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RVF 6006D

Artwork copyright (c) 1989 Carolco; review copyright (c) 2003 James Southall


Restrained, intelligent musical view of conflict accentuates the personal

With a third director in three movies and a plot which seems silly even by Rambo standards (the great man goes off to Afghanistan and lines up alongside the mujahadeen against the damn Ruskies), Rambo III did surprisingly well at the box office.  While he's never exercised great taste in picking movies, even Jerry Goldsmith would probably have thought twice about scoring it had it not been produced by his friends Mario Kassar and Andrew Vajna, so he came back on board and wrote a score that, I think, took everyone by surprise.

Whereas the first movie in the series received a score centred around a noble and really rather poignant theme, accompanied by some hard-edged action music, and the second got almost wall-to-wall, bright, edge-of-the-seat stuff, for the third movie Goldsmith took a complete about-turn and fashioned one of the most thoughtful and contemplative scores of his career.  Surprisingly few of the 23 tracks on this 76-minute CD contain any action music, with Goldsmith taking many steps back and trying to find something worthwile to comment on rather that just scoring the action.  He's probably written every single one of the top twenty "poor films with scores they didn't deserve" list, and who knows, this one may be at the very top of that list.

The disc opens with "Another Time", featuring a new performance of the classic First Blood theme with swirling strings rather than guitar accompanying the trumpet line this time around.  The second cue, "Preparations", is unlike anything Goldsmith's ever written, with a fair proportion of its six-minute running time just devoted to unaccompanied percussion.  The location is hinted at by a synth theme heard for the first time in "Peshawar"; and the new main theme, a slightly exotic piece (though performed by a traditional orchestra) is heard fully in "Afghanistan"; it's truly beautiful.  It takes about 25 minutes before any action music appears, though it's worth waiting for - "The Game" is a delightfully-constructed piece - totally eschewing the patriotic fervour of Rambo II and being a much more contemplative piece of action music, and in my opinion none the worse for it.  "Flaming Village" on the other hand, is pretty intense stuff, but rather than doing it by throwing out a jingoistic brass theme Goldsmith layers various synths on top of each other to produce almost unbearable tension - believe me, it sounds a lot better coming through your speakers than my description probably makes it sound!  The lengthy "Night Fight" contains another surprise.  It's the longest action piece in the score and is based around a theme that would later become Goldsmith's theme for The Last Castle.  Now, I can't be the only one who finds it ironic that a piece of music from this film, set in Afghanistan, would in a later guise be titled "September 11, 2001".  The nine-minute "I'll Stay" rounds things off very nicely, with the two major new themes given their fullest arrangements, and it culminates in the main First Blood theme for the last time, rounding out an impressive trilogy of scores.

This score is certainly not one of Goldsmith's very finest, but I can't think of a finer example of the sheer skill and devotion he has brought to the art of film music over the years - what other film composer in history would have spent so long painstakingly creating such an intricate and detailed score for such a daft film?  Sure, at 76 minutes I think the album's too long - some of the cues get a little dull - and the Hungarian State Opera Orchestra's performance is largely undistinguished - so the score is clearly not without fault - but it's terrific in many ways.  Fans of Goldsmith through the shoot-em-up style of Rambo II will doubtless be disappointed, but of his old-time fans, this may well be one of the few scores he's written since the mid-80s that should appeal just as much as all those old classics did.  It was all evidently too much for director "Peter Macdonald", who retained the Rambo II temp-track for much of the film.  The album was originally released on Scotti Brothers records with not much score and a few random songs; the ever-helpful Intrada then released the whole score, but unfortunately it's now out-of-print. 

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  1. Another Time (3:57)
  2. Preparations (6:20)
  3. The Money (:51)
  4. I'm Used to It (1:00)
  5. Peshawar (1:11)
  6. Afghanistan (2:37)
  7. Questions (3:37)
  8. Then I'll Die (3:33)
  9. The Game (2:24)
  10. Flaming Village (4:07)
  11. The Aftermath (2:44)
  12. Night Entry (3:58)
  13. Under and Over (2:55)
  14. Night Fight (6:49)
  15. First Aid (2:46)
  16. The Long Climb (3:24)
  17. Going Down (1:52)
  18. The Cave (3:30)
  19. The Boot (1:53)
  20. You Did It John (1:07)
  21. The Show Down (1:25)
  22. Final Battle (4:50)
  23. I'll Stay (9:00)