The Omega Man
Ron Grainer (1971)

For as long as I can remember, (or at least since about 1975) I have loved the music to the movie The Omega Man. If you ever get your hands on a copy of "Film Score Monthly's Silver Age Classic Edition" of this movie's soundtrack, go to track 10, "On the Tumbril." I don't know what the hell a Tumbril is, but I remember this low-budget action sequence like the back of my hand and can clearly recall the first time I watched it over a bowl of cereal on a Sunday morning long before MTV existed. I recall the scene so vividly because I was a kid, and kids are innocent in loving campy film -- and of course because of the music!

Jump ahead a bunch of years to 2000. Omega Man is finally available on VHS. I've been across the world, been married and divorced, served in the military, lived an active life full of great movies, music and books, and enjoyed my share of hedonism. Still, I can conjure up the music to that action sequence from hearing it as a kid. That scene in Omega Man where Dutch rescues Neville from the Family's attempt to burn him at the stake -- yeah, to say I was a fan of this movie and its music would be an understatement!

After watching the VHS about three times and rewinding that scene a few times, I headed to my computer and started looking for a soundtrack to the movie -- no luck. But I hadn't given up. I started checking with the very reliable network of people I know who have unsurpassed knowledge in this field, and I was referred to Film Score Monthly online. My timing could not have been better; it seemed I was not the only supergeek obsessed with the music in this ubercult classic of a hit film. I had my one of 3,000 original pressings of the Omega Man soundtrack within a week.

Ron Grainer's masterful score to the The Omega Man is a coveted prize and always will be, ranking in quality and visceral emotional appeal right up there with Conan the Barbarian, Star Wars and The Wrath of Khan as a great action movie soundtrack. (The Planet of the Apes and Rollerball deserve mention, too, only because I don't wanna upset the geekerati who certainly know better than I all things movie music appreciation.)

One of the greatest things about really loving an originally produced movie score like this is that you can see the movie play in your mind as the music spins its emotion-tapping spell on you. That is the beauty of originally produced music in a film -- it's unique and so is its impact on you.

If, as my djembe teacher tells me, you can just open your ears and really listen, you will hear all music both separately and all at once. When you can pick every instrument out of an orchestra, it can be a very exhilarating experience and your enjoyment grows tenfold. That skill will be richly rewarded by this soundtrack's retro-modern feel, cocktail-hour swanky sound, combined with baroque melodies and a recurrent theme of the medieval that permeates the whole thing, even its solidly modern moments. Every element of the film has its own hallmark theme or melody; from the hero to the baddies to the moments in between, this soundtrack is melodic and not atonal.

For me, the really cool thing about this soundtrack is that, while it possesses a clear orchestral sound element, it is also clearly and highly blended with a synthesizer organ sound (yes, folks, I said organ, and if you lived in the '70s you remember those things). Along with this ride the sounds of waterchime, conga, Indian tabla and violin melding with guitars and viola, roaring majestic trombones and bass -- yeah, baby this soundtrack is manly and you're gonna love it!

by Jack Myers
8 October 2005