Film scores

Soundtrack review: The dogs of war (Geoffrey Burgon – 1980)

Dogs-Of-War-Soundtrack

I have quite vivid memories of reading “The dogs of war” by Frederick Forsythe some 20 years ago. Back in high school me and my friends were just devouring war and commando novels, from Forsythe to Robert Ludlum to Sven Hassel. This was one of the books I read breathlessly; I remember I was with my family in the mountains and I just lay on the couch and tore through the pages, curious of the adventures of Shannon and the other mercenaries would end. Now, so many years later, the score for the movie is finally available in complete format from La La Land Records. It was written by Geoffrey Burgon and this is my first contact with him.

The composer wastes no time in throwing us into the jaws of the action with the powerful, ominous and actually mercenary sounding “Main titles”. This is a hard military theme if I ever heard one, complete with percussion and a marching beat and there is no mistaking what feelings the music is trying to instill in the listener. Once the baptism of fire is over things quiet down a bit for a couple of cues as we are presented life of our characters just before the mission starts.

The score is simple and quite linear. The military motifs are clear and efficient just like a commando team. There’s the soft and sly percussion, there’s the sound of an instrument that I think is related to the ukulele and there are some metallic twists that remind me very much of Jerry Goldsmith’s score for “First blood part II”. There’s a Bernard Herrmann like sense of fear in “Unrest”. All these nods take a bit away from the identity of the score but in the same time make it enjoyable and easy to relate to. the changes in tone from “Dogs of war” are subtle. “Gathering the team” has a discrete build up and has a slightly inspirational sound to it.

There are no wow moments or memorable cues in “Dogs of war”. This score has a mission to mimic the feelings of unease, stealth movement and tension from the story and it accomplishes it without difficulties. For me, as someone who grew up with those stories, this is the sound I imagined while reading those books. Nothing to take my mind off the reading, just a background incentive to make the experience a little richer.

If you hear the first three or four cues from this score, you’ve heard them all. If you want to immerse yourselves in this thick and suspenseful mood for a whole hour, then this score is for you. You will probably do something else while listening to it but the mood it sets is precise and without surprises.

Cue rating: 78 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 5 / 62

Album excellence: 8%

Highlights:

The Dogs Of War – Main Title / Fiery Flight / The Apartment

Reunion

Epilogue

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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