Patton - Complete Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Soundtrack Review

by Chris McEneany
Movies & TV Shows Review
Patton - Complete Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Soundtrack Review

Once again, score-lovers have been blessed with another gold-plated and highly revered offering from the grand master, Jerry Goldsmith, thanks to Intrada. Their new 2-disc unlimited release of the composer’s Oscar-nominated Patton has been on the wish-list for fans for a very long time. Already released in an album presentation by Goldsmith back in 1970 from 20th Century Fox Records, when Franklyn J. Schaffner’s statuette nabbing epic came out, this edition supplies the complete score in chronological order, the listener now benefiting not only from fantastic audio clarity but from the incredible addition of some of the score's most haunting cues, material that had been dropped from the original album, and serves to rekindle more of the melancholy feel of what both Schaffner and Goldsmith had intended for the film all along.

George C. Scott was not the first choice to play the belligerent General, but he was, undoubtedly, the best at bestowing a sense of indefatigable destiny to the sabre-rattling war-horse. His anvil-bashed face and rock-choked bark of a voice made him look and sound imperious. But the Oscar-winning screenplay from Francis Ford Coppola and Edmund H. North (a task that was only won after years of attritional war with the Patton Estate who had flatly refused to aid any filmmakers wanting material about their illustrious figurehead as the basis for any cinematic project) was a curious beast, indeed. For audiences weaned on the valorous Hollywood product of ceaseless derring-do and honourable sacrifice, Patton would strike out down a different path, one that wasn't afraid to show the General as that quintessential combination of madman and genius, a figure of fearsome might and monumental arrogance, his notion of self-importance never ignored or downplayed. Superb to the point of dementia on the battlefield, Patton was, nevertheless, a massive coil of fierce contradiction – deeply religious, yet unforgiving and profane, he would astound the conventions of military brains with almost avant-garde strategies, yet make the most terrible of blunders away from the battlefield. Like Custer less than a hundred years before him, or Napoleon fifty or so before that, he fell in love with his own iconic image and became swept up in the unstoppable wave of that testosterone-soaked glory that he believed was his by right. It is hard to believe that original casting hopefuls for the part had been the likes of Burt Lancaster and Robert Mitchum. Both fantastic actors, they would not have been able to embody the bold, blood-boiling narcissism that the role required. Lancaster would, however, go on to play the resilient and brave Colonel Durnford – a man whose tired humanity would be quashed by his doomed devotion to duty in the much underrated Zulu Dawn – and it is interesting to compare and contrast their two styles in creating true-life men-of-action who were, first and foremost, proud and resourceful leaders. Lee Marvin, also lined-up for a tour of duty, had the voice and the dark, glowering attitude that would spur troops into battle, as we had seen in Robert Aldrich’s The Dirty Dozen, but put him in the uniform of a three-star general and the complex layers of Patton's personality would remain locked-up tighter than if constrained by a straitjacket. Rod Steiger also turned down the part, but it is well worth mentioning that he was then to go almost immediately into playing Napoleon Bonaparte in Sergei Bonderchuk's lavish, large-scale painting-come-life, Waterloo, released less than a year after Patton. For my money, only Steiger could have presented Patton's conflicted super-ego with anywhere near as much depth and class. Certainly not John Wayne, who lobbied hard to get the role!

With an awesome supporting cast, including Karl Malden as General Omar Bradley – a man who both commanded and served under Patton, legions of extras and period hardware, and a globe-hopping multitude of locations, the result was a strangely haunting, important, but decidedly quirky war film whose restricted biopic structure (we only see Patton during the latter portion of World War II and,predominantly, that remarkable final push to victory) and brusque scenery-chewing from Scott enabled it to be partly-amusing, partly sympathetic and defiantly controversial at the same time. His character was disseminated, stripped-down to the core, laid-bare and built back up into the titanic avenger who aggravated his own superiors as much as his counterparts on the other side. It was an idiosyncratic story told in a barnstorming and tumultuous fashion that placed character brazenly in front of the action, and incisively paced the parade ground right in the limbo between staunch patriotism and anti-war zeal. It would take someone of incredible sensitivity and intelligence to decrypt the man behind the myth and find the voice to project those inner workings musically.

Schaffner naturally turned to Jerry Goldsmith.

