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DEAD AGAIN – Patrick Doyle


Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

After director Kenneth Branagh wowed Hollywood with his brash, compelling take on Shakespeare’s Henry V in 1989, many people expected that he would continue to drink deeply from the well of the Bard for his follow-up effort. Surprisingly, his sophomore effort was not a classic adaptation but was this film: Dead Again, a neo-noir thriller set in contemporary Los Angeles. Branagh plays private detective Mike Church, who is drawn into a mysterious case involving Grace, a woman with amnesia, played by Emma Thompson. In an attempt to discover her identity, he turns to antiques dealer and hypnotist Franklyn Madson (Derek Jacobi), who he believes can help her. While under hypnosis, Grace comes to believe that she is the reincarnation of Margaret, a socialite who was murdered by her composer husband Roman Strauss in 1949. Roman – who also bears an uncanny physical resemblance to Mike – took the secret of Margaret’s murder to his grave, and the more Mike digs into the events of the past, the more he and Grace find their lives in peril in the present. The movie is a fun, melodramatic romp filled with intentional homages to Alfred Hitchcock and Orson Welles, and features a terrific, bold score by Patrick Doyle.

In much the way that both Alfred Hitchcock and Orson Welles did on many of their best films, Kenneth Branagh wanted Bernard Herrmann’s music in Dead Again, and so he asked Patrick Doyle to emulate him. That’s a rather glib way of saying it, but the bare bones of it is true; Doyle’s music adopts the same ferocious energy, the same film noir overtones, and the same sweeping romance that Herrmann brought to his work for Hitchcock and Welles, and Doyle received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Score for his work – the first major nomination of his career (shockingly, Henry V was nominated for nothing, not even a BAFTA). Dead Again was only the third theatrical score of Doyle’s career – and, remember, only the second film of Branagh’s – but even at this early stage he was keenly developing his personal sound, his way of phrasing certain instruments, and his way of constructing themes, the things that would define his work for the next thirty years or more.

“The Headlines” is a prototypical Doyle suspense and action theme, which plays under the film’s opening titles, a montage of newspaper clippings related to Margaret’s sensational murder and Roman’s subsequent execution. Dark, moody heartbeat figures eventually give way to a stabbing 4-note motif for brass and woodwinds, echoing the dark explosions of noise from Henry V, and foreshadowing the ones he would use later in scores like Carlito’s Way, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and parts of Hamlet. Several of the score’s main melodic elements are introduced in fragments here, including the theme related to Grace, the ‘Woman With No Name,’ and a motif which becomes associated with Roman and Margaret and her impending murder. The intense percussion, the staccato woodwinds, the thrilling brass exclamations, and the churning string figures, are all quintessential Doyle, and to hear them presented so boldly here is a delight.

“Final Request” introduces the jazzy textures for Andy Garcia’s character Gray Baker, the furtive investigative journalist whose relationship with Margaret plays a significant part in her death, and to whom Roman whispers secrets in the moments before his execution. Baker’s theme is a melancholic piece for low strings and languid woodwinds, with a notably prominent bassoon part adding to the film noir atmosphere, which combines with the fragments of the score’s beautiful love theme to further illustrate the main character’s intertwining relationships. The subsequent “A Walk Down Death Row” is a brief but intensely vivid action cue that revisits the Murder motif and enriches it with syncopated piercing pianos, prominent xylophones and glockenspiels in the percussion, and more outstanding roiling work from the brass section.

“The Woman With No Name” is an exploration of the melodic identity for Emma Thompson’s modern-day character, Grace, whose theme is passed around from strings to woodwinds to piano, gradually increasing in intensity. As she submits to the Franklyn’s hypnosis and slowly begins to recall details of what may be her past life, it cleverly combines with elements of the Murder theme, again subliminally insinuating the links between the characters.

