In Harm's Way -Original Soundtrack Soundtrack Review

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by Chris McEneany Jul 31, 2009 at 12:00 AM

  • Movies review

    In Harm's Way -Original Soundtrack Soundtrack Review

    It is always great to hear vintage Goldsmith, but this admittedly short score for a somewhat neglected Pacific war-time drama is a defining moment in the composer's career. Having previously made his name with his music for TV, particularly with Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone and Thriller, Goldsmith had made the leap to movie-scoring already with Black Patch (1957) and Studs Lonigan (1960), but really hit his stride and found the core elements that would go on to become his hallmarks with the Kirk Douglas actioner Lonely Are The Brave (review of the debut score CD for this coming soon). Here, in 1965's big name vehicle for John Wayne and Kirk Douglas, again, In Harm's Way, his style was still evolving, though he would find the opportunity to flex some muscle, both dynamically and creatively.

    The film, from Otto Preminger, was certainly the biggest production that Jerry G. had, so far, been involved with, and although it would prove to be hugely instrumental in getting his name attached to more and more such ambitious projects, he was already earmarked for other grand adventures like Von Ryan's Express, which followed on from In Harm's Way almost immediately. Alongside Wayne and Douglas, the US Naval drama, depicting the attack on Pearl Harbor and the swift American response, starred Henry Fonda, Stanley Holloway, Tom Tryon, George Kennedy and a host of genre icons such as The Day The Earth Stood Still's Patricia Neal as a comely nurse, King Kong's Bruce Cabot, Night Of The Demon's Dana Andrews, perennial cowpoke Slim Pickens and regular Twilight Zoner, Burgess Meredith. Colliding love and romance, with the delectable presence of Jill Hayworth, Paula Prentiss and, especially, the seductive Barbara Bouchet, back on the idyllic US base on the eve of the infamous Japanese attack with overwhelming patriotic retaliation, the film was a pick 'n' mix of desire, treachery, honour and massive military hardware. Famously ending via stark impressionistic visuals, courtesy of the great Saul Bass (In Harm's Way actually had no opening titles, but went wild and ground-breaking, instead, with its ingenious final credits, that were even to go as far as depicting the hyper-stylised sight of Japan receiving the atom bomb), the film was also pivotal in bringing Goldsmith's exuberant musical architecture to a much wider audience. Lust and destruction headed up the composer's score-sheets and the film was bounced from affairs of the heart to jingoistic battles across the ocean with equal innovation and some of the finest music that he would compose in the sixties.

    In another slight turn up for the books for those who previously thought they knew the composer's work inside-out, Goldsmith would make extensive use of source cues - big jazz band Swing and some Hawaiian beat-boogies are sure to raise a smile as well as an eyebrow in fans who have never heard him indulge so - but these would fit the film and allow for some great variety in a score that veers from sweeping Hollywood melodrama to large-scale action. In fact, Track 4 Native Quarter has a delicious rhythm to it that would not have sounded out of place in an early Bond film, say Dr. No or Thunderball. Goldsmith even appears in the film, in full naval attire, as the leader of a military jazz band. Tom Tryon's Lt. William “Mac” McConnell tries to keep the drunken antics of the wife of his commanding officer (Kirk Douglas' ill-fated Cmdr. Paul Eddington) under wraps by asking Goldsmith if he will have his ensemble play something a little less provocative. The resulting night of adultery is scored, on disc, with Tracks 2 and 8, Liz In Harm's Way and Night On The Beach. The dance-band motif of gyrating trumpets, boozy trombones and a quintet of uninhibited saxophones paint an intoxicating milieu of hot, tropical scented air and purely sultry intentions. There is an undeniable core of eroticism sliding sinuously beneath the muted, provocative rhythms that is certainly “of the times” yet still imbued with wanton desire and real sense of last-chance liberation. Cleverly, Goldsmith uses the original dance number, from Liz In Harm's Way, and reworks it into an altogether more sensual, warmer, softer variation for Liz's sand-and-surf fling with an Air Force officer she has just picked up. Goldsmith could certainly do romance in his scores, but rarely has he been tasked with blending apparent source music with errant infatuation to such a steamy degree. More lugubrious harmonies slink and slide with hip-swaying hedonism in Track 11, Hawaiian Mood, a pure wallow in beach cocktails and burning sunsets. However this cue was actually designed by Goldsmith so that it could be placed anywhere in the film that the director saw fit, literally just scene-setting ambience.

    Another source cue also acts as a marvellously atmospheric trip down Nostalgia Lane as it floats and weaves throughout most of Track 13's Medley From In Harm's Way. The two small cues that make up this track, entitled Try Again and Moonburn, are soft, crooning and warm, like a 40's dance band equivalent of Horlicks and slippers. Again, this is something that you just wouldn't associate with the man who gave Rambo his ultra macho and adventure-laden themes, but it sounds lush and mesmerising, just the same.

