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VCL 0803 1023

Artwork copyright (c) 1969 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation; review copyright (c) 2003 James Southall



The magic of Egypt

Because these days he seemingly works on one action/thriller after another, I think it can be difficult for younger fans to appreciate why Jerry Goldsmith is so revered by the slightly older generation, but there was a time when he would move from one project to another, completely different one every time, when he always tried to better not only what he had written before, but what anyone had written before in film, and he even managed it a few times.  I'm not entirely sure when his attitude changed - in the mid-80s, perhaps - but anyway, exploring his back-catalogue can produce a number of wonderful surprises and an even-greater number of really high-quality music.  Of course, exploring this back-catalogue is made a lot easier by the presence (and prescience) of Varese Sarabande, who seem determined - along with Film Score Monthly - to release as much of it as possible.  And so, the August 2003 volume of their CD Club saw the first CD release of Justine, an obscure movie from 1969 starring Michael York, Anouk Aimee and Dirk Bogarde, directed by the legendary George Cukor.  An adaptation of the novel by Lawrence Durrell, it's set in Egypt and is a sort-of cross between a political thriller and an old-fashioned romance.

Goldsmith has travelled frequently around the world to give some kind of cod-authentic flavour to his scores and the one that Justine comes closest to in style is - you may be surprised to read - The Wind and the Lion.  There's more authenticity to Justine and it certainly doesn't feature as much action material but both scores are based around similar ideas and they complement each other very well.  Many tracks of Justine - the earlier score, by six years - are based around a single, evocative theme, an attractive piece for oboe that really tugs at the heartstrings.

A couple of set-pieces are really the highlights of the score, primarily the stunning "Dance of Death", combining many layers of percussion and ethnic instruments to extraordinary effect.  The brass section isn't there, but it's no less invigorating than the finest moments of The Wind and the Lion; indeed, it's a very captivating and enlivening piece.  The other highlight is "Hands Off", the longest cue of the score, which features more of the same but never reaches quite the same feverish frenzy.  

As was common in the late 1960s, the original soundtrack LP didn't feature the original soundtrack at all, but rather a re-recording done in London, conducted by Goldsmith.  And as is common in the early 2000s, the CD format allows for both versions to be released on the same album.  In truth, they're not particularly different, though Goldsmith (then - as now) seemed to think that listeners would rather have slightly more romanticised arrangements of his music and they wouldn't be terribly interested in the darker material.  And so we got a couple of pop arrangements of the two main themes which don't work terribly well at the expense of the encapsulating material from elsewhere in the score.  Goldsmith was great at being Goldsmith and had no need to try to emulate Francis Lai.  In truth however, the score is short (and varied) enough that listening to the film versions all the way through followed by the album versions immediately afterwards is still a rewarding experience.

I must admit that I was very surprised by this score, having previously had the LP and dismissed it as a bit of fluff: the small differences between the film and LP arrangements do actually add a lot - figuratively, if not literally - to the listening experience.  I'm not sure that everyone would like it, but there's a really quite captivating air to most of the music and I find it really strangely gripping.  Recommended. 


  1. Alexandria (1:59)
  2. Melissa and Darley (1:52)
  3. Justine (:59)
  4. The Farm (1:52)
  5. The Camp (1:50)
  6. The Beach (3:10)
  7. The Telescope (2:13)
  8. The Visit (1:31)
  9. Samba Alexandria (2:54)
  10. Dance of Death (3:11)
  11. The Ruins (:58)
  12. The Meeting (:33)
  13. Hands Off (4:46)
  14. The Killing (1:15)
  15. End Title (2:31)
  16. Justine (2:35)
  17. The School (3:38)
  18. The Farm (3:14)
  19. Melissa (1:54)
  20. Alexandria (1:37)
  21. Carnival Happening (2:36)
  22. Melissa and Darley (2:05)
  23. Samba Chica (1:45)
  24. The Beach (2:54)
  25. The Telescope (1:50)
  26. Ambush (1:14)
  27. End Title (2:39)