A good working relationship is always a priceless bonus when it comes to creative undertakings and Goldsmith was confident and happiest when he collaborated with Schaffner. The two had worked together previously on The Planet Of The Apes with staggeringly impressive and vastly influential results. Now, as then in 1968, Schaffner was amenable enough to allow Goldsmith pretty much a free rein when it came to how he would interpret such a complex and intellectually rich motion picture as Patton. The composer would never have such a relaxed and mutually informed relationship with any other director. Arguably, some of his best ever scores have been forged from out of difficult situations arising between himself and directors and/or sound engineers – to wit, Alien and Legend for Ridley Scott – so it can also be surmised that he was equally as confident and intuitive and inventive when his back was against the wall. But there can be no doubting that Jerry Goldsmith, unleashed at his most innovative and creative, was a force that couldn’t be reckoned with. And with the full accommodation and leeway afforded him by Schaffner, he would come up with something that was incredibly unique – both definitive of its genre and yet bravely determined to break new ground. Patton is not the typically rambunctious and thematically aggressive affair that he had already crafted for the war movie, and would go on to craft again. This was something entirely fresh and unusual. Both Goldsmith and Schaffner would give one another the room to create, the pair naturally in-tune with each other's ideas and intentions.

The story of General George S. Patton driving his armoured legions from North Africa and into the chaos of Europe, forever hunting down and destroying Hitler’s forces with all the zeal of a crusader, was never going to be told at the level of a bullet-chewing grunt. It was to be a study of what made the man so determined, so bullish, so indomitable and so downright gung-ho. The screenplay by Coppola and North was an acute and scalpel sharp exposé of what made the General tick. But this meant that the film, and the score, would have to be as cerebral as they were jingoistic. Much like a loyal second-in-command whispering advice in his leader's ear, Goldsmith was very much the emotional catalyst that would command Patton’s emotions and inner beliefs, compelling him to overcome such colossal obstacles and to drive him on to ever greater victories and glory. So, whereas the obvious thing would have been to deliver a robust and monolithic war score in the traditionally brassy and incendiary form, Goldsmith swerves his composing tank in a different direction, sweeping up the battalion of his orchestra, and leading them on more of a stealth mission designed to penetrate the defensive bravado that Patton, and his entourage, built up around the pit-bull-like commandant.

Intrada present the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, this is the “complete score”, on CD1, with the Original 1970 Score Album over on CD2. It should be noted that whilst CD1 sounds fantastic, it is blown away by the incredible quality of the cleaned-up and restored album – duties carried out by Nick Redman in 1997 - on the second disc, which positively glimmers with clarity and presents a cleaner, more organic sound than the Soundtrack, which retains that ripe and raw bellicosity. However, we will concentrate mainly upon CD 1.

Playfully, Goldsmith's score begins with the Patton Salute on Track 1, with a solo bugle calling out the steadfast “To The Colors” that is instantly recognisable as that most clichéd of military sounds. It is perfectly apt, of course, this proud regimental reveille, and something that helps set the weird, almost surreal tone of Scott's personification. When placed against the spectral qualities that float across much of the rest of the score, this one brief piece is the most conventional … but its very familiarity cleverly sets it apart from what Goldsmith achieves elsewhere. He is almost saying, “Here's what you expect to hear in a big, brash military score … but from this point on, you're in my war!” Thus, when we enter Track 2's Main Title, we fall under the spell of Goldsmith's shattering mystical cadence in a wallop of inspired writing. The score for Patton is anchored and driven by one singularly massive and distinctive theme. To establish the character's sense of having been reincarnated from a long line of warriors across a millennia of warfare, Goldsmith finds a motif that reflects this timeless echoing of deeds past. On the face of it, the sound, no matter how unique, seems quite simple. He uses a threadbare triplet motif for trumpet that then goes through the Echoplex tape-loop device, stretching those notes into a receding call-to-arms that genuinely sounds as though it is filtering back across the ages and hailing former comrades fallen in battle. This remarkably effective motif returns throughout the score and becomes the signature phrase that everyone remembers. But it is also a prelude to the more bustling and traditional elements that go into creating the main theme. Drum snares ripple in the background, as a mock religious organ cushions the developing bridge that will presently usher in the more grandiose intentions of the main fanfare. Even here, in this impactful opening title, the composer is having fun. Directly after these echoing triplets, we hear Civil War flutes 'n' whistles, drums and brass as they essay a sprightly and patriotic flavour for Patton's cock-of-the-walk stature. You can feel the build-up, and then suddenly Goldsmith's music lurches forward with the gusto of a churning tank brigade, or a galloping cavalry charge. He then allows the orchestra to erupt into a full fanfare of jovial imperialism. It is loud, it is big, it is simply “chest-out, chin-up” beautiful. There is something of an Alex North element to its upbeat pace and quasi-regal attitude, too. Think of the superb travelogue music for Spartacus' slave uprising – this is the type of material that may be glued to one person in particular, their very essence, but it happily takes in the size and scope of the overall undertaking and the multitudes who are involved in it.

