Revisiting a Prophetic Movie Score From the 80s

by delarue

When he wrote the score to the 1987 movie Robocop, did composer Basil Poledouris know how prophetic his use of a percussive imitation of a newswire ticker in the title theme would turn out to be?

The movie may be old news but the story was prescient. We all know how the lockdowners would love to tap into the movement to defund the police in order to eliminate the police completely, and replace them with their own for-profit gestapo – at taxpayer expense, of course.

Considering how well represented the tech oligarchs are among the lockdowners, it’s easy to imagine where this could go. The plodding, towering, impossible-to-camouflage Robocop itself may be a quaint artifact of 80s dystopia, but we’ve seen how drones have been employed, from Minneapolis to California, to spy on protestors. It doesn’t take rocket science to extrapolate from there.

How well does Poledouris’ score hold up by itself? It’s better than the movie: and there’s crushing irony in how organic it is, and how poignant much of the orchestartion is as well. Poledouris goes for lavish symphonic swellls rather than shock and awe, distant unease in lieu of sheer horror. The narrative may be futuristic, but the soundtrack is old-fashioned classical, with echoes of Shostakovich at his most martially sarcastic, Holst and Respighi at their most dramatic, as well as bombastic 19th century types like Berlioz. You can still hear it at Spotify.