Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The enormous success of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie in 1990, as well as the continuing popularity of the related Saturday morning cartoon, led to an insta-sequel being commissioned by New Line Cinema. The result is this film, subtitled ‘The Secret of the Ooze,’ directed by Michael Pressman. The Secret of the Ooze follows the adventures of the four eponymous turtles – Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo, Raphael – and their Master Splinter. Following the events of the first film, the evil Shredder returns to take back command of the Foot Clan, and vows revenge against the Turtles who vanquished him – and sees away to take that revenge when he learns the secret behind the Turtles’ original mutation. The film stars Paige Turco and David Warner alongside the rubber-suited stuntmen performing the physical action of the turtles, and was a popular hit with the kids, who reacted favorably to the film’s broad humor and even more broad ninja action.

Returning to score The Secret of the Ooze was British composer John Du Prez, for whom the first film marked the biggest cinematic hit of his career. It’s still astonishing to me that Du Prez – who, prior to working on the first Turtles film, was best known for being a member of the early 80s pop band Modern Romance, his work with Monty Python, and his score for the comedy A Fish Called Wanda – ended up involved with this franchise at all, but the first film was so successful that the producers at New Line Cinema didn’t want to rock the boat and brought everyone back for a second bite at the cherry, so Du Prez came back too.

The opening cue, “NY Pizza,” is actually an instrumental version of the song “(That’s Your) Consciousness,” which Du Prez wrote for the late American rock singer Dan Hartman, and which underscores the Turtles coming to the rescue of pizza delivery boy Keno, who ultimately becomes their friend and ally. It’s an up-tempo funk-rock and dance piece featuring heavy electronics and an unusual “didididi” synth vocal idea underpinning most of the cue. It’s very clearly a variation on the ‘TMNT Funk’ idea that was so prominent in the first film and, like that theme, reminds me very much of the famous ‘Axel F’ piece that Harold Faltermeyer wrote for Beverly Hills Cop in 1984.

Du Prez also mines his first score for additional musical themes and approaches; the lovely motif for the murine sensei Splinter – watery, dream-like Japanese textures alongside elegant orchestral colors – is back, as is the action style which I described in my review of the first score as a blend of Michael Kamen’s Lethal Weapon and Trevor Jones’s Labyrinth, with a dash of 1970s Lalo Schifrin jazz thrown in for good measure. New ideas include an oppressive texture related to the ‘ooze’ at the center of the film’s plot (and which explains the origins of the turtles themselves); a fun motif for Tokka and Rahzar, the two mutant henchman created by Shredder (and which are used here in place of Rocksteady and Bebop from the cartoon series, which TMNT creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird refused to give Michael Pressman permission to use); and a warm, emotional theme representing the Turtles and their search for a new home.

The new version of the TMNT Funk idea features prominently at the beginning of the score, forming the core of cues like “Main Title” and “Pile of Criminals,” and later ones like “Scrapyard Scrap,” but this quickly gives way to the more ominous writing that represents the return of Shredder, and the ooze itself. It’s perhaps a little disappointing that Du Prez didn’t bring back the memorable 4-note Shredder motif from the first film in “Shredder Lives,” but his orchestral textures are still interesting, and feature some notable writing for soft brass, and some ominous string chords that become more dissonant and threatening as they develop. The Ooze Theme continues to dominate cues like “Mutant Dandelions,” while in “Grave Danger” it combines with the lovely Asian woodwinds, watery synths, elongated string sustains of Splinter’s motif, although this version of it feels more prominently electronic than the original movie equivalent.

The score’s first major action sequence is the “TGRI Fight” – TGRI being Techno Global Research Industries, the research firm which created the ooze in the first place. Du Prez’s orchestral writing here is quite superb, expansive and adventurous, high tempo, and with lots of movement. Interestingly a lot of this music feels a little old fashioned at times, almost a throwback to Korngold-era swashbucklers, especially when the brass fanfares are heard, and then the snare drum riffs move around underneath a host of interesting orchestral colors. If you can ignore the bizarre surf rock interlude, which makes sense in context but rips you out of the moment on the album, this is thoroughly enjoyable stuff. “Home Sweet Home” is enjoyable for different reasons, as it gives Du Prez a chance to bring out a host of emotional strings, present a brief interlude of energetic caper music, and become warm and enchanting towards the end, a series of magical chords that accompany the Turtles as they discover where they were born.

The second major action sequence relates to “Tokka & Rahzar,” who Shredder creates using the ooze to mutate a wolf and a snapping turtle, and who become the heroes’ nemeses during the second half of the film. Strangely, their music is surprisingly positive, featuring broad heroic fanfares for brass, and tremolo strings, albeit with a threatening 6 note motif for low horns moving around underneath it all. This writing is featured again later in the excellent “Let the Games Begin,” but it does perhaps feel like a tiny misjudgment on Du Prez’s part to make Tokka & Rahzar’s music so rousing and brave; are we supposed to be cheering for them, or the Turtles?

