During the many years of collecting and enjoying music from motion pictures I have encountered many composers, my first encounter with the art of film music being Maurice Jarres epic score for LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, in the past half century or so I have savoured and relished each and every new score from composers that are sadly either no longer with us or are new up and coming talents within the film music arena. One composer that has always stood out for me personally and holds a special place within my musical heart and soul is Basil Poledouris. My first encounter with his music like many fellow collectors was with THE BLUE LAGOON and after hearing his addictive themes for that project looked for more of the same,
But it was his mammoth and thundering soundtrack for CONAN THE BARBARIAN, that arrived next and we all very quickly found out there was far more to this composers music than pretty themes, the order of the day on CONAN was action fuelled cues, a powerhouse of a soundtrack that simply left one stunned at its ferocity and gigantic persona. Basil’s gift for melody also shone through on CONAN alongside the full on battle music he created soft and subtle tone poems and fashioned haunting and beautiful melodies that lingered within the mind of the listener long after the music had stopped playing.
I remember when I first got CONAN THE BARBARIAN on Milan records I was just literally blown away by the quality and also the sheer magnitude of the score. Poledouris created a sumptuous and commanding work which immediately became an iconic work within the realms of film music and beyond. CONAN was impressively powerful and wonderfully exhilarating and without the score I think the movie maybe might not have gained the attention it attracted, for this was certainly one of those rare moments in cinema when image and music fused perfectly. The composer brought out the rawness of the films storyline and underlined the violence and savagery as it unfolded upon the screen, but he also gave it heart as he supported the very few tender moments within the storyline delicately and effectively, penning the beautifully mesmerising love theme or WIFEING for the love scene between CONAN and Valeria and also creating a mystical and otherworldly atmosphere for the villain of the piece Thulsa Doom.
Soon after CONAN came scores such as RED DAWN, CHERRY 2000, QUIGLEY DOWN UNDER,ROBOCOP,MAKING THE GRADE, LONESOME DOVE, FLESH AND BLOOD,THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER and FAREWELL TO THE KING. The latter is for me literally awash with rich and emotive thematic material and I have to mark this as one of my most played Poledouris scores along side CONAN THE BARBARIAN (of Course). There is an intimacy and a fragility present within this work that just attracts me and on every listen I find it as fresh and vibrantly moving as I did when I first heard it. There is a Barry-esque sound to its strings and horn lines that simply invade the listeners emotions and envelope them and with the added inclusion of Pan Pipes it is a score that oozes poignancy. The composer also providing a pomp and stuff and nonsense march along with a charming slow waltz theme all of which combine to support and ingratiate the movie. There is no doubt whatsoever that Basil Poledouris was a master of his craft and a supreme purveyor of rich, lavish and lush themes and is a composer and also a person that is still now missed greatly. He further consolidated his place in film music history and the annuals of cinema with scores for movies such as FREE WILLY, ITS MY PARTY, ROBOCOP 3, THE JUNGLE BOOK, FOR THE LOVE OF THE GAME,MICKEY BLUE EYES and KIMBERLY to select but a handful. His career as a film music composer and his own life was sadly brought to an end on November 8th 2006, when Basil passed away after a long fight with cancer.
Born Basilis Konstantine Poledouris on August 21st 1945 in Kansas City USA a Greek-American. He began to take piano lessons at the age of 7 and was eventually to enter USC to study Directing, cinematography, editing, sound and Music. It was whilst studying that he met John Milius and also Randal Kleiser, who were acclaimed film makers and also directors he would work with in the future. Although the composer had already written the score for John Milius,s film BIG WEDNESDAY in 1978 it was not really until 1982 that he began to be noticed when he scored CONAN THE BARBARIAN also directed by Milius. His score was a revelation to many in the film industry and garnered the composer much critical acclaim his soundtrack being hailed as probably the best from the 1980,s. Which is an opinion that many still this day agree with. In 1984 he scored the sequel CONAN THE DESTROYER which was a weaker film not having the originality and savagery of the original, and at times played for laughs rather than thrills under the direction of Richard Fleischer.
Poledouris continued his collaboration with Milius on RED DAWN in 1985 and also began a working collaboration and friendship with director Paul Verhoeven, when he scored FLESH AND BLOOD which was a bawdy, violent and exciting adventure set in medieval times. The collaboration continued in 1987 on ROBOCOP and then again in 1997 on STARSHIP TROOPERS. Basil Poledouris was a composer that seemed to be comfortable in any situation and any genre of film, his themes underlined and supported each and every project he worked upon eloquently and superbly, he in my opinion was one of the greats of film music and his character and personality lives on in his unique and gracious music.