The 10th of December 2008 is now a historical date for both the film and music enthusiasts. It was the official release of the first Indiana Jones soundtrack boxset and the complete scores. "And about time too..." many of us shouted... but before we start popping champagne corks, I suppose I ought to address that all important question: just how complete is this boxset anyway? Starting with Raiders of the Lost Ark, it is the most complete version of the score currently available and, quite possibly, one hundred percent complete for all I can tell. The Temple of Doom score, which was one of the main reasons for many for buying the boxset, is still missing a good 20 minutes of music. However this also means that there is a whopping 35-40 minutes of newly released music curtesy of composer John Williams. The Last Crusade has seen some reworking too with a couple of extended tracks and a different layout. All in all, there is an approximate 17 minutes extra music on top of the standalone score. The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was already complete anyway, so the version contained here is the standard 19-track CD. Finally, the bonus CD contains an extra 5 minutes of music for Raiders of the Lost Ark, 7 minutes for the Temple of Doom and 15 minutes for the Last Crusade, the latter material effectively making The Last Crusade more or less as complete as Raiders.
Raiders of the Lost Ark is one of those timeless masterpieces. It is reintroduced in this boxset in the most comprehensive manner one could imagine. 22 tracks of pure magic, all of them a vital part of film score history. The DCC Silva Screen Classics edition of Raiders has previously been reviewed here on Mfiles, so I shall mainly concentrate on the new tracks found on this release. Essentially the 70-odd minutes of music found on the previous version are reintroduced intact with some changes in track titles, general order and better sound remastering. There are 5 completely new tracks that contain previously unreleased music on top of this. "Washington Men/Indy's Home" introduces a soft breezy take on the main theme and ark trek. It is slightly over a minute in length but ties in perfectly with the introduction to Marion's theme in the next track "A thought for Marion/To Nepal". Effectively, with two short tracks and a carefully planned positioning, we are introduced to a few of the most predominant themes on the score. This goes to show that it isn't just the extra music itself that makes this boxset so special but also the wonderful way in which it was put together. "Bad Dates" sounds like something straight out of the Temple of Doom with its dark and menacing tone. "Indy Rides the Statue" borrows a theme from the early stages of the soundtrack, showcased during the Idol Temple sequences at the beginning of the film. Little moments like these were sadly missing from the DCC release and they make all the difference in the world. "Ride to the Nazi Hideout" and "Indy Follows the Ark" highlight some of the many (previously unscored) humorous situations and setbacks that plague Indy's progress to obtain the Ark. Once again, these tie the other main tracks together beautifully.
The Temple of Doom score is by far the most complex and dark score by John Williams. The previous version was only some 35-40 minutes long and was missing most of the music from the film. In sum. it felt more like a promotional sample than a full-length soundtrack. This time around, things are drastically different. Here, we have the most complete Temple of Doom score to date, with the exception of the ridiculously rare 2-CD release (that was limited to 500 copies only I believe) that is impossible to find nowadays no matter how extensively you may search for it (if you do find it, chances are it will be in the form of a bidding on Ebay with prices soaring well over £100). This new version is as complete as a single disc can possibly be, missing only some extended thugee music, small snippets of comical moments from the jungle scenes and mostly Willie and Short Round-related moments, a couple of tracks scoring Indy's drinking of Kali's blood and other such moments and finally the first half of the bridge scene at the end of the film. All in all, this is perfectly acceptable...everything else is fully restored and remastered. The entire nightclub sequences are now present with "Indy Negotiates" and "The Nightclub Brawl". The first of these tracks is similar to Raiders in many ways; tensions slowly build up and, rather than bursting into horns and percussion, Williams deflates them slowly in effort to build up even more tension. When things finally go bang, tracks like "The Nightclub Brawl" are the amazing result. Trying to analyse some of these movements is an exercise as demanding as listening to avant-garde music, but the mad energy and sheer character makes the whole far more accessible than one would deem possible. How Williams manages to pull this off, I will never know...but it isn't for nothing that he is considered a musical genius after all. In "The Scroll/Pankot Palace" things start getting darker, with Voodoo drumming and spine-chilling string sections as the bats circle the outskirts of Pankot Palace. Williams goes deeper and darker still as he descends into the underground temple with tracks "Approaching the Stones" and "Children in Chains". Dark choir voices start bursting behind the orchestration, giving birth to some of the more powerful moments on the score. "Short Round Escapes", "Saving Willie" and "Short Round Helps" are terrific tracks that were completely omitted from the previous releases, the last of these three restoring 5 minutes of heroic music to the fighting scenes taking place on the stone-crusher. After the mine car chase sequence, new tracks "Water!", "The Sword Trick" and "The Broken Bridge/British Relief" bring the score to its conclusion, ending with the "End Credits" track and missing only a matter of 5 minutes music taking place on the bridge.
