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THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL
Classic Goldsmith dramatic action score returns to CD at last
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
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Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 2008 ITC Entertainment Ltd.; review copyright (c) 2008 James Southall.
Jerry Goldsmith wrote seven scores for director Franklin J. Schaffner and each one has much to recommend it, but the incredible run of five scores in the middle of this relationship, beginning with Planet of the Apes and ending with The Boys from Brazil (I will omit their first collaboration, The Stripper, and their last, Lionheart, since they are good without being great) must surely rank as the most completely satisfying run of collaborations between a composer and director since the medium of film was first introduced. On each one, as Goldsmith himself was fond of noting, he grew as a composer, exploring areas he had never explored before, finding things out about himself and his wayof working that he didn't know before, and stretching himself to write something special. Planet of the Apes is one of the bravest and boldest film scores, allowing Goldsmith to write a serial score for a film, something he was very keen to do; Patton was an intelligent and introspective look at the main character that went so deeply into the film that it almost burrowed out the other side; Papillon saw the composer exploring a romantic side he hadn't particularly done before, while at the same time writing some music of shocking power; Islands in the Stream, my personal favourite, explored humanity and relationships and is, I suspect, the most personal score Goldsmith has ever composed; and then came The Boys from Brazil.
The film is clearly not as important as the previous four Schaffner films Goldsmith worked on - it's a piece of fluffy entertainment, pure and simple, and at that it succeeds admirably. For one thing, it brings together three giants of the acting world in Gregory Peck, Laurence Olivier and James Mason, and it is very difficult to see how any project starring the three of them could fail to entertain. (Bit of trivia - bizarrely, both Peck and Olivier starred as General Douglas Macarthur in movies scored by Goldsmith shortly after this one.) Peck stars here as Josef Mengele, the Nazi scientist who committed atrocities in concentration camps; and Mason is Nazi officer Eduard Seibert. The catch is that this isn't set during WWII at all, but thirty years after, and sees the scientist - who has been living in secret in Brazil - trying to come up with a whole host of clones of Adolf Hitler. Olivier - who is simply great here, hamming it up in a most satisfying way - is Nazi hunter Ezra Lieberman, trying to hunt Mengele down and bring him to justice.
Anyway, onto the score. Thinking of Viennese elegance for Olivier's character and Wagnerian excesses for Peck's, Schaffner gave Goldsmith the idea of writing the music in waltz time and he duly delivered, with a grand, Straussian waltz for the main title, instantly memorable and beautiful, but with a tinge of darkness too. Goldsmith also fashioned a whole host of action music of dark and powerfully large proportions, propelling the film and viewer along, once again often using waltzes - this time with Wagner as hi influence, not Strauss. Much of it is very aggressive, composed in that angular style so familiar from this period of his career - it creates a striking atmosphere which helps the film along, and is beautifully-crafted. The lighter side of the score is best heard in the lovely "Without Hope / Frau Doring", which makes much lighter use of the Viennese style. A powerful secondary theme is used throughout the score (very powerfully too, sometimes - such as in "The Hospital").
When The Boys From Brazil was originally released on LP, Goldsmith carefully arranged the score into three different suites - one of them twenty minutes long - and while it omitted some excellent music, that was a thoughtful and impressive way of presenting the music. That album was put on CD by Robert Townson's Masters Film Music many years ago, but had become near-impossible to find; fortunately, Intrada has now released not only the complete score, but a remastered version of the original LP presentation, which is limited to 5,000 copies - hopefully enough so that anyone who wants one can get one! It's expensive, but we're talking about vintage Goldsmith here, so certainly worth it. Long liner notes from Jon Burlingame and excellent sound quality make for a fine package. A great score, finally available again.