Invaders from Mars

What Happened to the Real Score for Invaders from Mars by Ford A. Thaxton
Originally published in CinemaScore #15, 1986/1987
Text reproduced by kind permission of the editor and publisher Randall D. Larson

Invaders from Mars

Christopher Young and the Invaders from Cannon

Composer Christopher Young is, in the opinion of many, one of the most ex­citing young composers on the Hollywood scene. At the age of 28, Young has scored no less than 13 fea­ture films, among them THE POWER, DEF-CON 4, HIGH­POINT (re­plac­ing a score by John Ad­di­son), WHEELS OF FIRE, GET­TING EVEN, TOR­MENT, AVENG­ING ANGEL, NIGHT­MARE ON ELM STREET II, and his latest project for Can­non Films, Tobe Hooper’s INVADERS FROM MARS.

The film is a lavish remake of the ac­claimed late-night movie cult classic from 1953, directed with night­marish flair by the late William Cameron Men­zies. It tells the tale of a young 11 year old boy who one night looks out his window and sees an alien space­craft land in the hills behind his home. Soon there­after he discovers that his family and friends are being taken over by the invaders, and tries to warn a heedless world of the danger.

The choice of Christopher Young for the scor­ing of INVADERS FROM MARS has a rather interesting story behind it. The first com­poser that the di­rector wanted was James Horn­er, who for various reasons wasn’t avail­able. The next choice was London-based com­poser Michael Kamen, who wrote the score for THE DEAD ZONE and provided additional music for Hooper’s LIFE­FORCE. However, due to the short time allotted for scoring, it was felt by Cannon Films that a Los Ange­les-based com­poser would be a better and less costly choice, so Mr. Kamen was passed over.

It was at this point that unit pub­licist for the film, and former Varese Sara­bande Records producer, Scot W. Holton sug­gested Christopher Young to the director. After hearing some of Young’s scores and meet­ing with him, he was hired to score the film. Young knew from the start that INVAD­ERS FROM MARS would be a most difficult job, but he had no idea how much so until deep into the project.

Christopher Young was given only twenty-three days from start to fin­ish in which to write, orchestrate and record the score. The contract called for Young to turn in 15 min­utes of orchestral music and 30 min­utes or electronic score (in the end he turned in 17 minutes orchestral and 45 min­utes electronic). The first part of the score was recorded during one three-hour re­cord­ing ses­sion at the CBS/Radford record­ing studio in Holly­wood. The orchestra on this date was made up of 2 flutes, 4 horns, 3 tenor trombones, bass trombone, tuba, harp, 3 per­cus­sion­ists, piano, keyboard, syn­thesiz­er and strings. Cues recorded at this time included the Main and End ti­tles, some tender moments, and the action scenes at the film’s climax. The players had a hard time playing some of the cues due to the complex writing, however they did get every­thing done on time to the expert con­ducting of Paul Francis Witt. The style, as the director wished, was some­what reminiscent of Jerry Gold­smith.

The electronic portions of the score were recorded in a very inter­esting way. Young had decided to score a number of the scenes dealing with the aliens and their space­craft in a “musique concrete” style, using such natural sounds as drill presses, water­falls, and crowd noises. Over these sounds he mixed a number of acoustic instru­ments with lots of percus­sion, which he then re­pro­cessed through tape recording and syn­the­sizers to get an effect that reminds one of a cross between Gil Melle’s AN­DRO­MEDA STRAIN and the Ligeti music that was used in 2001 A SPACE ODYSSEY. The final effect was very chil­ling and worked wonders in the film. Christopher Young was very happy with the score he turned in, and according to sources close to Tobe Hooper, the director was over­joyed with the music, calling it “the best.”

Chr Young INVADERS MARS session by Eric Lasher

It was at this point that the real trouble began

Young noticed the first sign of prob­lems when he was hired. At that time, Hooper was already in deep pre­production on his next film, and had very little time to talk to Young. In fact, they could only get together for a single meeting to spot the film, and this only for the first six reels. Then the post-production staff at Cannon Films took over and began to change their minds about

the direction of the music. When the film had a temp-track laid onto it, the total amount of music came to 76 minutes. The post-production staff thought that Young couldn’t provide enough much for the film, so another composer was hired — David Storrs, who had worked at Cannon scoring var­ious parts of their “Previews of Com­ing At­trac­tions.”

When Young turned in his score, the post-production staff did not care for the elec­tron­ic music at all. According to one source at Cannon, “They didn’t like it be­cause it didn’t sound anything like the temp track music they put in after he had started writing the score. Also, some of the people just couldn’t un­derstand it.” At this point, Storrs was told to provide more music like the temp-track.   During the dubbing, neither Hooper nor Young were avail­able to attend the final dubbing ses­sion, and when dubbing was finished, only about a third of Young’s or­ches­tral score remained and almost none of his electronic score. When the film was re­viewed by Variety, it got a very bad review, and the writer went out of his way to point out that the score wasn’t very good, and of course blamed Christopher Young. It’s worth noting that as the credits stand now, Young’s name is seen dur­ing the Main Titles and Storr’s ap­pear during the end credits.

Shortly before going to press, we con­tacted Young and asked him his feelings about this matter. He replied: “While they may not have used my electronic score, I’m very happy with what I gave them, and in many ways it was some of the best mu­sic I’ve done to date. “A number of the musicians who played on it, as well as others who’ve heard it, feel that it’s my best work, and I hope perhaps some­day the public will get a chance to hear it.”

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