Elmer Bernstein

Big Jake

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Big Jake was not one of John Wayne's better movies -- though all concerned tried hard -- and it was not one of Elmer Bernstein's better scores. The general concensus is that after he did The Magnificent Seven, Bernstein had said virtually everything he had to about the west musically; that isn't quite true, as his music for the John Wayne movies The Comancheros and The Sons of Katie Elder reveal. But by the time Big Jake was made, Bernstein seems to have run dry -- the score here not only lacks the weight of his earlier work with Wayne, but it seems surprisingly uninventive; the most inspired moment comes when the composer emulates the style of his one-time teacher Aaron Copland (in the latter's "Rodeo" phase), and applies it to a folk tune annoyingly close to "Scarborough Fair"; other sections seem to quote "Frere Jacques," and there are also moments when he seems to deliberately recall the driving action music from The Magnificent Seven and The Great Escape, all to the disadvantage of this score. There are inspired moments, to be sure, and it's all entertaining, but maybe instead of aiming so late in the relationship of both men, the producers should shoot for a reissue of the music from, say, The Sons of Katie Elder, instead.