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MAF 7038D

Artwork copyright (c) 1993 Cinergi Productions, Inc.; review copyright (c) 2005 James Southall



Propulsive western score shows Broughton at his best


A peculiarity which seems to happen every couple of years in Hollywood is two studios producing two films about very similar topics at the same time; such was the case in 1993, when two films about Wyatt Earp were made simultaneously.  Wyatt Earp, starring Kevin Costner and scored by James Newton Howard, was easily the better (and less successful!) of the two; but there is still some merit to the late George P. Cosmatos's Tombstone.  Indeed, the most frustrating thing about the film is that it isn't difficult to see that it could so easily have been a lot better - a rewrite could have sorted out the frequently very stilted dialogue and, frankly, a better director could have made something special out of it.  The acting performances are generally fine, with Kurt Russell playing Earp as if he were Clint Eastwood, and fine support from a talented cast including Sam Elliott, Michael Biehn and even Charlton Heston.  The only misfire is the bizarre performance of Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday, who constantly seems to be affected by controlled substances.

Easily the film's greatest asset is its magnificent music by Bruce Broughton.  Jerry Goldsmith was originally meant to score the film (he had worked with Cosmatos numerous times beforehand) but he was forced to pull out because another project overran, so he made the wise decision of recommending Broughton.  He had already established his western credentials with his wonderful score for Silverado so he seemed the ideal composer for the job, and so it proved.  He captured both the darkness and the light inherent in the story far better than the film's director did - it's almost as if he were scoring the film that should have been made rather than the one that was.

In his brief liner notes, Broughton spends much time emphasising the score's darker aspects; and there are certainly many.  Indeed, the opening "The Cowboys" could probably come from a horror film, with some jagged, rhythmic, almost Goldsmithian action music; later, cues like the extended "Street Standoff" take this concept even further, with Broughton carefully orchestrating for many low register instruments through all the orchestra's sections, including contrabass trombones, which produce an enormously dark, unsettling tone.  This suspenseful action music is heard frequently through the score and is highly effective.  "Morgan's Death" is very emotional, full of anguish and despair; the following "Wyatt's Revenge" a thrilling piece of action music.

Fortunately, the composer intersperses this with several lighter moments.  "Josephine" introduces a memorable, beautiful theme which could only come from a western.  This is later arranged into a glorious waltz for the finale sequence.  There is more sprightly, traditional western music sometimes too, for the moments in the film where the camera pans across vast landscapes, and Broughton scores these with Elmer Bernstein-type spirit, if not exactly music which is stylistically similar to the late, great composer.  "A Family" introduces what could probably be considered the score's main theme, and again it is a memorable one, though sadly Broughton doesn't really use it too often through the score itself.

The last cue, the nine-minute "Looking at Heaven", brings things together beautifully and it's one of those pieces one can never tire of hearing.  No matter how many times I have written this before, it doesn't matter, because it is always worth repeating: Bruce Broughton is one of the very finest composers around and that he does not work on high profile films is a real tragedy; one can only dream about the music he may have written for us.  He is up there with John Williams as a wonderful composer in the American style able to get the best out of an orchestra, mainly because he actually knows how to compose and orchestrate music, unlike many of his considerably more successful colleagues.  Scores like Tombstone amply demonstrate what a major talent Broughton really is.

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  1. The Cowboys (3:50)
  2. A Family (2:04)
  3. Arrival in Tombstone (2:15)
  4. Josephine (1:30)
  5. Thespian Overture (:45)
  6. Gotta Go to Work (1:10)
  7. Fortuitous Encounter (5:17)
  8. Street Standoff (7:08)
  9. The OK Corral (7:34)
  10. Aftermath (1:30)
  11. Cowboys' Funeral (4:29)
  12. Morgan's Death (2:12)
  13. Wyatt's Revenge (3:52)
  14. The Former Fabian (1:34)
  15. Brief Encounters (5:37)
  16. Finishing It (3:56)
  17. Doc and Wyatt (2:47)
  18. Looking at Heaven (8:43)