36 Hours was never hard to find as a soundtrack LP, even in the 1970s and 1980s, more than 20-years after it was released -- a very late release on the Vee-Jay label, it was a cut-out for decades, and it (and the music) mostly languished in dollar record bins during that period, perhaps because the music and the album never got as much exposure as most scores of this period, and also the fact that Vee-Jay as a label wasn't known for its soundtrack releases. The music is also most uncharacteristic for composer Dimitri Tiomkin, more lyrical (opening up with a song, "A Heart Must Learn to Cry," that seems totally inappropriate to the movie at hand and was only used as a melody in the actual finished film) and using a somewhat smaller orchestra than most of his scores from this period. Perhaps it was the prospect of scoring a fairly straightforward thriller, with none of the morally ambiguous characters that had populated most of his previous films, but Tiomkin seems forced -- successfully -- into a more sophisticated mode of composition here, with light scoring utilizing a piano, and subtle development. In contrast to his usually identifiable work, which growls and surges in a quasi-modernistic manner, this score flows rather elegantly, broken up only by "Lisbon Cha-Cha," which was intended as source music for the movie's opening section in the Portuguese city, and even it fades into some intensely ominous yet quiet effect music. Even those parts of the score that recall earlier Tiomkin work, such as "Fake Hospital" and "Road to Castle," which obliquely quote material from his score for Gunfight at the OK Corral, are completely transformed into something much more elegant here, mostly by virtue of the piano, which at moments makes this soundtrack come across like a lost Rachmaninoff work -- other attributes, such as the enveloping harp glissandi on "Agony," give this body of music an intoxicating effect that can overwhelm the listener at times. The source tapes -- in stereo, of course -- are in excellent shape, so that the instrumental textures and timbres are right in your face, and a treat to the ear. The end result is probably the most listenable and distinctive of Tiomkin's late works, and his most worthwhile score -- the man by this time was little more than a high-class bottom-feeder, picking up the assignments that Miklos Rosa, Bernard Herrmann, Alfred Newman, and other, more talented rivals, wouldn't take, but on 36 Hours, Vol. 5 he seems to have been inspired to create something genuinely new and inventive, at least for him; even his conducting displays a confidence and care, and an attention to nuance, that he seldom showed on his other scores, the highlight being the quiet eloquence of "Unexpected Information/Fake Marriage." The bonus tracks are comprised principally of jazz variations and solo piano demos of "A Heart Must Learn to Cry."
AllMusic Review by Bruce Eder
|36 Hours, film score|