Intrada Special Collection Vol.271
23 Tracks/Disc Time: 56:23
Movies about troubled or psychologically damaged former Vietnam Vets was a genre that was dug into all well during the decade of the 80's after the Oscar Winning successes of "The Deer Hunter" and "Coming Home" was then finally culminated with the much revered films of Oliver Stone in both Oscar Winner "Platoon" and "Born On The Fourth Of July". Other films such as "First Blood", which was a huge box office success in the action genre and "The Exterminator" took different routes in showcasing the hardship of former soldiers who don't know their place in the world. The film "Distant Thunder" was a hard, earnest look at the world of a former soldier who's tormented by the horrors that occurred during his tour of duty so much so, that he's completely retreated to the forest to find his personal solace. The film starred John Lithgow ("3rd Rock From The Sun") as Mark Lambert, a former soldier who fought in Vietnam and has deserted his wife Barbara (Janet Margolin, "Last Embrace") and his son, Jack (Ralph Macchio, "The Karate Kid") and is living in the woods away from everything. He soon tries to re-enter society and is given a job by a kindly woman, Char (Kerrie Keane) and soon tries to reestablish a relationship with his son. They start to understand each others personal pains and all of the issues that Mark is going through at least until the point that his thoughts of suicide come into play. The film came out in late 1988 without much fanfare and quickly disappeared at the box office despite positive phrase for the performances of Lithgow and Macchio.
After scoring his last Oscar win for David Lean's final directorial film, "A Passage To India", the late Maurice Jarre was at the very beginning of his complete electronic stage where he basically utilized a group of instrumental soloists instead of a traditional orchestra. Starting with the acclaimed score to "Witness", Jarre went a little overboard with the use of electronics that would lead to interesting scores such as "Fatal Attraction", "Julia & Julia", "Gorillas In The Mist", "No Way Out", "Apology", "After Dark My Sweet" and "Ghost". The score to this film, easily fits into the pallette that Jarre had created during this period and the results are a bit lukewarm and disappointing.
The problem with this score isn't that I hate it or think that it's the worst score he's written during this period, it is that is just sounds way too much like his other works that to make a real impact of originality is somewhat thrown out the window. While there are some very good moments that I do like and in particular there are two themes that I really think are excellent that are featured in full glory in the final track "After The Train Has Passed/Mark And Jack Reunion" that show any real warmth to the score with rather sporadic moments in "Haircut", "Char Meets Mark", and "Mark In Park/Jack Gets Letter". The majority is mostly dark atmospheric colors that isn't all that dissimilar to his future work on "Jacob's Ladder" which was mostly symphonic and bordered on electronics as the sugar coat to an interesting and rather frightening world with the track "You're A Good Amigo" and "Louis Kisses The Train" as prime examples.
Intrada's premiere release of this score is the first time that the score has been heard outside of the film and for the most part it is a real interesting listen. However, the main problem there are moments that dark, harsh atmosphere of the score doesn't allow for any true accessibility for the prime and wonderful theme to really shine through when it really needs to. It really feels like the music was layered over and over with the same material that really would've worked better if it was more sparse. I know that it really worked in the film, but outside of it, I honestly have to say it manly for fans of Maurice Jarre despite that great main theme at the end which is amazing. "Distant Thunder" is an interesting discovery, but a bit of a disappointing one due to sameness of Jarre's music around this period of time in that it's no different than those scores. A disappointing thumbs down.