Disaster movies and in particular movies with a airliner or plane at the centre of the storyline always seem to attract cinema audiences, well at least they used to, I suppose it all started in earnest in 1970,when AIRPORT hit cinema screens, and then of course there were so many sequels, some good some bad and some well we wont even go there. TURBULENCE was released In the winter of 1997,and in that same year Hollywood seemed to resurrect the age old scenario of disaster in the air with movies such as CON AIR and AIR FORCE ONE. TURBULENCE although not immediately recalled is probably one of the better movies that dealt with this subject matter. Directed by Robert Butler the movie starred the excellent (and still underrated) Ray Liotta and Lauren Holly. The musical score is by the late Shirley Walker, who in my ever so humble opinion was a genius n the field of film scoring, her passing left a void within the community that will never be filled. The score for TURBULENCE is as you can imagine a tense and exciting one, full of many highs and also containing some richly dark and threatening moments along the way. On listening to the score from start to finish I thought at first it reminded me of Jerry Goldsmith as in any of his action scores, but then John Williams as demonstrated in scores such as RAIDERS and even STAR WARS at times one can hear something that is a little Danny Elfman or perhaps a string or brass passage that is vaguely Bernstein, but then listening again although there are certain references to the action scoring of all four of the composers mentioned, there is also an originality and a style that can only be Shirley Walker, which shines through and makes its presence felt. Swirling and menacing strings, high and jagged brass with flyaway flutes and other woods are supported by pounding percussion and punctuated further by the use of subtle electronics and a scattering of plaintive sounding piano, all of which go to create a score that is certainly edge of the seat, knock em down and drag em out material. One of the most ingenious cues on the score for me anyway is the opening track, CAROL O THE BELLS/CHRISTMAS SHOPPING/I.M INNOCENT. This is a masterful and canny piece of scoring, the theme itself we associate with the season of Yuletide, so a season of peace and goodwill to all men, well in the hands of Shirley Walker it does not quite work that way, via a clever arrangement of the well known Carol, the composer turns it into a threatening and quite dark sounding piece, in fact in many ways it sounds something like the late Bernard Herrmann might have delivered if he were still working in pictures at the time of this films release.
To say it is Herrmanesque in its overall sound is something of an understatement, as it is mysterious and threatening, creating a definite aura and air of unease. It begins quite gently and one thinks we are in for another rendition of this particular Christmas tune, but very swiftly by adding shady sounding strings the atmosphere alters drastically, and although one can still hear that the Carol motif is still present as such, there is the underlying ambience of darkness and disquiet which is created superbly by Walker, piano is laced around the strings and also subtle utilization of woods are added, plus a touch of low brass which then converts the seasonal joy bringing song into a menacing entity. Track two, F.A.A. 214, also contains smatterings of the Carol, but its life within this particular cue is short lived, Walker utilizing brass to great effect to create a stirring and upbeat theme which is kind of reminiscent of Elmer Bernstein’s, Carpetbaggers in places. Track number three THE TAKE OFF is an apprehensive sounding piece, full of expectancy and also excitement ,which is relayed via strings, brass and segments of the Carol of the bells that occasionally slips into the Christmas shopping motif then the brass section supported by strings simply take off with a rousing and fuller version of theme that Walker has introduced. Walkers work in film is quite stunning and this is certainly no exception, it is an action score first and foremost, plus it also contains some lighter and more melodic interludes, but for the majority of the scores running time we are treated to highly dramatic tense and nervous passages, but these are not atonal or unmelodic, the composer keeping themes running through the work all the time and introducing new ones and varying arrangements of already established ones. In fact the only real atonal cues I think are track number six, RYAN SAVES TERI/NO PULSE, where the composer puts to effect use percussive elements and hissing strings, conjuring up an atmosphere that is fraught and dramatic, and track number 9,LEVEL SIX/LAST BREATH, which contains elements of Carol of the bells, Teri’s theme that are underlined by dark sounding strings and percussion. I would call this a score that is old school, and this remark is no way meant in a derogatory way, this is proper film music, great film music and entertaining film music, film music in the style of film scores that attracted me to film music in the first place. Packaged wonderfully as always by LA LA LAND RECORDS with an array of colourful stills and fantastic liner notes. Recommended.