    The opening track features the primary love theme from the film, providing voice and spirit to the relationship between Mac and his wife, Bev, played by Paula Prentiss. Light and dreamy and of the period, the piece is effortlessly lifted with swirling strings, sweet intonations from the clarinet and a glistening caress of the harp. There is a hint of tragedy peeping through, but Goldsmith leads the passage with loving and tender hands, allowing the mood to remain one of breathless affection. War seems far away ... as, indeed, it does for the unwitting personnel and their families at Pearl Harbor.

    Whilst the love theme plays through a couple of variations and becomes one of the score's most memorable melodies, it is, possibly, the theme for John Wayne's indomitable character of Captain Rockwell “The Rock” Torrey that forms its backbone. Actually incorporating, or perhaps even lifting itself out of the main love theme, this is the militarily proud stance of a man, a nation and an entire crusade. But what is surprising about this arrangement for Wayne 's brazen hero is that the film, itself, never allows us to hear it in such determined manner. Preminger's and Goldsmith's “spotting” of the cues result in all the key elements of the theme being present and correct, but never all in full, flowing and complete effect together. Here, on album, we are treated to the natural development of the theme. Snare drums, tympani, trombones and trumpets snap out of their parade formation and march in the shadow of Wayne's erstwhile war-horse. As engagingly brusque as this fanfare is, it is still a great deal of fun.

    I'll get to the action soon enough, but it is also highly impressive how Goldsmith finds an emotionally dark and melancholic undercurrent to all this might and majesty, as well as a convincing vein of devotion. Track 5, Goodbye, is the tender melody that accompanies the touching farewell between The Rock and his girl, Patricia Neal's naval nurse, Lt. Maggie Hayes. A simply beautiful piano-led phrase is joined by yearning woodwinds. Then a slightly light-hearted bridge carries a few fragile notes from oboe. There is an old school feel to this track that harks back to Max Steiner and, especially, Alfred Newman who, of course, was instrumental in bringing Goldsmith into a wider appreciation. Wistful, embracing and delightful.

    After the destruction of the American base, Douglas' character must make a harrowing visit to the morgue to see his wife for the last time in Positive Identification, Track 6. A six-note motif for clarinets over French horn is acutely resonant. Goldsmith creates an surreal, echoing tableau of muted percussion that putters about in the background as piercing strings hold sustained agony in the fore. Eddington's pain is conveyed with absolute sincerity, the track taking the score in yet another direction. Mature and memorable, this mournful melody will take a greater importance and stature at the end of the film, and the finale of the score.

    But what we all expect and love about Goldsmith's powerful writing is his ability to set the pulse on fire, and In Harm's Way makes sure to provide the template for such elaborate set-piece musical mayhem. That wickedly propulsive drive and those counter-pointed, asymmetrical rhythms that he would go on to make his distinctive action trademarks get a fledgling workout here. Arguably, he had already found such a dynamic in the modern-day Western, Lonely Are The Brave, with its awesome Bar-room Brawl cue, but here he applies it to airborne assaults and incendiary sea-battles and the result is fast, adrenal and complex. Bizarrely, though, Preminger opted to have a couple of his big battle sequences unscored and to play out with only the sound effects and the dialogue tracks. This was both documentary in style and more than a little eerie, too. But, fear not, because this CD rams home some glorious action cues that are simply quintessential Goldsmith. Track 7, Battle Theme From In Harm's Way serenades The Rock's forces as they go on the offensive. Brass and percussion race together, clashing with forceful energy in an upbeat barrage that unites the 80-piece orchestra in rousing speed and tumult. Flurries of strings tumble over the military stomp, coursing with a complex see-sawing rhythm. A brief lull about two-thirds of the way through provides some delicate, but pensive respite, before a final march accompanied by pounding drums sees the track out. Towards the end of this cue, there is a small nod to Alex North's amusing orchestration for the classic Spartacus with tiny woodwind asides adding flavour to the strident advance.

    Then we have Track 9, Attack, which is a cleverly constructed and densely layered headlong rush into combat that helps to hurl The Rock's marines into action. More typical of Goldsmith, perhaps, this is very reminiscent of his complex Western music and his work in the late sixties. It is exuberant and vibrant, but it is boundlessly optimistic, too. Listening to this, it is hard to imagine any of the good guys biting the bullet. Textured and stirring, this is, as is customary for the composer's action scoring, unstoppable.

