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CHERRY 2000 – Basil Poledouris

September 7, 2017 Leave a comment Go to comments


Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Like most composers, Basil Poledouris scored his fair share of terrible films in his career. 1977’s Tintorera, one of the first films he ever scored, was a Mexican rip-off of Jaws. Amazons, from 1984, was basically a sexier version of Conan the Barbarian with warrior women in fur bikinis. However, 1987 may have seen him reach a low point in terms of ‘quality of movie’ when he was asked to score Cherry 2000, a low-budget sci-fi thriller. Directed by Steve De Jarnatt, the film is set in a post-apocalyptic America circa 2017 and stars Don Johnson wannabe David Andrews as Sam, who sets off on a dangerous mission across the lawless wasteland of what was once Nevada in order to find someone who can repair his Cherry 2000 sex robot (Pamela Gidley); to help him, he hires a tough-but-beautiful tracker named E (a strangely-cast Melanie Griffith), and together they set off into the desert.

Despite being a commercial flop when it was grudgingly released into theaters – it sat on a shelf for two years after it was made because Orion Pictures didn’t know how to market it – and a critical disaster with mainstream writers at the time, Cherry 2000 has since attained something of a cult status among genre aficionados, and it’s not hard to see why: with its pulp themes, post-apocalyptic setting, souped-up muscle cars, neon-soaked visual style, and sexual wish fulfillment fantasies, the film clearly appeals to a particular sub-set of movie fans. The other notable, but less predictable, aspect of the production is Poledouris’s score, which is unexpectedly outstanding. Poledouris had a very good year in 1987, writing acclaimed scores for the mini-series Amerika, as well as the classic Robocop, and it is this latter score that Cherry 2000 resembles the most. It shares a similar electro-acoustic sound palette, and a similarly strong thematic base, but where Robocop was masculine and punchy, Cherry 2000 is often flighty and dreamy and surprisingly romantic, illustrating the fact that, at its core, the film is an unconventional love story. To this effect Poledouris combines sequences of lush string writing with an array of electronic rhythms and synth effects, and several bold and powerful action sequences for a full orchestra recorded in Budapest.

Poledouris once described his score as being inspired by “the three Ms” – meaning Mozart, Morricone, and Moroder – and the description is quite apt. The score is anchored around a terrific main theme, adventurous and forthright, with flourishing trumpets and florid electronic percussion that brings to mind some of Ennio Morricone’s classic spaghetti western scores, albeit filtered through Poledouris’s personal compositional stylistics, which fans of scores like Conan the Barbarian or Flesh + Blood will find appealing. There are several memorable statements of the theme, including the more introspective and Leone-esque “E Flips,” the determined-sounding “Photo Grab,” the lively “Lights Out,” the groovy “Lester Heads South,” and the adventurous and indomitable “Trashin’ Sky Ranch,” but it receives arguably its best performance towards the end of the score in “Lights On”.

A secondary theme, written to illustrate the score’s more romantic and sexual relationship between Sam and Cherry, sounds more like John Barry than anything else in Poledouris’s canon, and is quite wonderful, a cascade of shimmering strings and harp glissandi. The luscious performances in “Cherry Shorts Out,” at the beginning of “Drive to Glory Hole,” and in “Cherry Awakens,” are score highlights. The electric guitar variation in the second half of “Drive to Glory Hole” drips with Morricone sentiment, while a sort-of variation on the theme, which speaks more to the relationship between Sam and E, gets its first appearance in the unusual “Jake’s Jukebox” before properly flourishing via glorious woodwind and string writing in “Hooded Love”.

Meanwhile, the Giorgio Moroder influence comes via the synth/electronica part of the score, which is much more pronounced here than in many other Poledouris scores. As was the case with Robocop, the electronic sound was designed by the legendary Derek Austin and his colleague Brian Gascoigne, and it is as lively and intricate as their presence would suggest; cues such as “Drive/Car Crash” and the almost disco-esque “Jake Shot” showcase some quite outstanding electronic writing, with overlapping layers of sound and interesting rhythmic ideas; I really love it, but younger listeners may find some of the tonalities a little cheesy (especially as one of them bears an unintentional but striking resemblance to the rhythm from the A-Ha song “Take on Me”).

There are also several outstanding moments of action and tension, including the dangerous-sounding “The Barricades,” which is full of low growling brass, the heroically magnificent “Magneto,” and the bold “Truck Fight.” However, for me, the pick of them is the thrilling and sweeping “Lester’s Demise.” The brass writing in this cue is notably superb, and on several occasions Poledouris lets rip with a barrage of huge, heroic horn triplets that are quite majestic.

There were several unusually sub-standard releases of the score for Cherry 2000 from both Varese Sarabande in 1989 and Prometheus in 2004, both of which mislabeled cues on the album and featured sequencing errors, among other things. Despite this, the original Varese album, which was the first limited edition release of the original Varese CD Club, commanded huge prices on the secondary market in the 1990s, with copies selling for more than $2,000. Thankfully, in 2011 Intrada re-released the score without any of the packaging errors, at a more affordable rate, and in a set that includes – as a bonus – Poledouris’s score from the 1984 drama The House of God.

Despite the obscurity of the film, and despite the critical lambasting it took at the time, Cherry 2000 remains one of the most celebrated works of Basil Poledouris’s career, and is an essential item for anyone who is serious about hearing his most important works. The litany of memorable themes, the challenging and progressive electronic element, and the tasteful allusions to the style of Morricone, are all worth experiencing in the best format you can, and now that you can actually find a copy of the recording without re-mortgaging your house, all the better!

Buy the Cherry 2000 soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Main Title (1:59)
  • Cherry Shorts Out (1:34)
  • Movietone (0:58)
  • Drive To Glory Hole (1:27)
  • E Flips (1:20)
  • The Barricades (1:54)
  • Flashback #2 (1:08)
  • Photo Grab (1:14)
  • Magneto (4:21)
  • Pipeline (0:59)
  • Waterslide (1:02)
  • Jake’s Jukebox (1:39)
  • Lights Out (1:28)
  • Lester Heads South (0:39)
  • Trashin’ Sky Ranch (3:26)
  • Drive/Car Crash (1:58)
  • Hooded Love (1:18)
  • Truck Fight (2:14)
  • Lester Follows (0:21)
  • Drop ‘Em (0:43)
  • Randa Mic (0:44)
  • Jake Shot (0:53)
  • Plane Flies Into Vegas (1:04)
  • Cherry Awakens (1:14)
  • Lights On (1:54)
  • Lester’s Demise (5:04)
  • End Title (0:40)
  • Photo Grab [Alternate Mix] (1:12) BONUS
  • Lights On [Alternate Mix] (1:53) BONUS
  • Lester Heads South [Alternate Mix] (0:40) BONUS

Running Time: 48 minutes 03 seconds

Intrada ISC-174 (1987/2011)

Music composed and conducted by Basil Poledouris. Orchestrations by Steven Scott Smalley. Recorded and mixed by Eric Tomlinson. Edited by Tom Villano. Score produced by Basil Poledouris. Intrada album produced by Douglass Fake and Roger Feigelson.

  1. Dan
    September 7, 2017 at 11:16 am

    “Sounds more like John Barry than anything else in Poledouris’s canon”.

    Actually that would be Farewell to The King above anything. Great score though.

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