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  • Composed by Jerry Goldsmith
  • Film Score Monthly Vol. 13 No. 8 / 2010 / First disc (full score) 76:39 / Second disc (original album) 39:08

Peter Hyams is unlikely to be remembered as one of the great directors (mainly since he isn’t) but he did make two really good science fiction films, Capricorn One (well, it’s kind of science fiction I guess) and Outland, which are probably his best; and curiously, the only two of his movies to have been scored by Jerry Goldsmith.  One positive thing about Hyams is that he certainly worked with some great film composers – in addition to Goldsmith, there was John Barry, David Shire, Bruce Broughton and others.  1981’s Outland is a fairly sophisticated sci-fi chiller, clearly owing a stylistic debt to Alien (despite not actually featuring an alien) and with a plot almost ubiquitously compared with High Noon.  Sean Connery stars as the marshal of a mining colony on one of Jupiter’s moons, whose miners are dying in a series of apparent accidents and suicides.  Would you believe – all is not as it seems.

Jerry Goldsmith excelled at writing music for virtually every genre of film (one might argue the point over comedy but otherwise it’s hard to think of anything) – but one could put a strong argument forward that it was the science fiction and horror genres provided him with his greatest inspiration and found him at his most creative.  In interviews, Goldsmith was always modestly dismissive of such a claim, just saying that he didn’t understand any of this type of film, he just wrote music that felt right; hard to imagine there’s even a shred of truth in that.  Outland is a brilliant piece of scoring, a cold, bleak musical work befitting the film’s environment – just the occasional piece of warmth being allowed to burst through.

Jerry Goldsmith in salmon

No film composer has written (and probably ever will write) quite so many memorable, well-developed main themes for films, but that’s not what Outland is about; there are, of course, motifs that bind the score together, but this is more a score based on atmosphere.  That’s a description which may scare some people off, but it shouldn’t; Goldsmith’s technique is such that the music is always so interesting, there is so much going on, clearly so much thought behind it all – and more than a couple of mouthwateringly exciting pieces of action music.  Interestingly, Goldsmith himself seemed not to be very fond of the finished product, saying he couldn’t find any particularly “human” element of the story to score; but that’s exactly what the film demanded and the music on album is none the worse for it.

The pick of those action cues is the incredible “Hot Water”, the (longer) film version of which is presented for the first time on this album, the previous release having edited it down.  Furious, pulse-pounding brass, winds and percussion make the piece do everything that great Goldsmith action music always do.  He was the master of action music and this is one of the very finest examples in his vast body of work.  There’s plenty of other great action material too; but just the two moments of warmth, a theme heard first in “The Message” and later developed into something fuller for the finale (surely the composer desperately trying to find that essence of humanity he craved from the film).

The score has been released a couple of times on CD, first in that great GNP/Crescendo album of the early 1990s which paired it with Capricorn One and then by itself on a Warner album a few years later.  This new release from Film Score Monthly greatly expands it, presents the original album too (gloriously remastered), adds excellent liner notes by Jeff Bond and Lukas Kendall.  While this particular composer’s output is such that this doesn’t really rank as a classic within it, it’s extremely good all the same, and makes an excellent companion piece to Intrada’s expanded versions of both Capricorn One and Alien.  ****

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