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Something Wicked This Way Comes
  • Composed by Georges Delerue
  • Intrada / 2015 / 74m

Ray Bradbury had tried for decades to get his story Something Wicked This Way Comes onto the big screen.  It started life as a short story, he turned it into a treatment intended for his friend Gene Kelly to direct, when that didn’t happen it became a novel and finally in the early 1980s Disney – wanting some “darker fantasy” movies to compete with what was in vogue at the time – came calling.  Jack Clayton was hired to direct at Bradbury’s behest, Jonathan Pryce made his Hollywood debut in the lead role of Mr Dark, leader of a traveling carnival which visits a small town in America in the 1900s, support came in the form of Jason Robards and Pam Grier.

Georges Delerue had just moved over to California at the time to fashion a career in Hollywood and was actually renting a house from Clayton (for whom he had scored Our Mother’s House in 1967) and he was very excited to score the film, particularly in light of Clayton’s desire to make it more a morality tale, one focused on character and gentle, psychological scares.  Unfortunately Disney didn’t like that vision at all, wanting something a lot more overtly scary, and after it was completed they took the film away from Clayton, cut it up, inserted many new effects, shot new scenes – changes which meant there was no option but to record a new score and they decided Delerue wasn’t the man to do it.

Georges Delerue

Georges Delerue

The composer was particularly fond of his score – one of the grandest he had written to that point – and a few years later he recorded a wonderful twelve-minute suite for the third volume of his magnificent London Sessions collection, which offered an enticing glimpse into the scale of the music.  In 2011, out of the blue Universal France released a little over half an hour of the score, paired with the same composer’s rejected music from Regarding Henry, which was built from the composer’s personal copy of it; Intrada’s definitive release comes from the original masters located at Disney.

Delerue’s main title opens with brilliant, gently menacing trombone chords which enter a dialogue with a tentative melody for winds and choir, the back-and-forth nature beautifully capturing some of the complexity of Mr Dark.  “Halloway’s Coffin” takes the second part of that opening and turns it very dark, almost macabre, the first example (of many) in the score of the composer using his themes in multifaceted ways.  A theme of tragedy, played by the strings, enters in the brief “Halloway’s Bedroom” – vintage Delerue.

“Nite Time Carnival” sees that back-and-forth of the main title repeated but this time between bassoons and a more ethereal choir – before the choir takes the lad alone.  It’s very sad music, really haunted; and Delerue brilliantly follows it with the slightly demented (and dare I say inevitable) “Calliope” with the cue’s subtitle noting that it’s Mr Dark’s Theme.  In “Crosetti” there’s another variant before the outstanding “Mirrors” whose first half features some ghostly, glassy textures before another of the score’s themes is introduced, one of those beuatifully free-flowing flute melodies for which the composer was so lauded, but there’s a twist here since it’s accompanied by tribal percussion and gradually grows in pace, strings interjecting before its dizzying conclusion.

Immediately after that, another flute theme is introduced in “Respect It” – this one full of childhood innocence and exuberance, but it’s not long before those ominous chords signal Mr Dark’s reappearance.  In “Come On”, the composer presents another tragic adagio, strings straining again, leading into a passage of dark and mysterious choral music with subtle notes of terror.  From then on there is a sequence of generally shorter cues in which Delerue builds on the materials established thus far – Mr Dark’s Theme is never far away but there is much going on – a psychological portrait being painted.  (There’s even a music box piece – all good scores like this need a music box piece – but don’t get me started on the title they’ve given it, “Music Box (Ending 3) And Cooger” – I’ll have a little rant about the way tracks are titled on this type of album some day.  Actually I won’t, because everyone will think I’m an idiot.)

The most notable cues during this sequence are “You’ll Live Forever”, full of such feeling, such sadness; and “Funeral March” (or to give it its full title per the album, “Funeral March – Version 2 (Mr Dark Theme)”) which is another very different, very good arrangement.  The unsettling choral sound returns in “The First Witch” and then Delerue really lets fly in a brilliant trio of cues to close the score.  “Hall of Mirrors” is dark, suspenseful, just occasionally explosive – particularly near its end when the brass section gives a real pounding, a sign of what’s to come in “Dark Dies”, with magnificent full-bodied action music belting out like nobody’s business, before one last surprise as the delightful, warm flute theme for the children enters before one last, sad, restrained version of the Mr Dark Theme.  The children’s theme is then heard on harmonica as well as flute to introduce the beautiful, warm end credits piece which is just the perfect way to end the score, the composer’s spirit shining through in four sublimely warm minutes of music.

Something Wicked This Way Comes is a rich, vibrant, deep score full of strong ideas and real thematic development.  It’s no surprise that Delerue was so upset when it was rejected, but he was scoring a film with a vision for it in keeping with its director’s and the studio had a very different vision for it (the composer would go on to work with Clayton again on the director’s next film).  Those familiar with the London Sessions suite might expect something a little more action-orientated since a good chunk of that is taken up by the only real big action set-piece (“Dark Dies”), but it’s a more subtle and mature work than that and a really very satisfying one.  Intrada’s album presents the full 50-minute score then various source cues and alternative versions in the bonus section, features illuminating notes by Tim Greiving and stellar sound.  A great release of some great music.

Rating: **** 1/2

Also see: Something Wicked This Way Comes James Horner | |

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  1. ANDRÉ, Cape Town. (Reply) on Friday 8 April, 2016 at 18:49

    It was in 2008 that Universal Music France released ‘Le Cinéma de GEORGES DELERUE – a 6xCD Box Set of glorious music, many titles being released for the first time. Among them was a 10’ suite, skillfully and seamlessly edited, from the original film tracks of ‘Something Wicked This Way Comes’ and completely different, obviously, to the suite on ‘The London Sessions’, and predating, by 3 years, the Universal release that combined ‘Regarding Henry’ with ‘S.W.T.W.C’. There are still so many beautiful unreleased DELERUE scores, James, and the Box Set serves as a teaser for future releases. Grateful thanks to DELERUE’S widow Colette and Claire DELERUE Stancu for promoting the maestro’s legacy of Les Plus Belles Musiques de Film…and, to you James, for bringing his music to the attention of a generation who have never been seduced by his scores for INTERLUDE, ANNE OF THE THOUSAND DAYS, KING OF HEARTS, VIVA MARIA, JULES ET JIM, DAY OF THE DOLPHIN, TENDRE POULET, AGNES OF GOD et al.

  2. James Southall (Reply) on Friday 8 April, 2016 at 20:46

    “Seduced” is a fine word when it comes to the music of Delerue. The joy of discovering his beautiful music and being cast under its spell is one of the greatest in film music appreciation.

  3. MPC (Reply) on Wednesday 4 May, 2016 at 12:23

    It’s fascinating to listen to Delerue’s original score and compare it to James Horner’s replacement. Horner’s score is much blunter in terms of musical emotion, like his motif for Mr. Dark but it does lack the sense of grandeur Delerue imbues. I really like how Horner focused on the contrast between the boys’ innocence and Mr. Dark’s more outwardly evil plans, but I also like the more psychological approach Delerue takes. But there are some things that Horner and Delerue did equally well, like their motifs for the children and Halloway. Their “End Titles” cues are equally wonderful.

    It’s a shame Horner produced his album release of “Something Wicked”, rather than let Intrada do the C&C approach like they did with Delerue’s unused score. Maybe Intrada will do a 2-CD release and package an extended version of Horner’s score with Delerue’s, to let people savor and compare both. They’re both really good.