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The Missouri Breaks
Album Cover Art
1999 Rykodisc
2004 Varèse
Album 2 Cover Art
Composed and Conducted by:

Produced by:
Ian Gilchrist
Labels Icon
Rykodisc USA
(June 8th, 1999)

Varèse Sarabande
(August 31st, 2004)
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Both albums are regular U.S. releases, although the 2004 Varèse album was more readily available in stores as of 2007.

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   Availability | Viewer Ratings | Comments | Audio & Track Listings | Notes
Buy it... only if you are trying to complete a John Williams film score collection and are fully prepared for perhaps his most eccentric and dysfunctional genre-bending effort.

Avoid it... if the idea of 70's pop rhythms and instrumentation in conjunction with comical Western honky-tonk elements seem like a recipe for disaster to you.
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WRITTEN 6/13/99, REVISED 10/16/07
The Missouri Breaks: (John Williams) On paper, The Missouri Breaks certainly seemed like a good idea. While director Arthur Penn had never delivered a truly critically embraced film in the mainstream, his Bonnie and Clyde was a phenomenal cult success. Actors Marlon Brando and Jack Nicholson were both extremely popular as well. Spaghetti Westerns were becoming quirkier by the year. Composer John Williams had just won the Academy Award for Jaws during his long run of mega disaster scores. Together, all of these elements came together to create The Missouri Breaks, commonly considered to be one of cinema's most baffling mega disasters in and of itself. The film would mark the only time that longtime friends Brando and Nicholson would work together, and their egos (and particularly Brando's immense presence on location) would be credited for pulling Penn's film in directions suiting their own whims and devastating the sensibilities of the script (which was weak to begin with). Brando played an Irish assassin hired to stop an outlaw group of horse thieves led by Nicholson; their unconventional behavior bordered on nonsensical at times, making The Missouri Breaks a fun character study at the most. The quirky nature of the film extends to John Williams' score, which resembles very little of the composer's other works. Williams, for being identified so much as the top American composer of the modern age, has produced surprisingly few Western scores through the years. After The Reivers and The Cowboys early on, Williams would only dabble in the genre in less obvious fashion, including The Missouri Breaks. Undoubtedly, 1976 was a year of general understatement for Williams, with few high points compared to the lengthy series of classic scores immediately to follow. For The Missouri Breaks specifically, Williams would shed the orchestrally vibrant approach of his earlier Westerns and adapt the style of more modern bluesy works like Conrack and The Sugarland Express into a score almost as curious as the film's two leads. The score is, in short, a hip 1970's bastardization of the Western genre, infusing jazzy and pop rhythms and instrumentation into a genre that very well could have done without it.

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Average: 2.99 Stars
***** 109 5 Stars
**** 116 4 Stars
*** 145 3 Stars
** 129 2 Stars
* 103 1 Stars
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Track Listings Icon
Audio Samples   ▼
All Albums Tracks   ▼Total Time: 52:15
• 1. The Missouri Breaks (Main Title) (2:47)
• 2. Arrival of the Rustlers (2:03)
• 3. Love Theme from The Missouri Breaks (2:56)
• 4. The Train Robbery (2:17)
• 5. Bizarre Wake (2:39)
• 6. Celebration (2:15)
• 7. Confrontation (3:17)
• 8. Love Theme (Reprise) (3:42)
• 9. Crossing the Missouri (2:12)
• 10. The Chase (3:26)
• 11. Remembrances (2:25)
• 12. The Horse Rustlers (2:16)
• 13. Love Theme (End Title) (3:25)
• 14. Main Title (Film Version) (2:32)
• 15. Train Robbery (Film Version) (2:17)
• 16. Jane and Logan (Film Version) (3:46)

Notes Icon
The Rykodisc album contains extensive notes about the film and each cue. Unlike other Rykodisc albums of the era, this one contains no bonus materials. Below is a copy of the the label's original 1999 press release for the album:

    "The Missouri Breaks is without a doubt one of the oddest Westerns ever committed to film. Despite an impressive pedigree [directed by Arthur Penn (Bonnie & Clyde, Alice's Restaurant), scripted by Tom McGuane (Rancho Deluxe, 92 Degrees In The Shade), and starring Jack Nicholson and Marlon Brando], the film is a classic example of 'too many egos spoiling the broth,' and was a commercial and critical disaster when released. Nicholson stars as the rather hapless leader of a gang of incompetent horse thieves, and Brando is the Irish assassin hired to hunt down and kill him and his gang. The film includes such memorable moments as Brando in a dress and sun bonnet (who is that strapping lass?), and Brando reading poetry to his horse. It is quite clear that Mr. Brando was calling the shots on this one, much to the detriment of the film, but it does have its fun moments!

    The score for the film was done by the man who is possibly the most famous living composer of film music, John Williams. His credits are too numerous to mention, but some of his more memorable work includes Jaws (Oscar Winner Best Score), The Towering Inferno, Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, Superman, Star Wars (Oscar Winner Best Score), and Saving Private Ryan (Oscar Nominee 1998 - Best Dramatic Score). Williams began his career as a jazz pianist before moving into TV scoring in the late '50s and film scoring in the early '60s (who can forget his score for I Passed For White (1960)?). He has also composed works for the concert hall and has conducted the Boston Pops. In short, he's the King of Movie Scoring."
Copyright © 1999-2015, Filmtracks Publications. All rights reserved.
The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten
or redistributed without the prior written authority of Christian Clemmensen at Filmtracks Publications. All artwork and sound clips from The Missouri Breaks are Copyright © 1999, Rykodisc USA, Varèse Sarabande and cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 6/13/99 and last updated 10/16/07.
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