- Composed by Maurice Jarre
- Intrada / 2015 / 76m (score 51m)
During the 1990s, a number of great film composers – contemporaries of each other, having grown to dominate film music in the 1950s, 60s and beyond – found themselves suddenly seeing things start to go wrong. John Barry, Elmer Bernstein, Jerry Goldsmith, Maurice Jarre – it happened a few times to each – they would write and record a film score only to see it dumped and replaced by another at the last minute. Usually they’d be replaced by someone considerably less capable of scoring films (Goldsmith had the ignominy of being replaced by Brad Fiedel on one occasion!) but sometimes another great would step in, as happened with The River Wild, with Jarre seeing his score chucked out and Goldsmith brought in. (Jarre’s comments reported in this album’s liner notes, that at no time did any of the filmmakers express to him any problems with the music, and if they had then he’d have been delighted to try to fix them, seem terribly sad.)
Jarre’s score can now be heard for the first time thanks to this release from Intrada, which couples it with Goldsmith’s (reviewed separately). It’s interesting to note how different the veteran composers’ takes on the same film were (something which, oddly, isn’t always the case in these situations) – whereas Goldsmith concentrated firmly on the family at the centre of the story and the terrors they went through, Jarre focused much more on creating a kind of white water adventure of his own through his music, focusing initially on the majesty of the surroundings before things get considerably more choppy.
The first few cues centre around the memorable main theme, grand and opulent and prototypical Jarre. It’s so massive, so thunderous, it’s really rather magnificent. In the score’s first action cue, “Wade Overboard”, Jarre gradually builds from that theme a dense, dissonant piece of almost biblical proportions, clanging piano and percussion, huge brass – it’s a cacophonous, brilliant musical representation of being pulled under the water, the chaos that surrounds it. But the action here is multifaceted – shortly afterwards, in “The Stakes Just Got Higher”, there’s a building terror which is so effective, the piece passing through different parts of the orchestra, always accompanied by choppy strings.
In “The Cliff”, a stabbed piano figure suggests panic, swirling strings a growing sense of being enveloped. There are times particularly in the score’s middle section when it is really quite uncomfortable – so effective is Jarre’s creation of this raging torrent of terror, it’s tempting to go and hide behind the sofa. The musical drama is first rate. In “Hold On”, the tension becomes virtually unbearable, with the insistent snare drum and strained horns.
As in Goldsmith’s score, it all builds up to a large-scale action finale, here the nine-minute “The Gauntlet”. Jarre’s piece covers a lot of ground – numerous action ideas come and go as the composer skilfully builds and – gloriously – releases the tension. It’s done so intricately and benefits greatly from Shawn Murphy’s detailed recording. Also in common with Goldsmith, the end title piece features the folk song “The Water Is Wide” in the middle (the same recording of it, in fact) and – again in common – I wish it didn’t. After that, the album’s bonus section features numerous alternative versions of cues and very short ones which wouldn’t have worked within the main programme of music.
Having never seen the film with this score it is of course impossible to know for sure how it would have worked. Saying that – it’s hard to come to any conclusion other than the filmmakers having been completely insane to dump this music. Yes, it’s different from how most action thrillers sounded at the time – well, vive la différence. It’s a great piece of music in any case, 50 or so minutes of clever music which warrants considerable repeated listening and I have to say that it’s this disc of The River Wild likely to receive rather more play time from me than the other one. The main theme is a stunner and the action music just brilliant. I’m very pleased Intrada was able to put this one out.
See also: The River Wild Jerry Goldsmith