That previous post about great scores to bad movies made me realize that a perhaps harder list to compile would be one of good movies with lousy scores. Indeed, it’s difficult to do a list like this without taking into account changing musical tastes – most of the examples I thought of were from the ‘80s, for example. And I’m sure that in a less generous mood I could probably find fault with all sorts of classical Hollywood soundtracks that now sound a bit too bombastic or whatever. But in creating this list of six examples, I’ve tried to avoid retroactive anachronisms – those Harold Faltermeyer scores to Beverly Hills Cop and Fletch may sound a bit dinky now, but they seemed pretty awesome back then. Rather, a number of these scores seemed out of place or misguided right out of the starting gate.
6.) The Prince of Tides (Director: Barbara Streisand, composer: James Newton Howard)
In the wrong hands, James Newton Howard’s patented over-sentimentality can become a deadly weapon. I can’t say this is one of his worst scores, but director Barbara Streisand’s over-use of it is crippling to this psychological melodrama, which I’ve always thought had its moments otherwise.
5.) The Firm (Director: Sydney Pollack, composer: Dave Grusin)
Is The Firm a good movie? I’m not sure. There’s a lot of great stuff in it, to be sure. But there’s also a general pall of dullness that covers pretty much the entire film, and I can’t help but think that Dave Grusin’s score is one of the main culprits. It felt like needles being stuck in my ears when I recently saw the film again.
4.) Major Dundee (Director: Sam Peckinpah, composer: Daniele Amfitheatrof, Christopher Caliendo)
Now here’s an interesting situation: At the time of its original release Sam Peckinpah’s brutal cavalry epic, which had already been hacked by both its studio and its producer, had a rousing, zippy, brassy score by Daniele Amfitheatrof that was so ridiculously over-the-top and inappropriate it would have felt out of place in 1945, let alone 1965. Peckinpah understandably wasn’t happy with the score either. When a longer version (though not a director’s cut) was edited together in 2005, the score was replaced by one considered a bit more understated and appropriate, by Christopher Caliendo. That also doesn’t really work. Neither score had anything to do with Peckinpah.
3.) Gregory’s Girl (Director: Bill Forsyth, composer: Colin Tully)
My fondness for Bill Forsyth’s cinema is well-documented, and I actually think that he’s marvelously adept at using music as a director – those Mark Knopfler scores for Local Hero and Comfort & Joy are perfect. And while I like Gregory’s Girl, the overzealous jazz score – which more than anything sounds like you’re stuck in a dentist’s waiting room circa 1983 -- has always been an obstacle for me.
2.) The Makioka Sisters (Director: Kon Ichikawa, composers: Shinnosuke Okawa, Tohiyuki Watanabe)
The generally somber and deliberate tone of Kon Ichikawa’s masterful family drama – which recently enjoyed an overdue revival at Film Forum – is almost hilariously out of synch with its now-utterly-deranged-sounding synth score.
1.) Ladyhawke (Director: Richard Donner, composer: Andrew Powell)
I love this film. I loved it when I saw it as a kid, and I loved it when I saw it again recently. But even before I first saw it – even when they were just showing clips of it on Sneak Previews – I was distracted by that hyper, poppy electronic score, which is so catastrophically wrong words can’t quite describe it. Here, have a listen: