THE DELTA FORCE – Alan Silvestri
Original Review by Jonathan Broxton
Action movies were box office gold in the 1980s, and in the wake of the success of films starring the likes of Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger a number of B-movie action-heroes enjoyed their own moment in the sun. One of those heroes was Chuck Norris, a Korean War veteran and martial arts grand master, who began making a series of action-adventure films in the late 1970s and early 1980s with the Cannon Films studio, and enjoyed a slew of moderate box office hits including 1983’s Lone Wolf McQuade, and 1984’s Missing in Action. The Delta Force, which was released early in 1986, remains the most successful film of Norris’s career; directed by Menahem Golan, it stars Norris as Major Scott McCoy, the leader of an elite commando unit tasked with rescuing the passengers of a commercial airliner taken hostage by Lebanese hijackers. The film co-starred Lee Marvin, Robert Vaughn, Robert Forster, and Martin Balsam, and had an original score by the then 35-year-old Alan Silvestri.
Although he crafted a classic orchestral score for 1985’s Back to the Future, at that point in his career Alan Silvestri was still much better known for his synth and electronic writing than for his prowess with large orchestral ensembles – his early 1980s filmography is dominated by titles such as Romancing the Stone, Cat’s Eye, The Clan of the Cave Bear, Flight of the Navigator, and No Mercy, all of which are overwhelmingly electronic in nature. The Delta Force falls squarely within that same category – other than perhaps some live percussion, the entire score is synth.
The score is dominated by its memorable main theme, the “Delta Force Theme,” an upbeat melody full of fanfare flourishes and a heroic ascending scale, underpinned by pseudo-disco bubbling beats and drum licks in the vein of Harold Faltermeyer and his ubiquitous Synclavier. It’s a fun, catchy theme, but with benefit of hindsight it now comes across to me as being rather lightweight and overly-poppy, especially considering the quite serious core of the film, and the hair-raising action sequences that Norris and his cohorts undertake. Chuck Norris is one of the most macho men ever to grace the silver screen, and this theme does not do him justice. The theme is quite prevalent in the score, recurring in cues such as “Saved” and as a ostinato in the rhythmic and martial “The Landing,” as well as the conclusive “Rescue”. Interestingly, the theme has gone on to have something of an extended life for American sports fans, after ABC Sports used it to intro their Indianapolis 500 broadcasts from 1988 to 1998, and it remains famous in motor racing circles.
The rest of the score tends to be more subdued in nature, with stately tones and more ominous militaristic percussive ideas in cues like “Three American Soldiers,” “The Takeover,” and the rather abstract and dissonant “Undercover”. The tragic-sounding “The Selections” introduces the score’s secondary theme, an emotional and poignant melody which appears to have its roots in Jewish folk music, representing the racist ideology of the terrorists, and the fact that many of the hostages on the plane are Israeli. The use of synth woodwinds and chimes to support the melody in this cue, and elsewhere in parts of “The Takeover” and “The Collection,” create an appropriately somber mood, and is an album highlight, hinting at the powerful themes Silvestri would go on to create during the rest of his illustrious career.
The score for The Delta Force was initially released on LP by Enigma Records in 1986 to coincide with the film’s release, but it was not until many years later that the score finally made it to CD when Milan released the LP program (minus the “Rescue” track) in combination with Jerry Goldsmith’s score for King Solomon’s Mines. Intrada released an expanded CD version in 2008, with almost half an hour of additional music, including the 10-minute “Hostages Arrive Home and End Credits” sequence, and then in 2013 Quartet Records released a 2-CD set containing both the entire Intrada running order on disc one, and the original LP program on disc two. Personally, I have always been perfectly satisfied with the original LP program, which covers all the score’s main highlights and doesn’t outstay its welcome.
Looking back, thirty years later, it’s easy to see why Silvestri quickly rose to the forefront of the film scoring world – his scores are full of melody, full of dramatic impetus, and highly memorable – but taken in isolation, scores like The Delta Force have also aged very badly. I hesitate to use the word ‘cheesy,’ because it’s dismissive and clichéd, but it’s a fact that The Delta Force will only really appeal to film music fans who grew up in the era, fans of the film itself, or those who want to expand their Alan Silvestri collections beyond the usual suspects.
Buy the Delta Force soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store
- 1986 ENIGMA LP RELEASE
- Delta Force (4:25)
- Three American Soldiers (4:10)
- The Selections (5:27)
- The Takeover (2:56)
- Saved (5:18)
- Undercover (3:27)
- The Landing (4:15)
- The Collection (2:11)
- Rescue (5:40)
- 2008 INTRADA CD RELEASE
- Main Title (5:16)
- Terrorists Board Jet (3:19)
- Three American Marines (4:09)
- First Class (3:59)
- Rescue (5:59)
- Hebrew Ring (3:48)
- Round Up and Collection (4:57)
- More Terrorists (3:00)
- Delta Force Theme (4:24)
- The Selections (5:26)
- The Takeover (5:34)
- Funeral (4:35)
- Algiers (10:57)
- Hostages Arrive Home and End Credits (9:56)
Running Time: 37 minutes 49 seconds (Enigma LP)
Running Time: 75 minutes 19 seconds (Intrada CD)
Enigma SJ-73201 (1986)
Intrada Signature Editions ISE-1022 (1986/2008)
Music composed and performed by Alan Silvestri. Recorded and mixed by Dennis Sands. Edited by Tom Carlin. Score produced by Alan Silvestri.