The Music of John Barry: The Definitive CollectionSilva Screen (SILCD1445)
Released: May 5, 2014
Formats: CD, Digital (432 min)
Review: King Kong (1976)
3 / 5 Stars
With Peter Jackson\'s new take of the old 1933 classic King Kong arriving at the end of the year, now is a good time to revisit the previous versions. Often forgotten is the delightfully campy 1976 remake with Jessica Lange, Jeff Bridges and Charles Grodin. The King Kong movies have had strong composers - Max Steiner scored the original (and the sequel, Son of Kong) and Howard Shore is working on the new one. This middle one had an in-his-prime John Barry. Barry\'s interpretation (on director John Guillermin and producer Dino De Laurentis\' prodding) was that of a gothic romance, emphasizing the romance of the story over the spectacle of Steiner\'s version. The result is a score very similar to his future work on The Black Hole three years later.
The story, as you all already know, is about a girl and the ape that loved her. That\'s how this score plays out. Dawn\'s theme (introduced in "Maybe My Luck Has Changed") is a wistful and naïve theme. Kong receives a series of motifs, three in "The Opening" another in "Arrival on the Island" another in "Breakout to Captivity" and another in "Incomprehensible Cruelty". While all of them are solid, they don\'t come together as a whole – probably due to the time pressures of the project. It was the only Barry score to be written reel by reel as the movie was being completed. This made Kong one of Barry\'s most difficult scores to complete and a hard one to completely get into.
There are great fragments of Barry genius. "The Opening" gets one in the proper mood immediate with the moaning organ tones of motif two. Barry is always sure-footed at presenting foreboding doom. Barry\'s uses Tribal rhythms uncomfortably in the unused "Sacrifice - Hail to the King". He expertly overlaps a mounting "Kong!" chant that conflicting horns, tense strings and a shrill wind instrument to a sharp climax. "Breakout to Captivity" is similarly exciting. Both tracks have movie sound effects of screams and carnage to punctuation the ends of these tracks and other tracks (such as the "thump-thump" of Kong\'s dying heart in "The End") One could find this annoying, but these additions never get in the way of the music. Some tracks are inherently of their time. "Kong Hits the Big Apple" contains a swinging 70\'s beat that was dated thirty seconds after it walked out of the door.
The disk also includes the extensive liner notes one tends to get from FSM Silver Age Classics releases. There\'s plenty of production art (all of which have Kong showing the exact same vaguely irritated expression as he smashes something). All added up, this is a solid but not phenomenal score that gets the well-deserved polish from FSM. Fans of Barry will find plenty to like on this first official CD release of the score.
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