"Gladiator: The Unused Score (1992)"
Intrada Special Collection Vol. 231
18 Tracks/Disc Time: 35:51 Grade: B-
Around 1991, Jerry Goldsmith had been going through a bit of a transition in his career after writing brilliant scores to Total Recall, Gremlins 2: The New Batch and The Russia House. A with an already full slate that included Sleeping With The Enemy, Not Without My Daughter, Love Field, Medicine Man and Basic Instinct, Goldsmith (as he always did) found a way to take on the assignment of a tough, rough and tumble table about Chicago teens fighting it out in an underground boxing ring. This Columbia Pictures film directed by Rowdy Herrington (Road House) was an interesting and very entertaining film that starred Twin Peaks' James Marshall as Tommy Riley, a former Golden Gloves champion out of Bridgeport, CT, who's moved to the downtrodden South Side of Chicago due to his father's (John Heard) gambling debts. Tommy immediately encounters trouble at his new school and meets Romano (Jon Seda, Homicide: Life On The Street) and "Abraham" Lincoln Haines (Academy Award Winner Cuba Gooding Jr., Jerry Maguire), who fight in an underground boxing ring run by a former boxer and mobster, Jimmy Horn (Brian Dennehy, First Blood) and his talent scout, Pappy Jack (Robert Loggia, Big). Tommy is recruited by Pappy Jack to fight as a way to help pay off his father's debts. Tommy has affections for a classmate Dawn (Cara Buono), who sees something good in him along with a kindly trainer (Ossie Davis), but Tommy soon has to find a way out of this corrupt rough and tumble world.
While the film was originally envisioned by Columbia as an R-Rated version of the Karate Kid mixed with Rocky which even had the writer of the Karate Kid involved in the screenplay, it did perform admirably at the box office, but not to high expectations they had anticipated after its delayed release to March of 1992. Before that happend, the film did have a score graced by Goldsmith which was a rather eccelctic score that had a touch of Hoosiers along with future works as such as Mr. Baseball and The Vanishing. The score is one of the more interesting and facinating in long distingushed career of the Academy Award winner and up to this point the score had remained hidden away in the Sony Vaults for over 20 years until this release. The music is very energetic and intriguing and for the most part, you can also see why it was eventually thrown out by the studio as it wore down some the scenes and was a little too upbeat for the rather grim world that Herrington was trying to create on screen.
Using a live performance (no overdubbing), Goldsmith combined a funky rhythm section, his usual array of electronics and a nicely sized orchestra to bring this world to life. "I Owe" starts off the score introducing us to the urban South Side of Chicago as well as Tommy, which starts off with a bluesy, electronic atmosphere augmented by percussion till that cool rhythm section complete with keyboards and drums finish off the track and establishes the score's central theme which is great. The score for the most part is dominated by that theme and in particular for most of the boxing sequences which include the brilliant "Knock Out", "A Favor","Good Luck/The Real Thing", and "No Gloves/Refund/Get Him", which Goldsmith provides alot of the high energy that he used in Hoosiers and Mr. Baseball soon after this score. Goldsmith also developed some nice thematic material in "My Baby/My House", and "Romano's Dead", that do interact with the love theme that Goldsmith brilliantly wrote ("Tommy & Dawn Love Theme") placing it perfectly with the new found friendship between Tommy and Lincoln after saving his life, which adds some drama in between the brutal fights that do take place throughout the film. The love theme would eventually become a fully developed one in The Vanishing, played to a fuller and passionate performance. While the score is not perfect and at times does really wears out its' welcome, it really is a solid effort the more you listen to it. Goldsmith really did create something different with this score that shows what a true craftsman he really was. You could also see why the score didn't quite work with the film, as it seemed to overwhelm some scenes, but with a little tinkering, it absolutely would've worked after syncing the music to alot of the scenes they were intended for. Intrada's album is a great release because it rescues another score from Goldsmith's career that is unique, interesting and really defined him as a inspired musician eventhough some of those films weren't up to snuff. Gladiator is one of Goldsmith's better unused scores that would live in with greater success in Mr. Baseball and The Vanishing not too long after. This is a fine release. Recomended for its high energy and especially for Goldsmith's fans for sure.