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Raise The Titanic



Raise The Titanic (1980)

John Barry 

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A John Barry Classic
timdalton007 (September 14, 2007)
Raise The Titanic seems to be the perfect example of what happened to John Barry throughout the 1980's. Barry would create a magnificent score full of lush themes that would be amongst the best of his career. Yet, that score would be for a film that would end up being a box-office flop. This is always a shame because this score is a true Barry classic.

The opening Prelude theme is arguably Barry at his finest. It is loud, triumphant, and even celebratory. The theme celebrates the triumph and celebration that Titanic was for the world in 1912. When the theme is applied to the black and white still photographs seen in the film, it almost brings them to life. This is a theme, but not the main theme of the score.

That goes to the main title theme. Whereas the Prelude theme celebrates the triumph Titanic was then, this theme is just the opposite. As the film flashes forward to the 1980's with the Titanic at the bottom of the ocean and then to the Russian Arctic the does the theme. The theme brings the darkness, skepticism and fear that have come to be in the years between the two eras to life inside a piece of music. The theme also serves as the mystery/search theme heard throughout much of the film, proving the theme's versatility. As it covers most of the score it's hard to find a piece of the score that doesn't feature some echo of this theme.

The other major theme is a reminiscence theme introduced in a scene with Alec Guinness character and later used once Richard Jordan's Dirk Pitt explores the raised Titanic. If the Prelude theme celebrates the triumph that the ship was in 1912 and if the Main Title theme is the musical equivalent to the response to the tragedy, then this theme would be the nostalgia theme. From Guinness memories of the ship as it was to the tour of the ship's faded splendor, Barry captures what we see as the legacy of the Titanic. The piece is about a dream of what Titanic, and indeed the world, once was. It is a slow sentimental piece, the exploration reprisal featuring the echoes of the era with a saxophone and then announcing the return with a celebratory triumph and the flag is hoisted on the stern.

In terms of action music, this is incredibly light. There is only piece of action music in the entire score after all. It comes during a sequence fairly early in the film where a geologist is chased by a Russian guard and his attack dog. The theme is sudden, loud, booming, and incredibly quick. IT is a short and exciting cue to say the least and it is one of Barry's better non-007 action cues.

The Prelude theme returns for the final quarter of the film. It returns in full fore as the ship breaks the surface again. The theme celebrates not just the triumph that was the ship's birth, but now the triumph of its resurrection as well. The theme continues as the resurrection leads to a voyage finally completed as Titanic arrives (after much delay of course) in New York Harbor. As a dream is fulfilled, the theme celebrates not just the accomplishment of the Titanic, but of the men who built her and then raised her from the bottom of the ocean. It's about as full circle as a theme has ever come.

The final piece brings both the Prelude theme and the Main Title theme together. For the main title theme represents the changed world after Titanic and how one of its consequences now lays a decision on one of the character's shoulders. It's almost as if the theme indicates how we have failed to learn the mistakes of the sinking of the "unsinkable" Titanic. But just as the theme seems to prove correct, the Prelude theme returns. The return of the Prelude theme seems to say we have learned from those mistakes and celebrates the true legacy of the Titanic: we have learned from the mistakes that sank it and we are better for it.

The score to Raise The Titanic covers not just the thriller that the film tries to be. It covers the Titanic in a way that no other score (including James Horner's score to the 1997 James Cameron film) or musical effort (including the Broadway musical or Garin Bryars incredible album) has to date. The score is more that some music for a terrible film (the film isn't quite as bad as it has been made out to be). It is a musical journey through the legacy of the sinking of the Titanic. It is also and exploration of the talents of a composer who is perhaps the greatest film composer of them all.

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