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I am thrilled that at last an expanded edition of James Horner’s magnificent score for the movie Willow has at last been released, and just want to say thank you Intrada. Released in 1988 the movie was produced by George Lucas and directed by Ron Howard, it’s a rip roaring, swashbuckling fantasy adventure, that I adored when I first saw it. I am not however saying it’s the best of George Lucas or indeed Ron Howard, but it’s an entertaining romp for kids of all ages, that is exciting, action packed and also has numerous emotional interludes, filled with mystical and magical moments it was and still is a movie that many count as one of their favourites. And from a film music fans point of view it has one of the most powerful and thematic scores that was penned in the 1980’s. I think alongside Horner’s Krull it is one of my most listened to Horner soundtracks.

Released on Virgin Music on LP originally then released later onto compact disc this is a score that has for many years been crying out for a re-issue in an expanded form. For me this is probably the best of James Horner, although saying that I don’t think anyone could say that the composer ever penned a bad score. On listening to this latest incarnation of Horner’s classic soundtrack I felt quite emotional, the opening flourishes of the first cue on disc 1 Elora Danan straight away taking me back to the late 1980’s. It is a magnificent and enthralling track which has a running time of nearly ten minutes, and it is this cue in which we hear many of Horner’s luxurious and action led central themes for the score, I suppose one could say that this is similar to an Overture as it successfully sets the scene for an array of musical delights that are waiting to be discovered as we the listener progresses through the score. I was at the time of first hearing the score struck but the sheer scale of the music, with the mighty London Symphony Orchestra and choir working their magic and performing Horner’s excellent musical compositions to perfection.

I also loved the way in which the composer utilised pan pipes and other woods within the score, at times they were lilting and effecting but also had the capacity to generate shrill terrifying moments and dramatic otherworldly sounds. But I think it was the central theme that I was affected by more than any other, like with most Horner scores there seems to be a warmth and even a familiarity to this glorious theme and one that not only mesmerises but totally captivates any listener.  The composer utilising strings and pan pipes to purvey a mysterious yet romantic and melancholy persona. In many ways, (and this is just a personal opinion )I felt that Horner’s music was superior to the movie itself, the score purveying an epic feel and also having to it an affecting and haunting aura. I do not think that a track-by-track analysis is really necessary for this score as the majority of film music fans will already be familiar with it, and Horner fans will certainly be.

It is I think sufficient to say that this is classic movie music and an iconic work by the late James Horner. It is a grandiose and all-consuming work written in the same year as Red Heat, Vibes, Cocoon The Return and The Land Before Time, and it as do these other scores show the versatility and wonderful talent of the composer who is so sorely missed in film scoring today. The grandiose and powerful sound and style of Willow also reflects many of Horner’s other cinematic works as heard in Krull, Star Trek ll The Wrath of Khan, Aliens, etc and was a pre-cursor to the delights and commanding energy that he purveyedin laterscores such as Glory, The Rocketeer, The Pagemaster, Braveheart and Apollo 13 to name but a handful, the list is literally endless. Intrada have done a marvellous job on this expanded 2 disc set release, which is not surprising as their standards are very high and encompass both quantity and quality.

Extra cues (the original CD release contained 8 tracks, this double CD release boasts 18) and eye-catching artwork are accompanied by informative notes, and wonderfully clear and pristine sound, it is soundtrack connoisseur’s heaven and hopefully the Horner re-issue program will not stop here. Highly recommended.  

The Movie.

An evil Queen Bavmorda portrayed by British actress Jean Marsh uses black magic to conquer and dominate the land and holds in her power its people who become like slaves to her evil commands. She dreads the  birth of a child with an unusual birthmark a prophesies foretell that the child will bring about her downfall. Bavmorda imprisons all the pregnant women in the land and the child of the prophecy is born. But before Bavmorda has a chance to kill the baby a midwife makes her escape with her. She sends the baby downstream on a raft in very much the way Moses was placed in the river because Bavmorda’s henchmen are nearly upon them.

The child washes up near a village inhabited by a race of dwarf-like people called Nelwyns. Willow Ufgood played by Warrick Davies, is a farmer and amateur magician finds the baby and is subsequently chosen by the town council to return the child to the world of the “large people,” or Daikini as they are known to the Nelwyns. Against their better judgment,

Willow and his friend Meegosh entrust the baby to the first Daikini they meet, a renegade warrior named Madmartigan played by Val Kilmer. On their way home, Willow and Meegosh are attacked by a clan of Brownies who even smaller than the Nelwyns, who have stolen the baby from Madmartigan.