“Winter 1948” is Roman and Margaret’s love theme, an utterly gorgeous melody for swooning strings, lilting woodwinds, and warm horns, that foreshadows the similarly gorgeous love themes Doyle would write for Much Ado About Nothing, Sense and Sensibility, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and others. This theme represents Roman and Margaret at their best; the opulence of Roman’s home, the classical influences from his work as a composer, the idyllic nature of their life. It’s just beautiful. This segues into the equally lovely “Two Halves of the Same Person,” which is a sentimental solo oboe performance of the Woman With No Name theme. It underscores a different romantic scene between Roman and Margaret, but again cleverly provides musical links between their relationship in the past and Grace’s life in the present, with the effects of one clearly bleeding into the other.

“It Never Rains in LA” underscores the scene where Mike and Grace share a passionate kiss on the roof of his apartment building with more romance, lush strings with prominent cellos, and flighty woodwind textures. It’s a different theme from the Roman & Margaret theme, but there are several harmonic similarities between the two that further emphasizes the love affairs across time. The shrill outburst of the Murder motif towards the end of the cue breaks the spell, and ushers in the score’s dark and occasionally quite brutal finale.

“I’m Not Roman” is a terrific variation on the Murder motif, a brooding piano line offset with twitchy string figures, insistent woodwinds, trilling tambourines, and eventually a sweep of thematic consonance as Mike – having agreed to go under Franklyn’s hypnosis in the search for more clues – has a personal revelation of earth-shattering proportions. The revelations become clearer in “Inga’s Secrets,” which takes the Murder motif and enshrouds it in rich, dark, eastern European classical tones, bold pianos and weeping strings, before all hell breaks loose in the pivotal cues “Hightower House” and “Fate Happens/Death of a Mad Son”.

Here, both the Murder motif and the Woman With No Name theme become deeply embedded in a powerful action sequence which sees Doyle returning to the striking textures of the opening cue. The music is a vibrant collision of tempestuous drum rhythms, shrieking strings, dark and potent brass clusters, and bursts of thematic depth, giving a great deal of power to the final fight in which the identity of the true murderer is revealed. The blood-spattered grand guignol of the conclusion is made all the more theatrical and dramatic by Doyle’s intense music, and when the choir enters the picture during the cue’s second half, the emotional impact is terrific. The way that Branagh cuts between the two attacks – on Margaret in the past, on Grace in the present – while Roman bangs away at his opera, oblivious to the horrors occurring in the rooms above him – is brilliant, and Doyle’s choral writing acts as both an intensifier of the action, and of Roman’s operatic masterpiece, destined to be forever unfinished.

“The Door Is Closed” restates Roman and Grace’s love theme with a bittersweet edge, and then segues into the love theme for Mike and Grace as they embrace and kiss, with their past lives behind them and their future free from danger. This then moves into the fantastic end credits piece, “Dead Again,” a suite which includes terrific statements of Roman and Grace’s love theme, the Murder theme, and more of that fantastic, frenetic action, and ends the album on a high.

The original score album for Dead Again was released by Varese Sarabande when the film came out, and ran for a crisp half hour that hit all the score highlights. In 2014 La-La Land Records released an 2,000-copy limited edition expanded album of more than 78 minutes, including several variations on the album’s core material (including some score material that was cut from the finished film), plus source music and bonus cues. I’m especially pleased that this album includes “Goodbye Grace/The Chase,” a brief but superb combination of swooning romance and brutal action that underscores the scene where Branagh chases down Campbell Scott, playing a con-man claiming to be Grace’s husband. The album was produced by Dan Goldwasser, features in-depth liner notes from film music writer Brian Satterwhite, and is certainly a worthwhile purchase for admirers of Doyle’s bold and classical style.

