Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Unforgettable Use of Music in a Movie

Today I thought I would do something a little different and lengthy. Sometimes a musical score can make or break a movie. While watching a movie the other night it got me to thinking of some unforgettable moments in a movie where a well placed song just hit you right in the guts. I'm not talking yer basic orchestral scores even though the work of say John Williams, Danny Elfman or even John Carpenter (Halloween, creepiest score ever) has been brilliant. We're just talking your basic song here. There happen to be three movies where a song was placed in just the right place as to send shivers down your spine, even though you may have heard it a hundred times before. These are the three songs from a movie that really stand out for me.

My number 1 pick is hands down the best use of any song in any movie. The movie is the remake of Dawn of the Dead. Before I go on let me say this before I get attacked by hardcore Romero fans. This is not a movie review. I know you hardliners thought it was sacrilege that someone should remake the excellent original. I know you hate it that the zombies run, which you think makes it less scary, although I like the running zombies. This is about the well placed use of the Johnny Cash song, The Man Comes Around.

The film opens with a nurse finishing her shift at the hospital. We hear talk of a bite patient and then Sarah the nurse drives home. She sees her cute little neighbor kid as she arrives home. She has some shower sex with the hubby (thereby missing the news on the TV about the zombies) In the morning all hell is breaking loose, neighbor girl kills hubby, hubby comes back as a zombie in thirty seconds and tries to kill Sarah. As Sarah flees the house and jumps in the car, she sees the neighborhood going to hell and with zombie hubby hot on her tail she speeds away. As she drives along she is witness to all kinds of mayhem and she eventually crashes and passes out. The opening credits start and so does the song. The Man Comes Around by ole John Cash. As the song plays, the credits are interspersed with scenes of zombies, riots, injured people and press conferences. The opening scene is over the top intense and being that the song is about the end of the world so to speak it fits perfectly. As the opening credits close out, the spoken words at the end of the song make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck and you get little chill bumps.

And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts
And I looked and behold, a pale horse
And it's name it said on him was Death
And Hell followed with him.

Damn, now that's what I'm talkin' bout. You know you're in for a good movie. And I enjoyed it immensely. I'm one of the few Romero fans who enjoyed the remake as much as the original. So listen to the song and think about zombies taking over the earth. It works pretty good. I seem to think I heard this song in another movie, but try as I might I just can't remember it.

My second pick comes from the movie Philadelphia. When I first saw this movie I was a little perturbed in that it seemed like the film was trying too hard to make you break down and start bawling your head off. Actually it kind of got on my nerves, ok we get it sad movie, you want us to cry. I didn't even think it was a particularly good movie. What I wasn't expecting was the end of the film when every one gathers for Andy's funeral and the home movies are playing while Neil Young's song Philadelphia plays. I'm a sucker for Neil Young anyway and the film finally succeeded and made me cry like a damn baby. The song is so melancholy and dark and it fit perfectly for that sequence and even since the first time it still has that effect on me. I will never forgive you Mr. Springsteen for stealing that Academy Award away from Neil.

Now my third Pick comes from an unlikely source and is a song I've heard thousands of times since it first appeared in the seventies. In fact it had been used in several movies including Dazed and Confused, Rock Star and most recently Superbad. The song is Ted Nugent's Stranglehold from the movie Invincible starring Mark Wahlberg as that dude who tried out for the Eagles in 1976 when they held open tryouts. The song makes it's appearance during the last big game on the Eagle's home field. The action goes to slo mo and Stranglehold kicks in and it really captures the moment and just punches you in the gut. In fact while we were watching Mrs. Homercat says " My god what is that song it's awesome." I really didn't want to tell her because she can't stand Ted Nugent. Be it the music or the man she loathes him. Usually if a Nuge song comes on she'll ask if we can go to the next one. I told her and she wondered why I hadn't ever played that particular Nugent tune for her. She still doesn't like Uncle Ted, but she loves that song.

Now many might not agree with these picks or you may have a better use that mayhap I've forgotten about. Feel free to let me know if I've missed the boat but in the meantime here are my picks.

The Man Comes Around by Johnny Cash
Philadelphia by Neil Young
Stranglehold by Ted Nugent

Funny Toon


Anonymous said...

I don't know how old this post is, but I couldn't agree with you more about Invincible and Stranglehold. I love Stranglehold, but usually hate football. Put these two together just at the right moment and it was totally awesome!!!!!

Anonymous said...

I believe Stranglehold to be the creation of Derek St. Holmes (vocals are Derek's, too) who played with Ted in the 1970s. Give credit where credit is due.

Anonymous said...

Just noticed that Volkswagen is presently (2012) using Stranglehold in their current commercial.