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GREMLINS 2: THE NEW BATCH – Jerry Goldsmith


Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Gremlins, the film in which a whole host of nasty little creatures take over a small town at Christmas, was one of the most popular and successful films of 1984. It introduced the world to Gizmo, the cute and fuzzy little ‘mogwai’ who has some rather unfortunate traits – he multiplies if you get him wet, and terrible things happen if he eats after midnight. A somewhat belated sequel, subtitled ‘The New Batch,’ opened in cinemas in June 1990. Following the events of the first film, little Gizmo was re-united with his original elderly owner Mr. Wing, and the survivors of the carnage – Billy and Kate – are now a couple and have moved to the Big City. Both Billy and Kate work for a company owned by the eccentric multi-billionaire Daniel Clamp (a thinly veiled parody of Donald Trump), and are astonished when they find Gizmo in one of the company’s laboratories, being subjected to all manner of awful tests by the cruel researcher Dr Catheter. Billy and Kate break Gizmo out and plan to have him live with them but – of course – things go wrong, and before long there are dozens of Gremlins infesting the Clamp skyscraper, threatening to break out and overrun New York. The film is directed by Joe Dante, stars Zach Galligan and Phoebe Cates reprising their roles from the first film, and again features Howie Mandel as the voice of Gizmo; they are joined in the cast by John Glover, Christopher Lee, Robert Prosky, and Robert Picardo.

Also returning to the Gremlins gang for the sequel was composer Jerry Goldsmith. The score was his sixth collaboration with director Dante, after Twilight Zone: The Movie, the original Gremlins, Explorers, Innerspace, and The Burbs; their friendship was such that by this point that Goldsmith even had a speaking part in the movie, as a customer at a yogurt stand inside Clamp Center, complaining about a possible rat infestation. It’s hilarious and wonderful seeing Goldsmith having fun with his own persona, with his unmistakable shaggy white hair, dressed in a tuxedo, standing next to his wife Carole!

Musically, the score is very much a continuation of the style heard in the first film. It sees the return of the wonderfully buoyant and catchy Gremlin Rag, and the sentimental theme for Gizmo, as well as many of the unusual electronic textures that Goldsmith used to accentuate the more comedic aspects of the first film. Thankfully, following the demise of Mrs. Deagle, there are no howling synthesized cats in Gremlins 2. However, instead, we get a wide array of Looney Tunes-style synthesized comedy sound effects ranging from duck quacks and swannee whistles to toy trains, boinging springs, and kazoos. Many of these sound effects are built into the core of the action writing, which tends to be light and playful, similar in tone to the music heard in earlier Joe Dante scores, and subsequent works like Mom and Dad Save the World and Dennis the Menace. The action is often underpinned by faintly amusing percussion ideas, including electronic beats similar to those heard in scores like Hoosiers, and also features moments of helter-skelter orchestral flamboyance reminiscent of classic Carl Stalling animation music.

Goldsmith also introduces a couple of new themes and motifs specific to this score. The fourth track, “Cute,” features a brand-new theme performed by dainty, Renaissance-styled electronics with a string counterpoint, that appears to be a new theme for Gizmo, Billy, and Kate, after they have been reunited following the critter’s liberation from the Clamp lab. Once the Gremlins emerge and begin their antics, many of the action cues that underscore such scenes contain what I am calling the ‘Gremlin Mayhem’ motif, which comprises a wonderful cascading synth effect that immediately leads into a repetitive 9-note rhythmic idea. The new Gremlin Mayhem motif is structured similarly to the original Gremlin Rag, and often plays alongside it as the beat under the rest of the orchestra; this allows the score to maintain a sense of movement and urgency, despite the sometimes quite bizarre antics and freewheeling style the orchestra adopts elsewhere.

The first cue, “Just You Wait,” begins with a lovely orchestral fanfare, but then quickly switches to stereotypical ‘Chinatown’ music featuring aggressive electronic percussion, plucked oriental-style strings, and ethnic woodwinds. “Gizmo Escapes” to the sound of sinister strings, a pipe organ, and some light-hearted action and caper music, which includes a lovely statement of Gizmo’s theme on synths and flutes, before finishing with a militaristic flourish. The plot really begins to thicken in “Leaky Faucet,” which accompanies the first scene of Mogwai reproduction and the beginning of the Gremlin siege of Clamp Center. Goldsmith’s playful action music contains the first appearance of the comedy sound effects, but by the end of the cue has become much more suspenseful and dramatic, with electronic percussion and heavy brass underneath a meandering string figure.

