of exotic percussion used by the composer in his score, prominently featuring wood blocks and boo bams (whatever they may be).  Boo bam!

Highlights are numerous – the Children’s Theme gets a glorious airing in “The Children”; the only appearance of the love theme in the score itself (the arrangement early on the album having been done expressly for that purpose) in “The Apology”; and most of all, the gloriously unrestrained arrangement of MacArthur’s Theme for the end titles.  It’s a remarkably intricate, remarkably deep score which deserves notoriety for all the right reasons, rather than being associated with a film notorious for all the wrong ones.

A 38-minute LP was released in the early 1980s and then Intrada issued an expanded CD in 1988, which thanks to the processing technology they used at the time was one of the worst-sounding CDs I’ve ever heard, with an incredibly pinched sound and many of the score’s delicate intricacies barely audible.  Fortunately in 2006 they rectified the situation, issuing the complete score (with a remastered version of Goldsmith’s original LP programme included on another disc) which allowed it to be appreciated fully for the first time.  That limited edition release sold out almost instantly, leaving many people frustrated that they still couldn’t hear Inchon – now, in 2013, comes a very welcome (and unlimited) reissue of that album, facilitating a more widespread audience for this great score.

Rating: **** 1/2 | |

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  1. Christian K (Reply) on Saturday 22 June, 2013 at 17:24
  2. James Southall (Reply) on Saturday 22 June, 2013 at 18:40

    Boo bam!

  3. Yavar Moradi (Reply) on Saturday 22 June, 2013 at 21:32

    Darnit James, did you ever buy the complete Masada? I’ve been waiting for your review of that masterpiece for years! 🙂

  4. Yavar Moradi (Reply) on Saturday 22 June, 2013 at 21:33

    Inchon is a great and underrated score, by the way…

  5. James Southall (Reply) on Saturday 22 June, 2013 at 21:33

    I didn’t. 🙁

  6. Craig Richard Lysy (Reply) on Sunday 23 June, 2013 at 14:36

    I just love this thematically rich score. Another example of Goldsmith’s score transcending a truly flawed film. Thanks for the review.

  7. Solaris (Reply) on Tuesday 25 June, 2013 at 18:48

    Just a question: Is “Inchon” (the Film) really THAT bad? I haven’t seen it (few people have, I gather) and from what I’ve heard its considered by many to be one of the worst things ever done to Cinema.

  8. ANDRÉ - CAPE TOWN. (Reply) on Thursday 27 June, 2013 at 01:18

    Although the Reverend Sum Myung Moon spent over $48 million making this movie, it earned less than $2 million. INCHON was withdrawn from American cinemas after a mere 6 days of screening due to public disinterest. Critics loathed the “blatant pitch for Moon’s Unification Church” and the religious overview of General MacArthur as he successfully battled to save South Korea from the Communist North. Reviews & public opinion condemned the awful dialogue and the depiction of non religious characters as idiots >and also criticized the no-speaking roles given to the attacking North Koreans. I havn’t seen the movie, Solaris, and there have never been plans for a video or DVD release. The Rev Moon died 3rd September 2012 and he always defended the religious approach that permeated the film. In spite of the film’s bad press, the music by Goldsmith was always lauded. Enjoy this gorgeously nuanced score.

  9. Jason Farcone (Reply) on Wednesday 17 July, 2013 at 04:43