But Goldsmith then swings backward again, dropping the might and majesty of the brassy percussive fanfare to recall the organ and the trumpet triplets of Patton's turbulent inner faith. Bass drums are heard pounding in the distance, fading gently across the vast plains of battlefields from North Africa to Italy with a sort of tribal shimmer. Warped brass growls and snarls, adding a frightening primal tension, perhaps indicative of the General's baser needs for blood and chaos. A grim metallic sound is assumed within the brass expletives, possibly informing us of the vital necessity for armour and tanks in the modern theatre of combat. The track, which has contained so much of what propels this score, then gently fades out with those triplets echoing once more into the past.

Searing string-led apprehension opens up The Battleground, for the iconic scene in which Patton delivers what he believes are his own memories concerning an ancient conflict, as he paces the now peaceful terrain of grass and ruins, reliving the events of ancient confrontation. Some of this is exquisitely strange and eerie. Listen out for elements that will see later expansion in Outland – long note sustains that break off into wavering wails that will form the background of the main theme for Peter Hyams' excellent “High Noon in Space”. Eloquent string glissandos are serenaded, naturally, by those haunting triplets, The Battleground then seguing marvellously into The Cemetery, Track 4, which continues with this fabulous otherworldly atmosphere of spiritual dislocation and soul wandering. This is almost a dirge, but it is one that combines the dignity of all conflicts with the breathtaking respect that Patton has for war as a living, breathing, all-consuming entity that he wishes to dominate. Softly reverberating bass delivers two-note heartbeats that slowly mark time, adding to the reverence with which Goldsmith treats these scenes. Strings and woodwinds take the movement, the track even delivering a sizzling violin and horn flourish that would also see service again in Alien. Piano, winds and gentle percussion lend a dark and primitive Apes-like feel to The First Battle, this whole sequence of cues since the end of Track 2 sombre and distantly melancholy, yet astonishingly evocative of one man's sense of history, and his epochal place within it, now that the baton has been passed to him down the ages. However, there is little here that puts you in mind of a war film or, at least, the type of war films that had been made up until this point. Jerry Goldsmith has set his cards on the table almost from the moment that the bugle salute ended, and as full-throttle and martial as Scott's Patton is, this is a score that will reach into the reflective soul of a warrior, critical at times, but always finely in-tune with his own complexities and sense of unavoidable duty.

A dirge-like movement is also required for The Funeral. Anguished strings play slowly and morosely over ritualised drums and reflective woodwinds, the moment slowly strained, as though dragged along a knife-edge. Again, there is a reflection of Alex North here, the theme beautiful but yearning with grim resolve. In The Hospital, strings and horns and woodwinds wisp gently away from low bass intrusions. A gentle, weaving melody undulates over string triplets. This is a touch of home-grown Americana, sweetly rustic against those same low bass rumbles, yet heavy with guilt and pain. The mood is expertly carried over into The Prayer, Track 8, until a darker tone sets in after the midway point, for brass and horns. This slow and inexorable mood of agonised, strangled defiance continues in No Assignment, the first act of the film and, consequently, the score drip-feeding itself resentfully to a close. Goldsmith, and Patton, will turn up the heat in the second act.