The Brownie fairy queen of the forest, Cherlindrea, tells Willow that he has been chosen to protect the baby, whose name is Elora Danan. Cherlindrea gives Willow a magic wand and directs him to ask the sorceress Fin Raziel (Patricia Hayes) for assistance.

Cherlindrea sends along two brownies as guides, Willow’s party on their journey again encounters Madmartigan, who helps them to escape the clutches of Sorsha portrayed by Joanne Whalley who is Bavmorda’s daughter.  Willow and the rest of the group finally meet Fin Raziel, only to find that the sorceress has been turned into a rodent by Bavmorda.
Sorsha captures Willow and his party and they start a long trek to Nockmaar castle, Bavmorda’s stronghold. Willow attempts to use magic to return Fin Raziel to her human form but fails. Meanwhile,

Madmartigan and the Brownies manage to escape, while Madmartigan, under the influence of the Brownies’ love potion, becomes temporarily infatuated with Sorsha. Willow and the group escape from Sorsha’s control and make a hasty retreat with stolen horses. The group eventually finds the castle of Tir Asleen, where Cherlindrea told them they would find protection from Bavmorda, but the castle is under Bavmorda’s spell; all its inhabitants are frozen in ice. Madmartigan, refusing to give up hope, prepares for Sorsha’s attack while Willow once again fails to transform Raziel into human form.

Sorsha and her army arrive, but so does the Army of Galladoorn, led by Madmartigan’s old friend Airk Thaughbaer. During the ensuing battle, Sorsha falls in love with Madmartigan and changes sides. Nockmaar’s General Kael played by Pat Roach captures Elora and takes her to Nockmaar. Willow, Madmartigan, Sorsha, the Brownies, the sorceress Fin Raziel (now in the shape of a goat), and what is left of Airk’s army set up camp, preparing to storm Nockmaar castle to rescue Elora. Willow finally returns Raziel to her true form, and the sorceress puts a spell on the camp to protect them from Bavmorda’s magic.

The battle at Nockmaar begins the next day. Willow manages to save Elora at the last moment from Bavmorda’s murderous ritual, and Bavmorda is destroyed, in part by her own magic. He leaves the baby in the caring arms of Madmartigan and Sorsha. Willow returns happily to his village and his family with a gift from Raziel: a book of magic to study. It is an action-packed adventure with many twists, turns, chases, and fights. And is a movie that you should see, also watch out for Willow the series coming to Disney + soon.  



With the release of a new version of Stephen Kings IT due in cinemas I thought I would return to the score for the original which was issued in 1990 and was the work of accomplished composer. conductor and arranger Richard Bellis, I recall having the score on a cassette tape many moons ago, in fact it was sent to me by the composer’s office to listen to and review in the days of the Goldsmith Society and their fanzine LEGEND. Of course, I replaced the very worn out cassette tape with a shiny new Compact disc when the score was re-issued in that format, it would have been re-miss of me not to. The score for IT, is I think one of the composers best works for cinema/TV, it evokes a tense and chilling atmosphere that was present within many of the more vintage movies from the 1960, s and prior to that. Bellis managed to conjure up a mood and a sound that was uncanny, in that it was melodic in a strange kind of way and was in the same instant sinister and unsettling. I must admit that I did not see the movie for some time after listening to the score, so could only imagine the horrors that might be unfolding to the composers pulsating score. The work is a fusion of both symphonic and synthetic, at times sounding not unlike the works of Goldsmith and Williams, but there is also an originality running throughout the work, which is achieved via cleverly done orchestration and utilisation of solo instruments at key points within the soundtrack. The composer makes affective use of solo piano for example, giving the listener at least a few moments respite from the sinister and virulent passages that make up most of the score, this is as one would expect an edgy and jumpy work, and after seeing the movie after hearing the score I must say the music compliments, supports and elevates the scenarios unfolding on screen wonderfully. It is difficult to review a score that many collectors are all acquainted with already, but to say that IT was a landmark score for Bellis is an understatement, and to also say that this is a must have release is also understated. I love the way in which the composer fuses both electronic with conventional instrumentation, the two mediums blending and entwining to create a soundtrack of high quality and a work that is theme laden throughout, yes, it is a score for a horror movie, but the composer also infuses a more melancholy and lighter side into the proceedings, so it’s not all non-stop crash bang wallop.


