Home > Reviews > COME SEE THE PARADISE – Randy Edelman


January 14, 2021 Leave a comment Go to comments


Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Every once in a while, a piece of film music transcends the movie for which it was written and takes on a life of its own, becoming enormously famous and popular with the general public, despite the majority of them having no idea where it originally came from. If you went to a cinema at any point in the 1990s and watched the trailers you will have heard one such cue: a driving, momentum-filled piece of drama and intensity, filled with surging strings, powerful percussion, epic cymbal clashes, even a cimbalom, before it all ends on a gripping, tension-filled chord. It was used in the trailers for everything from Clear and Present Danger to A Few Good Men, Patriot Games to Philadelphia, Rob Roy, and so many others, and it was of course the legendary “Fire in a Brooklyn Theatre”. But, originally, it came from this score – Come See the Paradise by Randy Edelman.

The film is actually quite a serious drama, written and directed by British filmmaker Alan Parker, about the experience of Japanese-Americans in World War II. Dennis Quaid stars as Jack McGurn, a movie projectionist in New York who is forced to flee to California when a labor dispute in which he is involved turns violent and a cinema is burned to the ground, killing several people. Once in Los Angeles, living under an assumed name, Jack gets a job working at a cinema owned by a Japanese family; he falls in love with Lily (Tamlyn Tomita), his boss’s daughter, marries, and has a family, but things are difficult. He faces racism from both sides, as both his own family and Lily’s parents disapprove of the cross-cultural marriage; then, in the aftermath of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Lily and their daughter are rounded up and sent to the Japanese internment camp at Manzanar, while Jack is drafted into the army, resulting in conflicts and recriminations all round.

What’s interesting about Come See the Paradise is that quite a lot of the score is actually based on the material from this famous cue. The actual “Fire in a Brooklyn Theatre” cue underscores the film’s opening action scene of Jack’s pro-union brothers setting a rival establishment ablaze, the terrible guilty aftermath of which is the catalyst for Jack moving west and starting a new life. However, the undulating theme that underpins the scene actually turns out to be a recurring theme for Jack, especially for moments when he finds himself in danger, standing up to authority, or otherwise flashing back to that moment which changed his life. “Lily and Mini” is a stripped-down version of the Brooklyn Theater theme, rendered dramatically for solo piano, while “Little Tokyo” is a flurry of Japanese-style rhythms, again underpinned with the rhythm of the theme. Later, both “Terminal Island” and “Bad Days” feature the Brooklyn Theater theme arranged for what sound like electronically-processed representations of traditional Japanese instruments (possibly a koto or a shamisen), a clever reflection of Jack’s new life in Japanese culture.

The rest of the score is focused on the relationship between Jack and Lily, the east-meets west romance, and the encroaching racial tensions that their love inspires. The “Love Theme from Come See the Paradise” is the cornerstone of that concept , and it’s one of Edelman’s loveliest creations, a gorgeous romantic melody that emerges out of a piano solo to encompass a bank of sweeping strings and subtle woodwinds, enhanced by important-sounding timpani rumbles, tolling bells, and cymbal rings, and backed by the almost imperceptible electronic ‘wash’ that watermarked so much of Randy Edelman’s music.

Some of the chord progressions in the melody are clearly rooted in traditional Japanese folk music, but otherwise it’s generally a simplistic theme that is built around a rising-and-falling four note motif, and various elaborations and variations thereof. It doesn’t have the enormous scale or passion of something like Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, Dragonheart, or Gettysburg, all of which Edelman would write within five years or so of this, but considering that this was one of the first major scores of his career after Ghostbusters II and Kindergarten Cop, it more than adequately does its job. The rest of Edelman’s score comprises brief adaptations of this main theme, with cues like “Shikataganai,” the lovely “Jack and Lily,” and the moving final cue “A Little Bag of Magic” standing out as highlights.

In addition to Edelman’s score there are three cues written by composers Jake Parker and Alex Parker, the sons of director Alan Parker, all of which are based around their “Kawamura Family Theme”. This theme is tonally similar to Edelman’s music, making use of essentially the same ensemble (strings, piano, keyboards), but it has a stern, solid demeanor representing the proud heritage and culture of Lily’s family. The theme receives its fullest performance in the cue of the same name, dramatically enhanced by cymbal crashes, and then receives lovely, simple restatements in “Santa Anita” and “Nine Tiny Seconds”.

Considering that Edelman’s score clocks in at just under 14 minutes, and the Parker Brother’s additional cues at just a tad over four, the short soundtrack album is rounded out by a number of period songs, sung in both Japanese and English, including a wonderful cover of the Andrews Sisters boogie-woogie classic “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree,” and two crooned romantic ballads performed by British vocalist Mark Earley, who appears in the film as a wedding singer.

One could be forgiven for thinking that, once you’ve heard “Fire in a Brooklyn Theatre,” you’ve heard everything that Come See the Paradise has to offer, but this is definitely not the case. The love theme for Jack and Lily is one of the most sweepingly romantic creations of Edelman’s early career, while the Kawamura Family Theme is dramatically poignant; a terrific 9-minute suite could be created from just those three pieces. Anyone who has never connected with Edelman’s emotional directness, or his idiosyncratic way of layering his orchestra with his electronics, will find themselves facing all the same roadblocks here, but those who do appreciate his straightforwardness and his uniquely personal sound will find much to enjoy.

Buy the Come See the Paradise soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Love Theme from Come See the Paradise (4:45)
  • Fire in a Brooklyn Theatre (1:20)
  • Shikataganai (0:26)
  • Love Is the Sweetest Thing (written by Ray Noble, performed by Mark Earley) (3:14)
  • Lily and Mini (0:49)
  • Flower That Blooms in The Rain (written by Fujio Ikeda and Maritarô Takahashi, performed by Mariko Seki) (2:21)
  • Kawamura Family Theme (written by Jake Parker and Alex Parker) (2:50)
  • Jack and Lily (1:25)
  • Nevertheless (written by Bart Kalmar and Harry Ruby, performed by Mark Earley) (1:48)
  • You Can’t Spit at Heaven (0:49)
  • Forget Me Not (written by Yoshikatsu Hoshoda and Hiroshi Mogami, performed by Sanae Hosaka) (3:27)
  • Little Tokyo (0:56)
  • Terminal Island (0:39)
  • Santa Anita (written by Jake Parker and Alex Parker) (0:39)
  • Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree (written by Sam Stept, Charles Tobias, and Lew Brown, performed by Eri Eiko Koide, Jumi Emizawa, and Cynthia Lawren) (2:29)
  • Bad Days (0:30)
  • Love Birds (written by Tameji Harano and Masao Kume, performed by Soyji) (2:20)
  • Nine Tiny Seconds (written by Jake Parker and Alex Parker) (0:48)
  • A Little Bag of Magic (2:08)

Running Time: 33 minutes 40 seconds

Varese Sarabande VSD-5306 (1990)

Music composed by Randy Edelman. Conducted by Eddie Karem. Orchestrations by Grieg McRitchie. Recorded and mixed by Armin Steiner and Elton Ahi. Album produced by Randy Edelman.

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