Danny Elfman is the man behind some of the superhero genre’s biggest scores, Tim Burton’s Batman films to the Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy and has worked with Joss Whedon on Avengers: Age of Ultron and Justice League. And he has a whole host of other memorable scores under his belt, from Edward Scissorhands to Mars Attacks and of course the iconic title music to The Simpsons. While not every score was as successful as others, there is no denying the impact this award winning composer has made on the TV and film industry.
Way back in 1980, Elfman collaborated with his brother Richard Elfman, an Afro-Latin percussionist, on his first feature Forbidden Zone; together they founded Oingo-Boingo. The band covered the soundtrack to the film, making this Danny Elfman’s first as a composer and now the soundtrack is getting a re-release courtesy of Varese Sarabande.
From the moment I started listening the soundtrack for this review, it was clear that is not what you might expect of a classic Danny Elfman soundtrack. Anyone anticipating the gothic, heroic grandeur that is a staple of the composer’s work are in for a shock. The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo deliver something rather odd, perhaps suiting the cult nature of the film, a ‘bizarre and musical tale of a girl who travels to another dimension through the gateway found in her family’s basement’.
The Afro-Latin percussion beats of which the director was so familiar with are clearly apparent here, but dialled up in terms of oddball charm, from the weird funky nature of Hercules Family Theme to the frankly bizarre lyrics of Alphabet Song or the low, African-esque chants of Flash and Gramps which reminded me of the ‘Uga Chuga’ sequence from Hooked On A Feeling.
There are some less chaotic moments; the simply, beautiful piano solo of Love Theme – King and Queen, but these don’t tract enough from the silliness and surrealism of the rest of the album. More successful are tracks like the oddball cover of Minnie The Moocher with its guitar riffs and Cab Calloway’s jazzy, soulful Some of These Days from 1930, where Oingo Boingo member Gene Cunningham in the role of Papa Hercules lip synched Calloway’s vocals.
Some soundtracks can be listened to and enjoyed outside the context of the film. I’m not sure this is one of them. It’s very fun… I think… but the bizarreness of the soundtrack is just too prevalent to sit back and enjoy. If you like the film, this might be for you. But for me, this was too weird to every really enjoy…
Forbidden Zone is now available from Varese Sarabande records.