In 2000 one of my first Amazon purchases was the Rhino collection “Brain In A Box: The Science Fiction Collection”. I know exactly why I had to buy it, and it’s not because I’m a science-fiction nut (even though I kinda am), but because the set promised to include a blueprint for a lightsaber. What the set came with was five discs of music - Movie Themes, TV Themes, Pop, Incidental/Lounge, and Novelty - as well as a book about sci-fi movies, television and music through the ages. What it didn’t come with was a blueprint for a lightsaber. Sonofa.
It came in a cool cardboard box with a tin lid that had lenticular images inset in three of the four sides that gave the appearance of a floating brain in a box. One thing Rhino has always done well is nifty packaging.
Now, the whole lightsaber thing kinda ticked me off, and my music sensibilities being what they were, I was less than impressed (though enthused early on) by the collection. To be honest I don’t recall the last time I listened to any of the discs. 2001 maybe (fitting!), but I’ve toted the brain in a box around from apartment to apartment, and it’s only in the recent move to the new home that I’ve decided it’s time to let this sucker go. To be honest, I should have given it to GAK (should he have wanted it for RFGAK purposes) when he popped through NoYo back in December but I didn’t, so now it’s going on the market and there’s no way I’m getting the $100 (US) back that I paid for it (warning, faulty memory).
As for the Movie Themes disc, it’s not what you’d call smooth listening. A rich assembly of 28 different movie tracks, mostly cinematic orchestral in nature, big and bombastic, inspiring awe and doom, wonder and tension. They’re all pretty transparent and a bit of a blur, quite frankly, with very few standing out enough to really make you listen. Those that do are the better known ones, or those that do something aside from booming orchestra.
The epic 2001: A Space Odyssey introduction is probably the most notable track, whileJohn Williams lands two tracks for E.T. and Close Encounters (which sound like, well, John Williams tracks) and Jerry Goldsmith’s keen Planet of the Apes theme is here too. Leonard Rosenman’s minimalist, intense Fantastic Voyage main title theme (preceded by the FV radio trailer, neat!) is perhaps not pleasing but a standout track, and soon follows the Andromeda Strain “Desert Trip” theme which is hands down my favourite track in the collection.
Robocop, Aliens, Terminator 2, The Matrix, Predator all make an appearance, but of modern films, I think the Mars Attacks title conducted by Artie Kane (but so obviously a Danny Elfman composition), with its retro theremin usage is the most enjoyable (and fares better than most of the actual 50’s sci-fi themes).
Next: TV Themes.