"Tough Guys Don't Dance"
Music By Angelo Badalamenti
Music Box Records
26 Tracks/Disc Time: 46:38
Back in 1987 (for those who remember) were filled with great times of excess and style which made the decade so memorable for every reason and it was also one of the more fruitful times for the most part despite the politics. In speaking of excess, then fledging movie company Cannon Films by cousins Menahem Golan and his cousin, Yoram Globus was just that. Born as a company that produced cheap exploitation and action films that would generate surprise hits and now, cult classics that include "Missing In Action", "Breakin'", "The Delta Force", "Revenge Of The Ninja", "American Ninja", "Runaway Train" and also produced major league duds like "Superman IV: The Quest For Peace", "Invaders From Mars", "Bolero", and "Roman Polanski's Pirates" that eventually led to the studio's demise as they over extended themselves way too much that led to a rather brief partnership with Warner Bros. that resulted in hits such as "Cobra","Bloodsport" and acclaimed dramas such as "Shy People" and "Barfly" that are now owned by the studio. "Tough Guys Don't Dance" was a film released that was basically a product of the type of respectable films they attempted to do and this time roping in Pulitzer Prize winning author Norman Mailer to direct his own adaptation of this best selling novel starring Ryan O'Neal as writer, ex-con and 40-something bottle-baby Tim Madden, who is prone to black-outs who awakens from a two-week bender to discover a pool of blood in his car, a blond woman's severed head in his marijuana stash, and the new Provincetown police chief, Captain Luther Regency (Wings Hauser, "Vice Squad"), shacked up with his former girlfriend Madeleine (Isabella Rossellini, "Blue Velvet"). As his father Dougy (Lawrence Tierney, "Reservoir Dogs") helps him try to unravel the mystery, he is dogged by the psychotic Capt. Regency, who has it in for Tim as a car-crash that he was involved in with Madeline has left her unable to have children.
The film tanked when it was released and was notorious for the on set problems between O'Neal and Mailer much chronicled in the film's theatrical trailer or so we thought which was a rather smooth and surprisingly good experience between the actor and writer/director. The film's saving grace if anything is the work of Angelo Badalamenti, who was just coming off the much controversial David Lynch film, "Blue Velvet" writing one of his most memorable scores and leading to his much ballyhooed work for Lynch's "Twin Peaks" television series which would debut within a year of this film's release and a future feature film along with a surprising scoring assignment which resulted in the hit sequel to "A Nightmare On Elm Street", "Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors" writing a unique score for that franchise that was very orchestrial and up to that point was, the only the second score in that series that had an orchestrial based score as the two sequels that followed would be completely electronic .
This score very much Badalamenti's sound, the dark, brooding and mysterious music that dominated "Blue Velvet" and would appear on the hit television series, "Twin Peaks" and the lush romantic side of the romantic comedy, "Cousins" with great success. Beginning with the "Main Title", Badalamenti quickly establishes the score's primary theme a lush and romantic one that is full of sentimentality and sweetness to it that just makes it hard to resist with lush strings, piano, and harp to give it that full musical sweep and power. The theme would recur in the film's romantic material which to me personally is the highlight of this fine score featured in "From Cheers To Love", and "Loving Emotions". The score is primarily full of dark, mysterious material that is almost classical in nature as per Badalamenti's style and ironically some of it would inspire his theme for "Inside The Actor's Studio" a decade later with "Beware Ye Pilgrims", which has the feel of that shows regal theme. The noir inspired material is featured in grand Badalamenti fashion with tracks such as "Beautiful Madeline", "Cacophonic Bugs", "Swirling Confusion", "Fearful Flutter", "Car Crash/Patti Kills Jessica", "Elegy For Wardley" and "Two Heads Fight", that ranges from somewhat quirky material to downright unique material that is a throwback to mystery scores of that past especially in the way that Badalament uses musical distorted effects to solid use in "Swirling Confusion" and "Two Heads Fight" which work for what it is intended to do in the film.
Originally released at the time of the film's release on Varese Sarabande Records on both LP and cassette, this CD marks the debut of the score that Badalamenti wrote which was mostly featured on the original release with a few choice moments missing. The score at times just goes off the rails stylistically and that's probably due to the film itself which itself was under some behind the scenes turbulence, so you can't really fault Badalamenti for his approach to the film. The album however is a truly nice release that fans of the composer will really enjoy for all its' merits and strong melodies of thematic material that is ripe and brooding at times with an air of mystery. "Tough Guys Don't Dance" gets a mixed recommendation but gets a Thumbs Up.