Updating the soundtrack to On the Beach
If you haven't seen the 1959 film On The Beach, you might want to tune out now before we spoil anything. It's a post-apocalyptic emotion-drain that chronicles the last days of humanity in a painstakingly slow manner -- which is to say it's a bit slow in the hips but fast in the brain.
Anyway, the film's score composer, Ernest Gold, won the Golden Globe for his score, which was heavily inspired by Australia's unofficial national anthem "Waltzing Matilda." It's all well and good for 1959, but after watching it recently we realized the score and soundtrack are rubbish by today's standards -- so we decided to update it with slightly more modern tracks that better exemplify (to us) the sounds of the apocalypse.
Welcome back to Recast, a feature in which we appoint ourselves soundtrack supervisors of existing films.
Opening credits/scene: Tom Waits - "Tom Traubert's Blues" Consider it an ode the original score: "Tom Traubert's Blues" appropriates "Waltzing Matilda" for its own ends, but with a much darker undertone. It's a perfect track to get a film about the nuclear apocalypse in full swing.
At the party (where they try placing blame on who started the nuclear war): Cecil Taylor - "With (Exit)" This is one of those strange scenes in a film that is both upbeat and uptight all at once, with a weird and dark undercurrent inside the framing of a party. Cecil Taylor's "With (Exit)" seemed perfect for this type of moment, even if the scene is quick and fleeting.
The "why is this all happening" drunken Ava Gardner speech: Godspeed You Black Emperor - "Moya" We'd pick this up about mid-song, around 5:30 and layer it underneath Ava Gardner's drunken rant to the crazed Gregory Peck, who, at this moment in the film, still believes his wife and children to be alive, even though it's completely impossible for them to be. It's gut-wrenching with a bit of humor, which Godspeed seems to nail with "Moya."
The "nothing is wrong" sailing race scene: Johnny Scott - "Race the Sun" This is one of those random scenes in the film that make it all the more frightening to consider what you would do if you if knew you and the rest of humanity would be dead in a few months. These folks decided to sail in a race, so we decided to play this nice little ditty.
Anthony Perkins' "Just take the suicide pills dear," speech: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - "Death is Not the End" We couldn't score a film that takes place in Australia without letting Kylie Minogue and Nick Cave (and more) contribute at some point. Thankfully we were able to tie them together in one song and unleash the track on this heartbreaking scene when Anthony Perkins' character tries to convince his wife to take some suicide pills if the radiation comes to the island while he's away.
Running around San Diego in a biohazard suit looking for the source of a message scene: Kraftwerk - "Radioactivity" Sure, the song "Radioactivity" might be a little too fitting for this scene, we'd opt for an instrumental version if we had the choice -- but considering the character is trying to locate the source of a Morse code message this song seemed to be the perfect fit. Think about how creepy it would be to wander around a deserted San Diego with this song playing.
The suicide pill line to the Fred Astaire suicide: Explosions in the Sky - "The Only Moment We Were Alone" Death scenes are hard -- especially when it's a really long sequence of death, as the end of the film shows off. From the beginning of the suicide line, through various suicide speeches all the way up to Fred Astaire's death by Ferrari, we could think of nothing better than Explosions in the Sky's "The Only Moment We Were Alone."
Closing shots of the empty world: Isis - "Celestial (Signal Fills the Void)" We really wanted to slip in Dismemberment Plan's "8.5 Minutes" at some point here, but it just didn't fit right. Either way, as the camera pans across a world void of humanity, it seemed fitting to slide in Isis' epic track here. We're pretty sure we'd be haunted by the images near the films closing either way, but this just makes it all the more daunting.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene with music features, additional online music listings and show picks. We'll also send special ticket offers and music promotions available only to our Music Newsletter subscribers.