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Pacific Heights
Composed, Arranged, and Co-Produced by:
Hans Zimmer

Co-Orchestrated and Conducted by:
Shirley Walker

Co-Orchestrated by:
Bruce Fowler
Steve Bartek

Co-Produced by:
Jay Rifkin

Varèse Sarabande

Release Date:
September 28th, 1990

Also See:
Sherlock Holmes
Black Rain

Audio Clips:
1. Part I (0:28):
WMA (191K)  MP3 (239K)
Real Audio (168K)

2. Part II (0:32):
WMA (211K)  MP3 (269K)
Real Audio (189K)

3. Part III (0:29):
WMA (193K)  MP3 (239K)
Real Audio (168K)

4. Part IV (0:32):
WMA (213K)  MP3 (269K)
Real Audio (189K)

Regular U.S. release.


Pacific Heights

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Sales Rank: 439134

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Buy it... if stylish jazz (with noir sentiments in snazzy solo performances) over satisfying, synthetic orchestral accompaniment is how like you like your urban thrillers to be packaged.

Avoid it... if only twenty minutes of occasionally intoxicating thematic exploration in Pacific Heights isn't worth hearing Hans Zimmer's somewhat generic suspense material in the remainder.

Pacific Heights: (Hans Zimmer) With a "tenant from hell" formula and an insane but effectively ingratiating villain, Pacific Heights showed promise but fell victim of director John Schlesinger's tactic of aiming for the kind of cheap thrills generic to horror films of much lesser budgets. The 1990 production cast Michael Keaton as the mysterious con artist who makes life a living hell for the owners of a San Francisco home in hopes of forcing them into foreclosure and picking up the residence for himself. He installs himself as a tenant in their place without actually paying them, all the while tormenting the other tenants and the owners upstairs. The young couple that attempts to deal with him (Melanie Griffith and Matthew Modine) eventually resorts to physical action and a little con action themselves to strike back at Keaton's shady maneuvers. Stumbling over cliches and stereotypes in almost each sequence, Pacific Heights is the type of film that best resides on late night cable, though Hans Zimmer's score is one of the bright spots (along with Keaton in any role as creep) that may make the entire thing worth watching. In the early 1990's, Zimmer was in the process of branching out into a multitude of directions that yielded some of the composer's most diverse efforts. He had a knack for overachieving in assignments that called for simple, workmanlike music, often leading to scores with the depth of style and personality not heard in many of his larger budget projects to come a decade later. The composer had a habit, despite his refreshing experimentation in the application of solo acoustic instruments to synthetic orchestral samples, of adapting his prior themes and instrumental techniques in his scores across this period. Rather rare in Zimmer's career, during any time, have been the horror and suspense genres, though, and Pacific Heights therefore received music that has basic mannerisms that will be familiar but execution and tone that is relatively unique. A certain amount of generic slasher material was required for scenes of outright horror (as well as some unpleasant, dissonant droning that his keyboards easily provided), but outside of these passages, Zimmer treats Pacific Heights as though it were a high class mystery straight from the film noir age. It's in the attractively melodic half of Pacific Heights that a collector of the composer's music will find significant enjoyment.

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The ensemble employed by Zimmer for Pacific Heights consists primarily of his usual array of synthesizers, though the score benefits greatly from soloists on piano, saxophone, bass, and trumpet (along with the soulful female voice typical to the composer's scores back then), lending the obvious noir touch to the atmosphere. These elements contribute most frequently to the first half of the score, "Part I" and "Part II" on the album conveying the bulk of the thematic development. In the final part, this snazzy instrumentation is allowed to whip up ambitious rhythms to accompany the revenge sequences on screen. A couple of motifs exist in Pacific Heights, muddied by some allusions to classical music that were also somewhat common to Zimmer's work. The most interesting theme is a rhythmic idea that uses a synthetic cimbalom effect that will, along with the hyperactive string movements in these cues, oddly generate comparisons to the much later Sherlock Holmes. Blatantly electronic, almost harsh brass samples are a minor detraction from these passages, but they provide necessary muscle. The primary theme, however, is the classical holdover that is translated from solo piano into surprisingly nimble jazzy incarnations, especially in "Part II." This seven-minute cue is largely devoid of the score's troubling dissonant material and is an absolute must for Zimmer collectors (it appeared on one of Varèse Sarabande's massive anniversary compilations). Under infectious piano and sax performances of heightened intensity, Zimmer stretches out his keyboarding to the highest ranges with intriguing flute-like tones atop the ensemble. When the mournful voice joins the group, the recipe becomes intoxicating. An even greater role for the sax, as in Jerry Goldsmith's concurrent The Russia House, especially with the flourishes in performance style like the one at 5:34 in "Part II," could have made this score a classic. Slight oriental character in the music carries over from Black Rain to represent the other, more abiding tenants in Pacific Heights, and there is little new to appreciate in these cues. Zimmer has written some fantastic music of an exotic nature in his career, but this doesn't benefit from that talent. Instead, the noir jazz is where Pacific Heights becomes memorable, and a crisp recording quality allows for about twenty minutes of very satisfying melodic exploration in the whole. It's unfortunate that Zimmer has infrequently revisited a sense of style this thick in his blockbuster years. **** Price Hunt: CD or Download

Bias Check:For Hans Zimmer reviews at Filmtracks, the average editorial rating is 2.98 (in 89 reviews)
and the average viewer rating is 3 (in 266,350 votes). The maximum rating is 5 stars.

 Viewer Ratings and Comments:  

Regular Average: 3.07 Stars
Smart Average: 3.06 Stars*
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    * Smart Average only includes
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 Track Listings: Total Time: 36:40

• 1. Part I (12:14)
• 2. Part II (7:26)
• 3. Part III (9:24)
• 4. Part IV (8:05)

 Notes and Quotes:  

The insert includes no extra information about the score or film.

  All artwork and sound clips from Pacific Heights are Copyright © 2010, Varèse Sarabande. The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Filmtracks Publications. Audio clips can be heard using RealPlayer but cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 4/5/10 (and not updated significantly since). Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 2010-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.