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INNERSPACE – Jerry Goldsmith

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Innerspace is a fun sci-fi adventure comedy, written by Jeffrey Boam and Chip Proser, and directed by Joe Dante. Dennis Quaid stars as Lt. Tuck Pendleton, an air force test pilot who is part of a top secret science experiment involving a brand new miniaturization technology. Pendleton and his submersible pod are shrunk down to minuscule size, and are supposed to be injected into a laboratory rabbit, but the lab is attacked by industrial saboteurs who want the technology for themselves, and Tuck is instead accidentally injected into the body of hypochondriac Jack Putter (Martin Short). Once Jack has overcome his initial skepticism and terror, he teams up with Tuck’s on-again off-again girlfriend, spunky reporter Lydia Maxwell (Meg Ryan), to find a way to get Tuck out of his body before his air supply runs out – but the saboteurs, led by Victor Scrimshaw (Kevin McCarthy) and Dr. Margaret Canker (Fiona Lewis), still want the miniaturization technology for themselves, and have sent their ruthless henchman Mr. Igoe (Vernon Wells) to get it, at any cost.

The movie is one of my favorites of the 1980s, and trades heavily on the superb interplay and chemistry between the three leads. Director Dante said he wanted Quaid and Short to come off as a modern-day Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, if you shrunk Martin and put him inside Lewis. Quaid’s easy laconic charm plays well against Short’s neurotic everyman, resulting in what for me is Short’s best-ever big screen role. Quaid and Ryan clearly have great chemistry too – so much so, they got married in real life four years later! The set pieces and cameos are by turns thrilling and hilarious (watch for Robert Picardo’s brilliant North African smuggler who wants to be a Cowboy), and the Oscar-winning special effects are groundbreaking, even if they do use the similarly-themed 1966 film Fantastic Voyage as their jumping-off point.

The score for Innerspace was by Dante’s recurring composer of choice, Jerry Goldsmith. This was the third of their eight collaborations together, following on from Gremlins and Explorers, and with The Burbs, Gremlins 2, Matinee, Small Soldiers, and Looney Tunes: Back in Action still to come. Innerspace was written at a time when Goldsmith was still very heavily interested in using synthesizers and electronic textures to enhance his orchestral palette and, as such, this score is one of the few true hybrid scores of Goldsmith’s career, where both electronic and acoustic instruments are used on an equal footing.

This all makes sense, conceptually. Goldsmith uses the electronics most frequently to address the technological aspect of the story, as well as to create an other-worldly ambiance for the numerous scenes that take place deep within Jack’s body. Waterphones, sonar pings, sampled heartbeats, and numerous other electronic trills add depth and texture to the usual array of synthesizers that Goldsmith had at his disposal. Conversely, the more heroic aspects of Tuck and Jack’s adventures have a bold orchestral sweep, and the action sequences often feature some of Goldsmith’s most thrilling writing. There’s also a lighter, more romantic aspect to the score to address the unexpected love triangle that develops between Tuck, Jack, and the lovely Lydia.

Unfortunately, where Innerspace fails is in its thematic content, which is something of a rarity in a Goldsmith score. There are a number of themes – a heroic fanfare for Pendleton which first appears in the “Main Title,” a romantic theme for Tuck and Lydia which makes its debut in “Take Him Home/Broken Toe,” a militaristic ‘mission’ motif introduced in “State of the Art/The Charge,” a menacing motif for Mr. Igoe, and a more comedic piece for The Cowboy – but, for whatever reason, none of them ever really emerge as a memorable, identifiable thematic anchor for the project as a whole. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is about Innerspace’s themes that makes them never quite connect; it’s certainly not a lack of familiarity, as I have seen this film a dozen times, and it’s not a slight on their actual musical content. I genuinely can’t explain it.

Having said that, several bursts of thematic strength are nevertheless worthy of some attention. The warm, anticipatory statements of Tuck’s heroic theme in “State of the Art” give you a sense of what’s at stake; later, statements of the theme surface from deep within cues like “No Messenger” and “A New Man,” allowing Jack’s brief moments of bravery to shine. The motif for Igoe, a peculiar combination of metallic synths and Caribbean steel drums, features prominently in “The Hand,” parts of “Optic Nerves,” and elsewhere, heralding the menacing presence of the stoic assassin.

The comic theme for The Cowboy – an intentional pastiche of clichéd western tropes featuring a Jew’s harp, tambourines, guitars, and whistling – perfectly encapsulates the nature of the suave ladies man from Libya who fancies himself as a hero from the Old West. Following its introduction in “The Cowboy” it later appears in both “Transformed” and “Retransformed,” cleverly undergoing several variations that range from jauntily comedic to frantically deranged, to underscore the sequence where Jack’s face is electronically altered to look like The Cowboy’s – but not for long enough.

The love theme becomes much more prominent during the score’s final third, with especially strong and sweeping performances appearing in the un-used cue “How Do I Look,” and “Where Am I,” among others. The best performance of the love theme, for me, comes in the middle section of the otherwise rather action-packed “The Womb,” during which Goldsmith augments his gorgeous melody with shimmering, magical electronic tones and warmly romantic horns in a perfect musical accompaniment for the revelation regarding Tuck and Lydia’s relationship.

