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Squanto: A Warrior’s Tale
  • Composed by Joel McNeely
  • Intrada / 2011 / 64:55

A 1994 live-action film from Disney, Squanto: A Warrior’s Late (later retitled The Last Great Warrior) is about the early encounters between English settlers and the Native Americans.  The latter take the form of Squanto, who is (lest we forget) the last great warrior, played by Adam Beach; the nasty English come in the form of the great Michael Gambon.  The film does seem to have one important lesson to teach the world – that the English are responsible for every bad thing that has ever happened.  For this, I can only apologise.  (No, actually, I’ll get one of my slaves to apologise for me.)  

Regardless of the film’s merits, it was made in 1994 and during that distant, mythical age, films like this generally had broad, expansive scores with memorable themes.  Squanto is no exception.  Joel McNeely’s career as a film composer was still in its relative infancy at the time – but he had already established, particularly through his music for The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles on television, that he was capable of writing the kind of orchestral adventure music which was responsible for a large number of people becoming fans of film music in the post-Star Wars era.  He had also made it clear that he was rather partial to the music of John Williams, sometimes amusingly skipping around it in his own scores (Iron Will, composed shortly before this, is a great example of that; but also a great album in its own right, probably this composer’s finest).

Joel McNeely

The score opens with its fabulous main theme.  Wide open and expansive – not to mention rather uplifting – it’s a delight.  McNeely uses it on several occasions through his score and there are several other themes which are also widely used, the finest of which is a very charming love theme.  There’s a load of action music, too – some of it really first-rate, sounding like it may have been composed by John Williams.  In fact, it almost was – there are a couple of sequences which come perilously close to that composer’s Hook, another one from Far and Away and Indiana Jones rarely seems that far away.  But, frankly, do I look bothered?  If you’re going to take inspiration, take it from the best.

It was less than 20 years ago that McNeely wrote Squanto, but it feels like it comes from a completely different age.  It’s just impossible to imagine film music like this being written today – maybe one day it will come back into fashion, maybe not, but fortunately those who like this style are able to enjoy all the fabulous scores written in it during the 1980s and 90s.  Intrada’s release of Squanto marks the first time it’s been available to buy; and it’s a great release, just over an hour of orchestral derring-do filled with adventure, romance, action and excitement.  ****

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  1. Hasta (Reply) on Monday 22 August, 2011 at 21:52

    Did you hear about the conspiracy over at Filmtracks? Someone donated $40 to get me BANNED. I always suspected the legion of freemasons in controlling things but never thought I’d done anything wrong.

    And that pic of Joel McNeely is eerie; it somehow looks how I imagine my brother will look like at that (fine) age of (55?). He’s 25 now. Maybe a bit too much Paul Schafer in it, though…

    Also, I think I used to make fun of this film when I was like 12 years old, after seeing the tv spots for it. It being named “Squanto” and, well, look at it.

    Lastly, I’m quite interested in this blame-the-english game. Despite knowing nothing about the subject, it peaks my interest to hear vague horror stories about how the english, helped by Satan, managed to rape the scottish (irish?) at every opportune moment in the past ten centuries.