Tag Archives: Always

Rocks In The Attic #687: John Williams – ‘1941 (O.S.T.)’ (1979)

RITA#687You can sometimes find out more about a person’s failures as you can from their successes. Wunderkind director Steven Spielberg has had far more hits than misses, but the few occasions where he has missed the mark are very interesting.

His first failure came with 1941, his attempt at screwball comedy and a universally agreed thirty-five million dollar waste of time and effort. It’s difficult to put a finger on why it’s such a bad film – because there’s nothing redeemable about it. A weak link might be easy to spot, but when everything is egregiously bad, from the script to the performances to the music, it makes for a drastically awful film. Of course, all of this is amplified because it follows Spielberg’s huge mainstream successes, first with Jaws in 1975, and followed with Close Encounters Of The Third Kind in 1977. If it hadn’t been bundled with such anticipation, and if they hadn’t spent the GDP of a small South American country on it, it might have stood a chance.

Looking back, it seems that Spielberg might be as ashamed of his portrayal of the Japanese in this film, as he is of the film’s critical and commercial failure. It’s widely been surmised that one of Spielberg’s motives for making Schindler’s List (1993) was in reparation for the way in which he had portrayed the Nazis as comedic fodder in Raiders Of The Lost Ark (1981) and Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade (1989). In 1941, we see the start of that light-hearted characterisation, with the invading Japanese armed forces played for laughs opposite Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi.

The musical score for 1941, composed by Spielberg alumni John Williams, is just as forgettable as the rest of the film, which is strange considering how the pairing usually produces gold. Spielberg, ever the amiable collaborator, has repeatedly stated in interviews that The March From 1941 is his favourite of Williams’ marches. This is extremely strange when you realise that the main title themes of Williams’ Superman: The Movie and Indiana Jones scores are both marches, and really there’s nothing better in all of cinema.

I recently saw the excellent HBO documentary Spielberg (2017) – a two and a half hour journey through the life and career of the director. Unsurprisingly, the film focuses on his successes and merely brushes over his failures. Of the latter, 1941 gets the most airtime for being his first disappointment, but later failures are mainly ignored.

RITA#687aHis first failure to me, long before I racked up the courage to watch 1941, was Always, an overly-sentimental (even for Spielberg’s standards) romantic drama from 1989 starring Richard Dreyfuss, Holly Hunter and John Goodman. I saw this film at the cinema with my parents, at the Odeon West End in Leicester Square during our annual family trip to London. Coming straight after Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom and Empire Of The Sun – both of which I’d also seen at the cinema (I didn’t get to see The Color Purple until much later due to its adult nature), it really came as a shock. Everything I had seen by Spielberg up to that point had been a classic. What the hell was this schlocky mess?

Unsurprisingly, Susan Lacy’s Spielberg documentary doesn’t even mention Always. It also quickly skips over Hook – a later disappointment from 1991, which Spielberg has all but since disowned – and completely ignores The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997), the sequel he said he would never make, and 2004’s The Terminal. In fact, The Terminal is such a bad film, that it’s a wonder he didn’t try to take his name off it.

The one interesting exclusion from the documentary is 2011’s The Adventures Of Tintin. While this may not have been the runaway commercial success it should have been, it’s still a great family film and a much stronger piece of work than 2016’s The BFG, itself a box-office disappointment yet referenced many times in Lacy’s film.

Hit: The March From 1941

Hidden Gem: The Invasion

Rocks In The Attic #5: Bent – ‘Programmed To Love’ (2000)

I love this album. I was turned onto it by Danny, a mutual friend I enlisted to help me DJ on Saturday nights at 38 Bar (now The Castle) in Oldham. Danny would forever be known as Danny Beetle in my circle of friends due to his very nice original (and restored) VW.

I started off DJing purely with old 60s and 70s rock, complimented with some contemporary stuff like Supergrass, Radiohead and the Super Furry Animals. When Danny started DJing with me, his taste in electronica and downbeat rubbed off on me.

I remember seeing Bent play in Leeds as they were touring this album. They were joined on stage by Zoe Johnston, who sings Private Road and Swollen on the album. She stuck around to the end and sang the lead on Always – perfectly recreating the Nana Mouskouri sample that appears on the album.

Looking back, it was probably one of the best gigs I’ve ever been to. Just a nice atmosphere (the two members of Bent, and Zoe Johnston, were hanging around and talking to the audience before and after their set), and although there weren’t that many people there, it just felt like a shared experience. When I got home, I put the album on in my bedroom and, still living with my parents, listened to Always through my headphones.

This album stayed with me so much, I eventually turned my future wife onto it, and when compiling a CD of songs that meant something to each of us, to hand out at our wedding, I put Always on at the end.

I regret not seeing Bent play live again, or even checking out their albums after this one. All I have is this, a couple of 12” singles from this album, and the EP they released next. Given the number of times I went to Glastonbury following the release of this album, I’m sure they would have played there.  I missed them if they did.

Note to self: check out more Bent !

Hit: Swollen

Hidden Gem: Always