I love the work of composers Jerry Goldsmith and John Barry. They produced so many beautiful scores over the course of their careers. So imagine my delight when I recently realized that each of them created two sublime pieces of music for 1979 sci-fi films. Their music has gone on to become absolute classics, and I’d like to share them with you.
If you love films, you’re definitely well-acquainted with Jerry Goldsmith’s work. He’s no stranger to science fiction, having scored the original Planet of the Apes in 1968 and many other subsequent masterpieces. In 1979, he reached new heights of greatness when he scored a couple of films that were elevated immensely by his beautiful scores.
I don’t believe this exact piece of music made it into the theatrical cut of Alien, but oddly enough it’s instantly recognizable as the main theme of the film. The actual music that plays over the main titles is much creepier and unsettling. This music balances its heroic theme and more frightening elements, showing that the heroes are under attack by some outside alien threat that could easily overtake them. There’s a major feeling of foreboding and unknown terror permeating these notes.
Star Trek: The Motion Picture
Ilia’s Theme plays as an overture before the film proper begins. It sets the right mood of romance and longing twinged with hope and excitement for what comes next. Star Trek: The Motion Picture is all about exploring the unknown while trusting that mankind will solve the problem it’s facing, no matter how daunting it seems. The piece above, which plays over the end credits, is a seamless blend of the film’s main heroic theme and Ilia’s Theme.
Perhaps most famous as the man who gave James Bond his signature sound for more than two decades, John Barry did plenty of other memorable work. My favorites of his include Somewhere in Time and Dances with Wolves. The following two film scores he produced in 1979 are also among his absolute best.
The Black Hole
Like Star Trek: The Motion Picture, The Black Hole has a memorable overture the plays before it. Rather than setting the tone for the film, like Ilia’s Theme, this overture promises action and excitement, which doesn’t really start until about two-thirds of the way through the film. While I like that piece of music, the dark waltz that plays over the main title does a much better job cluing us into what type of film we’re about to watch. It’s full of mystery and intrigue, and it feels like it’s spinning us around and pulling us deeper and deeper into something dreadful. I love every second of it.
Most of Moonraker sounds like a typical James Bond movie. That all changes when they finally get into space. Suddenly, a sense of awe engulfs the soundtrack. Something about outer space commands respect because it’s such a huge leap to leave our home planet and venture forth into the least-hospitable environment imaginable. Even a movie as lighthearted and fun as Moonraker feels positively transcendent as this haunting melody plays over its scenes of space travel.
Jerry Goldsmith and John Barry had long careers, and they may have had similar overlaps like this over the years. But I just think it’s so cool that they both managed to score two sci-fi films with overtures at the start and two that were continuations of long-running series.
1979 was a big year for science fiction because Hollywood was struggling to catch up to Star Wars before its first sequel came out in 1980. Other studios didn’t want to compete directly against The Empire Strikes Back, and they were wise to avoid doing that. Their rush to finish everything a year early gave us a glut of great movies and music to boot.
This is the Deja Reviewer bidding you farewell until we meet again.
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