In the filmography of Crichton novels adapted to film DISCLOSURE, TIMELINE, JURASSIC PARK, THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN, THE TERMINAL MAN, SPHERE, RISING SUN, CONGO, THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY and THE 13TH WARRIOR are well known. But many would be surprised by the additional titles: DEALING, THE CAREY TREATMENT and PURSUIT. The reason they’re unknown Crichton films? - the novels were written under pseudonyms.
Many Crichton bios and obituaries describe him as a Harvard Med School student who became a writer, which is inaccurate, for he was a writer from an early age, even managing to have a regular travel column published in The New York Times by the age of 14. He first majored in Literature as an undergrad at Harvard, but later changed to anthropology after a disagreement with a professor (he felt the teacher was being unjustly harsh on him and his work, and he exposed the instructor’s prejudice by submitting a work by George Orwell as his own to see what grade it would fetch). By the time he’d enrolled in Harvard Medical School he was well into churning out novels, but as the educational establishment of the day would have frowned upon his “night job” they were published under assumed names.
ODDS ON (1966), SCRATCH ONE (1967), EASY GO (’68), A CASE OF NEED (’68), ZERO COOL (’69), THE VENOM BUSINESS (’69), DRUG OF CHOICE (’70), GRAVE DESCEND (‘70) and BINARY (‘72) were all written as “John Lange” (“Lange” being a German name for “tall” - and Crichton was 6’9”). A CASE OF NEED (’68) was written as “Jeffrey Hudson” (another joke as “Sir Jeffrey Hudson” was a famous 17th Century dwarf member of a royal court). And DEALING penned as “Michael Douglas” (simply because it was created in collaboration with his brother Douglas). While THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN (1969 - and written under his real name) was a best seller, many professors at the time still didn’t equate he the med school student as being it’s author. By the time Robert Wise’s film version made it to the big screen in 1971 however, there was no longer any need to pretend. THE TERMINAL MAN (1972) and all of his subsequent novels were published under his own name.
DEALING: OR THE BOSTON-TO-BERKELY FORTY-BRICK LOST-BAG BLUES (the full title) was about (as the title implies) a Harvard grad attempting to score a pay day by transporting a load of pot cross country. It was turned into a 1972 comedic thriller directed by Paul W. Williams and starring Robert Lyons and a young Barbara Hershey. His first medical potboiler, A CASE OF NEED, was turned into the critically acclaimed 1972 Blake Edwards (EXPERIMENT IN TERROR, VICTOR VICTORIA) thriller THE CAREY TREATMENT starring James Coburn. And finally with enough cinematic clout / cache under his belt, he himself directed the 1972 ABC TV MOVIE OF THE WEEK adaptation of BINARY, now titled PURSUIT.
Young Crichton behind the lens
With a crackerjack cast including Ben Gazzara, E.G. Marshall, William Windom, Joseph Wiseman (filmdom’s DR. NO), and a young Martin Sheen (as the early 70's version of a computer hacker), PURSUIT told the nail biting DAY OF THE JACKAL-like hunt/pursuit tale of a government agent (Gazzara) racing to stop a disgruntled ultra right-wing American businessman (Marshall) from detonating an explosive device which will disperse stolen VZ military nerve gas - killing thousands attending the San Diego Republican National Convention. A precursor to later films such as Michael Bay's THE ROCK (which borrows more than a bit narrative-wise from this lower budget progenitor), PURSUIT received decent ratings and reviews, and paved the way for Crichton to helm his original script WESTWORLD as his first big screen directorial endeavor for MGM the following year.
E.G. Marshall as the fanatical James Wright
For Jerry Goldsmith (and numerous other orchestral composers) the late 1960s / early 70s were lean times as theatrically films like EASY RIDER and THE GRADUATE caused an industry trend in pop song film scoring. Until the "big screen orchestral vibe" in features returned with a vengeance with John Williams’ STAR WARS in 1977, many composers returned to the medium of television where their careers had begun. While Goldsmith continued cranking out lauded film works such as CHINATOWN, THE WIND AND THE LION, THE OMEN and LOGAN’S RUN, the 1970s did see him produce a higher output of television work, more than any other time in his lengthy career. They included THE HOMECOMING (the pilot movie for THE WALTONS - the series theme of which Goldsmith would also compose), the mini-series QB VII and MASADA (both of which won Emmy awards for their scoring); DO NOT FOLD SPINDLE OR MUTILATE, as well as A GIRL NAMED SOONER, CONTRACT ON CHERRY STREET and numerous others. During this same period he and Michael Crichton would work together for the first time on PURSUIT.
