“The River Wild (The Unused Score)”
Soundtrack Album Review
Music By Maurice Jarre
Also Contains “The Replacement River Wild Score” Music By Jerry Goldsmith
Featuring “The Water Is Wide” Performed By The Cowboy Junkies
Intrada Special Collection Vol.301
Disc 1/Goldsmith Score – 35 Tracks/Disc Time: 78:52
Disc 2/Jarre Score – 39 Tracks/Disc Time: 76:06
Grade: B- (Jarre Score Rating)
In the Fall of 1994, the action-thriller “The River Wild” finally was released after being slated to be released during the Summer but was derailed by poor test screenings which resulted in a change of composers and a new release date in the process. The film stars two-time Oscar Winner Meryl Streep as Gail, an expert rafter and wilderness guide who takes her family (David Straithearn and Joseph Cross) on a vacation when they meet two charming criminals (Kevin Bacon and John C.Reilly) on the run. Soon their vacation turns into a nightmare as they take them hostage as part of their escape. But Gail and her husband use their personal knowledge of nature to take them head on in a very intense climax.
The film originally featured a complete recorded score by the late Oscar Winning composer Maurice Jarre, who the studio felt his music didn’t fit the intense approach the film had and in particular the film’s climax. So as a last minute hail mary, Oscar Winner Jerry Goldsmith was hired to re-score the film at the suggestion of Director Curtis Hanson, who he wanted to work with in the past. Goldsmith was definitely no stranger to last minute rescues with his Oscar nominated score to “Chinatown” being his most famous along with his harrowing, “Air Force One” also being amongst his most popular. The approach to this score is drastically different than Jarre’s which is more suspense and action oriented than Jarre’s expansive nature influenced work. Goldsmith also utilized the traditional song, “The Water Is Wide” as part of the fabric of his score to good effect. Jarre’s original intensions for this film was rather than emphasize the suspense thriller aspects upfront, he wrote a score that respected nature and the surroundings that Streep’s character was knowledgeable of in going against the villains of the film. Jarre’s score also does feature suspense and action, but more as shock and surprise more than anything else. which do work. The score which has now pretty much become a legend and part of a group of a handful of scores that Jarre would have rejected during the 1990’s that also included “White Squall”, “Jennifer Eight” and “First Knight” which ironically was also rescored by the late Jerry Goldsmith a year after this film was released among them.
“The Bridge” opens the original score with a bit of pastorial and tranquil music that then builds to a beautiful sweeping, lush theme that features Jarre’s trademark percussion rumbles and melodic orchestrations that continues in the following track “We All Go”, that features a lovely clarinet solo. “Wade Overboard” is the first big Jarre piece that sets up what would be the grand operatic nature of his score focusing on both the danger and the beauty of the surroundings. Big brass, percussion and sweeping strings gives the sense of musical tranquility and excitement for the journey along the river. This cue would set up the fierce and suspenseful action material which is featured in the following track “The Stakes Got Just Got Higher” with it’s brooding woodwinds including the shakachi flute and percussion and later on, “The Cliff”, “Ranger Danger”, “Raft In Trouble”, “Hold On” and the harrowing climax, “The Gauntlet”, which like Jerry Goldsmith’s version also suffered through discontent with its’ producers despite how effective each version was. Pounding percussion, dissonant brass, piano and aggressive string work building the suspense higher and higher with each note over its’ 9:29 running time, that is a major highlight of the score and with good reason. “Final Fight” which concludes the film starts off optimistically with some airy strings and harp and quickly shifts to rumbling percussion and brass mixed with electronic clusters mixed with a distorted piano to a final suspenseful end.
The score ends the same way that Goldsmith’s would with lush treatment of the main theme in the “Reunion And Finale” which is edited into the The Cowboy Junkies song, “The Water Is Wide” which Goldsmith would use as his inspiration for his score and not Jarre’s for the most part. It really is an interesting and fitting end to this score in that it didn’t utilize this material so heavily as the replacement score would due to time constraints. Jarre really did do his best to write something original which would’ve probably worked if everyone was on the same page about the music and the film itself which was originally credited to three writers, but in the end was only credited to the original writer himself. So that gives you an idea about how unsure of the film everyone was.
Intrada’s two disc set features not only Maurice Jarre’s complete score, but also Goldsmiths effort that the film was released with. It’s a fascinating case of comparing two scores for a film that was problematic to say the least with the studio heads not really liking either score in the end despite the films’ marginal success at the box office. Maurice Jarre’s score is a very solid one but one that really what the producers or director had felt or captured the essence of the action of the film. Not that Jarre’s effort was a bad one which clearly wasn’t, but Goldsmith’s had more of what the producers wanted and that is to emphasize suspense and action. Goldsmith definitely got that right without question. Jarre’s score while being masterful for what it is, just simply didn’t fit the final cut of the film the producers felt was worthy to release. It’s to no fault of Jarre in that sense. The River Wild isn’t one of Jarre’s best action scores, but it really is a very entertaining one that works that works on its’ own merits and for a film that at times really unworthy of both Jarre and Goldsmith’s efforts. Very strong thumbs up.