    The next frenetic cue, Track 14 One-Way Ticket, is a sensational tour-de-force for the full orchestra. Kirk Douglas' Commander Eddington, grief-stricken over the loss of his gorgeous, but promiscuous wife in the attack on Pearl Harbor, takes on a suicide mission to spot an elusive Japanese convoy and report its location. This is brief but stunning stuff, and a true precursor to First Blood's agitated and deep piano line and blurting staccato brass punctuation. There is also a fantastic early treatment of what would go on to become Taylor's pell-mell flight from the gorilla-soldiers in Planet Of The Apes, tick-tock woodwinds buffeting against shrill blasts from brass and percussion. Of all the action cues on the album, this is perhaps my favourite - blistering, fast and fiercely exciting. Sharp violins slice through the aggressive clamour, heightening the tension and quickening the pulse. But the album then takes this heroic and sacrificial stance into another realm with the final track, entitled First Victory. This is the music that plays over Saul Bass' distinctive and emphatically visual credit sequence. A final coda for Wayne's injured Captain Rock - a subverted and anguished rendition of his, and the film's love theme - ushers in an impressive, but much darker piece that captures the colossal weight of America's fury towards Japan. Startlingly serious and grim, this plays out like a Sci-Fi cue for some fantastic, but terrible revelation which, in a way, I suppose it is. The world is at war and the horrific details of it can only be shown in a cold, clinical fashion by Bass' soulless, dispassionately observant interpretations - almost alien in their stark objectivity. The full orchestra carries the combination of doom-twisted main themes, but inserts the grim, reflective six-note motif from Track 6 in a sly, almost bitter fashion. As Intrada's Douglass Fake points out in his excellent liner notes, this is something that Goldsmith would do in his brilliant score for Papillon, as well, taking one of its smaller, less overt phrases and then detonating it into a mammoth re-imagining of much greater scale and importance. Of course, he would do this a lot throughout his career, but the sheer leap from the intimate to the grandiose depicted here is certainly the foundation stone of such an intriguing device. You have to remember how fresh he still was to such epic statements as this.

    In Harm's Way received a previous score release on vinyl back in 1965, produced and arranged as an album suite by Jerry Goldsmith and Neely Plumb, that presented 36 minutes of highlights from the score from what was a three-hour movie, and it is this selection that Intrada have digitally re-mastered from the actual first-generation 2-track stereo album masters, keeping the original sequential order intact. Sadly, the copious missing cues from this gargantuan movie are still, and always have been, unavailable, as the original masters from Paramount have been tragically lost. What this disc represents, however, is an incredibly vivid and passionate portrait of the themes that Goldsmith created for the movie and a wonderful sense of time and place. There is both power and intimacy to be experienced with this score, tropical brevity and forties nostalgia only add colour to the ambitious and inspired mix.

    Intrada supply an 8-page booklet that takes a track-by-track look at Goldsmith's score. Douglass Fake has made no secret of his passion for resurrecting this particular soundtrack and the results are, typically, excellent. The sound is bright, strong and detailed and listening to it is a rare pleasure. This year has already seen some incredible releases of Jerry Goldsmith's less well-known, but still highly sought-after works. In Harm's Way can sit proudly alongside Intrada's One Little Indian (reviewed separately), FSM's Twilight Zone: The Movie and Varese Sarabande's Lonely Are The Brave - reviews of both coming soon.

    Full Track Listing -

    01. Love Theme from “In Harm's Way” 2:30

    02. Liz in Harm's Way 2:03

    03. The Rock 1:35

    04. Native Quarter 2:01

    05. Goodbye 2:45

    06. Positive Identification 1:33

    07. Battle Theme from “In Harm's Way” 2:28

    08. Night on the Beach 2:08

    09. Attack 2:05

    10. The Rock and His Lady 2:50

    11. Hawaiian Mood 2:00

    12. Change of Command 3:28

    13. Medley from “In Harm's Way”: Try Again, Moonburn 2:47

    14. One-Way Ticket 1:49

    15. First Victory 2:44


    This is lean, mean but classic Goldsmith. The style, the excitement and the sense of time, place and character are fully in place and no fan of the movies' most prolific, dedicated and accomplished composer can afford to let this one slip by. Historically important and damn fine fun, listening to In Harm's Way is like discovering a world class talent in the raw as Goldsmith, himself, discovers exciting new ways of expression, tone and character. A short score on CD, it is true, but there is so much variety to it that it is impossible to ignore. The film, as enjoyable as it is, may be too melodramatic and soapish for some, but Goldsmith gives it heart and soul and imbues some of its most poignant moments with startlingly effective class and memorable distinction - all of which is ably demonstrated on Intrada's fine CD presentation of the original album compilation.

    Cues such as The Rock, Positive Identification, Goodbye, One-Way Ticket and, of course, First Victory stand as testament to the glories that Goldsmith would unleash in later years and, together with the more florid and passionate source sections of the score, add up to a wonderful and important release.

    A limited edition, folks, but one that comes highly recommended.

    The Rundown





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