The pomp of the Main Theme returns in full on and grin-inducing form in Track 10, The Patton March, a piece which formed the entr'acte at the film's original roadshow release. The following track, succinctly entitled Attack, sustains this march, emphasising the drums a little more at the start and adding some nice cymbal clashes for ballistic emphasis. A little passage of subdued brass then vents off with a sudden surging flurry, and then we hear a far away variation of the triplets for woodwinds … before Goldsmith pivots around again to bring in the brass and the strings and the percussion of a near jubilant main theme. This incredible chopping and changing of phrase, melody and tone is a hallmark of a composer who genuinely seems able to have his orchestra pirouette on a dime. The thrust of the track is therefore victorious, but struck through with a sense of the stakes being played for, and the cost that Patton's cavalier tactics demand.

Something new comes next as Goldsmith embraces the other side in German Advance, Track 12. Heavy brass assumes the introduction of a dissonant cue that contains both low key and deeper, more challenging approaches to a darker variation of the main theme. The four-note opener is injected with a colder, more austere European taint. Goldsmith has a gentle tick-tocking phrase for light snares provide a pensive touch, which he then adds to with the delicate plucking of the cello, before the finale of the track is bolstered by thick snarling brass, drums and strings to maintain that dangerous new edge of momentum. Drums and bass resume with An Eloquent Man, Track 13, as do the triplets in a new and closer, more pertinent guise of the immediate here and now, not the usual haunting cadence that we have become so used to. The dangerously grating stiffness of the German Advance nudges its way into the track, but it is met head-on by squalling renditions of the Patton March that feature shrill brassy rebuttals of American defiance. This is Goldsmith conducting a musical battle between his own orchestra, whirling from one side to another, and creating the eventual assimilation of both themes as the enemies collide. Listen how one theme plays only slightly over the other, the two clashing together in a running battle. A wonderful little passage for staccato strings and horns then surrenders to a crescendo for brass. We've been to war with Goldsmith now, but the clever thing is that those more melancholy and march themes have been involved with the battle as well, just having donned fatigues and taken up arms. Those signature themes will now feel a little bloodier when next we hear them. And this, folks, is how a grand master like Jerry Goldsmith has a score evolve even as we listen to it.

The Payoff, however, feels quite light and breezy in comparison to the skirmishing that has just taken place. Initially flute-driven, with that Colonial War of Independence feel, the track then gains substance with brazen drum sizzles, swirling strings, the trumpets coming in with Patton's march and then a slower, heavier variation for basses that feels strangely comforting. A flourish for full orchestra ends with a flurry of the drums and brass. A Change Of Weather, Track 15, is also a change of pace and mood. Paralysed by harsh Winter snows, Patton's forces are left languishing without the necessary air support to push on as quickly as the ever-hungry General wants. Delicate plucking of the cello frays the nerves as strings and woodwinds climb and hover, climb and hover – never getting anywhere – the emotional stagnancy hanging pregnant in the music. Goldsmith captures the ironic poison of impatience and the tragedy of war as US and German troops engage in ceaseless battle as a backdrop for Patton's rage at the situation. Pensive Patton, the following track, is only sixteen seconds long but, accompanied by chimes, the strings and horns come together to paint a picture of a man who is just about to step into the history books.

Closing out the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack is the End Title which, appropriately enough enlists the main march in a slightly slower paced and more sedate form, almost a bandstand parade. This comes after a stretch of brilliantly relaxed, and almost relieved, horn-playing that occupies a delightfully pensive area of victorious satisfaction.

An extra on this disc is found in Track 18 with the Echoplex Session. Lasting for five-and-a-half minutes, and accompanied by Goldsmith's instructions, this follows the trumpeter delivering that famous triplet, with various degrees of success, and the echoing effect being recorded. The ghostly voice of the late great composer actually sounds surprisingly eerie and enchanting as it resounds back across the ages now, for us. A charming little extra.

