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  • Stefan Riedlinger

Ransom aka The Terrorists - Jerry Goldsmith - Soundtrack Review

This week one of my favorite scores from Jerry Goldsmith, “Ransom aka The Terrorists”.

The movie

"Ransom", known in North America and some countries as "The Terrorists", is a 1974 action thriller starring Sean Connery and Ian McShane and directed by Finnish director Caspar Wrede. The plot concerns a group of terrorists who try to extract a large sum of money from two governments.

According to Michael Deeley, managing director of British Lion Films, the film was put together by British producer Peter Rawley. He arranged the script and engaged Sean Connery and Ian MacShane, then went to British Lion, who agreed to provide the $1.5 million budget. They sold US and Canadian rights to 20th Century Fox for $800,000, and sold the rights for the rest of the world for $1 million, making a comfortable profit.

Filming was carried out in Norway, with a large part of the filming taking place at Oslo Airport, Fornebu. Technical services were contracted to Norsk Film, as you can read in Wikipedia. The aircraft displayed in the hijacking is a Boeing 737-200 in the livery of Mey-Air. Production started in January 1974. During production, Mey-Air defaulted on their payments to Boeing Commercial Aircraft, who sent representatives to Fornebu to repossess the aircraft on 26 February. Filming of the aircraft shots had begun but were not completed. To be honest, without Jerry Goldsmith's music would nobody talk about this film anymore. Here is the trailer:

The music

This score for a poorly Sean Connery movie was not available in a good release for a long time, but since 2005, we have the Prometheus Album with 11 tracks (even though one is twice: “Ransom - End titles” and “No Alternative”) in a better sound quality. I can highly recommend you to buy this album even for one track “Sky Chase”, one of Jerry’s best action tracks ever.

Finish director Caspar Wrede directed an average thriller about the kidnapping of a British ambassador in a fictitious country named "Scandinavia". Scandinavia's head of security, Col. Nils Tahlvik (Sean Connery), wants to take an uncompromising position, but he is overruled by the governments of both Scandinavia and Britain. Then another hijacking happens. A passenger airplane arriving at the airport of Scandinavia's capital is hijacked by a small group of terrorists, led by Ray Petrie. He demands getting in touch with Martin Shepherd, leader of the first terrorist group.

At the last minute, Tahlvik figures out that the "terrorists" on the airplane are actually British secret operatives intent on capturing Shepherd, and that the British officials have been misleading the Scandinavian authorities and undermining Tahlvik's efforts to capture the two terrorist groups. Then we have the showdown, but I will not tell more.

Jerry’s music to this film was released on a vinyl album at the time of the film, and 1991 Silva Screen put this album on a CD with Goldsmith’s score of “The Chairman”, the Gregory Pack movie from 1969. With the Prometheus release, you now have this score played by the National Philharmonic Orchestra, the orchestra Jerry used for a lot for his soundtracks albums.

The album starts with the “Main Title”, but this is actually the music for the final scene and for the end credits. This track introduces the beautiful main theme, played on a clarinet, then you can hear an electronic spinet, very rarely heard in film music, and then the orchestra opens up with the string section. This track is also one of the most beautiful tracks of the whole score, and you can be lucky to have this as first track.

I cannot count how often I played this track, but it is for sure over 1000 times, especially the clarinet part at 0.59’ is just wonderful. I love Jerry for the idea to use solo instruments playing an important part of a score, not only in this score, Jerry uses this idea a lot in oother scores, too. The melody played for 30 seconds in this track is one of the most beautiful melodies Jerry ever composed.

The slightly jazzy arrangement of the main theme in “Standard Issue” you can skip, this is pure 70s, and typical for soundtracks at that time. Action is back with “Queen’s Messenger” with the special brass / percussion arrangement that is typical for that score. “Mission Aborted” is another action score, five minutes in a very interesting orchestration.

“No Alternative” starts with action, and then gives us a beautiful reprise of the main theme, peacefully played on the piano and later again on the clarinet. This track is one of the highlights of his score.

“Sky Chaser” is without any doubt the highlight of the score and one of the best action tracks Goldsmith ever composed. The dramaturgical structure of this piece of music is really amazing! Goldsmith created with this action piece a wonderful music, and to be honest, this track is far too good for this movie. The orchestra that is playing this piece is not very big, but Goldsmith uses all varieties of this small orchestra, especially the strings and the brass section.

I love how the piano is paying the main theme after a few seconds, and then steps in later again. This track was typical for the way Goldsmith composed a lot in the 70s, without any electronics and mostly because of budget reasons for a smaller orchestra that he uses in a perfect way. I am not getting tired listenting to this track, and is really an example for amazing movie music!

“Course of Action” is another action piece with a very fine orchestration. It is similar to the action parts of “Sky Chaser” without the beauty of the former track but still enjoyable because of the use of the brass section.

“Just To Sight” and “Peeping Tom” are nice tracks that bring the story and the album to an end. The last track “Ransom – End Credits” repeats the first track as discussed before.

“Ransom” is a score for a movie that is nearly forgotten, but it is for me one of Jerry’s best scores. It is a great action score with a beautiful main theme, one of the best music for brass that Goldsmith ever composed, and highly enjoyable. This score is pure Goldsmith and has a place deep in my heart… Get this score and enjoy it!

It was very difficult to find clips on YouTube for this score or movie. I found the trailer and the track of “Sky Chaser”. Enjoy both!

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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