Rob Price
Gutbrain Records
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2011 December 05 • Monday

The 194th Soundtrack of the Week is Elmer Bernstein's Rampage.

It starts with the groovy "exotica" song "Big Cat", a nod to the success songs like "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" and "Day-O" were enjoying at the time. It's wonderfully catchy. The singer's lines are about the big cat who killed his father and brother. The chorus repeats "Oh man, the leopard wait for you" over and over. The bulk of the music is provided by voice and percussion, though you'll hear bass, flute and string section. The theme returns in several other cues.

This is followed by the sweeping, beautiful and romantic orchestral piece "Hi Fi #1". "Hi Fi #2" is more subdued and sounds more like a love theme. Then there's "Hi Fi #3", which sounds like gentle dance music, a bit simillar to some of Mancini's work.

"Anna (Hi Fi #4) sounds like the same melody as "Hi Fi #2" but in an airier, more lilting arrangement. (This melody is a bit similar to "Blue Moon".)

Among the other highlights is "Kuala Lumpur", which begins in a pensive mood but moves onto an orchestral suggestion of the natural beauty of the jungle.

Then there are "Dance #1", "Dance #2" and "Dance #3/Nightcall". The first one is a lightly swaying piece that features the piano. The second one is more sprightly with more action from the percussion. Number three is uptempo and swings pretty hard at first before the band abruptly disappears so that harp and flute can create a quiet space. The rest of the orchestra comes in with dramatic underscore that is alternatingly wistful, suspenseful and romantic. Anna's theme is reprised and there's some action music near the end.

"Jungle" revisits the music for "Big Cat" but without the vocals this time. (Wind instruments take the place of the singers.)

"Chep" has an unusual rhythmic figure that sounds like it's played on electric piano or electric guitar. A melodic line near the end is similar to "The Breeze and I".

There are several tense action cues, such as "Harry and Cat", "Fight" and "Loose Cat".

Two tracks of hand percussion, "Drums #1" and "Drums #2", stand out, as does the alternate main title song "Rampage", which is much more rhythmically intense and actually has the name of the movie as part of the lyrics. (It also has a vocal bit that's very "The Lion Sleeps Tonight".) "The hunter walks in the jungle still / The hunter stalks in the jungle still / The jungle knows that he's there to kill / Rampage!"

The movie itself is a great one for Robert Mitchum fans.

There are all sorts of things wrong with it. It's sexist, racist and stupid. But it's got that 1950s matinee adventure movie atmosphere and Mitchum is almost absurdly powerful and charismatic in it. He's a tough guy and a stud but a very gentle, considerate and reasonable tough guy/stud, which is a rather impressive balancinc act. I can't imagine any other actor puling it off as well as he did.