Over on CD 2, we find the original album presentation that Goldsmith put together in London, after the film's release and in-lieu of a proper OST, tailoring his score for maximum listening pleasure and catering for the many highlights of his composition as was the vogue of the times. Immediately apparent is the lighter tone of this shorter version (four tracks less), with the structure, pace and overall flavour far less dark and mysterious. Re-orchestrated and re-arranged, the music this time out is shorn of some of the most haunting and disturbing aspects. We lose certain cues, such as The Cemetery, An Eloquent Man and A Change Of Weather, but we get to hear Scott’s famous opening and closing speeches instead, which are simply wonderful. Listen out for the “special” version of German Advance that was recorded just for this presentation which you can hear under the title of Winter March, Track 7. We also get two versions of the End Title. Firstly, there is the End Title & Speech, which hails from the 1970 album, with the music mixed into mono to make room for the dialogue from Scott. And then we have the End Title (sans dialogue) that presents the cue in stereo and without Scott's monologue. The overall timbre of the score is altered, and the music sounds cleaner, more sonorous and warm. The main themes are still there, those haunting triplets still echo, but this is a fresher, somehow more intimate display. Comparing the two is both fun and intriguing and, without a doubt, Intrada offers the definitive release of all of Goldsmith's music for Patton.

Goldsmith and Schaffner would continue their happy collaboration after this Academy-hugged trailblazer with Papillon, Islands In The Stream (a dream project for Goldsmith), The Boys From Brazil and Lionheart. All unique and both highly cherished and critically lauded offerings.

2010 has been a truly astonishing year for soundtrack collectors, but perhaps especially so for fans of Jerry Goldsmith. Alongside Patton, we have had The Blue Max, Lonely Are The Brave, Outland 2-Discer, Escape From The Planet of The Apes, First Blood 2-Discer, Islands In The Stream, The Edge, Players, Star Trek V, Poltergeist 2-Discer, and on. It's certainly boom-time! Patton remains one of the composer's highlights in an astonishing career that is filled with gems, and Intrada's awesome 2-disc release does the master proud.

CD1 Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

  1. Patton Salute (Solo Bugle) 0.44

  2. Main Title 3.08

  3. The Battleground 2.14

  4. The Cemetery 2.42

  5. The First Battle 2.50

  6. The Funeral 1.54

  7. The Hospital 3.36

  8. The Prayer 1.11

  9. No Assignment 2.23

  10. Patton March 1.53

  11. Attack 3.15

  12. German Advance 2.32

  13. An Eloquent Man 1.43

  14. The Payoff 2.26

  15. A Change Of Weather 1.23

  16. Pensive Patton 0.16

  17. End Title 2.20

Total Soundtrack Time 37.03

Soundtrack Extra

18. Echoplex Session 5.29

CD1 Total Time 42.43

CD2 Original 1970 Score Album

  1. Patton Speech (spoken by George C. Scott) 4.54

  2. Main Title 2.17

  3. The Battleground 2.19

  4. The First Battle 2.48

  5. Attack 3.14

  6. The Funeral 1.53

  7. Winter March 1.55

  8. Patton March 2.04

  9. No Assignment 1.59

  10. German Advance 2.31

  11. The Hospital 3.18

  12. The Payoff 2.22

  13. End Title & Speech (spoken by George C. Scott) 1.01

Total Score Album Time 33.46

Album Extra

14. End Title (sans dialogue) 1.11

CD2 Total Time 35.02

Patton represents Goldsmith at possibly his most character-attuned. He manages to make the clichéd militarism of trumpets, bugles and three-star pomp into something that is hauntingly unique and profoundly intimate. The playful nature of the Patton March is a necessary antidote to the ethereal, almost ghostly mood that permeates much of the rest of the score, and yet it is this melancholic darkness that makes the music so powerful and memorable. With its echoing triplets, raucous brass and glacial, sinuous strings, Goldsmith’s score paints a picture of man commanding from the front but always aware of his own warrior-ancestors bringing up the rear and spurring him on. It is complex, unusual and majestic writing that is suggestive of destiny and salutary of heroism, but within its often stark and morose orchestration there lies a provocative lament for the idiocy of war, as well as the patriotic swagger of the brave. Like the man, himself, it is rousing, inflammatory, contradictory, consumed with an unswerving nobility and harassed by a peerless sense of destiny. It is also a masterpiece of bold and intelligent composition from a man who seemed incapable of putting a foot wrong.

Intrada’s terrific release includes insightful and heartfelt notes from Julie Kirgo and technical info courtesy of Doug Fake, as well as blisteringly good audio quality, which is especially apparent over on the second disc in this lavish and comprehensive set. Patton, in all of its vain and zealous glory, is here at last in a fabulous unlimited edition, so climb aboard that tank and head on over to Intrada to recruit yourself a copy now.

Very highly recommended.






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