BR: Basil Poledouris – His Life and Music (1997)

August 30, 2015 | By


BasilPoledourisHisLifeAndMusic_VHSFilm: Very Good

Transfer:  Very Good

Extras:  n/a

Label:  Twilight Time

Region: All

Released:  August 11, 2015

Genre:  Documentary / Film Music

Synopsis: Candid portrait of film composer Basil Poledouris, discussing his career at home and in his studio, circa 1997, during the completion of Paul Verhoeven’s “Starship Troopers.”

Special Features:   n/a




Back in 1997, film music magazine Film Score Monthly (FSM) had launched the first volume in what became their only entry in the branded Film Composer Interview Series, and the roughly 50 min. doc provides a rare homey snapshot of Basil Poledouris, a name probably unknown to most unless the titles The Blue Lagoon (1980), Conan the Barbarian (1982), Robocop (1987), and Lonesome Dove (1989) are dropped – perhaps his most well-known credits in film and TV.

A graduate of USC, film major Poledouris eventually switched to composing and received major career boosts when former classmates John Milius and Randal Kleiser called on him to write bog orchestral scores for Conan and Lagoon, respectively, going against the grain (and budgets) of studios who probably preferred smaller-scaled music scores with maybe some synthetic material instead.

As Poledouris says early in the first of many lengthy interview segments, he studied classical romantic music, became disenchanted and focused on film directing instead of composing, earned a living as an extra, swung back to composing, and ultimately became known for writing large orchestral scores which ironically featured gorgeous romantic themes, especially when written for stories involving voyages, ships, or water-borne tales.

The man could write a great theme, and although he died at the age of 61 in 2006, he left behind a huge body of fine music in multiple genres, fusing orchestral and electronics or sometimes going full electronic (as in the pulse-pounding No Man’s Land). He was a consummate professional and very humble yet succinct in articulating his craft, and while the doc is now bittersweet, functioning as a memoriam, it provides a very candid, private profile of a marvelous composer with a filmography boasting 80+ credits.

Executive produced by FSM’s Lukas Kendall, produced by a pre-Twilight Time Nick Redman, written by film music scholar Jon Burlingame, and directed by Michael Rosendale, FSM’s doc was originally released on VHS, and was recently included on TT’s 2015 Blu-ray edition of Kleiser’s Summer Lovers (1982).

The doc was filmed while Poledouris was wrapping up mixing Starship Troopers (1997), his other great score for Paul Verhoeven, after Robocop. Glimpses of the composer at work and at play on his sailing boat with wife Bobbie buffer talking head interview material, plus a trove of stills from the composer’s USC days and early childhood.

Virtually all of the music excerpts are piano solos performed by the composer, and while some fans may have preferred actual score extracts and film clips, the solos downscale the doc to a more personal level, letting Poledouris’ hands literally recount career steps using his favourite instrument. Daughter Zoe (who contributed a song to Troopers) appears near the end, showing Poledouris as a supportive and proud father, teacher, and fan.

One does see a few quick clips from Troopers, playing from Poledouris’ home studio setup, and a few conducting shots from (presumably) additional scoring sessions, although no orchestral music is heard.

Content-wise the doc is very solid – with the exception of occasional making-of featurettes on prior DVDs, Poledouris has never been profiled in such detail – although some montages (edited on a D Vision platform) are a little clunky. The visuals are fine, and the full screen SD transfer is decent, with the film clocking in at 48 mins. (The VHS running time on the IMDB is listed at 50 mins., which may be an error, or an indication some material may have been trimmed due to rights issues.)

Poledouris was also filmed in July of 2006 conducting music from his best-known work in the concert video Tribute to Basil Poledouris, from Quartet Records via a limited 2009 DVD release. The disc’s bonus material includes interviews, short docs, and a separate remembrance piece, forming a bookend to FSM’s noble and short-lived interview series.



© 2015 Mark R. Hasan



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Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review

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