A Remembrance of CinemaScore

1987 Cinemascore #15I’m somewhat of an historian, at least with my own life. I’ve kept a journal since December 14, 1985, my senior year in high school, when the events surrounding my first girlfriend and the demise of our relationship were so intriguing I had to write them down. Throughout my journal’s almost eleven years of existence film music has appeared regularly. Often I would mention the CDs I had purchased, not out of some obsessive compulsive need to keep track, but because as we all know, music can play a part in conjuring up nostalgia. You know, hearing a song on the radio that bittersweetly reminds you of a certain junior high school dance where the most unpopular girl in school turned you down for a dance. A-hem. I’m married now – I’m over that.

I remember my first trip to Intrada (then known as Cine Monde) some Saturday in May 1983. What a splendid discovery! I stumbled upon soundtracks such as FIRST BLOOD that I never knew existed. I finally got my copy of THE TOWERING INFERNO and HOW TO STEAL A MILLION! As I was paying and having the honor of breaking the news to proprietor Doug Fake that RETURN OF THE JEDI was a one-LP set ( “I think I’ m going to hit someone,” he remarked), I noticed the rack of film music publications: numerous back issues of Soundtrack! and the current issue of CinemaScore (no. 11/12).

I wanted to buy one. I was told CinemaScore was the more interesting of the publications, so I went with that. It was the one with the yellow cover, featuring the cast of RETURN OF THE JEDI. Little did I know the nostaligic niche this issue (and all the others) would take in my film music past.

That night around 1:00 a.m., one of our local TV stations on their “Creature Features” program was airing THE MEPHISTO WALTZ, which I had not seen before. I opted to tape it, even if films like that are better viewed at 1:00 a.m. Sunday morning, I cued up the video tape and sat in front of the TV in my pajamas, ready to watch a film I would thoroughly dislike. But while scanning through the commercials, something jumped out at me. The cover of the CinemaScore journal I had just bought was on screen! Very strange, especially considering I had the CinemaScore next to me.

I backed up the tape, and found the reason: writer/editor/publisher Randall Larson of CinemaScore was the guest on “Creature Features,” and during the breaks was being interviewed about CinemaScore and Goldsmiths’s score for THE MEPHISTO WALTZ. As much as I am loyal to Soundtrack!, I have to admit, I loved CinemaScore from the moment I opened it. It was my first exposure to information about film music: other collector’s comments, thoughts, reviews, and composer interviews. So much information was packed into this one issue.

I loved Larson’s style of writing and his clever format. I loved such features as “The Vintage Score” (and led me to discover D.O.A.); his score review section, highlighting music not available on record or CD; interviews with Lee Holdridge, Brian May, James Horner, and Jerry Goldsmith; the sounds of TRON; and a plethora of CD reviews. I discovered so much in this issue and I read it and reread it over and over and over.

The focus of the journal always emphasized the fantastic, which from the late 70s through mid-80s was an exciting time for film music. James Homer and Chris Young were getting their start in the low-budget sci-fi and horror genres. Pino Donaggio and Brian May were active then, with their respective scores to DRESSED TO KILL and MAD MAX catching some attention. This was a time when recording with non-union or overseas orchestras was common in B-films, and electronics had yet to consume the low end of film production. As a result, many young composers were able to create some ingenious, orchestral scores… an opportunity less common now.

CinemaScore had been started by Lawson and Lance Hill around 1978. The first eight issues were in newsletter format. Number 8’s cover featured a letter from Lawson, apologizing and pronouncing the discontinuance of CinemaScore. Then issue nine showed up, in a digest format (the only one), under the helm of Randall Larson. The subsequent four issues took the form of a full-sized journal. As I was getting deeper into soundtrack collecting, CinemaScore proved an amazing and effervescent companion, with an obvious love and devotion to film music. (Unlike its contemporary publication, Film Score Monthly, where everyone seems to have an ax to grind or a chip on their shoulder). This journal was my guide. Reading this publication fueled my passion for film music.

True, it was weak in the realm of news, scoring assignments, new release information, and a reliable publication schedule, but it made up for it with a multitude of dynamic features. Alas, Larson’s extreme commitments lead to the aforementioned erratic publication schedule and ultimate demise, but the remaining two issues were even more impressive. The final issue (#15) was a 160-page giant, featuring a red cover with the cast of LEGEND. It gave LEGEND quite a bit of coverage, including a very candid interview with Goldsmith. Here is one question regarding the rejected score to LEGEND:

CinemaScore: I read somewhere that he [Ridley Scott] said, “I hope Jerry can forgive me.” Do you?
Goldsmith: I read that. No, I don’t forgive him. Why should I forgive him?

It was a sad moment when Larson folded up shop. We lost perhaps the finest film music publication (our own Luc Van de Ven’s only criticism of this gem was the small size of its print).

So, I take this opportunity to remember a dear old departed friend – CinemaScore for being my companion when it was all a new universe that I was discovering and to Randall Larson for keeping it alive as long as he could. Film music appreciation is much better for it.

Crossfade by Roger Feigelson
Originally published in Soundtrack! The Collector’s Quarterly Vol.15/No.60, 1996
Text reproduced by kind permission of the editor, Luc Van de Ven and Roger Feigelson