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1997 Rhino

2010 FSM

Composed, Conducted, and Produced by:
Jerry Goldsmith

Orchestrated by:
Arthur Morton

2010 Album Produced by:
Mike Matessino
Bruce Botnick

Labels and Dates:
Rhino Movie Music
(March 4th, 1997)

Film Score Monthly
(December 9th, 2010)

Also See:
Poltergeist II: The Other Side
The Haunting
Star Trek: The Motion Picture
E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial

Audio Clips:
1997 Rhino Album:

2. The Calling/The Neighborhood (Main Title) (0:30):
WMA (197K)  MP3 (243K)
Real Audio (151K)

7. The Light (0:31):
WMA (202K)  MP3 (252K)
Real Audio (157K)

10. Rebirth (0:30):
WMA (197K)  MP3 (246K)
Real Audio (153K)

11. Night of the Beast (0:30):
WMA (193K)  MP3 (238K)
Real Audio (147K)

The 1997 Rhino album was a regular U.S. release, but has long been out of print. The 2010 FSM album is limited to 10,000 copies and available for $25 through soundtrack specialty outlets.

  Nominated for an Academy Award.


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Sales Rank: 364537

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Buy it... if you appreciate engaging and intelligent horror scores that slowly and brilliantly transform attractive harmony into frightfully atonal terror.

Avoid it... if the famous "Carol Anne's Theme" is too sweet for your palette and the secondary religious motifs in the score are too infrequently utilized to salvage the entirety for your non-horror preferences.

Poltergeist: (Jerry Goldsmith) So active was Steven Spielberg's imagination in the early 1980's that he couldn't contain himself and release E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial and Poltergeist successively. In the process of directing the former and dominating the latter in 1982, he created more controversy with the concurrent projects than necessary. The famed director and producer both created the concept of Poltergeist and managed each of its production elements from start to end. A completely normal family in a suburban house becomes the progressive target of poltergeists associated with the spirits of those in the cemetery that was supposed to have been relocated to accommodate the sub-development. The spirits' revenge eventually includes the kidnapping of the family's youngest daughter and, after her successful rescue, the house is literally sucked into a void and chaos breaks out in the whole neighborhood. For expediency, Spielberg had horror veteran Tobe Hooper direct the film (despite being on set for practically all major shoots) and this decision proved problematic by the time Spielberg was writing public letters in the newspaper trying to convince a skeptical public that Hooper had any input into Poltergeist at all. No matter the extent of his involvement, Poltergeist was a Spielberg film through and through, and with his usual collaborating composer, John Williams, also tied up in early 1982 with E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, Spielberg turned to Jerry Goldsmith for Poltergeist. The director had always been an enormous fan of Goldsmith, though the two would only work together directly on this and Twilight Zone: The Movie shortly thereafter. Goldsmith was a natural choice for the assignment, having won an Academy Award for his memorable horror genre style in The Omen and extending the same menacing tones to its sequels and Alien and Magic, among others. In the larger scope of Goldsmith's career, Poltergeist would mark the culmination of the composer's efforts in producing the most sinister music an orchestra can provide, and while he would revisit the genre very late in his career, he would never achieve the same monumental success. In Poltergeist, Goldsmith brilliantly created a war between the sweetest, most innocent lyricism and the darkest, most treacherous atonality possible. It's a lesson in contrasts so vivid that you can't help but admire its radical swings of mood and the primordial appeals that both ends of the sonic spectrum make to each listener.

The highly effective score would gain Goldsmith another Academy Award nomination, though all of Poltergeist's nominations would understandably lose to E.T.. Outside of the context of the film, the memorability of the score is most often created by the softer elements representing the Freeling family. As the concepts in the story evolve from the blissful suburban lifestyle to the turmoil of "the other side," the score turns progressively more frightful, first in a suspenseful, religious fashion, and eventually in a seemingly unorganized bombast of atonal orchestral strikes representing "the beast." The outstanding results from Goldsmith's most strident horror material in Poltergeist are difficult to diminish simply due to the fact that they're challenging to casually enjoy on album. But Goldsmith's route to those depths of fright is what matters, and the gems within the Poltergeist score exist halfway through that journey. The score's title theme could deceive the naive in the audience, though "Carol Anne's Theme" is such an invariably good-natured representation of a 5-year-old girl's lullaby that anyone can clearly see that Goldsmith was only using this theme as a control measure for the contrasting horrors to come. In concert performances of Poltergeist, listeners are treated to this lovely piece, but in retrospect, it borders on being contrived when seated next to the remainder of the score. This idea would be very well integrated into the rest of the work, especially in fragments, though a fuller arrangement in "The Neighborhood" (essentially for the main titles) is afforded a wholesome non-choral tone and bubbly interlude that serves as a foreshadowing of the composer's many fluffy, light drama themes in the 1990's. The only other truly organized theme in Poltergeist, however, is its highlight. For the more wondrous and mysterious element of the religious concept involving the souls caught in between worlds in the Freeling's sub-development, Goldsmith coins a longing string theme of curious elegance. First heard during the description of "the other side" in "The Light," this theme would accompany the psychic Tangina in "It Knows What Scares You" (otherwise known as "Let's Get Her"). The floating atmosphere of this melodic string theme causes Poltergeist's frequent comparison to similar parts of Star Trek: The Motion Picture. This theme seemingly plays a larger role in the film than on the various albums for the score, for it is a rare circumstance when early conversational scenes are provided with a substantially deep piece of music. In its fragments over the course of the film's frantic finale, this theme would mostly be unrecognizable due to its violent shifts in tempo and instrumentation.

