Escape From The Planet Of The Apes – music by Jerry Goldsmith

Escape From The Planet Of The ApesJerry Goldsmith was among those who didn’t return for the second installment of the Planet Of The Apes film series, but he was back on board for the third, which was an attempt to reboot the series without ditching the established continuity. If anything, the third film was the most clever of the sequels, drop-kicking the story back into the present day (or something like it) for an Apes-style meditation on the spectrum of prejudice (from sublte to savage) and the fleeting and entirely disposable nature of celebrity, two topics which have helped Escape From The Planet Of The Apes retain its ironic bite over the years rather than allowing it to become increasingly dated (as with the other sequels).

Goldsmith, keenly aware of what the movie needed (as always), came out swingin’. No, not swinging, but swingin’ – as in groovy, baby! His opening theme for Escape is one of my favorite pieces that Goldsmith has ever written, period. It sounds nothing like the opening to a science fiction movie. It sounds like the opening to a ’70s comedy, which is what the movie’s admittedly funny opening scene is trying to trick you into expecting. With its jazzy beat and straight-outta-the-late-sixties electric organs, guitar and sitar, Goldsmith’s opening number completely belies the story that’s about to unfold. And I love it. The whole movie is about appearances deceiving, and Goldsmith was clearly in on the joke.

The swingin’ mood carries into the next track, “The Zoo”, which is a bit more mellow – almost into Barry White backing-track territory, again completely unexpected for Goldsmith. It’s at the beginning of this track, however, that the composer begins to slip in some of the unorthodox, almost animalistic instrumentation from the Planet Of The Apes score, but subtly – you can be forgiven for not noticing (especially while watching with the movie’s dialogue and sound effects).

“Gorilla Attack” is a burst of brutality that seems out of the place with the movie’s decided gentle first reel, but it’s a preview of things to come. Goldsmith resumes the grooviness with the “Shopping Spree” montage, but things quickly become more unsettled as the movie’s plot becomes darker and more serious to a shocking degree. As suspicion mounts that the two talking apea – now revealed to be expecting parents – may well signal the end of the line for homo sapiens, the music becomes darker by several orders of magnitude. Tracks such as “Labor Pains” and “Mother And Child” distract a bit by sounding like the score from a more domestic drama, but the sheer brutality of immediately adjacent tracks like “The Breakout” and “The Hunt” leave little doubt that the story is still about the impending extinction of the apes as we know them at this point in the saga. “Final Chapter and End Credits” brings it all home, no longer the gimmicky laugh at the beginning of the movie, but closing off a tragically brutal story. The latter half of that track revisits the basic melody of Goldsmith’s jaunty opening, but in a much more somber treatment.

I can caution you that there’s barely a half-hour of music here (and on one of those pricey, limited-edition releases, no less), but this is a Goldsmith masterpiece – possibly even moreso than Planet Of The Apes itself. Escape From The Planet Of The Apes was all about getting the audience in their seats with some popcorn for some kooky, zany fish-out-of-water comedy, only to 4 out of 4serve up a slice of blistering social commentary that, frankly, audiences probably needed in 1971. (I’d put this movie, completely unchanged in front of an audience now, too: the 1971 timestamp would probably put them even more at ease and make it even more shocking.) Goldsmith’s music was part of the process of tricking the audience into letting its guard down, and it’s downright hummable too – a great combination.

Order this CD

  1. Main Title (2:32)
  2. The Zoo (1:06)
  3. The Gorilla Attack (0:56)
  4. I Like You (1:05)
  5. Shopping Spree (2:19)
  6. A Little History (1:23)
  7. Interrogation (3:18)
  8. Labor Pains (1:05)
  9. Breakout (0:38)
  10. The Labor Continues (3:55)
  11. The Hitchhiker (1:06)
  12. Mother And Child (3:52)
  13. The Hunt (4:06)
  14. Final Chapter and End Credits (1:42)

Released by: Varese Sarabande
Release date: 2009
Total running time: 29:03