The Final Countdown - John Scott - Soundtrack Review
This week, I decided to talk about a composer who is not so well-known among film music fans, but I think we should also do not forget his contribution to the film music universe. I have two soundtracks of him, “The Final Countdown”, and “Lionheart”, Scott's score for a not so bad Jean-Claude van Dame movie. I decided to introduce John Scott with “The Final Countdown” (1980) and will talk about “Lionheart” later. Let’s start with some basic comments about John Scott
John Scott is an English film composer who has collaborated with directors such as Richard Donner, Norman Jewison, Irvin Kershner and many others and is well-know for his collaboration with the French explorer Jacques Cousteau on his documentaries. He also composed a score for “The Prayer for the Dying” (1987), the Mike Hodges drama about a former IRA member. Bill Conti composed the final score. Scott also composed the music for Roger Spottiswoode’s mountain Thriller “Shoot To Kill” (1988).
At the age of 14, Scott enrolled in the British Army as a Boy Musician and continued his musical studies of the clarinet, harp and saxophone. Later he toured with some of the best-known British bands, was hired by EMI to arrange and conduct some of its most popular artists and worked with Beatles producer George Martin. Scott, credited as Johnny Scott, led a jazz combo during the 1960s. Two other interesting facts to mention are that Scott played for Henry Mancini and was the principal saxophonist in John Barry's soundtrack for “Goldfinger”. Scott has composed for more than 100 film and television productions.
“The Final Countdown” was the Top Gun of that area. Kirk Douglas Son Peter was the driving force behind the picture and was able to get the cooperation of the United States Navy. Therefore, the film was filmed on board of the USS Nimitz supercarrier. The basic idea of the script is very interesting: Because of a getting into a strange storm-like vortex, the Nimitz with Captain Kirk Douglas is brought back to the December 6th, 1941, one day before the attack on Pearl Harbour. Now, they are facing an interesting situation: Shall the modern aircraft strike against the incoming Japanese forces or shall they do nothing because they have no idea what will happen to the time continuum when they change history as a defense expert Martin Sheen explained? The finale of the movie lacks a really good idea to solve this issue, but even though the picture is still worth seeing. Here is the trailer:
Except of the nice scenes with the aircraft, John Scott’s music is the best part of the movie. The composer created a powerful and majestic main theme and took the whole project very seriously in his musical approach. You can find great music for the flying scenes and a very nice love-theme with a quite interesting orchestrated approach. Because of the military aspect of the music, the score is dominated by the brass section and the percussion.
The main theme is such a powerful piece of music with a majestic melody. In combination with the jets in the movie and the blue sky, this theme drives the emotion of the audience really upon the sky:
The score has a wonderful love theme which you can find here. Listen especially to the effect starting from 0’56, this gives the whole piece a haunting atmosphere
The soundtrack album has 23 tracks, but when listening to the score, I skip most of them. Some are too much dependent on the movie. For the scenes when the Vortex appears and also the time wrap scene the music is frightened to build up suspense. In the movie, the music would work great because it is kind of a musical expression of a time travel, but director Don Taylor decided to just use sound effects, on the CD I normally skip these tracks. Among these tracks in the middle of the album, you can find with track 14 “Lauren and Owen” the love theme again in a wonderful orchestrated version. Track 17 “General Quarters” is a powerful piece of music that perhaps reminds you of similar tracks from Ron Goodwin “When Eagles Dare”. Track 19 “The Storm Reappears” brings the suspense back to the music before the next four tracks bring the movie to an end.
John Scott had also the chance to compose a music for the end credits which bring the movie and the album to a wonderful ending. Of course, this movie promotes the US army as you can see in the scene. Would it be nice to become a pilot seems the scenes to say…
Overall, John Scott did a great job and the score is another fine example of amazing movie music, timeless in its approach, using the full force of the orchestra and adding some nice unusual musical effects. I was immediately pleased when I heard the main theme and like especially track for his musical ideas. I also think that because of Scott’s superb score, a lot of soundtrack fans choose to watch the movie these days. If you do not have this score in your soundtrack collection, I highly advise to buy it and enjoy this music which is far better than the pop song compilation of Tom Cruise’s “Top Gun” later.
Here is a live performance with the composer as conductor:
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