What does that song mean?

Danny Elfman Scores New Film; Other Movie Weirdness!

Posted Aug 18th 2023, 13:57 by Penguin Pete

I guess I have to start out saying “R.I.P. Pee-Wee Herman,” Paul Rubens, (August 27, 1952 – July 30, 2023). I would have written a whole post in tribute, but, like, everybody else in the world beat me to the keyboard as usual when we lose a real legend. But Pee-Wee fits into today’s topic, because of the beloved classic films “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure” and “Big Top Pee-Wee,” both with masterful music scores written by Danny Elfman…

Danny Elfman Has Scored Over 100 Films

That’s according to his own website at DannyElfman.com, and a scroll through that link is bound to turn up many more delightful films you remember as well as some stinkers that likely still had a great soundtrack. His soundtracks for the likes of Edward Scissorhands, Batman (1989), and of course Beetlejuice (I wrote up here calling it “the happiest movie about death ever made”) established his fame as a top film score composer, especially in his eerily honed collaborations with director Tim Burton.

Elfman has helped give a musical voice to imaginative universes that span the box office in hit franchises, from Hellboy to Spider-Man to Men in Black. But rounding back to Paul Rubens one last time, Elfman’s soundtrack to the “breakfast machine” sequence for your appreciation:

The Elfman Brothers Still Collaborate

I’ve blogged before about the campy horror-comedy cult classic Forbidden Zone, whose genre is best described with one word: “bonkers.” Danny Elfman only partly wrote the score to this, directed by his brother Richard Elfman; the other half of the movie is tribute to the likes of Cab Calloway and the Three Stooges.

Now, Forbidden Zone (1980) was a shoestring production in the early 80s when Danny was still screwing around with his band Mystic Knight of the Oingo Boingo. It didn’t make money, in fact never saw wide release. Then director Richard Elfman kinda fell to the sidelines, while Danny went on to rock out for Tim Burton’s directing career. Both director Tim Burton and Paul Rubens were inspired by Forbidden Zone in the first place, but Richard Elfman seemed like he wouldn’t be part of the picture going forward.

Until Shrunken Heads (1994), a likewise forgotten film directed by Richard Elfman and scored by Danny Elfman.

This demented film has the premise that a witch doctor who daylights as a retail clerk helps some boys get revenge on their bullies by resurrecting them after their death as flying shrunken heads. Sounds just as bonkers as last time, but with an actual budget. Nevertheless, Danny’s music (plus some other soundtrack talents) gleefully pushes this ridiculous narrative along the tracks, giving it steam to chug right over our other objections.

Well, no surprisers, Shrunken Heads didn’t exactly dominate the box office either. In fact, Richard Elfman was driven to distribute the film out of his own pocket. By now, we’re probably safe to say that when the Elfman brothers collaborate, they’re not going for mainstream marketing, but arthouse passion projects. Just to blow off steam in between major releases.

But hey, some of us really like the passion projects! That’s kind of why I’m on the 366weirdmovies.com staff too; I would rather see an artist’s personal little dream diary project than the big Hollywood blockbuster they’re famous for producing. I like the offbeat and original, and if you do too, you follow the Pod366 podcast, where your humble author was guest-hosting recently and that’s how I came across Bloody Bridget

Bloody Bridget Premiered at Popcorn Frights

The #Pod366 line-up was fairly sparse last time I was on. Some new releases at the beginning, and then we cleared out lots of room to talk about the Popcorn Frights film festival, which is just wrapping up this year. If you know I’m an extreme horror buff, you know the Popcorn Frights line-up has me giddy with glee, with top classics like Hitchcock’s The Birds and Sorcerer (directed by William Friedkin – R.I.P., I respect his talent, I still say The Exorcist sucks). But of course the real draw is new releases by indie artists, of which there are plenty unique and quirky works – we cover the top picks in our podcast.

One of those films being the NEW Danny Elfman / Richard Elfman collaboration Bloody Bridget. The title character is a vampire, even an outright cannibal. While I know nothing about this film beyond the IMDB data, it is described as “music-driven,” which is good enough for us Elfman fans. Bloody Disgusting interviewed Richard Elfman about the new project, and he even says as much:

> “Be it music, film, stage or the written page, my life's passion is to entertain. [But...] in a manner that expresses an original and very personal vision. Of course I want my audiences to have some kick-ass fun, yet also to discover something new and different.”

But… I mean… don’t take any of this as a movie recommendation per se. The original Forbidden Zone is a turn-off for some (though true to Richard’s word, he did remaster it toned down for modern audiences), and the Elfman brothers don’t seem to have particularly high aims for their projects beyond just having them be pure zany fun. If you can comfortably meet their projects with the right mindset, though, more power to you!




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