Released in 1985, FLESH AND BLOOD was a kind of medieval version of The Wild Bunch. Its graphic and excessive violence and scenes of a sexual nature being shocking and at times blatantly brutal, but this was supposedly the middle ages and a time of war, famine and plague so maybe the director got it right when he committed his vision of medieval times to celluloid. Paul Verhoeven had made a name for himself in Holland and also in Europe with his own particular brand of film making and had garnered attention from the executives in Hollywood with his movies SOLDIER OF ORANGE and THE 4TH MAN. FLESH AND BLOOD was to be the directors first Hollywood picture, and the filmmaker decided to base his story upon certain segments of a television series that he had worked on some 16 years earlier in Holland, these segments which were unused ideas within the series FLORIS were developed and expanded by Verhoeven and soon became the framework for FLESH AND BLOOD. Rutger Hauer took the lead role in FLORIS so it seemed a natural step to offer the actor the lead in FLESH AND BLOOD, Hauer played the leader of a group of mercenaries who were ruthless, unmerciful and callous who sold their services to the highest bidder, when one such paymaster betrays them they retaliate by taking hostage his future daughter in law. But rather than being terrified their prisoner adapts and embraces their way of life. The musical score for this rip roaring, blood soaked adventure, is the work of Master film music Maestro Basil Poledouris, who sadly passed away far too early after loosing his fight with cancer in 2006. Verhoeven had heard the composer’s epic score for CONAN THE BARBARIAN (1982) and wanted him to create an equally epic work for his production. As we all probably know Poledouris did not disappoint with his musical soundtrack for FLESH AND BLOOD and the director must have been pleased because the composer and filmmaker collaborated again on two other movies, ROBOCOP in 1987 and STARSHIP TROOPERS in 1997. Although FLESH AND BLOOD contained a certain amount of the style and sound that Poledouris had employed within CONAN it was not just a reprise of the composers work for the John Milius movie, in fact given the subject matter and also the amount of violence and action within FLESH AND BLOOD the composers score was richly lyrical and romantic at times. Originally released on a VARESE SARABANDE long playing record with 11 tracks then as a CD on the Varese Sarabande club label with the same amount of music tracks, this score was destined to become a rare and sought after commodity by collectors. In 2002 Belgium based Prometheus records re-issued the score as a 21 track CD then again it was re-issued in 2010 on Intrada containing 24 tracks, and lastly or should I say more recently we are presented with the La La Land records re-issue which also contains 24 tracks.
The compact disc opens with the main title, at first this is a slightly subdued affair but soon steps up a gear and the composer utilizes strings and brass which are enhanced with percussion and the sound of shimmering tambourines that are ably supported by flyaway sounding woodwinds and carried forward by strident strings creating a proud and heroic EL CID like theme. This is fairly short lived but makes it mark and establishes the scores central theme and sets the scene for what is to follow. Track number 2, SIEGE OF THE CITY is another rousing and robust sounding cue, strings and brass once again join forces supported and punctuated by percussion and woodwind flourishes, Poledouris evoking a CONAN like ambience with horns embellishing proceedings throughout creating an almost fearsome atmosphere which is further established by the use of dark and somewhat sombre sounding strings with a subtle touch of organ being added to the mix. The score can be broken down into three central themes, but there are also present numerous sub-motifs and hints of themes that depict an atmosphere which evokes a mood that is gallant but at the same time has a rough and unforgiving rawness to it. We have the battle theme which is also the core theme from the soundtrack, proud and vibrant and containing a flowing richness to it, with bold brass and vociferous strings this is essentially the heart of the composers score. Variations of this theme can be heard throughout the score, Poledouris giving the initial theme a fresh and new lease of life on each outing via clever orchestration and differing arrangements.
Then we have a duo of love themes, which are both equally beguiling ad beautifully haunting, these two themes are both written with the character of Princess Agnes in mind the first being for her and her future husband which although is a fairly lush and romantic piece seems to lack enthusiasm or real passion, it is a somewhat subdued and fragile sounding composition, which reflects perfectly the inner feelings of the Princess. The second theme d’ amour is a much more focused and fervent sounding composition which is employed in scenes that involve the Princess with the Rutger Hauer character Martin, a full working of this poignant and emotive theme is best heard in track number 14, MARTIN AND AGNES LOVE THEME. Lush and sincere sounding strings taking centre stage and accompanied by soaring woodwind and underlying subtle percussion to create a haunting composition which lingers in the listeners sub conscious long after it has concluded. Poledouris in my opinion was the master of melody and also a talented and highly gifted purveyor of themes, which he demonstrates wonderfully and abundantly in his epic score for FLESH AND BLOOD. Presented well by La La Land records, with introductory notes by Randall Larson, and also an interesting interview with Poledouris that took place in 1985, which was conducted by Larson and David Kraft.
The booklet is literally brimming with stills from the movie and also has photos of the composer. Certainly worth adding to your collection even if you have anyone of the previous editions.