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Flash Gordon (Soundtrack) by Howard Blake

Beyond Queen
Review by Christopher Coleman

Composed, Arranged and Conducted by Howard Blake
Produced by John J. Alcantar III (Exec.); Ford A. Thaxton
Performed by National Philharmonic Orchestra
Promotional Release- June 2000

Flash Gordon

Flash Gordon (Soundtrack) by Howard Blake

Category

Score
Originality 5
Music Selection 5
Composition 5
CD Length 6
Track Order 6
Performance 5
Final Score 5/10

The simple two word title of  "Flash Gordon" evokes greyscaled images of sparkler throwing air ships and the cheesily-quaint matinee music of the 1930's.  This is the case for most people; however, for a others, technicolor images of a young "actor," Sam Jones and even the pre-Bond, Timothy Dalton fill their brains when they hear the name of one of America's first screen heroes.  Along with those colorful images come recollections of the film's music.  More often than not, what comes to mind is the music of that one-word titled, British band, Queen, and much less frequently, the full orchestral work of composer Howard Blake.

While the year of 1980 would be dominated by the sequel to Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and its ever-lauded score by John Williams, other sci-fi films and scores did manage to squeek in between the Star Wars hoopla,  Dino De Laurentis' revival of Flash Gordon is one of them.

The music of this Eighties-Flash Gordon has certainly been tightly knit with the music of Queen and Blake's score for the film has gone unnoticed and unappreciated for twenty years.  This promotional release of his score along with eight tracks from the 3D-thriller Amittyville 3D, finally avails the opportunity for film music enthusiasts to hear and appreciate the orchestral component of this film.

Howard Blake's score was victim to the marketing machine that pushed Queen's contributions to the forefront in much the same way as a good number of scores languish behind the marketing monsters pushing pop-compilation CDs instead.

Blake's music provides an interesting contrast to Queen's much more in-your-face, edgy compositions.   While Blake’s score keeps from jumping on the reborn popularity of leitmotif, spear-headed by composer John Williams, it still makes adequate use of the National Philharmonic Orchestra's talents.

Howard Blake's score ranges from beautiful string melodies such as Flight to Arboria (8) to the noticeably eighties, hero theme, "The Hero" (1).  There are a good number of action/suspense sequences that would easily fit into many of the action films, or tv-cop shows of the era with their bright brass and infectious percussions such as Rocket Flight (3).  At other instances, Blake brings a touch of Goldsmith to his music with grand scaled swells of brass in tracks such as Arrival (4).

Had Blake's score been written for a film that the audience might have been able to take more seriously, it would have garnered much more attention at the time, and probably in the years since.  While few, if any, would put it into the same category as a Star Wars, Star Trek or Raiders of the Lost Ark, the score certainly does demonstrate that there were other quality scores being produced and performed by composers other than John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith, and the London Symphony Orchestra in the early portion of the eighties.

The last eight tracks of this promotional release, give us more than an adequate sample of Blake's score for this third installment of the Amityville horror trilogy.  In an era when producers and marketers actually thought audiences wanted to see 3D movies again, such sequels as Jaws 3D and Amityville 3D were sacrificially thrust upon the public.  Howard Blake's music for the film is filled with each and every ingredient prescribed for a horror flick.  There is little to set the music apart from any of a couple hundred B-roll horror films.  In any case, the inclusion of these tracks does help push the total amount of Blake music released to 71:48 and that has to count for something.  Doesn't it?

Track Listing and Ratings

 Track  Title  Time

  Rating

1 The Hero 0:41  **
2 Opening Titles/ Killer Storm/ Plane Crash 7:15  ***
3 Rocket Flight 1:30  **
4 Arrival&/ Mongo Greeting/ Palace Entry/ The Court of Ming 3:59  ***
5 Barin and the Hawkmen 3:14  **
6 The Princess/ Dale's Seduction/ Football Fight 2:13  ***
7 Bell and Coffin*/ Zarkov/ Rocket Ship Fight* 3:20  **
8 Flight to Arboria/ Harem 2:06  ***
9 Telepathy/ Dale's Drug 2:07  **
10 Arboria 1:32  ***
11 Dale's Fight 1:32  ***
12 Zarkov and Dale Escape 1:25  ***
13 Torture/ The Swamp 2:11  **
14 The City of the Hawkmen 1:01  ***
15 Tree-Stump Duel/ Beast in the Swamp 6:00  **
16 Romantic Reunion 0:27  ***
17 Duel on the Sky Platform 7:48  ***
18 Firefight/ Finale: Death to Ming and Flash's Victory* 1:06  ***
Amityville 3D  
19 Main Titles  3:20  **
20 Car Death 3:16  **
21 The Boat Dock 2:57  **
22 The Mermaid 2:15  **
23 The Doll 1:08  **
24 Mother 2:27  **
25 The Beast 1:45  **
26 End Titles 3:51  **
 

Total Running Time

71:48  **
 
 

*Contains themes from "Flash Gordon" by Queen
Referenced Reviews:  
Dinosaur

 

Quick Quotes

While the score is at times fairly silly, it is still refreshingly virtually entirely performed by a very large orchestra, and the wonderfully expansive sound that science fiction films so often inspire is very much in evidence. There are various fanfares, big themes and melodramatic action sequences. It's just a really enjoyable score, though the overriding simplicity to the orchestrations does mean that it can't really be considered a particularly major work, and at over 50 minutes it does seem to go on for rather a long time. ***

James Southall - Movie Wave U.K. 

Howard Blake
Composer 
Howard Blake

 

Purchasing Options:

Flash Gordon 
(Supercollector)

 

 

 

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