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The original disaster movie score is still the best
While Airport is now remembered with a little affection but not much else by casual moviegoers, film music fans the world over know it as the last film that Alfred Newman, the legendary composer who did more to further the cause of film music and the great composers than any other individual, ever scored.
The film launched a thousand imitators, most amusingly Airplane! ("There's no stopping in the white zone!") with a wonderful tongue-in-cheek score by Elmer Bernstein, and of course all those John Williams-scored movies like The Poseidon Adventure, Earthquake and The Towering Inferno. It's remarkable when listening to Airport to find out just how much John Williams owes his style from those movies to Alfred Newman; but while Williams's scores do little for me, Newman's is a classic.
The bustling main title theme is absolutely perfect at conjuring up images of a busy airport ("The red zone is for unloading only!") and must rank as one of Newman's greatest creations. Following this is the love theme, more in keeping with the scores for which Newman is so famous, but then something of a departure: the beautiful "Inez's Theme", performed by - would you believe? - an electric guitar!
The score represents the end of an era, the end of the Golden Age of film music. Alfred Newman, who has won more Oscars than anyone else, is so sadly ignored by the majority of younger film music fans, whose brief dalliances into classic scores usually go no further than Bernard Herrmann and sometimes Miklós Rózsa; but Newman probably built up a body of work that features more variety and a greater breadth of material than any other composer, even the ones at the top of their game today. Airport's mix of high drama, mushy romance and easy jazz may not be one of Newman's most technically impressive scores, but it's certainly one of his most enjoyable.
The only downside is the utterly diabolical cover, which seems to be of an airstrip (in black and white!) in he middle of nowhere; highly enjoyable liner notes by Kevin Mulhall counter this, however. Snap up this release while you still can!
Rating **** 1/2
Total Time 30:09
Varčse Sarabande VSD-5436
Artwork copyright (c) 1993 Varčse Sarabande Records Inc; review copyright (c) 2000 James Southall