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Enjoyable, grand sci-fi score from Barry
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
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Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 2008 Carrere Music; review copyright (c) 2009 James Southall.
All great film composers have at least a couple of entries on their filmography which probably make them regret signing on the dotted line, but it has to be said that John Barry's 1978-80 output probably ranks the highest on the "What was he thinking!?" register - along with a couple of gems rank three films that are, well, not quite gems. Whether Game of Death, Star Crash or Night Games is the greatest embarrassment on his filmography, only he could answer. Musically, each is beyond reproach, and BSX Records has re-released Star Crash on CD (it was previously available coupled with Until September on an early Silva Screen CD).
Amusingly, the filmmakers apparently decided that their film would launch a James Bond-style franchise, and this led them to believe they needed James Bond's composer, hence Barry's involvement. The score certainly has a Bond vibe, sharing more than a little in common with Moonraker (composed shortly afterwards). It opens with a surprisingly expansive main theme, marred a little by the (fairly subtle) disco beat; and there's another grand theme in "Escape Into Hyperspace", along the lines of Moonraker's "Flight Into Space" and parts of The Black Hole.
"Launch Adrift" presents a more romantic theme, before the first action music appears in "Launch Adrift", and again it's almost pure Bond. There's not quite the elegance of Barry's Bond music, but it's very much along the same lines, and is completely good fun. The suspense music takes a little getting used to, but there's a grandness to it which you have to admire. "The Ice Planet / Heading for Zarkon" is so full of class it's scarecely believable that its origin is a film like Star Crash, but here it is. "The Emperor's Speech" is a little flimsier, based on the thinnest of repeating piano-and-flute figures, but it does feature a nice romantic arrangement of the main theme towards its conclusion.
"Strange Planet / The Troggs Attack" introduces a grand new action idea, a portentous motif for the horns which is really rather powerful. More action follows in "Akton Battles the Robots", and there's more Bondian suspense in "Network Ball Attackrr", before the score's longest (and perhaps best) cue, "Space War", which combines the main themes and features the grandest arrangement of the main theme (mercifully sans disco element). "Goodbye Akton" is one of the most languorous pieces of Barry's career - and let's face it, he wasn't famous for employing a fast-moving metronome at the best of times - and it's quite a nice piece - it just sounds like it's been slowed down! The end credits reprise the opening ones, and then there's a seven-minute "Star Crash Suite", made for this release - it's a nice compilation of the score's highlights. Sound quality isn't the best, but is noticeably better than the previous CD release, and while this is unlikely to be anyone's favourite Barry score (and isn't nearly as good as the composer's other science fiction movie, The Black Hole), it is certainly not without its charms and I'm sure all fans of the composer would enjoy it.