One of the most important responsibilities tasked to me as a film music writer is weeding through the multitude of newly commissioned scores and vintage soundtrack releases in search of "diamonds-in-the-rough" struggling to earn its audience. With so much film music infiltrating an already narrow niche market, it can be a daunting and tedious task directing the spotlight toward oft-forgotten scores that deserve commendation. It helps tremendously when a soundtrack label has the vision to make an exceptional score available even though there is no perceived demand for its release.
There's no better example of this than BSX Records' recent soundtrack of Robert Folk's score for Beastmaster 2: Through The Portal Of Time (1991). It's been a long time since I've seen the film and I doubt if it was ever truly on my radar for repeat viewing. I couldn't tell you one thing about the score from memory, nor could I even remember if it was worth listening to.
Well… It is. Unless you formed an unbreakable nostalgic bond for this quirky movie when it came out, chances are you're not likely to stumble upon it or its masterful score.
The sequel to Don Coscarelli's The Beastmaster (1982), Beastmaster 2: Through The Portal of Time sees the return of Marc Singer as the fantastical hero Dar who has the gift of speaking to animals. He is forced to travel to present-day Earth through a time portal in order to stop his evil brother from stealing an atomic bomb. Everything about this movie oozes a level of absurdity typical in cinema throughout the 1980s and into the '90s. Even the artwork poses a barbarian-clad blonde-maned Singer standing along side a Bengal tiger as a cherry-red convertible speeds through the time portal in the background. Whether this off-kilter brand of absurdist cinema is your cup-of-tea or not, it would be wholly disgraceful to dismiss the music as being anything less than a minor-masterpiece.
Dr. Robert Folk (yes, he holds a doctorate from the Julliard School of Music in New York City) is no stranger to the world of film music. His work can be heard in a variety of films including Police Academy (1984) and its subsequent sequels, Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls (1995), and more recently There Be Dragons (2011). While I've long been an admirer of his work, nothing quite tops my admiration for what he composed for Beastmaster 2.
The music is compositionally robust and full of orchestral color. It parallels the brass and string-writing acrobatics of John Williams with the guttural fortitude of Basil Poledouris. Sporting infectious melodies supported by a fluent harmonic language reminiscent of the greatest fantasy-adventure scores, Folk's music is also richly emotional steeping with narrative value. It's infinitely above-and-beyond the quality of score a film like Beastmaster 2 deserves; however, this as a characteristic common amongst films from the 1980s through the early 90s. The tent pole "Dar The Hero" is impressive enough by itself to sway the most stubborn doubters. Check out the rousing "Swamp Creature Attacks" as well. You can't let a computer write this stuff for you. This is pure unadulterated compositional talent!
BSX Records is on a role regarding the release of forgotten scores that may not have ever been on any film music fan's radar. Earlier this summer they released Richard Stone's score for Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat (1989) which is a film I had never seen nor heard of prior to the release of the soundtrack. Upon first listen I was befuddled and utterly delighted by what I heard. "Where have you been all my life?," I asked myself. I felt the same way listening to Folk's score for Beastmaster 2.
For more information including a complete track listing and audio samples check out BSX Records web site.