- Composed by Jerry Goldsmith
- Varèse Sarabande / 2014 / 39m
A quirky little film from John Huston, The List of Adrian Messenger is a mystery film starring George C. Scott with a bizarre gimmick, having a few big names in fairly ridiculous “disguise”, with the audience supposed to figure out who they are before the big reveal at the end of the film. Kirk Douglas appears in numerous different disguises and Robert Mitchum has a decent role; Burt Lancaster and Frank Sinatra are part of the reveal at the end but didn’t actually appear themselves during the film itself. It’s an oddity of a film, but an enjoyable one which certainly makes for entertaining viewing.
It was an important film in the early career of the great Jerry Goldsmith. He had recent scored Lonely are the Brave – generally considered his big break – and snagged his first Oscar nomination (for Freud, also directed by Huston). The List of Adrian Messenger was the first real “event movie” he scored and he acquitted himself very well, providing in my opinion his finest score to that point. Frustratingly, for over half a century the music remained unreleased and was only available on an awful-sounding bootleg; finally in 2014 the Varèse Sarabande CD Club filled the most notable gap remaining in the Goldsmith discography with the first-ever release of the score.
The composer gets a great deal of mileage from his fantastic main theme, which unusually is a tango. It gets a wonderful treatment in the opening titles piece, smoky and mysterious, perfectly befitting the film. In the earlier portions of the score the composer sends the theme through a set of variations focusing on the lower registers of the strings and winds, most notably in “Cat and Louse” where it has been transformed into a dark suspense theme (throughout his career, Goldsmith would play around with main themes in such ways, melodically linking different aspects of films in brilliant ways). A little different is the brief “Lost Love” which offers a beautifully lilting Celtic-flavoured romantic melody, absolutely lovely.
After the murky, suspense-laden “The Gypsy” comes the absolute highlight of the film and of the composer’s early career, “Beagles and Fox”, a spectacular fox hunting cue beginning with (of course) the clarion call of horns and then trumpets before building into the most delightful gallop, hugely memorable and exciting and guaranteed to be finding its way onto numerous people’s self-made Goldsmith compilations now it’s finally been released on album. Even if the rest of the score weren’t up to much (which fortunately it is) the disc would be worth buying for this one piece, three minutes of Jerry Goldsmith at his absolute best.
There’s still time for plenty more fine music. “Baiting the Trap” is a wonderful action cue, the main theme getting one of its brassiest workouts, and it’s part of a sequence of action cues which close the disc, leading into “It’s a Drag”, one of the most exciting pieces of all (even in 1963, nobody did action music quite like Jerry Goldsmith); the jolly “End Cast” makes a delightful conclusion. The List of Adrian Messenger is a very good score, as mentioned my own favourite of Goldsmith’s early works and I’m delighted to see it on CD at last. The sound quality is good (better than I expected) and while this release will probably not be the last ever of a previously-unreleased Jerry Goldsmith score, we are surely getting near that point and I doubt whatever is to come will quite match it.