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Soundtrack review: Robocop (Basil Poledouris – 1987)

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I’ve been looking for an excuse to review Robocop for ages. Not that I needed one but lately I’ve been covering almost exclusively new releases and my old favorites remained in pending. Luckily Milan Records is reissuing the extended version. Basil Poledouris’ masterpiece is one of those scores that are almost permanently in the back of my mind. The main theme is right up there with Brad Fiedel’s “Terminator” theme among my favorites and I often come back and listen to it. It’s a theme fitting for our metal hero, one meant to be decisive and powerful. It’s a theme synonym to order and law and whenever I hear it I imagine a metal boot pounding on the ground. It’s a theme of triumph and revenge, a gorgeous moment in film music history. The movie is also a classic and one I return to quite often. Didn’t care much for the sequels, TV show or reboot but I am a big fan of the original.

Basil Poledouris was an interesting choice to do the score. He dominated the 80s and set the standard for epic music with his Conan compositions. 30 years later and nobody has been able to top that or even come close. “Robocop” demanded a different approach. There was a need for a different kind of sound here, a different kind of epic. Instead of the sorcery ridden past we get the desolate and violent future and Basil Poledouris shifted gears. The action in “Robocop” is wealthy and menacing. Even if the subject of the movie would have permitted a different sound, the composer went mostly with orchestral and this makes the score special. Some moments even make me think of Bernard Herrmann and his “Cape fear” score because of the dark urgency of the music.

I keep coming back to Terminator because that’s the other big score that tried to capture the man / machine duality. Basil Poledouris’ score works a little better for me because this is a composer that can put emotion on notes as good as anyone and there are moments in “Robocop” when I feel all the power and intensity of former Murphy’s pain when he dreams about or sees his family without being able to interact. Emotional themes like “Murphy’s dream” or “Murphy goes home” always get to me. The latter is Poledouris at his melodic best. It’s a strange sensation though, as if the imaginary tears were ice cold instead of warm. There’s always that metallic aftertaste that never lets us forget what this character is about.

Still my favorite moments are those when the spectacular Robocop theme recurs. This storm of orchestral glory comes alive in short interludes like “Drive montage” and “Helpless woman” or in a longer, more memorable fashion in “Rock shop”. My favorite moment of the score though is “Looking for me”. It inspires me and gives me a feeling of invulnerability. It’s also my favorite instance of the main theme and one cue I very often keep in my running playlists. It’s the cue that best represents this score.

Robocop is a character that will live forever in the collective memory of film fans. For me, he will never be separated from one of the most glorious themes ever written for an on screen hero and another reason while Basil Poledouris is regarded as one of the greatest composers.

Cue rating: 90 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 34 / 57

Album excellence: 59%

Highlights:

01 Main Title

02 Have A Heart

07 Robo Lives

08 Drive Montage

09 Helpless Woman

11 Murphy’s Dream

13 Murphy Goes Home

15 Rock Shop

16 Robo Drives To Jones

19 Force Shoots Robo

22 Looking For Me

23 Across the board-Endcrdts

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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