Call that a soundtrack?
I’ve always been a sucker for an OST — or Original Sound Track to give it it’s full moniker. A life of loving film has meant that to me a film’s soundtrack is every bit as important to the enjoyment of the film as the players, the cinematography or even the plot. In recent years, there have been cases such as Inception, Gravity or more recently Dunkirk, where you could argue that the sound track plays the most important role in the film.
But to put it simply I’m here to talk about the Crocodile Dundee OST by Peter Best.
In 1986 the world went mad for Mick from “Down Under”. Queues formed round cinema blocks and Paul Hogan was the first guest on every chat show. Second to Top Gun as the highest grossing film of the year Crocodile Dundee is a classic fish-out-of-water comedy with an unconventional romance between the two lead characters Mick and Sue. In itself it’s an enjoyable film, but for me it’s impossible to dissect the film from it’s brilliant soundtrack. It’s the soundtrack that makes the film.
The score for Crocodile Dundee is by Peter Best, who at that time was one of Australia’s premier film composers and who would go on to even greater fame for laying the soundtrack to Muriel’s Wedding. Like any strong soundtrack, the songs created underpin and drive the narrative and in a film that starts down in the dust and the dirt of the Australian outback then whisks the characters and the viewers to the glitz and danger of mid 80s New York, this comes through in spades. Best establishes both a theme for the landscape as well as it’s principle dweller, Mick — the hero. It might come across as a slightly clichéd mega mix of Australian musical instruments with the didgeridoo and a wobble-board both present but god does it scream Australia to the listener.
Contrast that with Mick meets New York” as the film moves it’s principle characters to Manhattan. It’s funk, it’s drum machines, it’s sax. Pure 1980s. Listening to this it’s impossible not to imagine flanks of yellow taxi cabs, Wall Street and the general hustle and bustle of the city that in time consumers and overwhelms Mick. There is an argument to say that such musical cues will date quickly but to anyone that grew up in the 1980s the sound and the visuals definitely go hand in hand.
Cited in my wedding speech, the final theme to Crocodile Dundee is the soundtrack’s masterpiece. Underscoring the film’s romantic finale, in which Mick and Sue pass messages of love and reconciliation to each other across a crowded subway platform, it is the cue for Best to finally blend the two disparate worlds of Australia and New York together. Break it down and it’s a simple piece of music that builds and builds, still capable of moving me to tears. You see — if you pardon my parlance — it’s the moment when Mick “gets the girl.” A fun echo to the way I felt on my wedding day.
If you’re not a fan of Crocodile Dundee, or if the film was never part of your adolescence, then Peter Best’s score might not mean much to you. Beyond its iconic and excellent main theme, most of the rest of the score may sound like a collection of cheesy rock and jazz instrumentals. However, I do have a long-standing affinity for the film, and Best’s score brings back excellent memories of the fun I had in the company of this most iconic of Australian cinematic exports.
What do mean that’s not a knife?