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Comments about the soundtrack for Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (John Williams)
Filmtracks Sponsored Donated Review

Steve Larson
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(donated.filmtracks.com)
Filmtracks Sponsored Donated Review   Saturday, December 27, 2008 (4:39 p.m.) 

(The following donated review by Steve Larson was moved by Filmtracks to this comment section in December, 2008)


Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: (John Williams) I've had the wonderful privilege to listen to a great majority of Mr. Williams' music and I must acknowledge that Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is his ultimate masterpiece. What make this such a magnificent work is that it contains all of the components of a quintessential score: action & adventure, comedy, drama, religion, suspense and even a little romance. As he has done in many of his renown film scores, Williams has been able to manufacture sounds that fit the description of a particular character or object. In Indy's second sequel, John's creative talents allow him to use his repertoire to its fullest capacity. He employs a wide variety of instruments to give each cue a sense of purpose.

The movie opens in 1912 Utah with the volatile "Indy's Very First Adventure." From young Indy's horseback dodge from the mountains to his several escapades aboard a circus train, the maestro choreographs each sequence brilliantly with thrilling rhythms.

Williams ventured on to produce complex orchestrations for the dramatic high-speed chases, which included the boat and motorcycle scenes. "Scherzo For Motorcycle and Orchestra" is actually heard while Indy and Henry allude a phalanx of Nazi patrol men. The strong Nazi theme, which is intended to signify authority, is originally heard in this piece while a more complete version is provided in "The Brother Of The Cruciform Sword." As Indy and Elsa encounter a plethora of rodents scattered across the catacombs, "Ah, Rats!!!" starts out with a grotesque feeling. When they uncover the tomb of Sir Richard, the Holy Grail theme is played on the harp. After arising from the old library/converted church's sewers, "Escape From Venice" commences. Featuring pizzicato strings, this ingenious track reflects Indy's entanglement with the sworn protectors of the Grail.

As he did with the playful "The Basket Chase" from Raiders of the Lost Ark, I'm sure Williams had a lot of fun creating the comical "No Ticket" in the middle of Last Crusade. This particular sequence depicts the process in which Indy disguises himself in a Nazi uniform so he can save his father from being reprimanded by SS Colonel Vogel Oberst. Williams arranges it so the viewer recognizes exactly what's transpiring on the screen.

"The Keeper Of The Grail" theme is beautifully written as it captures the celestial and saintly qualities of the sacred chalice. Even though its undertones parallel those heard in "The Ark of the Covenant" theme in Raiders, it moves the listener in a different way. In addition to the eloquent Grail piece, Williams comprised two other religious tracks. When Indy, Henry, Marcus and Sallah approach the Temple of the Sun, one can actually hear the reverberating sounds of a cathedral in "The Canyon Of The Crescent Moon." In "The Penitent Man Will Pass," Williams reveals the awe-inspiring moment as the younger Jones peers down at the enormous abyss. But once Indy steps safely on the ground below, the music tells the audience that he has overcome another obstacle.

Perhaps the most compelling piece John wrote for Last Crusade was "Belly Of The Steel Beast," which was featured in the tank scene toward the conclusion. This composition certainly proved it was a worthy successor to the prodigious "Desert Chase" from Raiders and the heart-pounding "Big Tunnel and Death Trap" from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. The trio of music tracks from Steve Spielberg's trilogy are among the greatest action scenes in motion picture history. In Last Crusade, Henry Jones' ankle is hanging on for dear life to Indy's whip on the edge of the tank's tread while Volgel is stabbing Indy. Luckily, Sallah arrived and transported Henry from the tank onto his camel. Meanwhile, Indy and Vogel were tangled together in Vogel's chain as the tank rapidly advanced to the cliff. Reluctantly, Indy wriggled out of the chain and managed to grab a hold of a protruding rock on his way down to save himself. During this whole breathtaking sequence, the symphony does a perfect job of painting the images onto the screen with sensational and heart-rending music. Anyone watching the film for the first time may not be able to hear the music in accompaniment. That's because its kinetically written so the viewer can literally feel the vessel rumbling down the peak.

The Grail theme and Scherzo are embedded with the Raiders March in the End Credits. Unfortunately, this OST Warner release is missing over a half hour's worth of music heard in the film. A boot was released in September 1997 featuring most of the material not included on the first album. Not surprisingly, the sound quality was just mediocre. But musically it includes some very enjoyable tracks, especially "The Portuguese Coast" and "Into The Catacombs."

I was flabbergasted to learn that Alan Menken's The Little Mermaid won the Oscar in 1989. Although Menken and lyrics writer Howard Ashman created vivacious songs (i.e., "Part of Your World," "Under the Sea," "Kiss the Girl," etc.) for this animated film, it certainly wasn't up to par with Last Crusade. Hey, don't get me wrong. Menken is an exceptionally talented musician. I thoroughly enjoyed his efforts for such Walt Disney musicals as the uplifting Beauty and the Beast, the triumphant Newsies, and the magical Aladdin. However, when one compares Last Crusade and Little Mermaid, it's undeniable that Williams surpasses his counterpart in both quality and quantity. Williams' gorgeous Born on the Fourth of July and James Horner's invigorating Field of Dreams & divine Glory are also superior scores when matched up with Menken and Ashman's Little Mermaid.

With sheer mastery and precision, John Williams transcended the art of movie music and took it to a whole new level. Consequently, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade has become his best score ever. *****



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