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  • Stefan Riedlinger

Gremlins 2 - Jerry Goldsmith - Soundtrack Review

"Gremlins 2“ is not only one of Jerry’s best scores, it is without doubt one of the best soundtracks ever composed. With the score to the first “Gremlins”, Goldsmith already created one of his most beautiful themes, and with the “Gremlin Rag” one of his most popular tracks.

The movie

"Gremlins 2: The New Batch" is a 1990 American comedy horror film, and the sequel to the 1984 film Gremlins. It was directed by Joe Dante and written by Charles S. Haas, with creature designs by Rick Baker. Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates, Dick Miller, Jackie Joseph, and Keye Luke reprise their roles from the first film. New cast members include John Glover, Robert Prosky, Haviland Morris, Robert Picardo, and Christopher Lee; additionally, the film features Tony Randall providing the voice for one of the gremlins. Here is the trailer:

The story continues the adventures of the creature Gizmo (once again voiced by Howie Mandel), who spawns numerous small monsters when wet. In the first film, Gizmo's offspring rampaged through a small fictional town. In Gremlins 2: The New Batch, Gizmo multiplies within a skyscraper in New York City. The new creatures thus pose a serious threat to the city should they be able to leave the building, and much of the story involves the human characters' efforts to prevent this disaster.

Director Joe Dante created a really very funny movie that gives the Gremlins a lot of scenes to show their destructive attitude. For this movie, Dante reduced the horror elements and focused more one comedy. Because of the idea that the Gremlins have this time a whole skyscraper in New York as playing field and not a small city like in the first one, the plot is more intense and more sophisticated. Christopher Lee makes a fabulous appearance as mad scientist. The fans did not like that this movie was not so dark like the original one, but they praised Goldsmith’s music that is as good as his music for “The Burbs”, there is even one scene underscores with music from “The Burbs”.

There are also a number of parodies of other films, most notably Gremlins itself, but also the “Rambo” franchise, “The Wizard of Oz”, “Marathon Man” and “The Phantom of the Opera”. For Jerry, it was the chance to write a parody of his famous “First Blood” scores when Gizmo shoots the Mohawk spider-gremlin with a makeshift bow and flaming arrow. And Jerry has a small role in the movie:

Interesting is that Dante first did not want to direct the movie at first, so the producers developed the story without him. Dante just agreed as the studio gave him complete creative control. Dante decided that this movie is both a sequel and a parody of the original one. Therefore, you can find some meta-references and self-referential humor, for example, the a cameo appearance by film critic Leonard Maltin. He holds up a copy of the original Gremlins home video and denounces it, just as he had in reality. Additionally, when Billy is explaining the rules regarding the Mogwai to the staff in the building, the staff finds them quite absurd; at one point considering the thought experiment of a Mogwai in a plane which crosses a time zone.

One of the best comedy scenes is when the film seems to get broken. Dante attempted to involve his audience in the story by making it seem as if the gremlins had taken control of the theatre where “Gremlins 2” was showing. The film strip appears to be broken by the gremlins, who then engage in shadow puppetry over a white screen. The original version of the movie was longer than the release one, but Steven Spielberg decided to cut some scenes out because there were too many gremlins. Sad!

The music

The album has 12 tracks and starts slowly, the action starts with Track 5 “Pot Luck”. I normally skip the first track, sad that there is not really a great main title for this movie. Track 2 “Gizmo Escapes” plays the nice Gizmo theme and has a very nice first use of the organ. Track 3 “Leaky Faucet” gives us a rough idea what will come soon, and the composer uses heavy the percussion here. Track 4 “Cute” is a quiet moment before the action starts.

“Pot Luck” is the first great action piece! Jerry’s usage of orchestra and electronic and percussions is still amazing. The tempo of this track is still fabulous, and now the Gremlins start to take over the building.

What makes this score so enjoyable is Goldsmith’s ability to balance orchestra and electronics like never before. Therefore, the score sounds still so young. He also balances between silly slapstick moments and the more serious or quieter ones. The tonal change in one track has been always surprising, and that is one of the reasons that this music is still so enjoyable.

Track 6 “The Visitors” starts with a piano and is a quite relaxing piece after the action before. I love this track because of its usage of the crimper at 0:45. Some music critic said this sounds silly, but let him answer: Who care’s? This is just fun, and I highly like this music.

Track 7 “Teenage Mutant Gremlin” starts with running strings until the percussion takes over. There is a great scene in the movie, and that is the reason the saxophone has a small part in this track, with the organ, we are back in action again. Track 8 “Keep It Quiet” starts quietly, but as the Gremlin spider arrives on the screen, Gizmo plays his Rambo role, and if you have the “First Blood” scores in mind, you will enjoy this track more.

I found the scene on YouTube, here you can watch it:

Track 9 “No Rats” is the piece that underscores Jerry Goldsmith’s appearance in the movie. It starts slow and gives us then a lot of funky music again with different percussions, again more slapstick music, but how fabulous composed!

Track 10 “Gremlin Pudding” is the music for the finale. Gizmo and his human friends developed a plan to kill the gremlins, so this track underscores the death of the gremlins after the hilarious musical number. Track 11 “New Trends” is played when all is done. Billy and Katie got finally together again, and billionaire Daniel Clamp, a great parody of Donald Trump, develops new plans for make New York a better place to live.

We have then the final track, the “Gremlin Credits”, the highlight of this score. This is such an energetic piece of music that balances perfectly the famous Gremlin theme from the original one with the new material. Goldsmith uses the orchestra in a great way, with a lot of solo instruments, especially the brass section is fabulous, and includes the electronic drums and the synthesizers in a wonderful way. From all the film music tracks I ever listened, this track is by far the track I listened mostly to. It is a wonderful piece of music! If you ever want to impress people with what amazing movie music is able to do, play just this track!

I also discovered that there is an extended version of the score, limited to 300 copies, so try to get it.

“Gremlins 2” received mixed reviews. Critics who did not like the first one because it was too dark, liked the second better, and fans who loved the first one did not like the second one because it was too funny and too slapstick. Even Goldsmith’s music got mixed reviews, some fans thought that there was too much musical slapstick. I personally think that “Gremlins 2” is one of Goldsmith’s best soundtracks. I still like “The Burbs” more because it uses the organ more, but the “End Credits” of “Gremlins 2” is one of my all time favorite tracks.

This soundtrack is a masterpiece, and after listening to this score you will understand that Jerry Goldsmith is still the best film music composer ever! Enjoy!

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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