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Soundtrack review: The car (Leonard Rosenman -1977, 2015)

Film scores Intrada corner

Soundtrack review: The car (Leonard Rosenman -1977, 2015)


“The car” is a 1977 thriller starring James Brolin. The movie is part of the flurry of releases from that period that dealt with the supernatural, demonic possessions or unexplained phenomena. The world was fascinated with stories like these and the movie tried to capitalize on this. It’s about a car that stalks and kills a lot of people. From what I read the movie was a complete failure, but it did provide the opportunity for veteran composer Leonard Rosenman to exhibit his craft. Intrada Records just unearthed this release after almost 40 years and it’s a good thing they did.

The main theme is old school orchestral disturbance. It has that sound I associate with old monster movies, with low brass instruments giving that ominous, bold and exaggerated feeling to the music. I close my eyes and see black and white vampires or giant strange creatures chasing the unsuspecting main characters. This opening cue just morphs into “Cyclist killed” which is straight up stabbing horror music. The strings and the brass instruments give an unmistakable fatality to the music. I recognize this sound, I’ve heard it in a lot of movies and this familiarity makes me enjoy the music. I don’t have to work hard to listen to this and it provides the thrills I imagine the movie gives.

The death cues (“Cyclist killed”, “John killed”, “Dead girl found” and “Sheriff killed”) are similar in sound and blend that horror sound with melodic interludes that warm me up to the fate of the characters. The more I listen to this the more I realized I’ve missed a good old orchestral horror score. Lately this kind of scores, some great, some generic, have been mostly experimental or relying on scary sound effects. “The car” is different. There’s melody in this one, there’s emotion and the scares aren’t at all subtle or veiled.

“Run” is my favorite cue of the score so far. It moves at a relentless pace as if the car was chasing me. It’s a complex and interesting composition that keeps me invested for the duration. I want to know what happens, I want to hear how it ends and I love the sound of the brass instruments and how they give me the impression of constant darkness. I feel as a black fog comes with every blow in those instruments and they don’t let any light in. The two “Chase” cues are just marvelous and provide constant danger and not a moment’s rest.

Even if it was written 40 years ago it’s as if this score has been preserved just as fresh as the day it was recorded. It kept its appeal and it doesn’t feel old; instead it brings the smell and feel of those years to 2015 and to me it’s like a portal opened to the time when the movie came out. Or maybe I just missed an over the top orchestral score like this one… Either way this is a very enjoyable release. I’m sure not only old school horror music fans will appreciate this one.

The extras on the score

Cue rating: 83 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 21 / 41

Album excellence: 51%


Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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