Tuesday, June 12, 2007

OST - Desperate Hours - David Mansfield

Year: 1990
Genre: Original Soundtrack

Highlight Tracks: "Too Many Memories", "Albert Pursued", "The Chase"
Weak Tracks: "Dumping the Body"

I wish I had a scanner so I could show you the back cover of this album. The front cover is almost serene, a man in a suit standing in front of a nice house. Turn the case over (as most are want to do after putting a CD in) and you are met by the bloody image of actor David Morse standing in a stream as he is torn to shreds by hail of bullets. It is a startling contrast of images that matches the music as soon as the CD begins playing. Even if you have never seen the movie Desperate Hours, the music from it evokes tension and conflict.

The score is mostly comprised of a hard-working string section, eerie low-toned woodwinds, and a bombastic brass line. Each section of instruments serves a specific purpose. The strings come across as frantic; the villains on the run after a daring jailbreak. The woodwinds are the family that will eventually be taken hostage; a slightly sad theme for a broken home. The brass instruments are the action; exploding in your face they can't be ignored, much like our hero family can't ignore the gang of cons invading their home. Mansfield composes these elements to openly conflict when needed, but he also has them weave in and out of each other to create an atmosphere of menace through the majority of the piece.

While it is hard to separate the film's imagery from the music, the score plays as entertainment in itself. If you have never seen the movie the score is still a very dramatic listen. The score comes across as eerie and full of conflict. For the most part the focus on the woodwinds makes this a relaxing listen, but the expertly crafted layers of conflict could be a bit unsettling to some.

One element of the score that I really enjoy is that after the initial rounds of action early on the album, the score settles into the restrained conflict of its elements. By the end of the score (which is also the climax of the story) the composer chooses to focus on some of the quieter themes rather than blast the listener through the sofa. "Albert Pursued" is a great example of this, featuring drums prominently for the first time to add the element of an FBI SWAT team while maintaining a quiet atmosphere to lend magnitude and emotion to this two-bit thug's final moments.

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