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  • Composed by Danny Elfman
  • Varese Sarabande 302 067 010 / 2010 / 66:11

The musical history of Joe Johnston’s film The Wolfman is chequered, to say the least.  Danny Elfman was originally hired to score it but it kept being pushed back and pushed back; he wrote the bulk of the score, but needed to draft in Edward Shearmur and T.J. Lindgren to compose some parts because the schedule now clashed with Alice in Wonderland.  Then, the studio reacted in traditional fashion when test screenings didn’t go to plan, by dumping the score (against the director’s wishes); and, much to the film music community’s horror, the (to be polite) somewhat undistinguished Paul Haslinger was brought in to write the replacement.  Then, something even stranger happened – the new score was so bad, it was dumped right at the last minute and Johnston’s lobbying to have Elfman’s music reinstated was successful.  Unfortunately, by this time the film had been rather re-edited from the one that Elfman had scored and so for scenes where his music no longer fitted, Conrad Pope was hired to write new music (not based on Elfman’s score).  All rather odd.

Anyway, Varese Sarabande’s soundtrack album presents Elfman’s music the way he originally intended it.  In keeping with the majority of his output over the last few years, it’s very strong music.  It’s one of those glorious, darkly romantic gothic horror scores – and it doesn’t take the keenest ear to note that the main theme (which is heard in virtually all of the 19 tracks) is, to say the least, “inspired” by the temp track, Wojciech Kilar’s Dracula.  It’s not quite note-for-note, but not really that far away.  Elfman is such a distinctive composer that his touches are all over it – and he gets an awful lot of mileage from the theme.  But because the score is so monothematic, it doesn’t really work at 66 minutes long – you could listen to any track here and be impressed and you would enjoy it, but it’s hard work listening to the whole album when everything is so similar.  There’s an incredibly strong 30-minute album in here somewhere and individual moments are so good, I’ve got no hesitation in recommending it; but the number of stars awarded is at least 1.5 lower than if the album had been an awful lot tighter, which is a real shame.  ***

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  1. Ray (Reply) on Monday 8 May, 2023 at 00:40

    Aloha. Loving the reviews. Did you ever review Wojciech Kilar’s Dracula? Can’t seem to find it on your site. Would love to know what you think of it. -Ray