Thursday, June 19, 2008

Just Because / Music To Live By: Gremlins Movie Score

Well, I've been back from the honeymoon on Kauai for two weeks now and work has kept me incredibly busy. But during those many busy hours I've found some solace in my YouTube playlists , which help to pass the time (when I'm not continually interrupted with meetings and fires to put out in the office.)

I couldn't really decide whether this fell into the category of a random YouTube link for you guys to enjoy (Just Because), which is what I originally intended this post to be. Or if this is more of a score review (Music To Live By). It turned out to be something of both.

Gremlins: The Score

One of the playlists I listened to several times last week was Jerry Goldsmith's great score for Gremlins, the 1984 movie written by Chris Columbus, directed by Joe Dante, and executive produced by Spielberg. What a team! Special thanks to YouTuber Aldabarran for uploading this hard-to-find and out of print score to the Internet.

What I really like about Goldsmith's score - besides how instantly it brings back the fun of the movie it was written for - is how it captures both the film's lighter and darker tones. Goldsmith uses an interesting synth sound for some parts of the score used when the Gremlins are running amok. A combination of this synth music and some skillful violin work bring uniquely identifiable and eery cues for scenes with the Gremlins. He also does a great job of weaving in some lighter, holiday themed cues with Gizmo's theme throughout as the score threads between its heros and Gremlins.

You may also find it interesting to know that Goldsmith's violin based Gremlins theme didn't actually make its first appearance in the titular movie. Movie score fans will know that Goldsmith scored the Twilight Zone movie from the early 80's, which cmainly onsisted of 4 separate stories. One of those stories was about a man (played by John Lithgow) who sees a monster on the wing of the airplane he is flying on. During this story, the monster is referred to as a "gremlin", one of those little monsters that cause mechanical things to go wrong and break down, but that people never see. If you listen to the track for "Nightmare at 20,000 feet" on the Twilight Zone score, you'll hear a familiar violin theme when the Gremlin appears at about 3:20.

Or, you can hear part of the music in the first minute of this clip, especially from 00:47 - 1:03:

Come to think of it, this segment of this film a) is really well done, and b) really left an impression on me when I saw it as a kid.

Steven Spielberg directed one of the four stories in the Twilight Zone movie, so it's no coincidence at all that Goldsmith was chosen to score Gremlins when it came along.

Here's some random trivia for you:
- This original TZ episode starred William Shatner. Shatner starred in Star Trek.
- Jerry Goldsmith scored the original Star Trek movie.
- Goldsmith also scored this segment of the Twilight Zone movie that was executive produced by Steven Spielberg. Goldsmith also scored Gremlins, which was also exec produced by Spielberg. Not coincidentally, the Gremlins movie features very similar "gremlin" music for the little green monsters as the little bit of violin music you hear when Lithgow sees the monster on the wing of the plane.
- Spielberg also exec produced The Goonies, which was directed by Dick Donner.
- Dick Donner directed this original TZ episode of Nightmare at 10,000 feet.

Gremlins: The Movie
I watched this movie recently for the first time in a number of years and darn it if it still isn't enjoyable! As a kid I always remembered the movie being funny, but sometimes scary. Watching it again now, I see a much greater dichotomy between the film's comedic moments and the moments that are downright horror-like. One minute Gremlins are popping out at a character for a cheap scare, then their killing an old lady mischeivously, but then you get a whole 60 second scene with nothing but Gremlins hanging out in a bar, dancing to 80's disco wearing a Flashdance outfit, beating each other up with cartoon sound effects in the background, and a Gremlin flasher who exposes, well, nothing underneath his mini, Gremlin-sized trenchcoat.

Some might cite all these things as evidence of just how uneven the film's tone is. However, I think these guys knew exactly what they were doing. They wanted it to be a little scary, a little funny, and a little heartwarming. In fact, I think it's a pretty rare breed of movie that can pull off that kind of combination HALF as successfully as Gremlins does.

Anyway, enjoy listening to Gremlins!

Gizmo, ka-ka!

1 comment:

Seth Dombach said...

Fink, this is awesome, I was just thinking about the music from Gremlins the other day. Great stuff man