The ’80s were the glory days when it came to the Amblin pictures that truly imparted company head Steven Spielberg’s handprint of thrillingly humanistic fantasy and chills to any number of movies that stand as classics for a certain generation – among them BACK TO THE FUTURE, GREMLINS and THE GOONIES. Also uniting these movies were their sweeping orchestral scores by the likes of Alan Silvestri, Jerry Goldsmith and Dave Grusin, which also resonated with a topical pop sound. But if there was one Amblin composer who stood as the answer to equaling the thrillingly lush, symphonic quality of John Williams, then it was Bruce Broughton, who’d not only give a touching heart to a Sasquatch for HARRY AND THE HENDERSONS, but also created what arguably stands as Amblin’s best score for 1985s YOUNG SHERLOCK HOLMES, a sumptuous orchestral soundtrack that embodied the English, can-do deductive spirit of the world’s most famous detective, but also the pure, cliffhanging magic of Spielberg’s brand name – as brilliantly practiced here by director Barry Levinson for an Amblin underachiever that stands for many as the best movie, and soundtrack produced during that company’s golden age.
Having mainly worked on television on such shows as DALLAS, BUCK ROGERS and GUNSMOKE, Broughton made a thundering, seemingly come-from-nowhere big screen impression with SILVERADO, a score that single-handedly brought the symphonic, Americana stampeding sound of the classic Hollywood west back to the multiplex. Thrown into the far more refined era of Victorian England (albeit one hipped up with state-of-the-art effects), Broughton brought SHERLOCK a wonderfully adventurous sense of sophistication and mystery. Masterfully deduced through a wealth of strikingly memorable themes (especially its intellectually galloping main melody), Broughton helped take what could have been Hardy Boys wish fulfillment stuff and turned it into a musically mature class act, yet one awash with wonder at the very act of investigation.
While he might be a kid as such, Broughton’s score gives Sherlock a buoyant sense of self-assurance, while his tender, budding romance contrasts with chilling villainy and truly frightening dissonance befitting their victims’ bad special effects trips. While perhaps justifiably blasted for having the reveal as too close to Spielberg’s own competing (and far more vicious) TEMPLE OF DOOM, Broughton patterns his Egyptian thuggees chants far more in the fashion of “Carmina Burana” than demonic voices that could actually summon Kali. SHERLOCK culminates in truly magnificent action music that’s easily the equal of anything Williams conjured, giving the swashbuckling, fiery danger a real sense of emotional jeopardy, as these are kids after all. With themes parrying, pulling and giving the film a true tragic gravitas, Broughton’s score is full of sweeping peril, neatly wrapping up his brilliant motivic construction, like a detective has tying all of the improbable, impossible clues together into a rapturous melodic whole. Not only does “Young Sherlock Holmes” stand as arguably that company’s best score, but one of the best modern film scores written at that, capturing all the thrills afforded by a symphony orchestra at its most exuberant.
After several releases as Moriarty-manufactured bootlegs and a highly prized composer promo, the game is finally, officially afoot with Intrada’s dazzling two-CD set, not only offering Broughton’s complete score, but also alternates (splitting off the wax ceremony’s chorus and orchestra), source cues and a glossy booklet offering John Takis’ deductive liner notes and label head Douglas Fake’s interview with Broughton. There’s nothing elementary about this long-awaited release of a HOLMES that will likely go down as the detective’s best musically traditional case, as created for an audience weaned on Spielberg magic.
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