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  • Composed by Shirley Walker
  • La-La Land Records / 2013 / 50m

In Willard, Crispin Glover plays a young man who loves rates.  His best friend, Socrates, is a rat.  He uses his special connection to rats to get them to do his bidding, particularly concerning his boss, played with typical subtlety by R. Lee Ermey.  Stephen Gilbert’s book was also turned into a film in 1971 – that one starred Bruce Davison and was scored by the great Alex North; for the 2003 version, director Glen Morgan turned to Shirley Walker.  Walker’s distinctive score is the film’s greatest asset, a complex and colourful work with a unique colour thanks to its use of six accordions (including a base accordion), representing the oddball nature of Glover’s character down to a tee.  The main title piece is exceptional – each of the score’s main themes is heard, the accordions have this great, creepy effect, the manic passage with trumpets and xylophones doubling is thrilling stuff – it’s modelled after one of those portentous Hitchcock/Herrmann opening cues and is beautifully constructed, brilliantly realised.  That’s the score in a nutshell, really – it’s often very creepy, always strident, always with something to say.

The score is very dense, in terms of orchestration and in terms of thematic ideas, which frequently intertwine with one another.  The orchestration is brilliant, actually – Walker regularly fills it with these little melodic fragments in different parts of the orchestra, all in counterpoint, often with a pounding horn melody laid over the top – it’s wonderfully suggestive of swarming rats, the prominent solo representing the driving force behind them.  The score is actually thematically rich with most cues being drawn from that thematic material.  The spirit of Herrmann is heard throughout – the bold instrumental choices, the dark tone that wavers only for the end title.  Some of the action material is first-rate – “Total Tyre Recall / Not the Puppy” is thrilling stuff, bold and powerful; “Willard Sees Ben / Willard Closes Hole” is fast-paced and striking; the climactic “Trapped Like a Rat” and “Willard’s Demise” are screeching, bombastic highlights themselves.  Willard is a very fine score, not easy listening by any means but very entertaining; it’s clever, up-front, memorable.  La-La Land’s album includes fantastic liner notes by John Takis.  This is an excellent release.

Rating: **** | |

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  1. Jason Farcone (Reply) on Saturday 27 July, 2013 at 18:27

    i forget by whom, but I once read shirley walker had to grow some balls when brad fiedel’s true lies wasnt coming along like it was supposed to sometime along production. think o’l bradsynth got thrown against the wall by jamesirino cameron like our beloved horneR?

  2. Jason Farcone (Reply) on Monday 29 July, 2013 at 00:16
  3. MPC (Reply) on Saturday 25 January, 2014 at 04:12

    You ought to review Walker’s superb “Turbulence” score (LLL) or her masterpiece, “Batman: Mask of the Phantasm.” (Ironically, Hans Zimmer did the synth mock-ups for the latter!)

  4. Sean (Reply) on Wednesday 8 March, 2023 at 17:48

    I second another comment — do a throwback review of Walker’s “Batman Mask of the Phantasm” score ! I’d never even heard of Willard before looking to see if you’d reviewed any of her stuff. Good find and great review thank you