As the film and score progress even further into the realm of the unknown, Goldsmith conjures two more ideas that successively become less organized. One of these is the transformation of the religious theme into a tumultuous rhythmic motif for low strings and brass that first erupts at 2:20 into "Contacting the Other Side" (also known as "The Jewelry"). This motif steams into full action throughout "Rebirth," first accompanied by whimsical female choir and eventually achieving remarkable weight in the fourth minute of that cue. As the battle to retrieve Carol Anne from the next world ensues, this "battle rhythm" is often interrupted by full ensemble hits. Its merging with the religious theme by the fifth minute of "Rebirth" is a highlight of the entire score. The demeanor of these portions have to make one wonder if Spielberg did not instruct Goldsmith to use John Williams' music for the Ark of the Covenant's opening in Raiders of the Lost Ark as a template for this scene. Hints of this rhythmic material would be rearranged by Goldsmith for the climax of The Haunting in 1999, a neat tribute to the earlier score. Horror enthusiasts will note that this motif clearly inspired Christopher Young when it came time for his Hellraiser scores, too. Finally, the "beast" itself is given an identity, but by the time the score addresses it, the motif is mostly represented by jagged blasts in the lowest registers of the ensemble. A preview of this idea would be provided in the latter half of "It Knows What Scares You" (otherwise known as "Let's Get Her") and occupies the first minute of "Night of the Beast." The larger representations of this concept are mostly atmospheric in a blasting, staggered, rhythmic sense. By "Escape from Suburbia," the score has lost all of its melodic cohesion and exists as only a series of sharp jabs over groaning, atonal strains. After the Freeling family escapes to a motel, the end credits returns to a full statement of the innocent "Carol Anne's Theme" provided at the start, though Goldsmith throws a kink into the conclusion with a really psychotic mix of laughing girls' voices overtaking the end of the thematic performance. While showing a bit of a sense of humor from Goldsmith (or Spielberg; the two collaborated so closely on the music for the project that it could be attributed to one or both), the laughing voices at the end are an extremely effective method of ending the score on a sour note without resorting to typical surprise tactics. Other singular elements in the score deserve mentioning. Throughout the recording, and most evident in the latter half of "Rebirth," Goldsmith utilizes the dry slashing of a cymbal in a fashion that almost resembles the passing of an electric shock. As source material, Goldsmith also recorded the Star Spangled Banner to accompany the television stations' conclusion of broadcasting for the night, an integral aspect of the film.

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Goldsmith actually made no use of synthesizers in Poltergeist, but he did employ a musical saw, rub rod, bass slide whistle, water chime, resin drum, and other percussive sounds to both emulate synthetic effects and represent the sense of eerie unknown. Two distinct aspects of their contribution make themselves known immediately. In the first ten seconds of the score, Goldsmith offers the descending, low range effect that appears throughout the score for the sake of mystery, as well as the tingling, extremely high range keyboarded-like accent that usually accompanies it. Overall, Goldsmith's score is horror in its most classic and intelligent form. Whether or not you can enjoy its latter half depends on your ability to appreciate the short bursts of harmony amongst the demonic blasts of fright. The subsequent sequel score by Goldsmith a few years later would only carry over "Carol Anne's Theme" and explore a more menacing, male-chorus variant on the representation of evil. The original LP release of Poltergeist heavily favored the action material, with 38 minutes of music rearranged wildly out of film order. In 1997, Rhino and Turner finally gave Poltergeist a CD release, and it was one of those rare occasions when a label treats an unreleased score so well that no subsequent release was necessary for many years. Rhino expanded the running time to 68 minutes, placing the music in film order and presenting much of the softer material from earlier in the film. Interestingly, many of these cues, including an expanded rendition of "Carol Anne's Theme" in "The Tree," were removed from the film by Spielberg. Given how closely the composer and producer worked on Poltergeist, these outtakes' displacement from the film was a collaborative decision, and some of the problems related to the recordings' applicability to the film related to the fact that Goldsmith had to record the music before the special effects sequences were shot. As such, the composer was sometimes left approximating the synchronization points of the film. A similar presentation, along with that of the LP, was offered by Film Score Monthly as a 10,000-unit pressing in 2010, padding the second of its two CDs with twenty minutes of source and alternate material that is interesting, but not earth-shattering. Also included on that second CD is ten minutes of cleaned up and expanded selections of music from Goldsmith's 1963 score for The Prize, previously released by the label. The true benefit of the 2010 album, other than making the score available after the Rhino product had long gone out of print, is superior sound due to the discovery of better sources, though some listeners may not notice a tremendous difference in quality. While the "complete score" tracks on the two albums differ, they are simply cues combined or split in different places. On either of its CDs, Poltergeist is an essential entry for any Goldsmith collector. **** Price Hunt: CD or Download