Agent Steven Graves (Ben Gazzara) swings into action
Certainly a musical product of it's day, PURSUIT as a score begins in the easy jazz mode popularized by Quincy Jones' THE ANDERSON TAPES and THE ITALIAN JOB, Lalo Schifrin's DIRTY HARRY and MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE, and even Goldsmith's own THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. from a few years prior. What however sets PURSUIT apart from the others is rather than taking a "front and center" musical approach (popular catchy themes blanketed over a scene), Goldsmith weaves his contemporary rhythms into the warp and weft of the narrative drama in a more supportive and less obviousrole. Similar to what he'd done the previous year in ESCAPE FROM THE PLANET OF THE APES (1971), as PURSUIT's dramatic gravitas increases, so does the musical tone slowly shift from the familiar and comforting pop/jazz language of the day into a more darkly unsettling (and here quietly suspenseful) orchestral "count down" mode. In fact the entire score is cleverly "countdown mathematical" in it's design structure: the main piano melody motif heard in the "End Title" actually a variant of the underlying"clock" rhythm heard earlier during the "stalking" sequences as Agent Graves (Gazzara) follows madman Wright (Marshall) all over town.
While this intricate narrative/musical design structure was perhaps not at the time the best way to sell more albums and garner FM radio play (as the work of Jones, Schifrin and Henry Mancini certainly did), Goldsmith's approach of contemporary musical trends being integrated intothe orchestral narrative rather than replacing it (he in this respect greatly inspired by Alex North's A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE), would prove in the long run to be more cinematically influential as later scores such as James Horner's 48 HRS., Michael Kamen's LETHAL WEAPON, and Hans Zimmer's BLACK RAIN would (design-wise) follow similar suit.
With the exception of a 2005 re-recording of PURSUIT's End Title (a melancholy jazz lounge-like piece), there at present exists no other (legally legit) sound effects-free musical tracks from the film. As such we've included the End Title followed by two film clips featuring the main "Stalking" motif - as Government agent Gazzara trails domestic terrorist Marshall (and his computer hacker Sheen) around town. Notice how Goldsmith draws musical attention to the film's recurring superimposed "count down clock" image.
It’s perhaps appropriate we conclude with TIMELINE as it was not only the final time Jerry Goldsmith’s and Michael Crichton’s work would compliment one another, but wasalso Goldsmith’s final score before his death in 2004, as well the final feature based on Crichton’s work before his death in ‘08.
Most Crichton stories can be viewed as high tech versions of classic literature archetypes, and as such some of their more clever aspects can be lost upon a modern film audience not familiar with the originals which inspired them. THE TERMINAL MAN owes a debt to Shelly’s FRANKENSTEIN; the roots of THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN can be seen in Welle’s THE WAR OF THE WORLDS; JURASSIC PARK’s thematic DNA is cloned from Conan Doyle’s LOST WORLD; RISING SUN distilled from Sherlock Holmes; THE 13TH WARRIOR from Beowulf; and DISCLOSURE a techno industry rendition of a Scott Turow "sexual politics within the law office" potboiler. Even the "written for the screen" TWISTER owes it's "obsessive hunt" structure to Herman Melville's MOBY DICK.
Within this literary lineup TIMELINE (pub. 1999) emerges as an adroit, dark and dangerous version of Mark Twain’s A CONNECTICUT YANKEE IN KING ARTHUR’S COURT (with a bit of “multi-verse” theory tossed in) as a group of contemporary history students journey to the 14th century attempting to rescue their “lost in time” professor, then find themselves in the middle of a key battle between French and English during the "Hundred Years War".
Within the confines of a 500 page novel, the specifics of history, custom and even modern theoretical physics can be explained in minutely entertaining detail to those unfamiliar with any of it. Within the 120 minute running time of a film however, it becomes more difficult, and can even be confusing. As was the case with the "multi-source" inspired THE 13TH WARRIOR (and more commonly the case with many big budget “tent pole” films of late), TIMELINE the movie would endure a troubled post production period mainly because of ever ubiquitous pre-release “test screenings”. Director Richard Donner’s first cut of the film was a bit longer and with a more complex narrative.
Those familiar with the current cut of the film know it opens with a (somewhat rushed) montage wherein contemporary ITC corporation employee Vincent Taub - running through a 14th century forest, is arrowed by a medieval knight, suddenly transported back to the present day, then rushed to a hospital, where it’s discovered his internal organs are “out of alignment” as if taken apart then reassembled incorrectly - a dangerous possible side effect of time travel called "transcription errors" (see the "TIMELINE" logo font on the movie poster - that's what that's all about). We then cut to a contemporary archeological dig in Castlegard, France, where the leader of the site, Professor Johnston (Billy Connelly) rushes off to America to meet with financial backers at the mysterious ITC.
