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Comments about the soundtrack for Wild Wild West (Elmer Bernstein)
Filmtracks Sponsored Donated Review

Mike Dougherty
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Filmtracks Sponsored Donated Review   Monday, August 27, 2007 (8:24 p.m.) 

(The following donated review by Mike Dougherty was moved by Filmtracks to this comment section in August, 2007)

Wild Wild West: (Elmer Bernstein) Musically speaking, director Barry Sonnenfeld's films are well endowed and deliver on all expectations. Sonnenfeld has the knack for hiring just the right composer capable of delivering a score that perfectly fits his film's motif. He and the producers of Men in Black hit the bull's-eye when they brought on Danny Elfman to score their hip science fiction-comedy. The same is true regarding Elmer Bernstein scoring Sonnenfeld's western comedy, Wild Wild West - the film's producer's could not have selected a more experienced composer as far as Westerns go.

Along with Jerry Goldsmith and Ennio Morricone, Bernstein is one of today's most successful Western composers. It's Bernstein's Academy Award nominated score to The Magnificent Seven that places him as one of the great composers of this genre. The Magnificent Seven theme is the one piece of music that supremely represents the entire genre; it's doubtlessly one of the most recognizable movie themes, and it's constantly re-performed in concert halls and on compilation albums. Wild Wild West is far from being a classic score like The Magnificent Seven, but it is a good 'spaghetti' Western score for an otherwise disappointing movie.

Bernstein's score is by no means a milestone in his career; it doesn't stand out as far as originality goes. There are points where the sounds of his previous scores appear - that's what makes this score and so many of his others 'definitive Bernstein.' Wild Wild West is a toss salad of the western motif, the militaristic cues from Stripes, the eerie sounds of Ghostbusters, the quirkiness of The Grifters, and the fight scenes from Airplane!. From the music, the listener can tell that something just happened in the film. This is the score's only downside: the action music is not creative enough to support itself without the film's visuals. Bernstein's signature fragmented trumpet blares indicate a fist fight, or a shoot-out, or James West throwing a punch. Bernstein's action music has all been done before.

The score's most fresh piece of music is Bernstein's main title. Although it's not as exciting or outstanding as other Bernstein Western themes, its strong presence throughout the album keeps the score alive. Although the original Wild Wild West television theme made a brief appearance or two in the film, it's sadly missing on this album. A 'love theme' for Rita and a 'villain theme' for Loveless might have given the score more depth.

Strangely, Bernstein adds a drum beat and gospel organ to his main title and other portions of the score. One gets the feeling that the filmmakers pressured Bernstein into writing a score that resonated the film's attempt to be a 'hip and groovy' Western. When the drum beat/electric guitar/gospel organ performances appear, they sound very outdated and very out of place. On the other hand, the pop orchestrations are fun bearing in mind they're coming from a 77 year-old composer. "Loveless' Plan" is a very amusing track. Bernstein makes an odd musical blend here: the track features a massive choir singing "God Bless America" later mixed with some exotic dance music. "Ride the Spider" provides a very strong end to the score.

Bernstein delivered the Wild Wild West score in a rather short amount of time -- he recorded the score a month before the film's release. Bearing that in mind, Bernstein created an effective score both on film and on CD. Varèse Sarabande once again releases an album short in length -- it's a few seconds over 30 minutes. This is probably just as well since most of the score is originality-deficient; it doesn't create a particularly remarkable listening experience. For film score and Bernstein fans, this score album is a major relief after suffering through Interscope's unnecessary song album. Once again, it's a good Western score for an unsatisfactory Western film. ***

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