Film scores

Soundtrack review: The secret of NIMH (Jerry Goldsmith – 1983)

nimh

The latest Jerry Goldsmith expanded release comes from Intrada and is the score for the cartoon “The secret of NIMH”. In this 1982 film, two stories run in parallel: a widow is desperate to make her home away from the farmer’s fields, where it will soon be destroyed by plowing, but her family can’t move while her son is ill and the second story invoves a group of rodents being held at a facility run by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). After experimental drug treatments alter the rodents’ DNA and render them intelligent they escape.

Lately all these releases have helped me better connect with Jerry’s music and the gentle flute in the “Main title” continues that trend. The opening is dreamy and almost magical in sound. Then the adventure starts and I realize more and more that I like Goldsmith in fantasy mood. My biggest problems are with his abrasive and cold action music but this I get can behind. I know, I have a soft spot for the flute and it always hypnotizes me.

“The secret of NIMH” is easy to figure out and write about. To me it’s the kind of adventure score that’s both entertaining and emotional; a score that reaches me on every level. It’s rich and every layer hides a surprise or something to connect to. In the same time, it’s not the kind of score that I will remember for its moments. Nothing stands out, there’s no theme or cue that I will particularly come back to. This is a composition to be enjoyed in the moment, as a whole, and even more in the context of the movie. I will have no desire to return to it when it’s over but while we are here together I will enjoy it to the fullest.

You wouldn’t really guess that this score was for an animation movie. Jerry Goldsmith treated this as a live action film and scored it accordingly. The music is serious and intense and quite dramatic in some moments. A cue like “Step inside my house” will keep you on the edge of the seat and looking over your shoulder. A cue like “Moving day” is worth the price of the album on its own.

This one will not be enjoyed only by Jerry fans. Trust me, I am not one. Yet, but it’s getting harder. Such a rich and spectacular adventure score will be a joy for every film music fan out there. Not a single note wasted in vain here. Enjoy this glorious treat!

Cue rating: 90 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 28 / 50

Album excellence: 56%

Highlights:

Main Title

Allergic Reaction/Athletic Type

The Sentry Reel/The Story Of Nimh

Moving Day

The House Raising

Flying High/End Title

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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