Soundtrack of the Week- Arthur (1981)

Soundtrack of the Week- Arthur (1981)

Once upon a time (the early 80’s to be precise) when my family rented our first video recorder from Granada Home Video, you could rent tapes of trailers from the same shop. One tape had all of the trailers for Warner Bros  video releases on it and included such gems as The Exorcist, The Shining and Private Benjamin.

The trailer for the 1981 comedy Arthur was also on there. It featured the amazing Burt Bacharach song ‘Money’. It was only recently that I saw the trailer again and wondered if this great song was on the film’s soundtrack.

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I investigated further and found that indeed it was. I hurriedly downloaded the soundtrack and found that on first listen every track is just as great as Money.

This is prime Bacharach songwriting genius with each of his tracks displaying his skill at writing easy listening brilliance but giving it a rougher edge that proved perfect for the film as Arthur is an early 80’s Noo Yawk movie and the music perfectly embodies this.

We also get the gorgeous Christopher Cross track that he co-wrote with Burt, Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do) that must be one of the best title tracks ever written for a film (the original instrumental version written by Bacharach as the theme for the film is also on the album). Theres even a rougher, rock version of Money entitled Poor Rich Boy that works perfectly well.

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Let the music do the taking and relive this fantastic film, the amazing characterisation and New York looking absolutely amazing in 1981. And then watch the movie. In my opinion, it’s one of the best comedies ever made with a cast that bounces off each other wonderfully (Dudley Moore, Liza Minelli and Sir John Gielgud were all perfect choices) and acts as a brilliant time capsule of how amazing the 80’s were in America.

The Driller Killer – Day 26 – 31 Days of Halloween

The Driller Killer – Day 26 – 31 Days of Halloween

Another serious contender for the title of ‘The Most Controversial Video Nasty’ (the film shared that title with The Evil Dead).

And whilst the film does have its shocking moments of lurid horror (yes involving an electric drill) this is more a slow and meticulous study into alienation, the descent into madness and mental illness amidst a gritty 70s New York backdrop. File this movie more under ‘arthouse’ than ‘video nasty’.

Reno is an artist living in an apartment but finding it hard to survive on next to no money with bills arriving and his utilities about to be switched off. He lives there with his two girlfriends (how very bohemian!) and is regularly disturbed in his work and his sleep by the punk (or at least they think they’re punk) band living in the same apartment block. He goes out of his apartment to witness the violence on the street (on one such occasion he witnesses a stabbing) and also watch the homeless (he is seen drawing them in one scene).

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Reno- the artist at work

This film is like Roman Polanski’s Repulsion transported to 70’s New York. The slow journey into madness is there for all to see- the film even shares the motif of the skinned rabbit with Repulsion. Director Abel Ferrera does an amazing job of depicting the slow building tension that eventually explodes.

It was the film’s UK VHS cover that sparked the controversy in the early 80s. The lurid and graphic artwork was designed to entice the viewer into renting the film whilst it competed with other lurid video cover artwork that also wanted to catch the browsers eye. Initially this backfired- the film was held up by Mary Whitehouse and Graham Bright as some kind of totem regarding the filth that the proles could get their hands on and watch in the privacy of their own homes. Conversely though this worked in the film’s favour- the film was given a platform and free publicity.

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The lurid UK VHS video artwork

And it deserved it- its a great movie. This isn’t all blood and guts but a great character piece. It also serves as a great time capsule of a New York that is long gone. A New York that was on the verge of bankruptcy, is crime ridden and a place of real danger (check out the scene where Reno sees that his friend is sleeping rough. They are suddenly interrupted by a stampede of youths running riot on the streets who they hide from). It also captures the music scene of New York at the time- punk turning into No Wave/New Wave. There is even a trip into Max’s Kansas City.

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Reno and Pamela play pinball in Max’s Kansas City

Mary Whitehouse didn’t want you to see this. Arrow Video have just announced the release of a 4K Blu ray. This I can’t wait for. The film is finally getting the kind of restoration that it deserves after spending far too long in Public Domain limbo. The film’s legacy will now continue to grow.

And I’ll always side with Arrow Video over SS Whitehouse when it comes to film.

You can buy Arrow’s edition of Driller Killer HERE

4 out of 5..