"Alien Nation (1988)"
Film Score: Music By Curt Sobel
30 Tracks/Disc Time: 41:19
The Unused Score: Music By Jerry Goldsmith
18 Tracks/Disc Time: 46:51
"Alien Nation" which was released by Twentieth Century-Fox in 1988 was one of the more intriguing and unique combinations of the cop buddy genre combining the traditional cop elements with science fiction. The film written by Rockne S. O'Bannon starred James Caan as Detective Matthew Sykes, a Los Angeles cop who takes on a new partner, Sam "George" Francisco (Mandy Patinkin, "Homeland") a Newcomer who was a part of a group of aliens that after years of quarantine are finally able to join Earth's society and have jobs, a family, friends and enjoy all the things that people on Earth do after first contact in the year 1991. After some resistance, Sykes comes to accept Sam as his partner and soon have to depend on each other as they go through a Newcomer underground world revolving around a very powerful drug that makes newcomers superhuman and serious death. At the forefront is a renowned Newcomer entrepenuer William Harcourt (Terence Stamp, "Superman 2") who maybe the ringleader of this illegal activity. The film originally had been planned for a Summer release that year, but after serious and drastic reediting the film finally opened in October of that year and was a modest success which spun off a television series a year later and five television movies soon after.
When the project was announced, it was supposed to be a reteaming of both Director Graham Baker and Oscar winner Jerry Goldsmith, who had previously worked in the final chapter of "The Omen" Trilogy for "The Final Conflict" to resounding success and Goldsmith did compose a score for the film which at the time was in his rather electronic experimentation phase that had gone full bloom during 1983 and finally culminated when he composed a completely electronic score for Michael Crichton's entertaining action-thriller, "Runaway" starring Tom Selleck, writing an exhilarating score for that film. The score that he wrote for "Alien Nation" is pretty much in the same vein: completely electronic and in parts, exhilarating. However, there was a new wrinkle to this score that "Runaway" didn't have, an unused love theme from a previous film and this film was Oliver Stone's hit drama, "Wall Street", which unfortunately left the project taking his material with him. Unfortunately again for Goldsmith, his music for this film would also be lost after the film was cut severely to a lean and mean 90 minutes. Wiether it was Goldsmith's decision not to edit his film score to the new cut of the film or simply felt that he'd done his best and couldn't do any better. The love theme ("The Wedding") would finally find a home in the film, "The Russia House" two years later for the big screen adaptation of John LeCarre's book starring Oscar Winner Sean Connery and Oscar nominee Michelle Pfeiffer. "Alien Landing" starts off Goldsmith's interpretation of his version of the film with an errie synthesizer motif that establishes the theme for the Newcomers and the motif of the drug featured throughout the film. The score for the most part is very action oriented that is pretty much like a cousin to "Runaway" and it shows in the tracks "Out Back", "Tow Truck Getaway", "A Game Of Chicken" and "Got A Match?", yet they lack the real energy and orchestration that score had which made it quite memorable. What this score is, it's feels like a pretty good rough sketch for what would've been a great movie if it hadn't been trauncated and Goldsmith had more time to really flesh out more grand material. As is, the score is a very unique for what it is and nothing should be taken away from what Goldsmith had tried to achieve despite the circumstances beyond his control
After Goldsmith's departure, the chores of re-scoring the film were placed on the expert hands of music editor Curt Sobel, which was a surprise choice considering that he really hadn't written film scores up to that point. While it didn't seem ideal for a music editor to write the score for a film such as this, Sobel amazingly did a bang up job considering the time pressure and limited amount of time that he had to write a new score. His score is a pretty solid work that has a couple of themes and Sobel rightfully concentrated on the noir aspects of the storyline and added some really dark flavor and atmosphere to the darker elements of the film involving the rogue Newcomers. The fun noir element is featured in the "Main Titles" that sets the tone for Caan's character as well as the eventual partnership between he and George which is light and contemporary for its' time. Sobel does incorporate this theme very well to the action material that takes it into a higher propulsive gear featuring a rock guitar motif in the tracks "Chase And Fight", "Sweet Indulgence", "Searching", "Quarantine", "Water Rescue", "Tug Killed/Drug Attack", "Chicken", and "Sykes Chases Harcourt" that have a bit of a Goldsmith edge to them.. While having some moments of reflection and suspense amidst the chaos in the tracks "Coming Home", "Tell Him The Rest", and "To The Beach".
Kritzerland's release of this fine two disc set featuring the final version of the score for the recut vision of the film by Curt Sobel and the rejected score by Jerry Goldsmith is great example how two scores could've made the film better in their own way. Goldsmith's is the more action oriented and experimental of the two like his music pretty much was during this time period and Sobel's is more contemporary with a lighter edge to it with a more melodic theme but also has its' own dark experimental edge to it that isn't as pronounced as Goldsmith's which worked perfectly for the original cut of the film. As is, each score has their own originality to them because of their respective composers and they both have a considerable amount of powerful energy to them that makes them memorable in their own way. This set is a very good example of what two different scores for the same film could be memorable and engaging in their own particular way even if the film it was written for doesn't accept it. A positive pass. Thumbs up.