Saturday, April 7, 2012

"BATMAN: The Movie" - Original Motion Picture Score (Nelson Riddle, 1966)

Composed by Nelson Riddle

Produced by Nick Redman and Mike Batessino

Track Listing:

1: Acknowledgment/Main Title (2:31)
2: Batmobile To Airport (2:01)
3: A Good Job (2:22)
4: Roger Wilco (2:45)
5: Just Ring/Yo Ho, Sir/Let’s Find Out (2:21)
6: Tricky Buoy (3:24)
7: Torpedoes (2:35)
8: Holy Polaris (1:01)
9: Kitka (1:13)
10: Dark Eyes (Source) (0:21)
11: Plaisir D’Amour (Source) (1:25)
12: Bruce And Kitka (0:44)
13: Shades of Smolensic (3:20)
14: Jet Umbrellas (1:50)
15: Filthy Criminals (1:34)
16: Chamber 17 (1:14)
17: Credulous Creatures/Fine Finkish Friends (2:19)
18: Dehydrated (1:36)
19: Stand Clear (2:10)
20: Flee For Your Life (2:38)
21: False Feathers/Swallow This Pill (3:19)
22: My Very Paradise (2:06)

23: The Grotto/A Stitch In Time (3:09)
24: Emergency Operation (2:55)
25: Small Craft (3:30)
26: Attack (3:23)
27: Take It In Tow (0:56)
28: Vials (4:23)
29: End Title (1:10)

Bonus Tracks

30: “Again” (2:05)
31: Submarine Battle (Edited Music) (4:37)
32: Batman Theme (0:46)



It’s quite bizarre to take a look at the climate of motion picture music that was created within the time spanning the late 1950s into the early 1970s; the gap that was bookended by the supposed falling out of the traditional symphonic score and its miraculous resurrection at the competent hands of composers such as John Williams and Jerry Goldsmith.

For a time, it seemed as if film music has grown tired of its past roots and, instead, composers and studios alike wanted to inject music with a instrumental encapsulation of the new in order to appeal to younger audiences.

Film scores weren’t hip and the need arose to make amends.

Scores that were even by in large considered classical began to include heavy doses of jazz and funk; psychedelic flare ensued on the thrumming of some inventive big band brass and, even more bizarre, through the trippy keys of an electric combo organ in a hot new form of pulse pounding music hailing from Latin roots dubbed ‘Boogaloo.’


It was in this cultural fixation of 60s groove that William Dozier’s “BATMAN” television series was born and both the Bat and the Boogaloo grew to swelling heights of popularity simultaneously midway through the decade.

For the feature film adaptation of the television show, Dozier and director Leslie Martinson saw no reason not to keep the momentum in full, glorious swing as they chose famed composer and bandleader Nelson Riddle to jump aboard the Batman-groove machine to orchestrate the movie’s score.

With a career spanning 40 years, the late Riddle had found success during his tenure at Capitol Records beginning in 1950, where he worked with fabled vocalists ranging from Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin to Johnny Mathis, Ella Fitzgerald and Nat King Cole.

After achieving acclaim from his peers, Riddle joined Frank Sinatra’s self-made label, Reprise Records, under the musical direction of Morris Stoloff in 1963. It was at this point in his career when the majority of Riddle’s work was for film and television.

Aside from writing the theme song for the hit series “Route 66” as well as music for the original “Ocean’s Eleven,” Riddle also worked steadily by scoring episodes of none other than the “BATMAN” television series. So naturally, he fit the bill as a logical choice to carry on for the movie.
 Riddle’s music for the film takes many of the tones and cues of score used in the television series and emphasizes them, pushing them to a camp zenith that the big screen could rightfully afford just as filmmakers were doing with the project itself. The score is even more of the same but it’s bigger, more theatrical.
The “Batman” movie score stands in the vein of such infectious work as Elliott Fisher’s score for “Our Man Flint” (1966) or Bob Crewe and Charles Fox’s work on the score to “Barbarella” (1968) but it does so through a zany kaleidoscope of heightened theatrically.

John Barry’s music for the “James Bond” films of the decade follows the formula with an emphasis on brass and percussion, but “Batman” takes it one step further given its self-awareness of its own absurdity as opposed to Bond’s more serious tone.

Things fly into high gear at an early start with a wonderfully extended and enriched adaptation of composer Neal Hefti’s iconic ‘Batman’ theme in “Acknowledgment/Main Title.” One can’t help but feel the blood pumping as the percussion swells, cueing the entrance of the famous title emblem while purple lights flare beside it. Given the extension, the actual theme itself seems to only appear as originally conceived twice while the remainder of the title is a combination of skittish horns and mysterioso vibes, obviously directed at the fact that this is bigger than the television show. It’s larger than life and already the music is reflecting that.

From there one of the most distinct and recognizable cues makes its debut on the album in “A Good Job” as Batman and Robin take to the skies in the Bat-Copter. This piece of music, aside from the theme itself, might very well be only other material most synonymous with the memory of the film and TV show along with the fight score used throughout the film (most notably during the submarine battle royale in the track “Attack”). This piece is given a separate amped up version for when Batman and Robin take to Gotham’s waters in the Batboat at the tail end of “Just Ring/Yo Ho, Sir/Let’s Find Out.”

Not to be outdone, the fearsome four that plague the dynamic duo in the film are given their fair share by Riddle.

I really love the triumphant tone of the score that follows the villains, however briefly, when they’re riding atop the Penguin’s jet-powered umbrellas. It’s a high flying piece once again cued most by brass (more accurately, if my ear serves me right, trombones).
There’s also what you’d call the Villain theme; that piece of woodwind work that bobs up and down whenever we see the Penguin’s pre-atomic submarine traversing through the waterways.

A lot of the score swells and there’s a lot of movement to it; it’s very cue oriented and catchy in several places; most notably the death traps and predicaments the film puts Batman and Robin in such as the magnetic buoy with oncoming torpedoes and, most certainly, the duel with the Shark that opens the film. From Batman’s reaction to the Yacht disappearing to Robin’s descent down the Bat-Ladder and every shark-body blow and stomach punch in between is mirrored in the music and the act of doing so makes fine work of increasing the tension.
There’s also another noteworthy standout with the film’s ‘Love theme’ for Bruce Wayne and Ms. Kitka; that sultry saxophone that creeps its way in when the pair make their way through the moonlit Gotham Central park or, of course, when Bruce tries to woo Kitka with an impromptu reading of Edgar Allen Poe. It’s a seductive piece of music that fits the tone of romancing the femme fatale. It works to great advantage in even creating the possibility that an actual romance was blooming even in spite of the fact that Catwoman was merely treating it as a ruse.


This same idea also works to humanize Batman himself with the source music titled “Plaisir D’Amour,” the piece performed by the songbird at one of the clubs Bruce takes Kitka to. The song is established early on as Bruce works to build the foundations of a potential relationship. Later on in the film when Kitka’s true identity is revealed, Batman takes a moment to reflect in which the song returns as a distant echo. For a film adaptation of THIS particular interpretation, that’s a very bold move to take a moment right in the height of the action and allow Batman the chance to be fleshed out musically, however small a fleshing out it actually is.

Some can rightfully argue that the score, like the film itself, is little more than a bigger version of the efforts already made in the TV show.
But there are a fair number of tracks and cues laced throughout Riddle’s score that are definitely worth acknowledging and enjoying for what they are.


As with the soundtracks to the Joel Schumacher films, this Boogaloo groove is now more or less a snapshot in time.

That doesn’t mean it isn’t a worthwhile snapshot however.

The score is most definitely worth a listen.



Nelson Riddle
Neal Hefti

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