"The Fourth War"
Music Box Records
15 Tracks/Disc Time: 52:50
When the film "The Fourth War" finally arrived, it was at the very end of the Cold War between the United States and Russia which finally culminated with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Another film that dealt with the post war peace process the exhilarating action-thriller, "The Package" starring Oscar winners Gene Hackman and Tommy Lee Jones arrived alot sooner the year before and was a solid box office hit and by the time this film arrived, no one really seemed to notice it despite solid reviews. The film takes place in 1988 on the Czechoslavkian-West German border, U.S. Colonel Jack Knowles (Roy Scheider, "Jaws") and his Soviet counterpart Colonel Valachev (Jurgen Prochnow, "Das Boot"), have been chomping at the bit since Gorbachev launched his Glasnost policy. Fortunately for them, a serious border incident that involves the killing of a defector will allow them to resume war which starts out as a private war first, but a war that will involve a serious troop confrontation soon after in which both governments soon will become involved and may interfere with the peace process. The film was directed by acclaimed director John Frankenheimer ("Grand Prix", "Seconds", "Ronin")
A film such as this requires alot of solid music to back up the action on screen as well as the tension that is being generated. In this case, it's basically a battle of wills between two prideful Cold War soldiers whose time is pretty much ran out to inflict any further damage upon each other and this cat and mouse game that they play in the film is their last hurrah. With that in mind, Oscar winner Bill Conti had to come up with a patriotic, cerebral and muscular score that both reflects the psyche of both protagonists and the tension filled setting. Conti, who was going through somewhat of stylistic turn with projects such as "Masters Of The Universe", "Betrayed" and "Lock Up" in which he started to feature a little more electronics much like other composers such as Jerry Goldsmith, Maurice Jarre, James Horner and many others had shifted to incorporate synthesizers a little heavily with Conti following suit.
Early on, Conti establishes a mood of military patriotism for both sides highlighted by "Main Title", "Salute Practice", and "Snowball Fight/In The Cracks" and eventually both protagonists that would eventually become "Tom & Jerry" trying to one up each other through eventual force and cat & mouse games as the film goes along. Tension and suspense do mount in the tracks "Jack Meets Elena" and "Pub Confrontation", where Conti uses very tense string work along with pounding percussion and solo trumpet and woodwinds, "Jack And Elena Sneak" and "To The Church" provide some relief to the material with airy string work and light woodwinds in which the latter track reminds me of Conti's underrated score to "That Championship Season". The score is really highlighted by three exceptional action tracks in "Jack's First Outing", "Jack's Second Outing" and "Border Crash/Jack And Val Fight/The Big Threat" which are very lengthy tracks that just keep building and building in both tension and action. Conti utilizes his patriotic material to the full hilt and integrates alot more electronic work that is inspired by his work on "Lock Up" and "Border Crash/Jack And Val Fight/The Big Threat" just features Conti at his best just going all out to find a great musical resolution to end this private little war. "The Last Snowball/End Title" ends the album on somewhat of a bittersweet note with somber classical styled strings before a reprise of the bold military material returns to give the track nobility.
This is the premiere release of "The Fourth War" and the album is exactly what you get: a patriotic, tension-filled militaristic score that features Conti at his finest moments. The music is very bold and intense when it needs to be and dramatic when should be. It isn't one of Conti's best scores, but it really is one of his better ones at this stage of his career which would be somewhat quiet with a couple of solid underrated scores in "By The Sword" (which desperately needs a release), "Bound By Honor" and later on the exceptional remake of "The Thomas Crown Affair." "The Fourth War" is a very solid and effective effort by the Oscar winner that is worthy of discovery and is a good action score to boot! Recommended thumbs up!