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RED KING, WHITE KNIGHT
Solid thriller score from a fine composer who deserves more attention
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
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Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 1989 Citadel Entertainment and Zenith Productions; review copyright (c) 2008 James Southall
A by-now long-forgotten HBO tv movie from 1989, Red King, White Knight covered a (fictional) assassination attempt against President Gorbachev, and an American agent's attempts to stop it. In the cast were Tom Skerritt, Max Von Sydow and Helen Mirren, and the director, Geoff Murphy, had previously made a film whose very title should surely have legendary status - Goodbye Pork Pie. Scoring the project was John Scott, who has written music for almost a hundred films - there surely cannot be another film composer so prolific, with so many of his scores available on CD, who has only scored one film which was in any sense a hit (Greystoke).
Still, he has amassed a loyal fan-base, and his generally symphonic music certainly indicates that he should have enjoyed a higher profile in the world of film music than he has. Red King, White Knight is a case in point - a large-scale, stirring orchestral score of high quality. It opens with the score's grand main theme in "The KGB Faction", a rousing slavic construction from a time when the Cold War might have threatened all our lives, but on the plus side certainly inspired a few film composers!
There's a great love theme, too - "Memories of a Past Love" is a beautiful, if brief, piece. In "Idyll and Nightmare", the sweetest music of the album is developed really well, for a first-rate piece of film music. But the score is dominated by action music, occasionally bringing to mind those wonderful action scores of the 1970s by Goldsmith, Fielding, Small, Shire et al - but with Scott's own strong musical voice being very much the dominant force. If there is perhaps a sense that Scott is an "old-fashioned" kind of composer, I suppose there is an element of truth there, but the unforgiving, densely violent action music which is heard on occasion here - such as the terrific "Airport Killing" - shows someone who was more than capable of holding his own against the fresh young voices who were emerging in film music during the 1980s.
It's not entirely successful (the dabbling with electronics is ill-advised, to say the least, but doesn't happen often) but one suspects that if this music had been written by Basil Poledouris or Jerry Goldsmith (which is entirely feasible) it would be in an awful lot of film music fans' collections, and get a lot of time in CD players around the world. As it is, the Intrada-released album (which is still available if you look hard enough) is highly-listenable, with music appropriate for a straightforward thriller but which is neither catering for the lowest common denominator nor attempting to be too complex and look down on the typical audience for this sort of thing - a good achievement.