Ridley Scott painted Hannibal Lecter into a corner in the man-eater's previous cinematic outing, Hannibal. Gone was the contained terror of the brilliant mad man. Instead, he was replaced by a one-line dispatching serial meat-muncher. A refined and well-dressed Freddy Krueger. Despite the pictures shortcomings, it did boffo business at the box office. But Hannibal was the third and final chapter in Thomas Harris' trilogy of books involving Lecter. How could movie-makers continue to plunder the property? A remake! Most people haven't seen Michael Mann's Manhunter, the original 1980's adaption of Harris' Red Dragon. Most folks didn't even know it was related to the critical and financial smash The Silence Of The Lambs. The opportunity presented itself: remake Red Dragon, only this time stick close to the source material.
Red Dragon director, Brett Ratner, previously collaborated with Danny Elfman on The Family Man, a pleasant picture that unfairly fizzled at the box office. Elfman's score was gorgeous (and still hasn't been commercially released), so it was natural that Ratner would hire Elfman again for Red Dragon. Elfman is familiar with this territory. Previous genre credits include Darkman, Nightbreed, Dolores Claiborne, and Sleepy Hollow. Red Dragon is a little bit of all of these, with several dashes of Elfman's A Simple Plan and The Frighteners thrown in to sweeten things. The result is a stunning and dark work, that is more Howard Shore's tense The Silence Of The Lambs than Hans Zimmer's classico Hannibal. In that sense, not only is Red Dragon a prequel to The Silence Of The Lambs, but Elfman's score also serves as musical continuity -- Shore's score influenced Elfman, but it's Elfman's score that technically comes first in the Lecter story, with Elfman's work setting the stage for the trilogy.
Decca's soundtrack album is surprisingly long for a Los Angeles recording, running just shy of sixty minutes. Elfman's score is a dark mix of the tense strings in Dolores Claiborne ("Enter The Dragon"), flute riffs from A Simple Plan and towering brass from Sleepy Hollow and The Frighteners. A little mystique is dialed in courtesy of pronounced Darkman-esque harps. Elfman's stable of percussion is here too, particularly via chilling vibes, electronic sounds ("The Note") and a macabre music-box-like motif ("Logos", "Love On A Couch"). Surprisingly, Marc Mann is credited with conducting the choir which performs on the score, however they only appear sparingly in "The Book".
There is a grandiose tradition of old time film music evident in most of Elfman's work, and Red Dragon is no different. His use of dramatic and tension-cranked string rythms ("We're Different") to accentuate onscreen action (particularly dialogue sequences) makes his stuff work so well within the picture, and provides a steady and involving listening experience on CD. This is perhaps Elfman's most Bernard Herrmann-inspired effort to date.
Among the many highlights of the disc are Elfman's "Main Titles", which open ominously and then explode into a robust statement of the score's main theme complete with a malevolant peal of bells overtop grunting brass chords; "The Address" which features dreamy flutes over strings and light choir; "The Note" which reprises the main theme with bells, mixing in subtle electronic percussion; the murky rumbles of "Threats", the twisted "love theme" in "Love On A Couch"; and the terror cue "He's Back!". The album is rounded out in grand fashion with "End Credits Suite", a solid six minutes of the scores blood pumping best moments, in an original arrangement.
Red Dragon might not be an instant hit with general film music fans like Spider-Man was this past summer, but it certainly continues Elfman's run of top-notch scoring, following the brilliant sequel-score Men In Black II. This score does require time and patience, to fully appreciate it's sinister beauty. This is perhaps Elfman's most serious, straight-ahead dramatic work to date, like Sommersby's evil twin. Frankly, if you're going to take a trip to the dark side, there is no better guide than Danny Elfman. - Review by Ryan Keaveney (September, 2002) from Cinemusic.net.
Music Composed by Danny Elfman
Orchestrations by Steve Bartek, Edgardo Simone, Bruce Fowler and David Sloanaker
Conducted by Pete Anthony
Recorded and Mixed by Dennis Sands at The Newman Stage and The Eastwood Stage
Album Produced by Ellen Segal and Danny Elfman
Label (Catalogue): Decca Records, (289 473 248-2)
Availability: In print
Purchasing options: Available at Amazon.com
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