Thursday, June 14, 2012

Badlands OST-1973


Listen to your parents and teachers, they got a line on most things, so don't treat em like enemies, there's always an outside chance you can learn something.
Kit Carruthers, Badlands

Terrence Malick's first feature film, 1973's Badlands, is nothing short of a masterpiece. One of the greatest American films of the 1970's, or any other decade. The movie stars three of my favorite actors; Martin Sheen, Warren Oates and Sissy Spacek. It's a fairy tale of sorts, based loosely on the late 1950's killing spree of James Dean obsessive Charlie Starkweather and his teenage girlfriend, Caril Ann Fugate. In lesser hands, say Oliver Stone or Quentin Tarantino, this material would have come off as cheap, tawdry and exploitive as it may at first sound, but Malick uses elements of the true story only as a jumping off point and goes on from there to create a startling dreamlike atmosphere that revolves not so much on the violence or killings but the strange and inexplicable relationship between the two main characters and the hermetically sealed off world they create together while on the run.  The majority of the story is filtered through the impressions of 15 year old Holly, played by Spacek, who narrates the film. Here's Holly describing their time hiding out in the woods "Mostly, though, we just lay on our backs and stared at the clouds and sometimes it was like being in a big marble hall, the way we talked in low voices and heard the tiniest sound." Badlands is a beautiful and haunting fairytale and very funny to boot, especially the mannerisms and idiosyncrasies of Kit as played by Sheen. To illustrate more clearly the magic of the film here's one of my favorite scenes.

I've watched Bandlands countless times, probably more than any other film, though Mean Streets might run close, and it never disappoints or gets old. I always find new nuances to admire in the script, the cinematography, the acting, the use of music, and the landscapes depicted. In very simple terms the film casts a powerful spell. And the carefully chosen music plays a large part in the casting of this spell. I was recently reminded of Badlands when I saw Wes Anderson's new movie, Moonrise Kingdom, a very good movie in its own right, which though different in many ways from Badlands, not the least of which is tone (Badlands is a much darker story), is also clearly influenced by elements of Malick's masterpiece.

As I've alluded to before when I'm not working, sleeping or caring for my two cats I often while away my spare hours assembling film soundtracks that were either never released commercially or released in incomplete form. In the case of Badlands it's the former, an official soundtrack was never released. I made an attempt at compiling the music used in the film 7 or 8 years ago and what I am posting here is the results of that first go round. I've included the music of Carl Orff, Gunild Keetman, Erik Satie, Nat King Cole and Mickey and Sylvia in roughly the correct chronological order that it appears in the film. Missing is the music composed specifically for the film by George Tipton, and a brief instrumental piece by James Taylor titled "Theme Migration". But I've included as a bonus track the song "Migration" by James Taylor which developed out of the instrumental theme first composed for Badlands.

I refer to this as a first attempt because I do plan at some future date to try to get a digital copy of the audio track from the dvd in order to add the "Migration Theme" and Tipton's score in the appropriate places. The last clip below is the 2003 appearance of Martin Sheen on Inside the Actors Studio in which he discusses his career up to that point, including of course, Badlands, the work of which he is most proud.


  1. Hello William,

    I'm writing from Argentina.
    Thanks a lot for this post.
    This is one of my favorite films from all time and I've been searching the OST since the first day I saw the movie.

    I owe you a beer!!

    Florencia Piluso.

  2. Thanks for taking the time to write Florencia, I will be arriving shortly for my beer! :> As I mentioned in the post I will eventually try to flesh out the soundtrack with George Tipton's score. Mean Streets will be up next though.


  3. William, great post. Do you know what piece is playing during the house fire? The one with the haunting vocal track?

    1. I'll have to check, I thought it was one of the Orff pieces I included, if not then its probably Tipton's original score which seems to use Orff as an inspiration.

  4. Thanks a lot! We share the same passion about those two great films made in 1973. I have made the same with Mean Streets soundtrack, here you go:

    1. Thanks Charlie, I need to get on that Mean Streets post, before you steal my thunder :>
      Its one of those films that I love so much that its hard for me to write about, guess I could just post
      the soundtrack.

  5. Hi, just found your blog, and wanted to mention that the scene during the fire is entitled "Passion," and it is by Orff, as is the music during the Bounty Hunter scene, which is entitled "Hexeneinmaleins." These are very difficult to find.

    Hope this helped!

  6. Hi, I've also been searching for the badlands soundtrack for a loooooong time, so amazing you've created it. When I click on the link you've made it says 'permission denied', please help!


  7. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  8. Any comments that require back and forth communication please use the email address in my blogger profile rather than the comments section. Thanks.

  9. Howdy, many thanks for the new link.

  10. I've made a Spotify playlist: "Badlands (1973) - The Missing Soundtrack"