"Child's Play (1972)/First Born (1984)"
Music By Michael Small
Intrada Special Collection Vol. 275
Child's Play - 15 Tracks/Disc Time: 34:00
First Born - 17 Tracks/Disc Time: 34:20
Total Time: 32 Tracks/Disc Time: 68:20
"Child's Play", not the Chucky killer doll movie which was directed by acclaimed director Sidney Lumet based on the play by Robert Marasco which stars Oscar Nominee Beau Bridges as Paul Reis returns to the exclusive Catholic prep school he graduated from nine years earlier as a gym teacher. He is reunited with his former mentor and English teacher Joseph Dobbs (James Mason, "The Verdict"), the most popular member of the faculty and advisor to the junior class, and Jerome Malley (Robert Preston, "Victor/Victoria", a strict disciplinarian and teacher of classical languages, whose old-fashioned methods make him heartily disliked by his pupils. Reis finds himself caught in between the two men in a struggle for the hearts, minds, and souls of the boys. Malley, nicknamed "Lash" by his students has ruled out retirement, and Dobbs, who feels that Malley has lost touch with the students, hopes to inherit the senior class. A battle of wills ensues between the two teachers that leads to a series of accidents among the students and a shocking finale.
"First Born" was a very underrated coming of age drama that starred Sleepaway Camp's Christopher Collett as Jake Livingston, a New Jersey teen who's enjoying his high school years with his girlfriend (Sarah Jessica Parker, "Sex And The City"), his best friends (including Robert Downey, Jr., "Iron Man") and his younger brother, Brian (the late Corey Haim, "The Lost Boys") in tow. Things change when his recently divorced mom Wendy (Teri Garr, "Mr. Mom") starts to date, Sam (Peter Weller, "Robocop"), a mysterious guy who is charming and fun at first as he tries to integrate himself as part of the family. Soon Jake discovers that behind his charming fascade is a drug laced lifestyle that his mom has now been sucked into and with that a serious of conflicts with friends, teachers and ultimately Sam himself, has Jake doing something he wasn't hoping to do too soon: grow up real fast.
What do these two films have in common? It is the music of the late Michael Small, who provided some very solid music to both films that fit the criteria of his solid, underrated career that would later include films such as "The Stepford Wives", "Audrey Rose", "The Postman Always Rings Twice", "The Driver" and "Mobsters". The score to "Child's Play" is one of Small's most unique incorporating a choir to already tense and dramatic score. The highlights of this score include the "Prologue" and "Main Titles" which set up the dramatics of the score in a very sparse manner that pretty much plays out in most, if not all of Sidney Lumet's films along with the very solid and suspense (which Small was known for during this time) which culminate in "Devil, Devil", "Malley’s Suicide", "Class at Night", "Dobbs Enters Chapel", and "Dobbs Gets It" and ends on a downbeat note for the "End Credits."
"First Born" is another animal altogether that involves a more contemporary sound by the composer that incorporates a somewhat harsh rock oriented atmosphere along with Small's deft dramatic writing. The best aspects of the score in my view the keyboard driven dramatic moments which are agumented by a dreamy synthesizer that in a way is almost like a nightmare for our young protagonist highlighted by the tracks "Dad on Phone/Brian Wants to Leave Wendy", "Sam’s Friend/Sam Leaves", "No Pain No Gain", "Ride To Hideaway" and later dominated by the propulsive finale in "Jeep Chase/On Foot/Closes Windows/Forces Jake" and "Fight (revised)" which Small underscores Jake's dangerous flight from the evil Sam and finally forced to defend himself to protect not only himself but what's left of his family culminating with Sam finally leaving and with a family reunited and strong again in the downbeat "Finale (revised)" and ending rightfully on Ride to Hideaway/Tag Ending (End Credits)"
Intrada's Special Collection premiere release of these two interesting and unique scores is a revelation to fans of the late composer in which this album righfully displays both sides of the talented composer who was able to adapt going from the sparse, dramatic writing of the 1970's to the more contemprorary styles that composers such as Jerry Goldsmith, Maurice Jarre, James Horner, and many others followed suit. Both scores are very interesting and unique in their own way, but I'm more used to the music of "First Born" which is a very strong film to this date and properly scored throughout. Most traditional soundtracks might be put off by this score and enjoy "Child's Play" a little more. Either way, it's an interesting album without question and two scores that are due for a rediscovery. Thumbs up for both.