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On The Downbeat - In Concert
April / May / June 2012

On The Downbeat - Profiles:

* (April - June 2012) Jerry Goldsmith & The Films Of Michael Crichton

* (Dec. 2011 / Jan. 2012) Scoring The Films Of Ray Harryhausen
* (Sept ./ Oct.. 2011) Maurice Jarre

* (July 2011) Michael Kamen
* (May 2011) Basil Poledouris

                                                                                                                                                             Basil Poledouris (1945 - 2006)


Basil Poledouris

The City of Prauge Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus -
Cond. by Nic Raine / Smecky Music Studios, Prague - Sept. 2011
Orchestrations - Greig McRitchie,
Jack Smalley, Steven Scott Smalley
New Score and Parts Preparation - Tony Mikulka
Final Score Proof Reading - Leigh Phillips

     Director John Milius' 1981 big screen version of Robert E. Howard's legendary literary warrior CONAN THE BARBARIAN was a cinematic watershed for a great many reasons.  Following in the wake of the huge STAR WARS fantasy genre revival, it (along with the animated feature HEAVY METAL - released the same summer) bucked the "family friendly" retro trend, forging it's own mark with an epic depiction of on screen sex and violence hitherto unknown (or at least allowed) in such a big studio American genre film at the time.  In so doing the "hard R" rated film would create a pathway, making more palatable to western audiences the gritty-ness of Katsuhiro Otomo's AKIRA, Alan Moore's WATCHMEN and others which would follow within a few short years.  It also made a bonafied star out of an Austrian bodybuilder / struggling-to-be-taken-seriously actor named Arnold Schwarzenneger.  And would make an equally huge star (albeit in another arena) of it's music composer Basil Poledouris (1945 - 2006), who at the time had received critical acclaim for lush scores such as BIG WEDNESDAY and THE BLUE LAGOON, but had still yet to crack the big leagues and make the leap to "A" list Hollywood music wunderkind.  CONAN THE BARBARIAN would do it. 

   Schwarzenegger in Spain with BARBARIAN director John Milius 

     Faced with the challenge of creating the realistic musical depiction of a multi-ethnic ancient culture which never existed, while at the same time remaining faithful to the epic cinematic romance of Alex North and Miklos Rosza, Poledouris not only succeeded (inspired by everything from Orff to the "Dies Irae" to English folk melodies), but managed the (near impossible nowadays) feat of introducing into the world a very new "musical sound / vernacular".  While inspired by a number of earlier sources, the end product was what would come to be well loved as "a Basil Poledouris score".  The original MCA soundtrack album would become a best seller - seeing numerous new pressings then subsequent CD editions and re-recordings.  And the AFI (American Film Institute) would name CONAN THE BARBARIAN as one of the 100 Greatest Film Scores Of All Time.  All in all a tough act to follow. 

                                                                                                                                                          CONAN THE DESTROYER (1984)

     The subsequent film - 1984's CONAN THE DESTROYER also starred Schwarzengger in the title role.  But, as producer Dino De Laurentiis this time around wanted things to be more "PG" family friendly EVERYthing which had made the first film unique (and not just it's sex and violence, but it's rather deep philosophical underpinnings as well) were either toned down or excised entirely.   Interestingly, while two of the original film's principal architects (director Milius and screenwriter Oliver Stone) failed to return, Poledouris (who'd also recently scored the more family friendly "Adventures of Conan" live show at Universal Studios Theme Park) chose to do so.  While not thinking much of the film itself (he'd referred to it as "Conan The Pretender"), Poledouris would adapt a handful of themes from the first film and integrate them with a collection of new musical motifs in such an elegant fashion, he'd once again capture the ears and hearts of not only film aficionados, but of music lovers in general.   It's soundtrack would again become a best seller.  But as the film itself was never as popular as the original, it's score would not see the successive re-printings, and it would in time become a high priced collectible. 

   Nic Raine and The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra

     In 2010, Nic Raine and The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra (who had done sonically phenomenal reconstructions and recordings of many other scores - among them a powerhouse version of John Barry's RAISE THE TITANIC in 1999) undertook the arduous task of not only restoring Poledouris' CONAN THE BARBARIAN, but bringing it to a grandeur never previously achieved.  Many were unaware, but the composer was never completely happy with all of the performances on the original soundtrack album and in the film as the Italian orchestra used to record at that time was never capable of performing the more virtuoso sections of the score to his specifications.  A great success in bringing maestro Poledouris' original CONAN a bold and exciting live performance / digitally recorded new life to a new generation, in 2011 Raine and the Philharmonic similarly undertook the reconstruction and re-recording of CONAN THE DESTROYER.  The new edition two-disc soundtrack was released on the Tadlow/Prometheus label during the Christmas season of that same year.

                                                                                                              CEJ - April 2012

Site Search Index:

"The Enterprise" from STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE (1979) - Jerry Goldsmith
Performed by the Tenerife Film Orchestra, Conducted by Mark Snow (6/29/08)


"Ride Of The Cossacks" from TARAS BULBA (1962) - Franz Waxman
Performed by the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, Conducted by Nic Raine
Smecky Music Studios - Prague (2011)


"The Alamo" from THE ALAMO (1960) - Dimitri Tiomkin
Performed by the City of Prague Philarmonic Orchestra, Conducted by Nic Raine
Smecky Music Studios - Prague (2010)


"Prelude" from EXODUS (1960) - Ernest Gold
Performed by the City of Prague Philarmonic Orchestra, Conducted by Nic Raine
Smecky Music Studios - Prague (2009)


"The Ecstasy of Gold" from THE GOOD, THE BAD & THE UGLY (1966) - Ennio Morricone
Performed by Munchner Rundfunkorchester, Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunk,
Susanna Rigacci (soprano), Conducted by Ennio Morricone (2005)


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