BY ANDRÉ SALAS
A soundtrack can be something moviegoers take for granted — if they even think of the music at all. But a good score is as important as the acting or direction, often making or breaking a film by heightening suspense and underlining dramatic moments and, in some cases, actually haunting the viewer way after the lights have gone up. (Just think about Last Tango in Paris or The Godfather and you’ll instantly recall their haunting themes.) But film music is not just an extra tool at a director’s hands; it’s a bona fide genre of music, with musicians dedicated to its craft, and a legion of rabid, faithful fans. Such has the fandom of the genre grown that very often, depending on the composer or film genre, a soundtrack doesn’t even need a hot movie to move units. Basic Instinct 2, while not a box office success, moved a respectable amount of CDs based on its lush score that incorporated Jerry Goldsmith’s original themes with new cues from John Murphy.
Groovy retro sounds of sexy ’60s and ’70s films have become must-haves for exotica and lounge fanatics, a revival kicked off by the 1995 reissue of the score to Jess Franco’s Vampyros lesbos. Such was the popularity of this title that it reached the Top 10 U.K. album charts. And while this sort of response is admittedly rare, it shows just how popular the genre has become. Another big mover is horror, a genre that has generally been the mainstay of soundtrack collecting. The Omen and its sequels have been in and out of print on vinyl and CD for years. And let’s not forget the Spaghetti Western or Japanese animation scores.
Accordingly, a number of CD labels deal with soundtracks and reissues as their main output. La-La Land Records in California, for instance, has a strong concentration in horror and sci-fi titles, ranging from more recent entries like Cabin Fever and Basic Instinct 2 to classics like The Howling and Godzilla. Veterans at Varèse Sarabande have moved to bigger, more mainstream titles like Blood Diamond and Children of Men yet still offer classic titles through their exclusive Soundtrack Club, issuing them as member-only limited editions. Silva Screen, meanwhile, has made a name by concentrating on individual composers; they recently released Film Music Masterworks, a series of mid-priced compilations devoted to luminaries like Ennio Morricone, John Williams and Jerry Goldsmith. Finally, Europe’s Crippled Dick Hot Wax! imprint has got the best-looking packaging around, with their digi-pak and limited-edition vinyl pressings of French, Italian and German sex-film music from the ’70s.— André Salas
For more on the labels mentioned above, visit silvascreenusa.com, varesesarabande.com, crippled.com and lalalandrecords.com.