Latest reviews of new albums:
The Stepford Wives
  • Composed by David Arnold
  • La-La Land Records / 2014 / 60m

Ira Levin’s novel The Stepford Wives was first filmed in 1975 by Bryan Forbes – a dark thriller about the lengths the men of the town of Stepford will go to in order to keep their wives in line, with a chilling score by Michael Small; it wasn’t a huge success at first but went on to become something of a cult favourite and had its own kind of cultural impact.  Fast forward three decades and somebody decided it would be a good idea to remake it as a quirky comedy with a $100m budget.  Noted at the time for its production rows, recutting and ultimately reshooting, the film wasn’t quite a disaster; but neither did it set the world alight.  Even David Arnold had to effectively write two scores for it, we learn from this album’s excellent liner notes (by Tim Greiving), after producer Scott Rudin thought his initial approach wasn’t quite working on the eve of the score’s recording, which was pushed back a little to allow the composer just a week and a half to rewrite it.

In fact the score Arnold eventually wrote was really quite a clever one, perfectly judging the film’s tone.  It is centred around a waltz theme which plays a kind of classical façade off against a black comedy undertone clearly inspired (particularly with its female la-la choir) by Danny Elfman.  This contrast within the same piece between the prim and proper exterior and the cheeky interior is just exactly right, and the melody dominates the whole score, its finest hour coming in the florid, formal “Midsummer Waltz”.  Elsewhere the highlights include the genuine heartfelt emotion of “Heart to Heart”, some much darker sinister material (“Where Are My Children?”) – though admittedly those parts clearly aren’t so nice to listen to! – and you can hear a glimpse of Arnold’s original concept for the score in “Claire’s Speech”, his original main theme which is sweeter, doesn’t have the edge that the replacement has (and to be honest is absolutely lovely).  This is a very entertaining album featuring a score never released before; it’s completely different from the composer’s other works, but a welcome addition to the collection for any of his (or indeed Danny Elfman’s) fans, I’m sure.

Rating: *** 1/2

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