One of my favourite cues is THE SPIDERS WEB which certainly pulls out all the stops and goes for the full on scare the hell out you approach with no holds barred, but saying this it still remains structured and thematic, again I have to say it reminds me of music from horror movies of many moons ago, as in Hammer or AIP movies from the 1960,s and 70,s. Strings combine with percussion and brass to launch head on and unrelenting into a frenzy of sounds that conjure up all sorts of horrors and scenarios. It is a score that I would recommend to any film music collector, a wonderfully written soundtrack that stands on its own away from the frightening images it was penned for and is also an affective and effecting background to a film that still brings forth foreboding and night mares. The Intrada 2 disc set is a treat for the ears, go order it now.



I don’t know about you, but it seems to me, there is always a catalyst that propels one to the life time interest of film music.
You might be interested in film music before, but one score that can set you on a lifetime love of music . For me it happened it seems almost a lifetime away at the now sadly gone ABC Regal Cinema in Torquay. There I experienced Otto Preminger’s epic for that year, IN HARM’S WAY. When you think of the stellar cast he managed to assemble, names now mostly no longer with us, it was quite an achievement. Preminger also liked to experiment, if that is the right word with his composer. He didn’t repeat his musical choice, but each time found someone new, and relatively untried – witness Hugo Montenegro for HURRY SUNDOWN – Did he ever come up with a better score than that? So for IN HARM’S WAY, he picked Jerry Goldsmith, then an experienced novice if you like with a few great scores under his belt even then.


Little did I know as the film unrivalled that I would actually see Mr Goldsmith at the piano during the opening scene. I think it was years afterwards before I found that out

So as I mentioned, that was the one. For me Goldsmith contained everything I wanted to hear in a film score, and of course you have to bear in mind the choice available to him in the Sixties. War Dramas, Comedies, Spy Thrillers, Sci- Fi, Intimated stories., let alone the TV series that came from most of the big studios at the time. He could do everything as we now well know, . .

IN HARM’S WAY contained all the elements of a great score . Dramatic action pieces, THE ROCK, which we now know was for a different place entirely. NATIVE QUARTER, strings against a wonderful percussive background, A more mature Love theme for THE ROCK AND HIS LADY, and a different one for Tom Tryon and Paula Prentiss, and a suitably symphonic finale which brought the LP, then and now CD to a fitting close . It is worth mentioning that RCA at the time thought of it as more of a …………. well, let me quote from a advert for the LP that appeared in , I think Playboy but I can’t be sure, and it is worth quoting in full “Starting with the sound and fury of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the music sets the mood for the dramatic events that followed. There’s “Love Theme”, the big soaring main theme… “Liz” a dance band swinger that captures the off – limits, honky tonk atmosphere of parties in Honolulu… and “Night Swim”, that tells musically of a passionate interlude in the moonlight surf. This is the music that was born of the war years – the big band sound reminiscent of Glenn Miller and Harry James – played in a modern style that makes it timely for listening and dancing pleasure today!.” Well full marks for the copywriter, but I wonder if he actually heard the LP in the first place. Still one can see how Neely Plumb – the Producer and Goldsmith came up with the choices of what to put in ,and more importantly leave out.

It came out first in the UK on RCA Records in 1965, and in the CD era, firstly I believe around the late eighties from SLC in Japan, and then on Intrada, more than once. Now we have an expanded LP with tracks that did not make it on to the original album, coupled with a full re mastered LP a la RCA album I don’t know if you have noticed but a number of new releases are doing this. BASIC INSTINCT probably being the latest. I guess if this wasn’t done, then there would be little take up at all, for after all BASIC INSTINCT has been around a few times as well.

Will you get this one for basically three extra cues.? One by the British Composer Eric Coates, that opens the film, a short cue by Goldsmith called SILVER SEA and the undoubtedly highlight OLD SWAYBACK, a full one minute , twenty three seconds of Goldsmith at his scintillating sixties best. .

We don’t have the electronic hums that accompanied the Battleships approaching each other, A marvellous short cue when Brandon De Wilde is heading into battle in his Torpedo Boat, and the almost Jaunty cues when Australian Stanley Holloway leads the commandoes on a reconnaissance mission.

Fifty years we have been waiting but unless somewhere in the depths of Paramount vaults there is a rusty tin , unmarked that contains these cues, I suspect this fan will be heading one day to the great recording booth in the sky still waiting!!

So what do you do. What a question!! You go and buy it of course and go down on bended knees that there is Douglass Fake out there, who is still bringing out these gems . I am not sat on the edge of my seat waiting for the latest blockbuster by Michael Giacchino, Philistine that I might be, and as there ain’t a great deal of lost scores appearing these days, a Sixty year old classic is just music to my ears. There must be a God after all!!