The finale of the score is “Super Shredder,” which underscores the final fight between Shredder and the Turtles down by the docks, after Shredder uses the ooze on himself to make him bigger and more powerful than before. Du Prez begins the sequence with dissonant synths, aggressive wailing guitars, and the score’s one imposing statement of the Shredder motif from the first film, but it soon becomes more orchestral, a host of bombastic percussion patterns and heroic fanfares. The whole thing ends with a final emotional sweep of the ‘Home Sweet Home’ idea to accompany the inevitable Turtles victory, but there remains just a hint of trepidation in the closing seconds, foreshadowing the possibility of Shredder returning once more in future sequel.

All of this is mostly very good, but now: a warning. There are three utterly appalling source music cues on the album which should be avoided at all costs if you want to remain sane. The first is “Master Say Have Fun,” a completely obnoxious tropical dance piece which begins with a short speech by Shredder, erupts into a bizarre synth calypso party piece (complete with Tokka and Rahzar grunting and croaking underneath it), and finishes with a song about pizza toppings. Then, “Cowabunga Says It All” is a reprise of the TMNT Funk theme with the Turtles singing and rapping all over it. It’s not wicked, or awesome, or bodacious, at all. Finally, and perhaps worst of all, is the “Ninja Rap,” performed by the legendary 1980s rapper Vanilla Ice. The song features prominently within the film, when the fight between the Turtles and Tokka & Rahzar spills over into a club where Ice is performing. In order to distract the crowd from being terrified at the sight of seeing six mutant animals beating ninja crap out of each other, Ice begins to freestyle a “ninja rap song,” to trick the audience into believing the fight was a harmless “show” and thus not to panic. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

The original soundtrack for The Secret of the Ooze released back in 1991 was basically a song compilation which featured the aforementioned Vanilla Ice rap, additional songs by artists such as Ya Kid K, Cathy Dennis and David Morales, Tribal House, and Dan Hartman, plus two perfunctory Du Prez score cues – meaning that his actual score was unavailable for almost thirty years. This has all been rectified now by Waxwork Records who, like they did with the music from the first TMNT film in 2019, have released the complete DuPrez score, re-stored and re-mastered, and presented in a handsome new album concept featuring original album art created by Kevin Eastman exclusively for the release.

Fans of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise will eat all this up like last night’s pizza, but circumspection may be required for more discerning listeners. I personally enjoy the score for The Secret of the Ooze, especially because so little of John Du Prez’s music is available in general, and so it’s nice to get more exposure to it. However, listeners should be aware that this score is VERY much of its time. While the orchestral textures have a classic quality, the pop and rock elements, the electronica, and especially anything to do with the TMNT Funk idea, drips with late 80s and early 90s synth cheese, and if that sound has ever annoyed you, then large chunks of this score will too. With that in mind, The Secret of the Ooze still gets a recommendation – but if your brain starts to ooze out of your ears as you listen, you can’t say you weren’t forewarned!

Buy the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • 2021 SCORE ALBUM
  • NY Pizza (2:02)
  • Main Title (3:15)
  • Pile of Criminals (1:57)
  • Shredder Lives (1:28)
  • Mutant Dandelions (2:30)
  • Grave Danger (2:27)
  • TGRI Fight (2:52)
  • Home Sweet Home (2:41)
  • Tokka & Rahzar (1:53)
  • Scrapyard Scrap (1:51)
  • What Troubles You (2:04)
  • Master Say Have Fun (3:09)
  • Let the Games Begin (1:31)
  • Super Shredder (3:24)
  • Cowabunga Says It All (3:31)
  • Dark Monsters (1:57)
  • Ninja Rap (written by Robert Van Winkle, Floyd Brown, and Todd Langen, performed by Vanilla Ice) (3:45)
  • Awesome (You Are My Hero) (written by Daniel Poku and Manuela Kamosi, performed by Ya Kid K) (4:04)
  • Ninja Rap (written by Robert Van Winkle, Floyd Brown, and Todd Langen, performed by Vanilla Ice) (3:45)
  • Find The Key To Your Life (written by Cathy Dennis and David Morales, performed by Cathy Dennis feat. David Morales) (4:42)
  • Moov! (written by Winston Jones, Karen Bernod, and Pierre Salandy, performed by Tribal House) (5:15)
  • (That’s Your) Consciousness (written by John Du Prez, Dan Hartman, and Charlie Midnight, performed by Dan Hartman) (4:10)
  • This World (written by Mickey Mahoney, Troy Duncombe, and Rosano Martinez, performed by Magnificent VII) (3:56)
  • Creatures of Habit (written by Steve Harvey and Renée Geyer, performed by Spunkadelic) (4:02)
  • Back to School (written by Solomon Forbes, Duane Daniel, Brian Daniel, and Gene Parker, performed by Fifth Platoon) (4:39)
  • Cowabunga (written by John Du Prez, performed by Orchestra on the Half Shell) (3:29)
  • Tokka and Rahzar: Monster Mix (written by John Du Prez, performed by Orchestra on the Half Shell) (3:58)

Running Time: 42 minutes 25 seconds – Score Album
Running Time: 42 minutes 04 seconds – Soundtrack Album

Waxwork Records WW-097 (1991/2021) – Score Album
SBK Records CDP-963204 (1991) – Soundtrack Album

Music composed and conducted by John Du Prez. Orchestrations by Brad Dechter. Recorded and mixed by John Richards. Edited by Tom Kramer. Score produced by John Du Prez.

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