A Few Notes on James Horner (Part One)

(thanks, Cinefix!)

While many will remember the late James Horner for his work on Titanic, Avatar, Braveheart and other blockbusters, my own memories of the man’s work go back to his 80’s output when a few of his scores stood out aurally and made me seek out their soundtrack albums. Amusingly enough, I hadn’t realized he’d done the score for Humanoids From The Deep until I re-watched the film for a recent blogathon.

(Thanks, Shout Factory!)

The first score I really noticed of his was 1980’s Battle Beyond the Stars, the Star Wars meets Seven Samurai sci-fi flick that made great use if its low budget visual effects and some fun casting. Horner’s score gently lifted bits of Jerry Goldsmith’s work on Patton, as well as touches of John Williams and a dash of Bernard Herrmann for good effective measure. I rather liked that the man wore his influences on his sleeve and made the film flow even more thanks to his music.

(Thanks, Warner Bros.!)

Horner was a busy man in 1981, composing four film scores to movies of varying degrees of quality. Oliver Stone’s debut flick, The Hand was a weird horror film about a comic strip artist who loses his hand only to have it implicate him in a few murders. The movie wasn’t great at all, but the score was effective and unsettling. Michael Wadleigh’s unusual horror film Wolfen was up next. Here, Horner went for an interesting aural assault using strings and brass extremely well. If I’m not mistaken, music from The Hand was also used in this one. Hey, I saw that clunker three times just to get a look at the Barry Windsor-Smith artwork that was underused in the film. So part of the score was stuck in my head for a while.

Another horror film, Deadly Blessing was up next. One of director Wes Craven’s best in my opinion and it got a solid score to match the events on screen. I’ve only seen The Pursuit of D. B. Cooper once and wasn’t a fan of it, so I can’t really recall much of Horner’s work on it. Given that the film isn’t LEGALLY available on home video, it’s gotten a few people paying for bootlegs until Universal wises up and gets at least a budget Blu-Ray/DVD out.

(Thanks, Paramount Movies!)

In 1982, Horner finally broke into the big time with his stellar and memorable score for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. The score has plenty of great moments and the composer’s choice to use a nautical theme for the sequel made the music vastly different than Jerry Goldsmith’s work on the first Star Trek film. Horner also lifted a classic cue from Bernard Herrmann’s main title theme to Mysterious Island, making a powerful scene all the more effective. I can recall myself and two other soundtrack hounds practically flying out of out seats when those two notes blasted out of the theater speakers. It turns out we weren’t the only ones geeking out on that bit of genre nostalgia…

(to be continued)


2 thoughts on “A Few Notes on James Horner (Part One)

    • Thanks for the comment and invite! I’ll need to poke at my schedule and get back to you with a post idea. Amusingly enough, I’d been kicking around some thoughts about a certain Barrymore and a certain film but I need to find the time to write about all that.


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