CD: Postman Always RIngs Twice, The (1981)

August 7, 2012 | By

Return toHome Soundtrack  Reviews / P to R


Rating: Excellent

Label: Intrada/ Released: May 14, 2012

Tracks & Album Length: 27 tracks / (60:20)


Special Notes: 16-page booklet with liner notes / Limited Edition.


Composer: Michael Small




Not unlike Jerry Fielding (The Mechanic) or Alex North (Dragonslayer [M]), the music of Michael Small is sometimes impenetrable when separated from film – complex, non-melodic, and often written to capture the psychologies of characters rather than direct screen action – and while his Postman Always Rings Twice contains a love theme and short character motifs, this isn’t an easy score to digest.

Even a glance at his C.V. reveals non-commercial projects involving political conspiracies, ghosts, hired drivers, mysteries, and relationship studies, and that background made Small a natural for film noir, if not pulp thrillers, because his music transcends conventions and adds layers of psychological sophistication to scenes that would otherwise move along according to standard clichés.

The most striking quality of Postman is the way Small shifts moods so effortlessly within singular cues, such as the grim dissonance and high optimism in “Going to Chicago,” with little gestures that evoke classical Americana writing; or the deft shading within the dour / reassuring “Fuse Box,” including the slight ethnic instrumentation. While most cues tend to emphasize conflict, there are rare exceptions of sunny humanity, particularly “Thinking of Cora,” which offers a full love theme statement and some respite from all the grey colours that permeate the score.

Perhaps because many cues never rest on any full theme statement or progress in a traditional, classical style, it’s easy for a listener to envision the emotional and character conflicts without having seen the film, and get a sense of the subtext that Small worked into the score – jealousy, passion, longing, murderous thoughts and desperate actions.

Intrada’s CD features two programmes, of which the first – the original score – is the strongest and most complete. Running 43 mins., Small’s score is a small masterpiece of greasy noir and pitiful behaviour, and a fine example of a musical brilliance few filmmakers dared to include in their work. Small should’ve scored more films in his career, but the quality of the projects (Jaws: The Revenge, Mobsters) weren’t always the best, and perhaps like North and Fielding, his music was regarded as too non-commercial, if not inaccessible.

The CD’s second programme features a mix of alternate cues either recorded for an aborted soundtrack album or unused in the film, plus two classical pieces. The mastering from 3-track tapes is superb, and like Small’s breakthrough score, Klute (1971), repeat listens just keep revealing further details in this small masterpiece.



© 2012 Mark R. Hasan


External References:

IMDB Soundtrack AlbumComposer Filmography


Return toHome Soundtrack Reviews P to R

Tags: , ,

Category: Soundtrack Reviews

Comments are closed.