CD: Dunston checks in (1996)

November 18, 2010 | By

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Rating: Very Good

Label: La-La Land Records / Released: Sept. 14, 2010

Tracks & Album Length: 13 tracks / (57:00)


Special Notes: 20-page colour booklet with liner notes by Daniel Schweiger / Limited to 1200 copies


Composer: Miles Goodman




Troma founder Lloyd Kaufman firmly believes monkey’s are funny (‘they just are’), which is ahighly subjective stance because not everyone is compelled to giggle when an orangutan makes facial gestures, sputters, or creates utter chaos in an orderly human environment, like the ritzy hotel that’s the central location in director Ken Kwapis’ screwball comedy, Dunston checks in(1996).

Miles Goodman’s brilliant writing was giddily evident in his frothy jazz score for Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988), so for film music fans, his name ensures energetic, musical sophistication, but a movie with monkey antics is a bit of a tougher sell for skeptics.

The best approach for non-believers of Kaufman’s rule is to forget Dunston is about a primate stealing valuables in a hotel, and just regard Goodman’s vividly comedic score as a lengthy narrative about exotic disorder, worming its way through various musical styles.

Most of the cues feature energetic instrumentation, but “Main Title” interestingly recalls Elmer Bernstein’s use of a piano to capture the film’s early scenes of calm and gentility, whereas delicate interplay between rippling piano and flute close the film on similarly warm-hearted vibes in the opening bars of “Sweet Dunston.”

The lengthy “Monkey Capers” is more emotive of direct screen action, but the light Latin touches and Goodman’s discrete use of synthetic metal twangs are more amusing than cloying. Jungle drums and various wooden taps and rattles goose Goodman’s 5-note motif for the ape’s mischievous nature, which is expressed in a step-like intro.

Many of the album’s cues are quite long, and were likely designed to cover elaborate montages of wackiness, but instead of feeling like mickey-mouse music, Goodman’s score congeals into a small symphonic work, and at nearly an hour long, it manages to hold its own and engage the listener without a sense of being manipulated.

The CD’s mastering is excellent, as is the cue sequencing that balances orchestral material with exotic cuts like as “Man and Monkey,” and “Food Fight” with its fleeting Bossa Nova intro and quotations. Daniel Schweiger’s liner notes include comments from director Kwapis and musician Oscar-Castro Neves, and Schweiger’s affection for this marginalized score ensure his cue dissections are genuinely appreciative.



© 2010 Mark R. Hasan


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