Film Music Review
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City of Fear, limited-edition CD


Music composed, orchestrated, and conducted by Jerry Goldsmith.

Album produced by Douglas Fake. Album edited and master by Douglas Fake at Intrada, Oakland, California. Recorded at Columbia Recording Studio, Hollywood, California August 1958. Art direction by Joe Sikoryak, designWELL, Berkeley, California.

15 tracks – (Playing Time = 29:17)

Intrada Special Collection 170

Rating: ***

Limited edition of 2000 copies.


There are hundreds, if not thousands, of film scores which cross this reviewer’s desk weekly that are essentially the “first” or “second” scoring feature of budding, and hopeful composer. On the other hand, once that composer is established, there can be a surge of interest in their earlier work as fans try to find those hallmarks of style that generally appear 5-10 years into a composer’s career. Sometimes, a composer comes to their first film score with a host of other compositions in tow and the listener is transported into their sound world rather quickly enjoying the confidence on display. All this to preface what is a major release by Intrada by one of Hollywood’s master composers, Jerry Goldsmith.

CITY OF FEAR (1963) is one of those intriguing low-budget dramas that blends film noir characters with a science fiction premise. The main character has stolen what he thinks is cocaine, but in reality it is Cobalt 60 and the radiation is slowly killing him. Irving Lerner’s documentary background lends the film its grittier realism which is helped by the score by a young Goldsmith. This is Goldsmith’s second feature film, though he already was building a competent television scoring catalogue. The themes of the story itself would be bread and butter for the composer in their various permutations throughout his long career. This is one of the reasons CITY OF FEAR is an interesting release for film music fans

Though not an entirely serial work, some of that unusual angular writing and dissonant sound is part of the approach taken in this score. The first few seconds alone of “Get Away” create a great flourish of odd activity that is soon followed by the exploration of ostinato patterns. The crescendoing sound clusters and off rhythms are all hear in these opening bars of the “Main Title” that create a sound world not unlike what Goldsmith would explore in PLANET OF THE APES five years later. But, to be honest, the style of the music is really a cut above television dramatic scoring with plenty of tension building and Hermann-esque combinations of sounds clouding harmony under angular melodic writing. It is in the action sequences here where the music takes on qualities that one finds in Goldsmith’s later works. The absence of high strings also lends a grittier feel to the music. The music tends to fall into a sort of parallel musical universe to THE TWILIGHT ZONE rather often, blending a bit of Herrmann’s approach in that series with what Goldsmith was doing there as well. In “Motel,” a solo trumpet idea appears that will become an important motif in this score (and was often returned to in later scores where it often accompanies lonely or troubled male characters. “Tennis Shoes” is one of the first cues that explores jazz sounds with a real cool 1960s West Coast style that disappears for little flashes of dissonant tension. Splashes of color, and the action sequences, are what makes this score a rather interesting listen. It is very much a piece of its time in its combination of textures and rhythmic approaches one might hear in North or Herrmann without forgetting that these styles are also a part of the genre approach used by many composers throughout the 1950s and 1960s. What eventually makes the whole score interesting is that it has so much of what Goldsmith would continue to expand upon in the next decade and beyond.

Intrada’s production is top-notch all around with fabulous sound and informative booklet notes. CITY OF FEAR is an important release in the Goldsmith discography that provides a window into the way the composer was adapting what he learned in television writing for the big screen. The ensemble is made up of lesser known musicians including a young pianist somewhat active in the jazz and studio scene, John T. Williams.

--Review by Steven A. Kennedy, 8 June 2011

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