The entire rest of the middle section of the score comprises light, comedic action which, as I mentioned, blends a large orchestra with electronics and the aforementioned comedic sound effects. What’s clear about all this is that, despite all the honking and hooting, this is still very clearly Jerry Goldsmith music. The way the different elements of the brass section play off each other, the speed and intricacy of the string writing, the familiar use of percussion – all of Goldsmith’s action hallmarks are there, albeit with a more anarchic and raucous anything-goes attitude. “Pot Luck” is a sensational cue that introduces the Gremlin Mayhem motif right off the bat, shifting between brass and woodwinds, and highlighting a notably outstanding one-off trumpet motif that runs through the whole thing. The middle section of the cue has a hint of malevolence and spookiness, with elongated brass chords augmented by chimes, and the whole thing is just fun – lively, loud, and unpretentiously good natured.

A charming theme for woodwinds and strings is introduced in “The Visitors” as an identity for the Futtermans, Billy and Kate’s neighbors from back home who come to visit them in New York and get embroiled in gremlin shenanigans again. The cue becomes more raucous and fast-paced as it develops, with the Futterman theme becoming more frantic and caper-like, especially when the Goldsmith comedy cartoon sound effects start cagain. This cue also features several quick bursts of the sentimental Billy & Kate love theme from the first score, as well as some deconstructed hints of the Gremlin Rag on clarinets, hinting at the chaos to come. Things really boil over in the subsequent “Teenage Mutant Gremlins,” which abounds with more crazy orchestral fun as the Gremlins begin to take over the Clamp skyscraper. The whole thing is anchored by both the Gremlins Rag and the Mayhem Motif, and there are musical parodies everywhere – the saxophone motif is for the nightmarish ‘hooker gremlin,’ the solo violin flourish for the highbrow Brain gremlin, the church organ for a gremlin resembling the Phantom of the Opera, and so on. It’s tonally all over the place, and as wacky as anything, but endlessly creative.

“Keep It Quiet” starts with a sultry jazz combo piece, representing the over-sexed office seductress Marla Bloodstone’s repeated attempts to woo Billy, but eventually switches to a wonderful version of Gizmo’s theme arranged like Rambo’s action theme from First Blood – by this point in the story the cute little mogwai has decided he’s not gonna take it anymore and has armed himself to the teeth, Stallone-style, complete with bow-and-arrow and a red headband. The music in this cue, and in the subsequent “No Rats,” continues to make frequent references to the Gremlin Rag and the Mayhem Motif; by the time the action reaches its peak in “Gremlin Pudding” Goldsmith has introduced some tick-tock percussion which gives the score a sense of it being a countdown. As the Gremlins gather en masse in the Clamp Building foyer, waiting for sunset so they can spill out into the Big Apple and make it rotten to the core, Goldsmith’s music has a sense of dangerous anticipation, filled with serpentine strings, allusions to all the recurring rhythmic ideas, and notably strong brass. However, the militaristic fanfare in the finale again represents Gizmo as an action hero, saving the day! Gremlin pudding indeed.

The conclusive “New Trends” finally allows the score to convey a sense of relief via calm woodwinds and pretty pianos. The jazzy allusions to George Gershwin and ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ are an intentional acknowledgment of poor old Brain Gremlin’s final song, while the performances of the Cute Theme and Gizmo’s Theme on warmly nostalgic horns, sweeping and emotional strings, and tender flutes are just lovely. The music in this finale has some echoes/foreshadowings of Goldsmith’s Star Trek music in the chord progressions, especially the themes from Voyager and First Contact, which fans of his are sure to enjoy. Finally, the “Gremlin Credits” offer a magnificent suite of all the main themes, jumping backwards and forwards between statements of the Gremlin Mayhem motif, the Gremlin Rag, Gizmo’s theme, Billy and Kate’s love theme, and the Cute theme. The out-of-nowhere piece of counterpoint under the Gremlin Rag at 3:37 is one of my all-time favorite Goldsmith moments – he did this sort of thing regularly (the end credits of Supergirl is another example of him writing unexpected counterpoint) and it’s so creative, so musically fascinating, but completely unnecessary in context. Consider: it comes in two-thirds of the way through the piece, when most of the audience will have left the cinema and started heading for the parking lot, but Goldsmith still found the creative energy to do something completely different with his theme for no other reason than because it sounded cool. The final statement of Gizmo’s theme on solo French horns at 4:23 seems to end the score – but then Goldsmith knocks it out of the park with one final flourish.

