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Gremlins – music by Jerry Goldsmith

GremlinsHorror and comedy are two film genres that many have tried to mix, but few have managed to meld successfully. Part of the problem is that horror films tend to fall into one of two categories: so overbaked as to be almost unintentionally funny, or so repulsive as to strip even the slightest opportunity for humor out of the proceedings. If you try to add “widespread popular appeal” to the mix, you’re begging for trouble, because that all but violates the Prime Directive of making a horror flick. One of the very few movies to have landed right in the middle of that improbable Venn diagram was 1984’s Gremlins, directed by Joe Dante and produced by Steven Spielberg. Gremlins manages to be funny – and even endearingly sweet – and scary all at the same time. And as for popular appeal, the last time my son and I ventured through the toy aisle, we spotted freshly-minted, newly-produced Gremlins figures on the store shelves. Not bad for a movie that’s nearly 30 years old, even if I did have to explain that the movie that they’re from is too rich for his blood since he’s only 4 years old.

Helping to sweeten the movie’s cute moments and lend bite to the scarier scenes was an outstanding Jerry Goldsmith score. Always experimenting with unconventional instrumentation and electronics, Goldsmith was firmly into a phase of adding off-the-shelf synthesizers to the usual orchestral palette. Early samplers were also in play here, adding strange howling-cat noises and an almost-funny “Gremlin chorus” to numerous scenes where appropriate. Film Score Monthly’s 2-disc set corrects one of the longest-standing gaps in commercially-available film music by presenting the full score, alongside the remastered-for-CD “mini-album” released in 1984 which was previously the only way to hear any of the movie’s score. (As it turns out, even the barely-adequate mini-album has its charms, of which more in a moment.)

Goldsmith’s music for Gizmo, the adorable Mogwai who was the movie’s most marketable image, reinforces the adorable part,

Of course, once Gizmo’s kids have their fateful post-midnight snack, Goldsmith gets into more, well, Goldsmithian material. The first strains of the “Gremlins Rag” – heard in full in the movie’s end Gremlinscredits – are heard in an off-kilter, almost toy-piano style as Billy’s mother gets her first look at the grotesquely mutated pods. Once these hatch, all hell breaks loose and Goldsmith upends his entire toybox on us, frequently using the unearthly cat-howl sample mentioned earlier. That occurs through several vignettes early in the Gremlins’ spree of mischief, but once that becomes an all-out reign of terror that threatens to raze the entire town to the ground, the music officially goes balls-to-the-wall. “Too Many Gremlins” would be an epic orchestral music cue for any horror movie, but it helps to sell the Gremlins as a serious threat here (don’t forget, the movie was made in 1984, and its effects were limited to the state of the art of puppetry and animatronics in 1984 – the music had a lot of work to do in making the Gremlins a credible hazard). (That being said, I’m glad that Gremlins has been neither remade nor – shudder – CGI “enhanced” in the years since it was made.)

The second disc will either be a jolt of harmless ’80s nostalgia, or a collection-completer. It’s hard to trawl through theLogBook.com’s music reviews without picking up on me being a Peter Gabriel fan, and the inclusion of “Out Out” may just be that song’s first official appearance on CD, and it’s a notoriously hard-to-find piece from Gabriel’s early career, not having appeared on any of his albums to date, right in the middle of the four-year gap between Security and So. For that alone, this is one “contractually obligated re-release of the original album” (a bugbear of these classic soundtrack remasters) I’ll let them skate by with.

4 out of 4It’s amazing that so much of one of Jerry Goldsmith’s most memorable scores had to wait this long for an official release, but the sound quality and the abundance of previously unreleased material make Gremlins worth the wait.

Order this CD

    Disc One: The Film Score

  1. Fanfare in C / The Shop / The Little One (4:30)
  2. Late for Work (1:46)
  3. Mrs. Deagle / That Dog (2:22)
  4. The Gift (1:45)
  5. First Aid (2:17)
  6. Spilt Water (3:02)
  7. A New One (1:10)
  8. The Lab / Old Times (2:35)
  9. The Injection (2:56)
  10. Snack Time / The Wrong Time (1:49)
  11. The Box (1:24)
  12. First Aid (1:39)
  13. Disconnected / Hurry Home (1:03)
  14. Kitchen Fight (4:06)
  15. Dirty Linen (0:43)
  16. The Pool (1:07)
  17. The Plow / Special Delivery (1:16)
  18. High Flyer (2:22)
  19. Too Many Gremlins (2:06)
  20. No Santa Claus (3:27)
  21. After Theatre (1:39)
  22. Theatre Escape / Stripe Is Loose / Toy Dept. / No Gizmo (4:36)
  23. The Fountain / Stripe’s Death (5:42)
  24. Goodbye, Billy (2:56)
  25. End Title / The Gremlin Rag (4:10)

    Bonus Tracks

  26. Blues (2:17)
  27. Mrs. Deagle film version (1:27)
  28. God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen (1:12)
  29. After Theatre (With “Silent Night”) (1:36)
  30. After Theatre (Without “Silent Night”) (1:36)
  31. Rabbit Rampage composed by Milt Franklyn (0:47)
  32. The Gremlin Rag full version (3:35)
  33. Gizmo’s New Song (0:35)
  34. Gizmo’s Trumpet (0:30)
    Disc Two: 1984 Soundtrack Album

  1. Gremlins…Mega Madness performed by Michael Sembello (3:52)
  2. Make It Shine performed by Quarterflash (4:11)
  3. Out Out performed by Peter Gabriel (7:02)
  4. The Gift (4:58)
  5. Gizmo (4:14)
  6. Mrs. Deagle (2:54)
  7. The Gremlin Rag (4:13)

Released by: Film Score Monthly / Retrograde Records
Release date: 2011
Disc one total running time: 76:01
Disc two total running time: 31:25

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