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  • Stefan Riedlinger

Young Sherlock Holmes - Bruce Broughton - Soundtrack Review

This is the first review of a soundtrack composed by Bruce Broughton on my website and it was the first movie with a score by Bruce Broughton I saw. “Young Sherlock Holmes” is a fantastic score, and Bruce Broughton is such a talented composer who film music enthusiasts seem to forget about. In the last years, it seems that Broughton was not much involved in big blockbuster movies. Give this man the chance to work on another blockbuster! In the meantime, film music fans should think of putting his scores back into the CD player again. Here is the trailer:

The composer

Because Bruce Broughton is not so popular these days, let’s start with some basic information: Born 1945 in Los Angeles and raised in Hawaii, Broughton finished 1967 his musical study at the University of Southern California with distinction. He started to compose music for television series such as “Gunsmoke”, “Quincy” and “Dallas”.

In 1984, he composed his first soundtrack for a feature movie called “The Ice Pirates”. One year later, he nominated the first time for an Academy Award for this score “Silverado” (1985). This is a wonderful western music for a movie directed by Lawrence Kasdan and worth buying.

During his career, Broughton has received over 20 Emmy nominations and has won a record of 10 Emmy prices, most recently for HBO's “Warm Springs”, but also for “Glory & Honor”, “O Pioneers!” and “Dallas: Ewing Blues”. Major motion picture credits include “Lost in Space”, “Tombstone”, ”Baby's Day Out”, “Harry and The Hendersons” (one of my all-time favourites), “Honey, I Blew Up The Kid”, “The Boy Who Could Fly” and the two “Homeward Bound” movies.

The movie

Also in 1985, Broughton composed the astonishing music for Barry Levinson’s “Young Sherlock Holmes” and earned a Grammy nomination. This fantastic Sherlock Holmes adventure is one of my best childhood memories. Later “Home Alone”- and “Harry Potter”-director Chris Columbus wrote a haunting screenplay about a young Sherlock Holmes, played by unknown young Scottish actor Nicholas Rowe, who met his late friend John Watson for the first time at a boarding school.

As a teenager, I started reading Arthur Conan Doyle’s Holmes stories and loved them. On Wikipedia, there is a statement by Columbus what inspired him to this story: “The thing that was most important to me was why Holmes became so cold and calculating, and why he was alone for the rest of his life. As a youngster, he was ruled by emotion, he fell in love with the love of his life, and because of what happens in this film, he becomes the person he was later." I will not tell what happened in the movie, so someone who already did not see the movie can still enjoy it and will be surprised.

The film is also well-known for including the first fully computer-generated photorealistic, animated character, a knight composed of elements of a stained-glass window. When I saw this movie for the first time, I was highly impressed by this effect, created by Lucasfilm's John Lasseter, now the Chief Creative Officer at Pixar Animation Studio.

The music

In 2014, Douglass Fake published a 2CD album with the music, and finally one of my childhood dreams was coming true. Here in San Francisco, I was finally able to listen to this music, and we have to thank Douglass and Intrada for making this release possible. He allowed me to copy the link to buy this soundtrack on my webpage. Please find it here:

I will just mention a few titles of the wonderful soundtrack. The first track “The First Victim” underscores the opening which soon turns into a shocking nightmare scene. When I was watching this scene as a teenager, I was both scared and highly impressed by the special effects and the haunting atmosphere. Some fans of the score say you can feel the influence of John Williams in this soundtrack. Comparing the scary moments of this first track with Williams’ music for the first Indiana Jones, there are some similarities for sure, but Broughton did not copy Williams music, he created his own musical style.

The third track brings us finally the wonderful main theme with sweeping strings and woodwinds before we can hear the majestic parts, played by the brass section. You can find the music here:

The next track underscores “Watson’s Arrival” and the first evidence of Holmes’ smart mind, a very nice scene in the movie. I personally like very much the next small piece called “The Bear Riddle” because here you can hear the beautiful main theme played by woodwinds in a lovely interpretation, a very short but highly enjoyable track.

“Library Love” introduces the love theme before we will discover with “Fencing with Rattle” one of the highlights of the score. You can still watch this scene on YouTube. Holmes gets his first lesson in dealing with his emotions and suffers his loss against his antagonist Rattle. As Rattle explains: “Never replace discipline with emotion.” Here is the scene:

“The Glass Soldier” underscores the mentioned photorealistic character who attacks a priest. This three-minute piece is a great example of building up the suspense with a traditional orchestra without using any electronic effects.

“Solving the Crime”, a wonderful scene in the movie with Holmes facing a riddle challenge, is another highlight of the score. I could remember when watching the movie how the emotions of the audience for this scene were carried by Broughton’s dramaturgical structure for this piece.

“Holmes And Elizabeth” brings us again a wonderful interpretation of the love theme. Without mentioning the plot of the movie, it is difficult to talk about the following tracks. So, let me just empathize that you will find highly enjoyable action music in “Pastries and Crypts” and “Temple Fire”, and the famous choir theme in “Rame Tep” and “Waxing Elizabeth”. In the extras of the CD, you can listen to the choir and the orchestral part of both tracks in separated pieces.

With “Duel and Final Farewell”, Broughton underscores the showdown of the movie and the reason for Holmes later so cold attitude. Broughton’s aggressive action track is highly artistic in its use of percussions and the more dominant brass section this time, not always easy listening like a lot of scores from today’s composers. The dramaturgical structure of this track is perfect, a real musical highlight, and with the love theme in the end also a wonderful ending of the story.

When I was a teenager, there were not many soundtracks available. So, I was sitting with my tape recorder in front of our TV set and recording the music from the movie. Therefore, I watched the whole end credit scene and saw the last scene with the final twist. Columbus’ idea to introduce Holmes’ future nemesis Prof. Moriarty, the “Napoleon of crime", is a great joke for the Sherlock Holmes fan community. With over six minutes, this final track for the end credits is not only one of the longest tracks, it is also one of the best. I really admire Broughton’s sense of composing lovely themes and melodies, something I really miss in today’s film music. Here is the link:

Unfortunately, the movie was not a big success at the box office, but it was and is still enjoyable, and with the chance to finally now listen to the soundtrack album, you will have even more fun watching the movie.

Copyright © Stefan Riedlinger, 2015, 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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