Bias Check:For Jerry Goldsmith reviews at Filmtracks, the average editorial rating is 3.26 (in 113 reviews)
and the average viewer rating is 3.26 (in 138,584 votes). The maximum rating is 5 stars.

 Viewer Ratings and Comments:  

Regular Average: 3.9 Stars
Smart Average: 3.69 Stars*
***** 983 
**** 867 
*** 473 
** 182 
* 131 
  (View results for all titles)
    * Smart Average only includes
         40% of 5-star and 1-star votes
              to counterbalance fringe voting.
   Great score.
  Lsnake -- 3/19/09 (6:53 a.m.)
   Re: A Masterpiece!
  Indiana Schwartz -- 3/13/09 (10:18 a.m.)
   A Masterpiece!
  Offernissim -- 4/28/07 (9:36 a.m.)
   Average film, good soundtrack!
  Mathias Sender -- 7/21/06 (11:43 a.m.)
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 Track Listings: Total Time: 68:10

• 1. The Star Spangled Banner*** (1:30)
• 2. The Calling/The Neighborhood (Main Title)** (4:07)
• 3. The Tree# (2:26)
• 4. The Clown*/They're Here*/Broken Glass#/The Hole#/TV People* (5:12)
• 5. Twisted Abduction** (6:56)
• 6. Contacting the Other Side* (5:10)
• 7. The Light (2:05)
• 8. Night Visitor/No Complaints** (9:07)
• 9. It Knows What Scares You* (7:37)
• 10. Rebirth (8:23)
• 11. Night of the Beast** (3:51)
• 12. Escape from Suburbia** (7:10)
• 13. Carol Anne's Theme (End Titles)** (4:19)

* previously unreleased (compared to the LP record)
** contains previously unreleased material (compared to the LP record)
*** public domain/previously unreleased (compared to the LP record)
# outtakes/previously unreleased (compared to the LP record)

 Track Listings (2010 FSM Album): Total Time: 138:07

CD 1: (68:25)
• 1. The Star Spangled Banner (1:30)
• 2. The Calling (1:57)
• 3. The Neighborhood - Day (2:15)
• 4. The Tree (2:26)
• 5. The Clown/They're Here/Broken Glass (3:52)
• 6. The Hole/TV People (1:26)
• 7. Twisted Abduction (6:58)
• 8. The Jewelry (5:06)
• 9. The Light (2:07)
• 10. Night Visitor (8:00)
• 11. No Complaints (1:05)
• 12. Let's Get Her/Rebirth (16:02)
• 13. Night of the Beast (3:51)
• 14. Escape From Suburbia (7:29)
• 15. No TV/End Credits (Carol Anne's Theme) (4:20)

CD 2: (69:42)

The 1982 Soundtrack Album: (38:17)
• 1. Carol Anne's Theme (3:29)
• 2. Night Visitor (7:28)
• 3. Escape From Suburbia (6:18)
• 4. The Light (2:03)
• 5. The Neighborhood-Day (2:15)
• 6. Night of the Beast (2:16)
• 7. Twisted Abduction (6:14)
• 8. Rebirth (8:17)

Bonus Tracks: (21:10)
• 9. Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star (0:36)
• 10. Wild Percussion (3:14)
• 11. The Calling (Alternate) (2:05)
• 12. Carol Anne's Theme (Orchestra Only) (3:15)
• 13. The Clown (Alternate) (1:16)
• 14. Escape From Suburbia (Alternate) (7:31)
• 15. Carol Anne's Theme (Original Edit and Alternate Vocal) (3:15)

The Prize: Soundtrack Album Recording: (10:05)
• 16. Theme From The Prize (2:15)
• 17. Manhunt (2:50)
• 18. Three Lost People (1:23)
• 19. The Night People (2:02)
• 20. The Courier (1:37)

 Notes and Quotes:  

The inserts of both albums contain notes about the film and score that are in great depth, including the standard statement from Spielberg.

  All artwork and sound clips from Poltergeist are Copyright © 1997, 2010, Rhino Movie Music, Film Score Monthly. 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 3/15/97 and last updated 12/31/10. Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 1997-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.