As a director famed for his artful use of music, Quentin Tarantino knows a thing or two about what makes the perfect film score. From the bassline of ‘Little Green Bags’ in Reservoir Dogs to the surf guitar of ‘Misirlou’ in Pulp Fiction, time and time again, the director has demonstrated that the personality of a film lies in its soundtrack. Tarantino is one of those directors who lies to speckle their films with popular music – records that make up their own collection. That’s not to say he isn’t a fan of the classic film score.
Speaking to Uncut, Tarantino chose his ten favourite records. As well as classics like Bob Dylan’s Blood On The Tracks and Elvis Presley’s The Sun Sessions, the auteur selected a couple of film soundtracks, including Bernard Hermann’s score for Sisters and Jack Nitzsche’s work on Tony Scott’s 1990 thriller Revenge. Expressing his affection for the latter, Tarantino said: “Out of all the soundtracks, this is the best. It’s from a Tony Scott movie – he directed True Romance – and it’s a very lush, elegant score. You don’t need to know the film to enjoy the soundtrack: It works in its own right.”
Revenge tells the story of Jay Cochran, a fighter pilot who has recently retired from the Navy. After accepting an invitation from his friend Tibey to visit him in Mexico, Cochran arrives at his mansion and meets his beautiful wife, Miryea. As they get to know one another, an attraction forms between the pair, leading them to give in to their desires. Soon enough, Tibey – a man of great power in the Mexican underworld – discovers the affair, and all their lives are changed forever.
Nitzsche had been recommended to Tony Scott by producer Ray Stark. After discussing Scott’s vision and explaining what he could bring to the table, the composer set to work crafting an elegant, synth-based score centred around an intoxicating love theme. Live piano and lush strings combine to evoke the orchestral romance of classic noir thrillers, while smatterings of sampled pan-pipe conjure up the flavour of Mexico. Tommy Tedesco, the legendary session guitarist, performed live acoustic guitar on several tracks for the soundtrack, adding to Nitzsche’s already rich and varied sonic pallet.
Nitzsche had come out of rock music himself, where he began his career as a songwriter, later establishing himself as an arranger and conducted for some of the most prominent producers in the music industry, including the famously hot-headed Phil Spector. Jack was commissioned to write his first film score in 1965, but it wouldn’t be until the 1970s that he would cement himself as an industry mainstay, composing for the likes of Stand By Me, Hardcore, Starman, The Razor’s Edge and The Seventh Sign.
You can check out his mesmerising score for Revenge below.