The Last Crusade soundtrack was originally a 60-minute release. Here we are treated to 77 minutes of music. If you add the bonus disc music onto this, you obtain over 90 minutes of music, which is extremely comprehensive to say the least. There are probably 5 minutes of missing music from the viewpoint of a hardcore completist, but I doubt there will ever be a more complete score for The Last Crusade in any case. For starters, "Indy's First Adventure" has been extended by 4 minutes or so. This 12-minute beast of a track represents John Williams at his most poetic and flexible. The range of changes in emotion, themes and tempo are too vast to describe here; this track could be considered a soundtrack into itself. The extra 4 minutes of restored music include the moment where Indy learns to use a whip, flees the last train wagon via a magic container and finally, the final moments in which he his scolded by his father and receives a fedora hat for his trouble. "The Boat Scene" comes next, a gem of a track omitted from previous releases altogether. It also showcases the secondary movement of the Indiana Jones theme, that isn't played anywhere near as often as the first, which makes for a nice change of pace. Tracks "Journey to Austria", "Father and Son Reunited", "The Austrian Way" and "Alarm!" display a more playful mood and represent a considerable section of previously unreleased music too. In "The Austrian Way", a jazzy horn sways erotically into motion and provides us with one of the rare moments in which music for Elsa's character becomes the forefront of Williams' composition. It is an incredibly romantic piece of music and sounds very much like some of the lighter moments on Williams' score for Schindler's List. One of the more notable tracks is "On the Tank". It acts as an extension to the tank scenes scored in "Belly of the Steel Beast", with millitary style drumming and Hitchcockian (Bernard Herrmann) techniques for the string sections, as well as powerful Wagner-like movements sweeping in and out. These tracks tie in very nicely with the work William's has done on Raiders.
The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is a slight departure from the three other scores. The music itself is superb in parts but generally has more to do with Williams' War of the World score (2005) or his acclaimed E.T score (1982) for example. I repeat though, this doesn't mean that its a bad score...far from it. I am simply saying that it operates on a completely different level than the other three. "Call of the Crystal" brings the Ark theme to mind, only using a similar minimalistic concept as with Williams' score for Jaws. The composer used a 3-note repetitive motive played with increasing intensity and places the intricate details of his music in the background. This works beautifully of course. "The Adventures of Mutt" and "A Whirl Through Academe" are an ode to the track "Indy's First Adventure" from The Last Crusade. It also happens to be one of the finest tracks available on K.O.T.C.S and really brings the chevaleresque moments of The Last Crusade to mind. Overall, there is a hint of Carl Stalling in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, unless Williams was simply responding to the cartoonishness of the new Indiana Jones film. That being said, since Stalling and Williams are both incredible, there's no harm in pointing this out I suppose. The downside is that the danger and the slight patches of darkness that were part of the Indiana Jones experience do not manifest themselves in the music here. Spielberg and Lucas are entirely to blame though.
The bonus disc complements things nicely, adding more wonderful music to this already massive collection. Other than the raiders march in its original form and a rather long audio interview by Laurent Bouzereau with Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and of course John Williams himself, there are ten supplementary tracks that (for some reason or another - mainly length issues I presume) did not find their way onto the three first Indiana Jones scores. The first of these is "Uncovering the Ark", the only piece of music absent from the Raiders main score to my knowledge. The music here is amazing once again; snares become hissing snakes and metallic gongs signal the storm raging above the Ark's resting place. In other words, these are 5 minutes you do not want to miss out on. The Temple of Doom is extended by 2 tracks and a third latter down the line. Out of these, the most notable has to be "The Secret Passage". This is the music located in between "Nocturnal Activities" and "Bug Tunnel/Death Trap" from the main score. A couple of minutes into the track, John Williams goes as far as reproducing the sounds of bugs with the instruments at his disposal. The effect is very avant-garde but incredibly effective. The Last Crusade is extended by 6 tracks. Every single track is an important one here, with the heart-stopping variations of the Holy Grail theme as well as the very underrated Nazi theme. The most incredible track here, and one I would of thought essential to the main score, is "Wrong Choice, Right Choice". Suspense is created with an ambient tinkering of glass bells and sustained strings, before bursting into heavenly string sections that would make Bach himself stand up and take note.
In conclusion, you MUST buy this boxset. It is one of the most important soundtrack boxsets to have come out in recent years. Additionally, all of this comes with a 30-page booklet crammed full of photos taken from behind the scenes as well as from the films themselves. The box set can be found at these links: Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.
Interviews and more music from the Film Series.