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  • Composed by Jerry Goldsmith
  • La-La Land Records / 2016 / 39m

Richard Franklin’s 1986 film Link is little-remembered today, and was not at all well-received when it was released.  It stars Elisabeth Shue as a zoology student (called Jane – after Dr Goodall – I wonder how she felt about such an honour) who finds herself terrorised by an orangutan named Link – not just any orangutan, he’s researcher Terrence Stamp’s butler and lives with him along with a group of chimpanzees.  He goes crazy after Stamp decides to terminate his employment and his life.  (It is very hard to understand why this film – not a comedy – was not well-received.)  The film was notable at the time for using real animals as “actors” for the most part, with them being trained for their performances, rather than using humans in costumes.

Franklin had previously enticed Jerry Goldsmith to score Psycho 2 (a surprisingly good film with a characteristically excellent score) and the duo reunited here.  I’ve never seen the film (my duties as a Goldsmith fan have led me down many dubious cinematic paths but somehow this one has always escaped me) but it appears chronologically midway between the two Gremlins movies and in many ways the score is stylistically somewhere between them too (though veering more towards the second one).  The National Philharmonic Orchestra of London is credited with the performance but the composer’s keyboards play a very prominent role, particularly the drum machines as heard in various other Goldsmith scores of this vintage.

Jerry Goldsmith

Jerry Goldsmith

While hardly prime material by this composer’s standards, the music is a lot of fun and I’m sure most people would think it’s from a raucous comedy in a blind testing.  As director Franklin explained in the original album release’s liner notes, that’s because Goldsmith used the score to musically express Link’s point of view, treating him as a kind of crazed circus figure.  “Main Link” sets the score off in zany fashion with synth noise intended to evoke primate sounds (again according to Franklin, he and the composer visited a zoo to study the sounds – but the result sounds rather like the cat noises from Gremlins) and the circus-like main theme, which is also very similar to themes from the Joe Dante movies.  As was so often the case, the composer sends it through so many completely different variations – I love the more slow-paced string version in “Bravo Link” (which also has some lovely mock-heroic fanfares).

A romantic theme is introduced in “Welcome Link”, warm and tender, and it’s heard a couple of times later on the album too.  The third major idea is first heard late in “Helpful Link” and this is the kind of vintage Goldsmith orchestral action music most people love so much about the composer, urgent and dynamic and very satisfying.  That theme isn’t heard until nearly the end of that track, but the whole thing is really the first sustained action music on the album, bold and strident orchestral music combining with the drum machines for a very fun sound, occasionally more serious (and like a precursor to parts of Leviathan) – it’s rollicking stuff, further explored in “Swinging Link” and as the score progresses the balance shifts a little more to the more dramatic and it all culminates in the frantic “Flaming Link”, though ultimately it’s that crazed circus sound that emerges.

Somewhat improbably, the 2016 La-La Land album is the third CD release of the score (all with identical content), which was given an initial release by Varèse Sarabande at the time of the film, an album which became a much sought-after rarity until Intrada’s 2011 reissue.  Link is truly a product of its time and nobody would claim it’s a great Jerry Goldsmith score, but he’s judged by different standards from others given his brilliant body of work – and it’s a very satisfying album really (unless you’re repulsed by drum machines), lovely to hear the composer having so much fun.  The theme is insanely catchy and if you’re like me you’ll find yourself humming it for hours after the album finishes.

Rating: *** | |

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