A few days later his son Chris (Paul Walker) and a small group of grad students including Kate Ericson (Frances O'Connor) and Andre Marek (Gerard Butler), are also rushed to ITC where they discover the company is a high tech communications firm, and that the professor has become “lost in time” - the result of ITC's accidental discovery of a "wormhole gateway" which, because of it's coincidental celestial alignment with earth, is open to 14th century Castlegard, France. They learn the reason ITC funded their dig was to learn more of the era and place before sending in recon time traveler/explorers. But now, the "gateway" appears to be closing, the professor is trapped, and his best hope for finding his way home is for the students (with their familiarity of the time and place) to travel in after him. All of this happens in just under twenty rather hurried screen minutes.
The film's original 1st Act (more in line with the tone of the novel as well as with the pacing of classic "expedition" yarns like THE AFRICAN QUEEN, KING KONG and the original PLANET OF THE APES) unfolded in a more "revealing one narrative onion-layer at a time" manner, allowing the audience to process each new bit of information while keeping them glued to their seats for the next.
One such "suspense and info-revealing layer" scene was an extended opening sequence with the student archeologists unveiling a major discovery during their excavation. Designed with a JAWS / THE DEEP-like "what's gonna happen?; is there something dangerous in there?" sense of dread, it was intended to grip the audience from the "get-go", thus, later within the First Act, buying for the film makers a few extra minutes to unspool much needed exposition - this done as the audience catches their breath from the previous "suspense thrill".
test screening notes came back negatively however, the film’s studio,
Paramount, chose to abort their own timeline (the film's originally
targeted April 2003 release date) in order to re-edit and, if necessary,
do re-shoots. Unlike John McTiernan on THE 13TH WARRIOR, director RichardDonner remained with the film during it’s “reconstruction”. But
Goldsmith, who had tackled medieval themed material before with FIRST KNIGHT and Franklin Schaffner’s LIONHEART, had already given his best to
TIMELINE over the last seven months - an unheard of length of time to
commit to a single scoring project nowadays.
The composer's health was also at this time on the decline. Having currently undergone colon cancer treatments, he didn’t have the physical energy (nor most likely the will) to “start over again from scratch”. Therefore Brian Tyler, who had impressed Paramount execs with his ferocious “Bartok meets the Avant-garde” score to the Tommy Lee Jones / Bencio del Torro manhunt thriller THE HUNTED, was brought in to provide a new musical voice.
Ultimately TIMELINE's “refit” fared no better with audiences than the original cut. Debuting in November '03 it returned a mere $44 million on it’s $80 million budget, though It has over time developed more of a following. Being a strange amalgam of elements, perhaps it is best enjoyed from the comfort of a couch where one can piece it‘s conceptual eccentricities together at leisure. From the get-go however, Goldsmith’s score was a much desired work within the film music community. So much so, specialty soundtrack label Varese Sarabande would release both the Brian Tyler and Jerry Goldsmith versions individually.
Having previously worked with Goldsmith to critical acclaim on THE OMEN (and slated to work with him again on SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE until the film ran into scheduling problems), director Donner was disappointed at not having the maestro’s final score attached to TIMELINE, the music of which he heralded as “Phenomenal, magnificent and extraordinary”. He (as well as legions of film musicaficionados around the world) were in the end thrilled to see the Varese release, as it wouldpreserve the maestro's final epic work for future music fans and composers-in-training to enjoy and study for years to come.
play "Prepare For Battle /
Victory For Us"
While many legendary composer/director combined filmographies are praised by cineastes, none have ever featured the versatility (in film subject matter as well as musical style) as that of the Goldsmith / Crichton collaborations. One of the late maestro's greatest professional admirers wasAcademy
Award nominated composer Marco Beltrami (3:10 TO YUMA, THE HURT LOCKER,
HELLBOY, I ROBOT, THE WOMAN IN BLACK). A former student of Goldsmith's, having studied under him at USC, Beltrami paid tribute to his late professor in a 2001 interview with “Underscores: Le Magazine de la Musique de Film”:
“Without Jerry, film music would probably be in a different place than it is now. I think he, more than any other composer bridged the gap between the old Hollywood scoring style and the modern film composer”.
From the world-beat rhythms of CONGO, to the Victorian “Posh & Circumstance” of THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY; from TIMELINE’s classicism, COMA’s Herrmann-esque dissonace, and on through to RUNAWAY’s electronics, the canon of the Films of Jerry Goldsmith & Michael Crichton bears this out more so than any other composer / director collaboration in the history of the filmic medium.