Feb 8, 2011

Elvis Mitchell on John Barry: 1933-2011

"Even in Barry’s Wolves music, he doesn’t simply romanticize Kevin Costner’s Vision/Quest, the cinematic version of a dreamcatcher hanging on a pick-up truck’s rearview mirror. Rather, the Wolves score invokes a white-knuckled (I know — a redundancy in Costner’s case) grab for a world that’s dissipating before Costner’s eyes. It’s that etude for the brawny Old World that works for so many of Barry’s guy’s-guy scores, such as the muscularly seductive opening credits music for The Ipcress File... Barry’s elegiac songwriting made him the leading proponent of the dimming-of-the-light subgenre: They Might Be Giants, The Last Valley Monte Walsh andRobin and Marian all belonged to the self-conscious passing of masculinity into myth niche. Barry’s playful, yet mournful Robin and Marian — in which Sean Connery is a spiritually exhausted Robin Hood the same age as Russell Crowe’s in last year’s Robin Hood — has a knowing beauty." — Elvis Mitchell, Movieline
And the best of the Bonds? Diamonds Are Forever (despite being one of the worst of the films). I have never personally destroyed a fully operational oil rig wearing scuba gear and armed with nothing more than a harpoon, but thanks to Barry's music — an impossibly exciting mixture of pounding timpani, briskly skipping snares, muscular horns and thrillingly vertiginous flute-and-glockenspiel glissandos — I have a good idea of what emotions might be best suited to such an occasion. It's one of my favorite pieces of martial exhortation, along with Ron Goodwin's theme for Where Eagles Dare and John Williams' Imperial March. I defy anyone to listen to it and not feel the immediate urge to drop what they are doing, head out the door and enlist.


  1. My favourite Barry theme is The Persuaders. Pity the show is fairly ropey.

  2. Among the Bonds, I always preferred the ominous, melancholy, yet still exciting title track from "On Her Majesty's Secret Service."

    But now you've got that "Diamonds Are Forever" theme stuck in my head too! Among the Barry riches, who can really choose?