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ON DEADLY GROUND
Adrenaline-filled action score
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
* * * 1/2
Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 1994 Peekaboo Productions; review copyright (c) 2006 James Southall
The utterly absurd On Deadly Ground is garbage by anyone's standards, even Steven Seagal's and for that matter Michael Caine's. The pair star as an eco-warrior and an evil oil man who come to blows when the latter wants to drill down in some sacred ground in Alaska. It's actually directed by Seagal - and to his credit, it plays the environmental message very loud, and a long time before it became trendy to do so - but is so poor, I doubt anyone involved with it could ever actually watch it with a straight face.
Sadly, the late Basil Poledouris was used to scoring such wretched action movies, but remained professional as ever and provided it with a typically-impressive score. The main theme is a slightly irritating little motif which runs through nearly everything, but it's what's around it that makes the score good. It's more synth-heavy than usual, but the approach works well at suggesting the Eskimo mood the composer was aiming for, and when the need arises he lets rip with his orchestra in trademark fashion with the percussion and masculine brass bursts.
The score's centrepiece is the eight-minute "The Journey", which focuses on the ethereal aspects of the story, highlighting a pair of Eskimo Throat Singers, and some other very unusual ethnic musical effects, but it sounds surprisingly sincere and is a little touching. Elsewhere, it's the action music that rules the roost, with the album's early tracks and "Jennings Goes Down" being of particular note.
This is a fine action score, very exciting at times, and shows why Poledouris was so highly-sought for this type of thing. It's a pity in some ways he had to spend his time scoring such trash, but he still always provided such good scores, perhaps we should be thankful. This is a short album (a shade under half an hour), but it's the kind of score for which that approach is very well-suited, and it's put together very well.