Film scores

Soundtrack review: Magic (Jerry Goldsmith – 1978)

Magic-Cover

Whenever a Jerry Goldsmith release comes along I get a little worried. I know most film music fans get excited, but I get worried because there are enough moments when I can’t connect with his music. He is one of the best composers who ever lived and yet I have few of his scores on my favorites list. I doubt “Magic” will be one of them but the more I listen to his music the more I’ll get to know him. “Magic” is a 1978 horror movie starring Anthony Hopkins, Ann Margaret and Burges Meredith about a crazy magician / ventriloquist with an even crazier dummy.

I like the opening. The “Main titles” combine melodic goodness with a twist of circus music with the harmonica inserts. It’s a complex and brilliant cue that actually introduces us to the mental world of the main character. That’s what I hear in this strange and dualistic cue. It’s part serious, part quirky and part threatening. The mood of this opening bleeds in the rest of the score and I am both intrigued and excited because I like it.

I enjoy the almost schizophrenic nature of a cue like “Didn’t remember me”. Is it a dialogue of motifs for both magician and dummy? Is this the way their conversations would feel? I must say the way Goldsmith builds cues like this one and “Main titles” is quite unique. At times I want to fall in love when I hear the music and other times I feel like I’m looking at a back alley where wooden dummies are thrown out.

The most melodic parts of “Magic” are just wonderful. “Memories” transports me to the romantic golden age of film music. “Appasionata” is even more gorgeous: an explosion of feelings suitable for a different kind of movie. The more I listen to this score the more I get the feeling of romance or of a love story. I can’t hear a single scary or tense moment and if it weren’t for the quirky broken harmonica inserts which play like reminders that there’s more hiding in this score I would completely forget the story.

Midway through though tension slowly creeps up on us and the tone of the score changes. I get a feeling of listening to Bernard Herrmann score for a Hitchcock movie at times. It has the same thick and heavy tension. “Duke’s end” brings the horror out of nowhere, but it’s a rare moment. No matter if I enjoy one of his compositions or not I must admit Jerry Goldsmith brings something new and unique almost every time. I can tell that this score was written by a special kind of composer.

You should listen to this score even if, just like me, you are not a Jerry Goldsmith fan. You will discover an interesting and addictive composition and it will provide a little insight into the mind of this great composer. His fans probably already know what to expect from this and will jump at the opportunity. But like I said, do not expect a horror score. This is a low key, tense and melodic composition that could work for a different kind of movie as well.

Cue rating: 83 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 14 / 42

Album excellence: 34%

Highlights:

Magic-Main Title

We’re Gonna Be A Star (Previously Unreleased)

Didn’t Remember Me

Memories

Appassionata

Let’s Take Off

Us Was You

Magic-End Titles

About the author

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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