The Gremlins 2 soundtrack was released on CD by Varese Sarabande at the time the film came out, and contained just under 40 minutes of music. To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the film’s release in 2015 Varese released an expanded Deluxe version, with 20 additional tracks, bringing the running time up to a generous 77 minutes. Among the most notable new cues are Fred Steiner’s “Prologue” for the Chuck Jones-directed Looney Tunes cartoon that kicks off the film, as well as several action cues that build on the anarchy elsewhere (including “Gremlins At Work/The Brain Hormones/Gremlins Wings” and “Gremlin Mayhem”) and the full vocal version of the climactic musical number featuring Tony Randall as the Brain Gremlin leading a rousing rendition of “New York, New York”. If you’re a fan of the score, then the expanded edition is absolutely worth seeking out.

Gremlins 2 is a great example of Jerry Goldsmith simply having fun. While I’m sure that some people will find the frequent duck quacks and car horns far too silly, I prefer to focus on the positives, which include the handful of outstanding new themes to complement the already excellent existing ones, the terrifically entertaining and energetic action music, and the good-natured sentimentality at the core of it all. Not only that, as I mentioned already, the end titles cue is one of Goldsmith’s all-time best, and is sure to leave even the most cold-hearted gremlin with a smile on their face.

Buy the Gremlins 2 soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Just You Wait (2:11)
  • Gizmo Escapes (3:43)
  • Leaky Faucet (3:45)
  • Cute… (1:58)
  • Pot Luck (3:00)
  • The Visitors (3:31)
  • Teenage Mutant Gremlins (3:23)
  • Keep It Quiet (3:10)
  • No Rats (2:23)
  • Gremlin Pudding (2:13)
  • New Trends (3:39)
  • Gremlin Credits (4:52)
  • Merrily We Roll Along/Prologue/Just You Wait (5:09)
  • Future Thoughts (0:34)
  • Gizmo’s Capture/A Disaster/Fatal Prognosis (2:32)
  • Cute… (2:04)
  • Gizmo Escapes (3:53)
  • Instructions (1:50)
  • Leaky Faucet (3:49)
  • The Impostor (1:14)
  • The Visitors (3:34)
  • No Rats (2:28)
  • The Long Fall/Hot Wire/The Time Zone (2:36)
  • Pot Luck (3:08)
  • Pacing/Fast Rise (1:18)
  • A Better Mouse Trap (1:47)
  • Gremlins at Work/The Brain Hormones/Gremlins Wings (4:59)
  • Gremlin Mayhem (3:59)
  • Teenage Mutant Gremlins (3:31)
  • On the Track/Workout/Something New/The Bag (1:04)
  • No Cavities/Climate Control (2:09)
  • Keep It Quiet (3:18)
  • New York, New York/Rhapsody in Blue (2:05)
  • Congo Corta/Gremlinition (0:41)
  • Broadway to Bowery/New York, New York/A Big Chance (1:48)
  • Gremlin Pudding (2:22)
  • New Trends (3:51)
  • Bridal Chorus (1:11)
  • Gremlin Credits (5:01)
  • Cute… (Album Version) (2:04) – BONUS
  • Movie Police (0:48) – BONUS
  • Nearer My God To Thee (1:23) – BONUS
  • Clamp Logos (0:22) – BONUS
  • Postlude (0:25) – BONUS

Running Time: 37 minutes 48 seconds (Original)
Running Time: 76 minutes 57 seconds (Deluxe)

Varese Sarabande VSD-5269 (1990) – Original
Varese Sarabande VCL-0615-1156 (1990/2015) – Deluxe

Music composed and conducted by Jerry Goldsmith. Orchestrations by Arthur Morton. Recorded and mixed by Robert Fernandez. Edited by Ken Hall. Score produced by Jerry Goldsmith. Deluxe album produced by Robert Townson and Mike Matessino.

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