Wednesday, June 14, 2017

I Was 50 Percent Recognizing Music For Scenes Among Dead People

Of all the episodes of this recent return of Samurai Jack, the second one, XCIII, is my favorite. I could go on for awhile about it, and I might someday, but I wanted to focus on one particular part, right near the end.

Jack's on the run from the Daughters of Aku. He's outnumbered, weaponless, and seemingly outclassed, fighting with his own inner demons while trying to contend with this threat*. And he ends up in a massive tomb. Here's a video of it, at least until it gets pulled down someday.

So the thing I noticed, the first time I saw that scene, was what I thought were two different pieces of music, or parts of them, that I recognized, both of which seemed appropriate. I'm still positive I'm right about the first one, but I was off on the second.

The first is that it's using the piano portion of Ennio Morricone's "Ecstasy of Gold", from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, although in a different key, I think. The piece that plays when Tuco reaches Sad Hill cemetery, and begins running among the thousands of graves, trying to find Arch Stanton, and that hundred grand in gold. Not a bad choice for this scene. The Daughters believe serving Aku's will is all that matters, and to do that, they have to kill the Samurai. This quest, the years or tortuous training they've been subjected to, have led them finally, to this place of the dead. He's somewhere out there, find him, and they reach their goal. Nothing else matters.

The other piece, the one I was wrong about, is the theme to 28 Days Later ("In the House, In a Heartbeat", by John Murphy). It'll take about 45 seconds to a minute before you get to what I thought I was hearing. In my defense, it had been a lot of years since I'd heard the song until I went looking for it to see if I was right.

And my primary memory of the song goes with the end of the film, where Cillian Murphy's character has returned and is wreaking havoc, and that one soldier drags Selena into an upstairs room. Then Jim enters the attic above, and the camera's pulling in close on the wild-eyed soldier as he scans above his head, looking for the source of the noise. And you know he's about to end up dead, and he does.

Jack fares better*, but his scene had a similar vibe, him trying to wait it out in the coffin, eyes cast upward fearfully, death steadily closing in on him. It evoked the same sense of dread and anticipation as "In the House, In a Heartbeat".

* Although it's notable that even with a total advantage, the Daughters still couldn't finish him. Even off his game, entirely on the defensive, Jack is just good enough to stay alive. 

* There was a post on a blog called Zombie Mallet that noted that in Namor's '90s series, at least in the early issues, he seemed to be much stronger the fewer clothes he wore. Put him in a suit, or a coat, he'd get KOed pretty easily. If he could ditch the shirt, watch out. Jack seems to operate on similar principles. Once he's down to a loincloth, he could probably beat up anyone. The Guardian of the Time Portal hit on the key: Beat Jack into unconsciousness before his clothes get too destroyed.


Kelvin Green said...

I didn't make the connection at the time but I think you're right, certainly about "The Ecstasy of Gold"; given that both scenes are set amongst hundreds of graves, and both have that wide panning shot of said graves, and given that Samurai Jack has never been shy about showing its influences, I'd say you're spot on.

CalvinPitt said...

Thanks. It just happened to be a reference I'd actually pick up on. The 28 Days Later one seemed right at the time, but I whiffed on that one. Still, I thought that theme would have worked well in the Samurai Jack scene as well, which was kind of nifty. Although I suppose music that conveys rising tension and impending doom isn't that hard to find.