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Fierce Creatures - Jerry Goldsmith - Soundtrack Review

This week finally the review of Jerry Goldsmith’s “Fierce Creatures” (1997), a fabulous and unusual score in many ways and worth to discover again.

The movie

The huge success of “A Fish Called Wanda” (1988) caused a kind of problem. I guess the cast - John Cleese, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Kline and Michael Palin - had so much fun to do the movie that the idea of coming together again was obvious, but the plot of “Wanda” did not really allow a convincing sequel. So, the idea of a different movie sounds like a better approach. Cleese began writing the script in 1992 and shooting began on 15 May 1995. Here is the trailer:

While not literally a sequel, “Fierce Creatures” can be considered as a spiritual successor, for example, again Jamie Lee Curtis falls in love with John Cleese, and Kevin Kline does not like this. The humour is not as good as in “Wanda”, sometimes it is really crappy, but John Cleese has some great scenes, e.g. when he tastes the blood of a visitor because he thinks her accident is fake, and Jamie Lee Curtis which looks pretty hot has some great scenes when looking at Cleese and gives him a very special and naughty smile, underscores by Goldsmith in “A Long Story”.

When watching the movie, I really had trouble to understand why Cleese chose a zoo as the setting. I imagine any other setting would give the team better chances to show more wicked humour. Preview audiences expressed dissatisfaction with the ending, and a reshoot was scheduled. Director Robert Young was not able to do it, so Fred Schepisi with whom Cleese had been discussing a version of “Don Quixote” took over. Schepisi tried to take out the opening 15 minutes but then it was put back in, and, in Schepisi’s opinion, killed the movie.

I would not be so harsh, but the movie is not a great one, except for some scenes and, of course, the music. Australian Schepisi worked with Goldsmith on a few movies such as “Mr Baseball” (1992, one of the most unusual Goldsmith’s scores of the 90s), “Six Degrees of Separation” (1993, a funny Tango score), and “I.Q.” (1994, a funny romantic comedy with Walter Matthau as Einstein and Meg Ryan and Tom Robbins. For this score Goldsmith used as a base the famous German song “Alle Voegel sind schon da”, and the score is great fun).

The music

“Fierce Creatures” is one of the few comedy scores by Goldsmith, and it is really a shame that he did not compose more music for comedies. Some scores such as “The Secret of NIMH” do have comic elements because of the musical Micky Mousing, but real comedy scores are very rare among Goldsmith’s works.

The base of the score is a jazz theme, the “Willa’s Theme” for Jamie Lee Curtis character, which works also as the main theme, composed for piano, electric guitar and a quartet of strings. This track sets the tone for the score. The piano is the main instrument, underscored mostly by the strings, and some woodwinds.

The orchestra is small, and this is a nice switch between the big orchestra works Goldsmith composed the years before and after. The CD consists of 13 tracks and runs nearly 30 min, a short but highly enjoyable score. With just 20 minutes music in the final film, some material was arranged and recorded by Goldsmith specifically to round out the album.

If you consider the length of the score, then the variation and fun are quite amazing. Of course, the score does not have the quirky humour of “Gremlins 2” or “The Burbs”, but this approach would not have been suitable for the movie. The slightly and minimalistic approach for “Fierce Creatures” was absolutely perfect.

The second track called “First Day” is a more lively track, with an electric guitar and more percussion, the jazz tone is more obvious here, and the woodwinds are more dominant, another highlight of the score and one of the most enjoyable. “Chores” is funny and the most varied track of the score.

Goldsmith switches the tones between the score and sometimes even within a track. With “The Funeral”, we have a very emotional piece that seems quite unusual for a comedy score, the feeling of solitude by using the piano and the strings is stunning, and how Goldsmith then brings the clarinet in is a wonderful example of how gifted he as a composer was. Here is the track:

The next track “Trained Seals” repeats the sad tone but then lights up to the faster “Under Control”, nearly an action track if you compare the rhythm with the other ones. After the shorter “Contact”, we have with “A Good Idea” again a faster track. I especially like the xylophone part here very much.

“The Grave” focuses again on the woodwinds, before “A Long Story” underscores one of the best scenes. If you know this track and then watch the scene like I did, especially the last 20 seconds, you know what I mean. Here is the scene:

With “You’re Fired”, we have the last track before the “End Credits”, a fast and funky track before “End Credits” brings all the material to a wonderful ending.

“Fierce Creatures” is by far not as good as “A Fish Called Wanda”, overall it is a pretty average and sometimes boring movie if you consider the cast. Some scenes are quite nice, but the sense of humour is not very sophisticated and not so over the top as in “Wanda”, but we have to be glad that this movie exists because it gave us one of the few Jerry Goldsmith’s comedy scores and for me, one of his finest score in the 90s.

Copyright © Stefan Riedlinger, 2018, 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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