Mr. Cellophane

In a location adjacent to a place in a city of some significance, what comes out of my head is plastered on the walls of this blog.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

My Favorite Scores: Cherry 2000 (Basil Poledouris)

I can't say it enough, kids: I love film music. The sounds, the melodies, the emotions it arouses. I've had an interest in film music for roughly two decades and, in that time, I've come across a number of scores I have no qualms about calling my favorites.


Given the kid's-game-show-obstacle-course insanity of filmmaking, it's truly astounding that any movies get released, much less made. Every so often, a film is completed, but there's a long time before it sees release. Most often, this points to trouble in paradise, but sometimes, it can obscure a possible diamond in the rough.

In the near-future, relationships are achieved through obtaining robotic companions (...if only, right?) or through lawyer-monitored contracts. Sam's (David Andrews) artificial lover goes on the fritz, so he ventures into dangerous territory for a replacement, accompanied by E. Johnson (Melanie Griffith), a tough-as-nails tracker. One-of-a-kind futuristic Western adventure; what it lacks in narrative urgency, it makes up for with some neat touches and a terrific supporting cast.

Given his higher-profile work on Conan the Barbarian and RoboCop, one would be a little surprised to find Basil Poledouris working on this movie, but the composer rose to the occasion, producing a score just as good as the ones for those genre favorites.

Cherry's theme is a lilting melody that ably suggests the perfect ideal that is a Cherry 2000. Whether played by flute ("Main Title", "Flashback #2") or strings ("Flashback #1", "Cherry Awakens"), it makes for a beautiful theme, even as the backing electronics gently remind the listener of her true origin.

In a weird though fascinating touch, Poledouris used the film's title for the basis of no less than three different singable motifs. The theme for E ('cherrrrrr-ry two thou-SAND') appears (for the first time in the film) halfway into "The Barricades" and bookends "Photograb". The low brass melody bespeaks her hard-bitten, take-no-prisoners vibe.

The second one, a brass over string ostinato motif ('cher-ry two THOU-sand') isn't really tied to any character; it just seems to accompany moments of explosive conflict. Introduced 3:29 into "Magneto", it dominates "Pipeline" and figures heavily into "End of Lester".

The third motif is a love theme for Sam and E ('dun-dun-dun, da-cher-ry two THOU-sand'). It's deftly hidden in the luau-esque source cue "Jake's Jukebox" (there's a typo on the Prometheus album), as if to suggest that Six-Fingered Jake (Ben Johnson) sees the attraction between the two before they do. (Another clever moment comes in "Hooded Love" when the two get hot and heavy, their love theme played electronically, while Cherry's theme overlaps in an acoustic flute reading.)

"Drive to Gloryhole" (!) impresses with rock guitar, while "E Flips Sam" lurks with hints of Morricone on English horn and trumpet, leading to its string sting coda. "Drive" is earmarked by its hypnotic synth backbeat. "The Barricades" is another fine cue, mixing churning strings, swelling brass and tolling bells.

One of the score's show-stoppers is "Magneto", when E's Charger is lifted over a ravine by a giant magnet. The cue starts quietly with tinkling notes, then builds on the churning of "The Barricades", hinting at E's theme without fully stating it. Brass soon swells as our heroes fight off the attackers. Ultimately, electronics rain down much like the water of the drainpipe they are lowered into.

"Lights Out" introduces two other melodies, an ascending, dream-like electronic motif for Jake (0:30) and a driving, cyclical action theme (1:05) for Lester, the film's Big Bad, amusingly incarnated by Tim Thomerson. "Thrashing of Sky Ranch" makes for a fascinating collision of motifs, starting with an eerily drawn-out version of Lester's theme, leading into Jake's melody and the potential love theme and a reprise of the pounding rhythms of "Magneto" as a kidnapped Sam gets some payback on Lester's pad, blowing it up.

A minor, almost comic motif for bass clarinet, cello and marimba appears in "Drop 'em", as an attempt to get a plane for the next leg of the journey leads to a conga line-style standoff (it makes sense if you see the film). There's also a neat bit of mickey-mousing in "Randa (on) Mic" (another typo) as the motif is accompanied by swirling strings for the rolling of a tire.

It all comes to a head with "Lights On" and "End of Lester", two unsung examples of the composer's mastery of the action genre. In the former, as Lester's gun-toting minions take aim at our escaping heroes, their boss's theme hails down upon them, but the tide turns and the minions and Lester are taken out with the help of E's theme...but the blaring brass at the start of the latter cue suggests that Lester isn't yet down for the count. Chopping strings and the 'conflict' motif lead to Cherry's theme as she and Sam fly off, leaving E pinned down. Even as Cherry's theme sails majestically with strings and electronics, Sam soon realizes that he may be flying back with the wrong woman. The plane's U-turn signals a triumphant brass reading of Sam and E's love theme. The new couple flies off, even as the conflict theme dies out with Lester's last attack. "The End" reprises the love theme for its fly-into-the-sunrise coda.

All told, this is a engaging score, one of the most eclectic to come from Poledouris' pen and you owe it to yourself to give it a try. (The bottom of the bill score, the electronic No Man's Land, isn't too bad, either.)

Availability: This was one of the first releases in the Varese Sarabande CD Club back in the late 80s and at one point, this was the most expensive soundtrack of all time. Prometheus Records put out a release in 2004, then Intrada released an album in 2011, paired with The House of God. Given the weird sequencing and it being hard-as-hell-to-find, I wouldn't recommend the former. The latter two albums are available from various retailers.

Prometheus PCD 155

Track Listing:
1. Cherry 2000 - Main Title (1:58)
2. Photograb - Alternate Mix (1:11)
3. Cherry Shorts Out (1:32)
4. Lights On - Alternate Mix (1:51)
5. Flashback #1/Drive to Gloryhole (1:25)
6. E Flips Sam (1:17)
7. The Barricades (1:51)
8. Flashback #2 (1:06)
9. Photograb (1:11)
10. Magneto (4:19)
11. Pipeline (0:57)
12. Water Slide (1:04)
13. Juke's (sic) Jukebox (1:37)
14. Lights Out (1:26)
15. Moving (0:37)
16. Thrashing of Sky Ranch (3:24)
17. Drive (1:56)
18. Hooded Love (1:16)
19. Ambush in the Cave/Truck Fight (2:13)
20. Lester Follows (0:19)
21. Drop 'em (0:41)
22. Lester on the Move (0:39)
23. Rauda (sic) (on) Mic (0:43)
24. Jake Killed (0:51)
25. Plane to Vegas (1:01)
26. Cherry Awakens (1:13)
27. Lights On (1:51)
28. End of Lester (5:02)
29. The End (0:37)

music from No Man's Land:
30. No Man's Land - Main Title (2:58)
31. P.C.H. (1:01)
32. First Score (2:25)
33. Lone Score (1:18)
34. Love Theme (1:38)
35. Chase (5:27)
36. Porsche Power/Drive My Car? (2:39)
37. Ann Buttons (1:13)
38. Payoff (3:27)
39. Showtime (4:16)
40. No Man's Land - End Credits (3:01)

41. Cherry 2000 - Bonus Track - Movietone (0:56)

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