After 1983's Twilight
Zone: The Movie, which Joe Dante helmed the segment "It's
a Good Life", the director and Jerry Goldsmith would
join forces again the following year on the box office smash
Gremlins. It was to become the beginning of a long and
fruitful partnership that would continue until Jerry Goldsmith's
untimely death in 2004. Dante's manic style and love of comedy,
horror and science fiction was the perfect collaborator for someone
like Goldsmith, who clearly loved the challenges presented to
him. Their unique talents meant every one of their collaborations
was a film not to be missed.
The main themes are for the creatures that terrorise the small
town of Kingston Falls (The Gremlin Rag) and a hum-able
little theme for Gizmo, the new pet Mogwai of Billy Peltzer and
hero of the film. The pentatonic scale at the beginning of Gizmo's
theme and the oriental feel of the B section of the Rag seem
to both suit the supposed Mogwai's eastern origins and can be
heard when Billy's father first purchases Gizmo from a old Chinese
man in Chinatown (The Prologue). Also included thematically
in the score is a frantic tritone motif for the Gremlin leader
Stripe, a synth theme for Mrs. Deagle and an energetic theme
for Billy Peltzer and the town of Kingston Falls. Gizmo's theme
is even used as a love theme for Billy and Kate.
In Late for Work we get to sample the Gremlin Rag for
the first time. The opening contains a portion of the rag stated
in the low brass but doesn't end there. For this classic Dante
camera pan and set up of the film's neighbourhood the Gremlin
Rag is ever present rhythmically accompanying Billy's theme
with biting muted trombones and bouncing pizzicati in the violins.
Goldsmith skilfully uses melodic rhythm in exposition and somewhat
foreshadows the mayhem to follow.
In Mrs. Deagle Goldsmith introduces a nasty and chromatic
out of tune synth theme with accompanying strings for the town's
very own Scrooge. The Gift starts after Mr. Peltzer gives
Gizmo to Billy early for Christmas and Goldsmith's theme plays
an important part of the story itself on screen as the Mogwai
sings the tune. The music starts with a light version of Gizmo's
theme and the touching leaping octave middle section in violins
is introduced for the first time as Billy attends to Gizmo when
he falls into a trash can. A small coda follows the next morning
on a humorous statement of Billy's theme on synth as he mistakenly
decides to get a glass of orange juice using one of his Dad's
In Pop Goes The Gremlin Billy's friend Pete accidentally
spills water on Gizmo which causes the Mogwai to suddenly multiply.
The music becomes dark as synth sounds mesh with strings and
other odd textures. Soon a tritone begins the first full statement
of the Gremlin Rag when five new Mogwai appear. After
some unreleased music in the film, including a gorgeous slower
string statement of Billy's theme, a sweet version of Silent
Night plays as Billy and Kate walk home after work. A string
transition flows into Gizmo's theme and gives way to bowed tremolos
accompanying the middle section as Billy asks Kate out on a date.
The music segues into the bouncing synth tritone under eerie
high harmonics on Gizmo's theme as Billy's science teacher does
a blood test on one of the Mogwai. When the Mogwai transform,
hatching from their cocoons into the ugly Gremlin creatures,
the rag is performed on synth with a new up and down plucking
pizzicato string line using tritones. This idea frequently scores
the action scenes and is memorably stated at the end of the Gremlin
Rag credits. When Billy finds his teacher dead a cacophony
of synth and Bartokian violin sounds play the tritone and rag
ideas (Gremlins On The Loose).
A memorable scene follows when Billy's Mom has to confront the
Gremlins alone in her kitchen (Mom Vs. The Gremlins)
Goldsmith's impressive horror scoring takes over the film to
the end. Pitch bends and weird synth sounds, some even sounding
like dying cats, spread throughout the quiet but tense underscore.
A brutal action section introduces a frantic, almost march like
theme (possibly for Gremlin leader Stripe), as Billy's Mom is
attacked by a Gremlin tossing dishes at her. The theme continues
in a powerful statement in trombones and trumpets with the Gremlin
Rag always present in string accompaniment as she is attacked
by Stripe hiding in her Christmas tree (Stripe Blows His Nose).
Mrs. Deagle's theme returns in Deagle-deagle-deagle
we see her attending to her cats and yelling at Christmas carollers.
When the carollers turn out to be Gremlins, a bizarre synth version
of the Gremlin Rag is stated ending with a 'pesante' low
brass statement of her theme after she is launched out the window
of her house by her stair lift which has been tampered with by
one of the Gremlins.
Billy rescues Kate from the town bar as fast paced strings and
pizzicato variations on the bouncing tritone idea run furiously
(Billy To The Rescue). A sad and haunting re-harmonized
version of Silent Night follows as Kate recounts her father's
death on Christmas eve when she was younger (A Christmas Story).
For the Movie Theatre/Explosion synths state the tritone
idea and Gremlin Rag with long line brass and First
Blood-like multi-metered patterns emerging as both Billy
and Kate escape the movie theatre packed with Gremlins
The final confrontation (Hunting Stripe) takes place at
a local shopping mall as Stripe remains the only Gremlin left
with Goldsmith providing plenty of action material on the tritone
pizzicati. Interesting violin effects occasionally state the
Gremlin Rag and upbeat trombones bite against meandering
violins when Stripe shoots Billy with a crossbow. Small hints
of Gizmo's theme occur before a jaunty horn, trumpet and string
idea plays fortissimo as the Mogwai races to rescue Billy in
a toy car (Gizmo Saves The Day). Trumpets
and strings struggle to overpower with the tritone idea with
violin runs accentuating as Stripe is blinded by the mall lights.
Solo violin plays as the Gremlin leader greets Billy on a water
fountain attempting to multiply. The bouncing tritone plays against
the jaunty string theme as Gizmo is able to open the window shades
letting in deadly sunlight killing Stripe. For Stripe's lengthy
demise Goldsmith coalesces every idea quickly, the chiming chords
from the opening of the film, the weird smearing synth sounds,
and solo violin and synth statements of the Gremlin Rag.
A warm statement of Gizmo's theme and the chiming opening chords
return at the end of the film as Mr. Wing arrives to take the
Mogwai back to his shop in Chinatown (Bye, Billy) before
Goldsmith segues into his riotous end credit presentation of
The Gremlin Rag.
The soundtrack album released by Geffen on LP and later CD only
contained around fifteen minutes of Goldsmith's score. Although a good quality Boot CD surfaced in 1999
it is now finally available as a 2 CD set produced by FSM. Finally
Goldsmith's full score is now available for all to enjoy.