Sunday 20 January 2008

John Carpenter - the one-stop movie shop

John Carpenter's early film career is a classic example of the film auteur. Not satisfied with writing the screen play of a movie, he would direct it and then compose and perform the soundtrack, often with his long time musical collaborator Alan Howarth using banks of analog synths and primitive drum machines.

Born in Carthage, New York, John Howard Carpenter's first major film as director and (co) writer was the sci-fi black comedy Dark Star released in 1974 in which he also composed and performed the electronic soundtrack. This approach formed the blueprint for many of his movies that followed including Assault on Precinct 13 (1976), The Fog (1980), Escape from New York (1981) and the genre defining Halloween (1978) - a frenetic score as familiar to film fans as the themes from Jaws, Star Wars, 2001: A Space Odyssey, James Bond et al.

A typical Carpenter composed soundtrack would utilize heavy and drawn out sombre tones that rarely occupied the upper tonal registers of the synthesiser except to emphasise a shocking scene. Classic examples of Carpenter's very individual and distinctive work feature on a sadly deleted compilation which provides a satisfying introduction to one of Hollywood's great originals.

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