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Entertaining comedy score gets the deluxe treatment
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
* * * 1/2
Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 2007 Universal City Studios; review copyright (c) 2007 James Southall
A typically enjoyable and typically daft comedy from director Joe Dante, The Burbs is about a mysterious family which moves into a gossip-laden suburban street and is suspected of all kinds of unmentionable mischief by the nosy neighbours. With an excellent cast - Tom Hanks, Bruce Dern, Carrie Fisher - it's entertaining fluff and has held out pretty well over the years. Dante was a director who generally worked with the same team time after time - yes, there are cameos here from Dick Miller and Robert Picardo - and after first working with composer Jerry Goldsmith on Twilight Zone: The Movie, he established a relationship which would actually become the most long-standing in the composer's later career.
While he is known for writing world class scores in virtually every other genre, Goldsmith's comedy music has never really attracted too much attention. It's not a genre he spent much time working in, but he was a wryly witty man and so on the right project he could certainly use that wit to come up with delightful music - and The Burbs was the right project. "The Window / Home Delivery" introduces the prototypical Goldsmith / Dante theme, with pizzicato strings and piano playing a memorable, tuneful theme which acts as a kind of portrait of surburban bliss before the melody is taken up by synthesised whistle and barking dog (really) - and Goldsmith's cue title ("Home Delivery") is absolutely priceless, since it underscores a scene of a dog leaving a rather unwelcome deposit on a neighbour's front lawn.
There are numerous excellent themes here - Dern's character, a military veteran, gets an amusing variation of the Patton march, complete with trumpet triplets; there's a driving, wonderful new march for the nosy neighbours as a whole; a creepy suspense theme for all the surreptitious spying and false assumptions; an over-the-top gothic horror theme complete with organ for the Klopeks; and plenty of other one-off gems. "The Sentinel" is a beautifully classy cue, unbelievably so for a score like this, with an affecting, lovely melody played by the strings and sounding like it could come from the score from a serious drama. "Devil's Worship" and "The Dream" are both terrific bits of horror scoring, with dynamic orchestra and wordless female soprano. It's all wrapped up with a brilliant end title piece, "Square One", which gives the score such closure and makes me lament once again the fact that few scores these days receive composed end title pieces.
No soundtrack album was released at the time of the film - Goldsmith fans had to wait for three years, when it was one of the releases in the original incarnation of the Varese Sarabande CD Club, limited to 2,500 copies. Those copies took seven or eight years to sell out - and after that much time again, with the CD Club reformed, comes this new expanded version, offering the whole score (the previous release featured half of it). This time there were 3,000 copies - and they sold out within a week or two! Just goes to show how much has changed in the soundtrack world in that time. It's not exactly a classic, but it's one of Goldsmith's best comedy scores and the extra music, while consisting mostly of extensions of stuff which was on the old album, does give it a bit more depth and makes for a more well-rounded album. A witty delight.