However, the aspect of Innerspace that most people are likely to remember are the action and fantasy sequences, some of which are really tremendous. The action music in Innerspace is like a 1980s Goldsmith greatest hits compilation; there are echoes of numerous other scores, in terms of style, rhythm, and orchestration, recalling the work he did on the Rambo scores, Poltergeist, The Final Conflict, Gremlins, and Explorers, while simultaneously foreshadowing scores like Leviathan, Total Recall, and Basic Instinct. The way Goldsmith blends the orchestra with the electronics is masterful, and he is often careful to highlight a specific instrumental texture, a percussion item, or a rhythmic pulse, often several times within the same cue. Throughout them Goldsmith weaves a tapestry of thematic references, and often pits little bursts of one of Tuck’s two heroic themes against the motifs for Igoe and The Cowboy to illustrate which particular conflict is unfolding.

Cues such as “The Charge,” “Gas Attack,” “No Messenger,” “A New Man,” most of “The Womb,” and “Fair Exchange,” feature many of Goldsmith’s trademarks, from the menacing descending brass lines that he often used, to the staccato clattering wooden percussion items playing contrapuntally against string stingers. A particularly memorable action motif appears for the first time at 6:11 of “The Charge,” a swirling, churning figure led by woodwinds, underpinned by fantasy strings and groaning trombones. It reappears during “What Is It,” “Optic Nerves,” “No Messenger,” and towards the end of “Stop the Car,” offering an increasing sense of dramatic tension as Pendleton navigates his way through Putter’s circulatory systems, interacting intentionally with eyes and ears, but getting into way too much trouble when he ends up too close to his heart and his stomach.

The final trio of cues comprising “Stop the Car,” “Out of the Pod,” “and “Disengage” are quite outstanding, blending the most exciting action material heard in the score with numerous flashes of both Tuck’s theme and Igoe’s motif as the pair engage in a titanic battle of robotic arms, perched precariously above a vat of Jack’s stomach acid. The lovely, sentimental statement of the heroism theme in “Disengage” as Jack and Tuck meet face to face for the first time as friends is superb, as is the sweep of the love theme as Tuck and Lydia re-kindle their romantic relationship, and head off to be married. The final burst of the Cowboy motif in “No Red Lights” threatens to derail the happy ending… but don’t worry. Jack Putter to the rescue!

The original album for Innerspace, released on the Geffen label in 1987, included six extended suites of original Goldsmith music, totaling around 25 minutes, alongside several songs, a couple of which – Rod Stewart’s cover of Sam Cooke’s “Twistin’ The Night Away” and Cooke’s own “Cupid” – feature prominently in the film, and are very good indeed. After more than 20 years of begging by fans, Goldsmith’s complete score was finally released on CD in 2009 by La-La Land Records; the album, which was produced by MV Gerhard and Mike Matessino, and remastered by Matessino from original vault elements, features more than 50 minutes of previously unreleased music, and includes in-depth liner notes by Dan Goldwasser and Jeff Bond.

Both versions of the score have their plusses and minuses – the original release is more concise, omitting a substantial amount of ‘filler’ and concentrating on the highlights, whereas the expanded release allows the true scope of the score to be more clearly revealed, even if some of it does become a little repetitive. Either way, Innerspace is a score which fans of Goldsmith’s 1980s action style will surely want to add to their collection, as it contains some of the most rousing set-pieces he wrote during the decade. Anyone less enamored with Goldsmith’s writing for that period, or who tends to be a little more averse to scores without a truly strong and memorable melodic core, may want to be a little more circumspect.

Buy the Innerspace soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • ORIGINAL 1987 GEFFEN ALBUM
  • Twistin’ The Night Away (written by Sam Cooke, performed by Rod Stewart) (4:13)
  • Hypnotize Me (written by Nick Feldman and Jack Hues, performed by Wang Chung) (4:47)
  • Is It Really Love? (written and performed by Narada Michael Walden) (4:43)
  • Will I Ever Understand You? (written by John Crawford, performed by Berlin) (4:46)
  • Cupid (written and performed by Sam Cooke) (2:35)
  • Let’s Get Small (6:00)
  • Environmental Adjust (3:58)
  • Space Is A Flop (3:03)
  • Gut Reaction (9:58)
  • Air Supply (2:40)
  • EXPANDED 2009 LA-LA LAND ALBUM
  • Main Title (2:15)
  • Take Him Home/Broken Toe (1:48)
  • Tell Me About It (2:17)
  • State of the Art/The Charge (6:55)
  • Gas Attack (4:52)
  • The Injection (2:12)
  • The Hand/Fat Cells (1:00)
  • Woman in Red (2:36)
  • What Is It? (1:09)
  • Optic Nerves (4:00)
  • Take It Easy/It’s True (2:18)
  • No Messenger (2:41)
  • No Pain (1:57)
  • User Friendly (1:40)
  • A Close Look (1:34)
  • The Cowboy (1:00)
  • Hold It (3:42)
  • For the Money/A New Man (3:39)
  • How Do I Look?/Save It (1:45)
  • Transformed (3:02)
  • Retransformed (2:52)
  • Where Am I? (2:12)
  • The Womb (4:39)
  • Fair Exchange (2:05)
  • Stop the Car (5:58)
  • Out of the Pod (3:55)
  • Disengage (3:00)
  • No Red Lights (1:18)

Running Time: 46 minutes 36 seconds (Original Geffen Album)
Running Time: 78 minutes 21 seconds (Expanded La-La Land Album)

Geffen Records 9-24161-2 (1987)
La-La Land Records LLLCD-1114 (1987/2009)

Music composed and conducted by Jerry Goldsmith. Orchestrations by Arthur Morton and Vladimir Horunzhy. Recorded and mixed by Bruce Botnick. Edited by Ken Hall. Original 1987 album produced by Jerry Goldsmith. Expanded 2009 album produced by Mike Matessino and MV Gerhard.

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