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Classic, lavish thriller score from Donaggio
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
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Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 2008 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc.; review copyright (c) 2009 James Southall.
Body Double was one of Brian de Palma's most overt Alfred Hitchcock homages, his film about a man whose initially voyeuristic interest in a woman he can see through a telescope from his window turning into an obsession. De Palma's twist on the Rear Window story is to set the film's second half in the world of hard-core porn, which surprisingly enough Hitchcock didn't think of. As usual with the director, one has to go in expecting the fantastic and not the realistic, and as usual his cinematic flair is magnificent. It's the ultimate trashy thriller, long before Basic Instinct muscled in on the scene.
The film marked the fifth of six collaborations between De Palma and Italian composer Pino Donaggio. Donaggio's music is an interesting mix of Herrmannesque suspense music and distinctly 1980s romance and pop. It has long been a holy grail of many, and in 2008 Intrada finally released the score in complete form for the first time, the 86th release in its Special Collection. It was limited to 3,000 copies and, at the time of writing, some are still available.
The score opens with "Vampire's Ceremony", a gloriously over-the-top piece of horror music which accompanies the film's opening scene of an actor in a vampire film who becomes overwhelmed by panic due to claustrophobia as he's filming a scene in a coffin. The actor is played by Craig Wasson, who is excellent, and his claustrophobia takes on a key part of the film. "It's a Chance" is the film's opening title music, a lovely romantic piece which bears all the Donaggio hallmarks. The other main theme is introduced in "Telescope", which sounds a little like 1980s porn music, but of course with far more class - there's a real eroticism in the vaguely orgasmic female vocal, and it's a great tune to boot. De Palma tracked it all over the place in the finished film, and so it becomes Body Double's most memorable piece.
But really, the score's highlights are its sometimes massive pieces of action and suspense music, of which there is a fantastic run in the middle of the album. "The Driveway" is edgy - very tense - and resolutely outlandish in a way that happens to a delightful degree in many scores for De Palma films, surely the most film score-friendly director in Hollywood. Then check out the Herrmann-style swirling strings that open "The Rodeo Collection" - nirvana! "The Elevator Claustrophobia" adds pounding brass for an imposing, arresting piece of suspense music. The catchily-titled "Rendezvous / Purse Grab / Tunnel Claustrophobia" runs through the gamut from unabashed romance through pounding action to nailbiting suspense - the synths are very much a product of their time, but that's no problem here - it's eight minutes of bliss.
Dotted through the album are various synth-driven pop pieces, like "Bar Meet" and "Peach Flower" - while they're totally at odds with the predominantly-orchestral suspense music, somehow Donaggio keeps them from being entirely jarring when they arrive. Perhaps a better listening experience could be found by programming them out, but they're an important part of the score in the film so it's hard to argue with them being on this album.
Perhaps the score's highlight is the eight-minute "The Big Drill", which underscores the film's main turning point. Again Donaggio combines suspense and action in the most outlandish way, the incessant synth beat creating real tension before the strings and brass turn up as the piece explodes. Then the score's finale - covering the final four tracks - ratchets things up again with more beautifully lavish scoring. Body Double is a deliberately over-cooked score for a deliberately over-cooked film; this release is very welcome and one of the most Special items in Intrada's Special Collection of late.