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Batman Returns (1992)
Music Composed by Danny Elfman
Orchestrations by Steve Bartek
Conducted by Johnathan Sheffer
Additional Orchestrations by Mark McKenzie
Recorded and Mixed by Shawn Murphy
Album Produced by Danny Elfman and Steve Bartek

Label (Catalogue): Warner Bros. Records, (9 26972-2)
Availability: / Batman Returns

"A visit to an old friend (The Batman Theme is still amongst my favorites). Adding the Penguin & Catwoman themes, this time around, made it wild and tricky...Juggling them for ninety-something minutes, making sure that one was always in the air. I loved the Penguin...So tragic." - Danny Elfman, Music for a Darkened Theater, Vol. 2

After writing one of the most popular scores of all-time, how do you top it? By creating an even bigger, more ambitious score of course! Batman Returns brings us back to the day when each character had a musical theme to accompany them. This time not only do we have the iconic "Batman Theme", but we have the Catwoman ("Selina Transforms") and The Penguin ("The Cemetary"). What results is an extremely long score with enough themes to have you whistling until your lips cramp up and fall off.

Like the film, Batman Returns is decidedly darker and more sinister in it's humor than the first. There is the always sympathy deriving children's choir injected into things - mostly for The Penguin - and a great deal more percussion and synth chords for The Catwoman. "The Batman Theme" does not change, it only evolves during the main credits. It slows, and is just a hint more tragic than the first. Some people were put off the by literal use of circus music for The Penguin's Red Triangle Gang - but I am not. It's a little trying sometimes during the action sequences, but sometimes a literal use of music is the best choice. What other alternative does a composer have to score a bunch of malevolent clowns?

The CD's second half consistsof an extended suite of action cues, ending with "The Finale", a sombre farewell to The Penguin (a villain's death that creates pity for him is a great one) and the epilogue (Bruce Wayne mistakenly sees The Catwoman's silhouette...Or does he?) Also included is a terrific suite of the score as the "End Credits", not just re-iterating the dominant themes, but spinning variations on them. "Face To Face" is an above-average song that thematically ties in with the rest of the score. It features lyrics by both Siouxie and The Banshees as well as Danny Elfman. Listen carefully and you can hear the high pitched registers from The Catwoman's "Theme".

I prefer the first Batman score but prefer Batman Returns the movie. This is a little strange, but prefer the longer, more fluent passages of "Attack Of The Batwing" of Batman than "The Final Confrontation" of Batman Returns, which too often dips and stops, starts up again, but never really sustains any musical fury that the first score does. This is only limited to the action cues. Other tracks, like the above mentioned "Selina Transforms" (which is a dominant movie theme in it's self) and "The Cemetary" are beautiful, if darkly elegant tracks.

Warner Bros. Records' release features strange sequencing. Some track titles spread over multiple tracks forming a musical "story" -- so listening to Batman Returns can be slightly confusing. Because the artwork for the soundtrack album was probably printed before the score was prepared for release (often the case with big summer blockbusters), the original pressing did not feature track titles on the packaging. The only tracklist was printed directly on the CD. Initial pressings came with a sticker attached to the shrink wrap and then later pressings came with tracklists printed on the rear tray inlay.

Elfman told Film Score Monthly: "It was during the screening of Batman Returns that I decided I want to write music that will do what it was meant to do for a film; I don't want to write music that will compete with an opera of sound effects. Contemporary dubs to my ears are getting busier and more shrill every year. The dubbers actually think they're doing a great job for the music if a crescendo or horn blast occasionally pops through the wall of sound."

The situation on Batman Returns was his worst ever. Elfman wrote his music with dynamics in mind, only to find that everything was flattened out by the dubbing mixer. The film was so poorly dubbed that Elfman believes his music actually hurt the picture; had he known how the sound effects would have been used, he would have simplified his writing. "In the end result, I believe that if 25% of the score and 25% of the sound effects had been dropped, the entire soundtrack would have been infinitely more effective than the busy mess it became."Many composers will argue that a good relationship with a director will help get their score across in the final mix, but unfortunately most directors "don't have good ears, even the brilliant ones. With Tim Burton, I had my best and worst dubs back to back. I've never had a better dub than on Edward Scissorhands, and I've never had a worse dub than on Batman Returns. No director does this consciously, they just lack the audio skills to deal with such a complex science." Lukas Kendall, Film Score Monthly, issue #64, December 1995

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Click for enlarged CD artwork
Click cover to enlarge
1-2. Birth Of A Penguin (5:37)
3-4. The Lair (5:46)
5,6. Selina Transforms (5:27)
07. The Cemetary (2:55)
08. Cat Suite (5:42)
09. Batman vs. The Circus (2:35)
10,11. The Rise And Fall
          From Grace (5:49)
12. Sore Spots (2:16)
13,14. Rooftops/Wild Ride (7:55)
15. The Children's Hour (1:47)
16,17. The Final Confrontation (10:07)
18,19. The Finale (5:00)
20. End Credits (4:42)
21. Face To Face (2:17)
     Siouxie and The Banshees
     Written By Danny Elfman

Danny Elfman's music at:

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