Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Worst To Best: James Bond Film Scores

Today, we'll be ranking the musical scores of the James Bond films.  This is a subject that is near and dear to my heart; I've been a fan of film music for most of my life, and have a special love for the music of the Bond films.
It isn't AS cut-and-dried a topic as it seems, though.  By which I mean this: in assessing and ranking the scores for this post, I had to decide whether or not to include the songs for consideration.  For example, when I assess John Barry's score to Goldfinger, do I include the Shirley Bassey song "Goldfinger" in that assessment?  Any score fan would tell you the answer is a no; anyone who doesn't fit the bill of "score fan" would probably wonder why.
It's a question I'm not sure I have the terminology to answer.  So I'm mostly not going to attempt it.  How's that for laziness?  I hope it suits you fine, because it's what we're stuck with.  Jettisoning the songs -- which, after all, have already been ranked in excruciating detail -- simply feels like the right move.  With that in mind, we will consider only the background score (which may in some instances include limited amounts of source music), and proceed from there.
Another major point of contention: do I judge the soundtrack albums themselves, or the scores as presented within the films?  Some of you may wonder what the difference is.  Here's a decent answer: soundtrack albums rarely -- and this is especially true in the case of the Bond films --  contain all of the movie's score.  In some instances, it may not even include half of it.  Conversely, the soundtrack album sometimes contains music that never appears in the film; and yet, despite this, there's no denying that such pieces are indeed part of the score as it was written.  These things being the case, I'm not sure it's possible for either a film-only or an album-only approach to adequately serve our purposes.  
Therefore, I will use a hybrid method, which, yes, means I'm going to just wing it.  In some cases, I'm sure I'll refer to specific tracks on the album; in other cases, I will likely focus more on the film itself.  We'll figure it out.
No winging it is needed to determine what score earns the bottom-most place on this list, however.  I think its legacy is secure, regardless of what approach one uses.
#27 -- Never Say Never Again (Michel Legrand, 1983)
I don't like Never Say Never Again much at all.  A few elements of it work for me; Connery is basically fine (and occasionally inspired), for example.  I even like the theme song pretty well, believe it or not.
The score by Michel Legrand, on the other hand, is a complete loser.  In 1983, the Bond sound was still almost entirely defined by John Barry, and by his reworking of Monty Norman's theme; since neither was available for the producers of Never Say Never Again to use for legal reasons (it's not a part of the Broccoli-produced film series), the composer hired for the film was always going to operate at a disadvantage.