Dead Again is a quintessential Patrick Doyle score, one of the best examples of his early work, and one which provides an excellent bridge from the tempestuous youthful bravado of Henry V to his more confident mid-90s works – Indochine, Much Ado About Nothing, Needful Things, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Sense and Sensibility, Hamlet, and so on. Of course, Doyle was intentionally emulating the musical atmospherics of Bernard Herrmann, just as Branagh was channeling Alfred Hitchcock, but the way Doyle was able to bring the flavor of Herrmann to his score while clearly and strongly developing and maintaining his own musical voice, is seriously impressive. With its thunderous, extensive action music and its lush period romance, Dead Again sees Doyle showcasing two of the best parts of his repertoire, and that’s something you won’t forget in a hurry.

Buy the Dead Again soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • The Headlines (3:25)
  • Final Request (2:30)
  • A Walk Down Death Row (0:58)
  • The Woman With No Name (3:33)
  • Winter 1948 (2:56)
  • Two Halves of the Same Person (2:19)
  • It Never Rains in LA (1:39)
  • I’m Not Roman (1:29)
  • Inga’s Secrets (1:03)
  • Hightower House (2:51)
  • Fate Happens/Death of a Mad Son (4:37)
  • The Door Is Closed (1:10)
  • Dead Again (3:03)
  • The Headlines (3:18)
  • Final Request (2:28)
  • A Walk Down Death Row (0:56)
  • The Door Knob (0:22)
  • Mike Meets Grace/Hang In There/Mike and Priest Argue (2:43)
  • Mike’s Flat/Mike Says Goodnight (1:34)
  • First Hypnosis/You Missed Something (1:56)
  • The Woman With No Name (3:30)
  • Winter 1948 (2:54)
  • Two Halves of the Same Person (2:18)
  • The Magazine (1:12)
  • Why Are You Helping Me?/Karmic Credit Plan/The Waiting Man (1:52)
  • Grace Hears the Music/I’m Scared, Mike/So What’s My Name? (2:43)
  • It Never Rains in LA (1:39)
  • Goodbye Grace/The Chase (1:49)
  • Roman’s Mask (1:13)
  • He’s a Nobody/The Telephone/Inga and the Coat (2:11)
  • Margaret Sees Mike/The Sting (1:41)
  • I’m Not Roman (1:28)
  • The Wallet/Do Her, Man!/Don’t See Mike (3:25)
  • Take the Gun, Grace (0:57)
  • Antiques/Corvette Peels Out/The Laughing Duke (1:04)
  • Hello! Hello!/You Don’t Know Anything/It All Went to Hell/Inga’s Secrets (2:13)
  • Wait a Minute/Tell Mom Goodbye (1:43)
  • Hightower House (2:50)
  • Fate Happens/Death of a Mad Son (4:39)
  • The Door Is Closed (1:09)
  • Dead Again (3:03)
  • The Headlines (Album Version) (3:24) BONUS
  • So What’s My Name? (Alternate) (0:49) BONUS
  • I’m Not Roman (Alternate) (1:28) BONUS
  • Fate Happens/Death of a Mad Son (Album Version With No Vocals) (4:35) BONUS
  • Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini (written by Sergei Rachmaninoff) (0:28) BONUS
  • Tangerine (written by Johnny Mercer and Victor Schertzinger) (2:21) BONUS
  • Otto’s Party – Source Music (0:52) BONUS
  • Otto’s Beguine – Source Music (1:18) BONUS
  • Otto’s Party II – Source Music (0:44) BONUS
  • So What’s My Name (Early Piano Sketch) (0:52) BONUS
  • Roman Finds Opera (Early Synth Mockup) (1:52) BONUS

Running Time: 31 minutes 33 seconds – Original
Running Time: 77 minutes 33 seconds – Expanded

Varese Sarabande VSD-5339 (1991) – Original
La-La Land Records LLLCD-1284 (1991/2014) – Original

Music composed by Patrick Doyle. Conducted by William Kraft. Orchestrations by Lawrence Ashmore. Recorded and mixed by John Richards. Edited by Roy Prendergast. Album produced by Patrick Doyle. Expanded album produced by Dan Goldwasser, MV Gerhard and Matt Verboys.

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