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  • Stefan Riedlinger

The Burbs - Jerry Goldsmith - Soundtrack Review

Jerry Goldsmith’s soundtrack to „The Burbs“ is one of the best scores he ever composed, and in my opinion, one of the best soundtracks ever. This is really amazing movie music, and this soundtrack is also the proof that you find the best soundtracks, not for the big blockbusters, you will find them mostly for the smaller movies. Perhaps the composer thinks that the music for a smaller movie should be more notable than for a big blockbuster? This is an interesting phenomenon and worth talking about it.

The movie

Joe “Gremlins” Dante directed 1989 this comedy with a lot of satire, but also horror elements and continued the very successful collaboration with Jerry Goldsmith by working on this picture. Goldsmith even composed this last soundtrack “Lonely Tunes in Action” for a Dante movie before the composer died of cancer in 2004.

“The Burbs”, based on a screenplay by Dana Olsen, makes fun at suburban environments. On Wikipedia, you can read a quote by the author: “I had an ultra-normal middle-class upbringing, but our town had its share of psychos. There was a legendary hatchet murder in the thirties. As a kid, it was fascinating to think that Mr XY down the street could turn out to be Jack the Ripper.” Here is the trailer:

When I wrote this review of the score, I was based in San Francisco since one year and could even more appreciate the humor of the movie. One of my friends was living in these typical suburban areas and told me that life is really as boring as portrayed in the movie. He was telling me of a neighbor who was throwing old shoes at the house when my friend partied again too loud.

Tom Hanks played the male leading role and this was before he was becoming famous and won two Academy Awards. Hanks’ wife is portrayed by Carrie Fisher. Bruce Dern gives a marvelous portrait of a war veteran who is married to a dump, but beautiful wife, portrayed by Wendy Schaal. When the new neighbors called Klopeck arrive in the city and starting doing their strange stuff, Hanks and Co. begin to investigate. Finally, some action in the boring neighborhood!

As I remember in the original version, the Klopeck speak English with a German accent. Okay, blame the Germans again, but who cares? Henry Gibson, one of the judges in “Boston Legal”, is just marvelous bizarre as the head of the Klopeck family. What is really hopping in the plot and especially at the end, I will not tell, so you all can enjoy the movie.

Here you can find a fan video with the best scene with Bruce Dern:

The music

Jerry Goldsmith’s music is a firework of ideas! The soundtrack is a great example how he was able to combine a classical orchestra with modern electronics. This score is furthermore also one of the best examples why Goldsmith was a better composer than John Williams. If you ever want to buy one soundtrack, then buy this one because it is a perfect example what movie music is able to do when a really gifted composer is working on a picture.

There are so many great tracks in this music that it is really difficult to just mention a few. One of my favorite ones is called “My Neighbourhood”. In this short piece, Goldsmith composed a parody of his famous “Patton” score – the trumpet-echo - and used also a special instrument to make some squeak noise. This works wonderfully in the film scene. Another very funny track is called “Let’s go” and composed in the typical Western style of Ennio Morricone, even with gunshots. In the first track of the score, you can hear a musical barking of a dog. These quirky ideas make this score outstanding.

For the “Neighbors from Hell”, Goldsmith used an organ in the style of gothic horror music. These organ parts are the best of the music and working fantastic in the movie. There is one haunting scene when Hanks and his friends are watching the Klopecks bringing out the rubbish in a rainy stormy night. If you see this scene with Goldsmith’s music in the movie, you know what amazing movie music really is.

One wonderful and highly entertaining piece is the track called “The Dream”. The scene portrays a nightmare, and it is full of visual jokes. Goldsmith also used in this track a choir in the style of the mythological sirens. This track is also a great example of Goldsmith’s use of different percussion instruments.

The best title is the last track, “Square One / End Titles” for the last minutes and the credits. In this four minute piece, Goldsmith created a musical firework and the perfect end credits music: He uses all the various themes of the score (the lovely suburban theme, the Gothic horror theme, the western theme and also the heroic war theme for Bruce Dern) and brings the score and the album to a great ending. The musical structure of this piece is highly complex: You have nearly three layers in the music, listen especially to the special usage of the strings in the background before the Organ enters. This track is one of my most favorite tracks ever, and especially when you listened to this music, you can understand why Jerry Goldsmith is my favourite film music composer: He had so much more to offer!

It seems this soundtrack is pretty difficult to get but try to buy it, especially the “Deluxe Edition”, it is worth every penny. It’s a shame, but not surprising that Goldsmith was not even nominated for this soundtrack with an Academy Award. Remember, even Bernard Herrmann’s “Psycho” was not even nominated. “The Burbs” is astonishing movie music and my favourite Jerry Goldsmith score.

Copyright © Stefan Riedlinger, 2014, all rights reserved. The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Stefan Riedlinger.

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