View Full Version : A PERFECT WORLD (1993) Lennie Niehaus SCORE PROMO + TRACK NOTES [FLAC & 320]

09-01-2015, 03:10 AM
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A Perfect World is one of my favourite films, and I’ve always found the music deeply affecting. Many years ago I bought a CD-R of the actual score (not the album, which is mainly source music) and recently, after watching the Blu Ray, I decided to really analyse how the score works in the film and create some track-by-track notes. I know the score has been shared here before, but not in lossless format. Also, the promo tracks are horribly sequenced, so I rearranged them into film order. Plus I added “Big Fran’s Baby” from the official CD.

[NOTE: major SPOILERS ahead, including the film’s ending.]

The score begins with a ghostly tune (“Big Fran’s Baby”) playing over an image of Butch (Kevin Costner) lying peacefully in a field as dollar bills float around him in the breeze. A helicopter hovers over him, its rotor blades slowed to a muffled whisper. We’re not quite sure if this moment is a dream, or a flash forward - either way, it’s not quite what it seems, as we will eventually discover. And that ghostly tune is going to become terribly significant. (This opening cue is not on the score promo).

1. Prison Breakout
This cue is mixed so low in the film, you probably thought there wasn’t any music at all during the prison break sequence. As Butch (Kevin Costner) and antagonistic fellow inmate Terry (Keith Szarabajka) escape via an old ventilation system, thick rumbling chords and subtle background electronics create an intimidating and scary soundscape, one that wouldn’t sound out of place in Jerry Fielding’s “Escape From Alcatraz” (which Niehaus orchestrated, among other Fielding works).

2. Get A Ford
The orchestra maintains a heavy, intimidating presence (dialled very low in the film) as the two escapees stalk suburban streets, looking for another car (Butch prefers Fords). The cue ratchets up the tension as Terry enters a house and menaces single mom Mrs. Perry, while her young son, Phillip, watches. As Terry’s intentions become blatantly sexual, Butch suddenly appears and knocks him to the floor.

3. My Name Is Phillip
In a strange moment of bonding, Butch asks Phillip to bring him Terry’s gun, and then invites him to point it at him and say “Stick ‘em up.” When Phillip does, Butch is clearly pleased. (This moment foreshadows a similar one later in the film, when Phillip will again aim a gun at Butch, with very different consequences). Here, Niehaus introduces Phillip’s Theme, an attractive melody played on harmonica and backed by warm strings. This piece of music will be associated with two things throughout the story: Phillip’s innocence, and - ultimately - his deep friendship with the complicated Butch.

4. We'll Take The Boy
Butch decides to take Phillip along as a hostage, and as Phillip’s mom races out into the street and helplessly watches the convicts drive away with her son, her fear and panic are echoed by the music, which adds a harsh and frightening electronic effect to the orchestra.

5. Terry Chases Phillip
When Terry threatens Butch from the back seat, Butch calmly breaks his nose and takes the gun off him. Butch gives the gun to Phillip and leaves him in charge of the bleeding convict as he goes into a nearby store. Terry isn’t easily intimidated by the boy and grabs the gun, intending to sexually assault him. Niehaus provides more dense suspenseful music as Phillip flees into a field, where Butch eventually catches up with the unstable Terry and shoots him.

6. Stealing A New Car
As Butch pulls some clothes off a washing line and then steals a farmer’s car, Niehaus gives us the first reading of Butch’s Theme, a seven note melody for lower registers, slow-moving and subtly melancholy, like some cool, crafty animal who’s maybe seen a little too much of the world. As the farmer gives chase and stubbornly clings to the side of the car, Niehaus creates excitement by adding percussion to the mix for the first time. When Phillip sees Butch is thinking about shooting the farmer, Phillip bites the farmer’s arm and the lucky man falls to the side of the road.

7. Shopping Friendly (unused)
A portion of Butch’s theme pulses nervously as he sees police cars closing in on the store where he and Phillip have been shopping. The orchestra is joined by edgy, bouncing percussion as Butch drives around the streets, smashing one police car after another. Finally he pulls up outside the store, where Phillip is waiting (a stolen Casper The Friendly Ghost costume stuffed up his pullover) and asks him if he’s coming or not. As Phillip slowly thinks it over, Niehaus emphasises this important turning point for the character with a powerful statement of Phillip’s Theme. The boy decides to stick with Butch, and jumps in the car.

This major cue - the most overt piece of action music in the score - was dropped completely from the film, director Eastwood deciding instead to let the action play unscored. And to be fair, it does play well without any music. But if you sync it up to the film (about the 50:35 mark), it definitely ramps up the sense of chaos and excitement… and that turning point for Phillip carries more weight with his theme playing under it.

8. Runaway Trailer (largely unused)
Texas Ranger Red Garnett (Clint Eastwood) is pursuing Butch in an Airstream trailer, along with criminal psychologist Sally Gerber (Laura Dern). When Sally spots Phillip’s Casper The Friendly Ghost peering out of a passing car, Niehaus gives us a little more action music, with tense ticking percussion, as the cops turn and give chase. As the trailer breaks loose and plunges out of control into a field and through some woods, Niehaus scores the pandemonium with a lighthearted country dance tune; this part of the cue is not used in the film, probably because it would have made the sequence too overtly comical.

9. Trick Or Treat
As Butch and Phillip approach an isolated farmhouse, Butch learns that Phillip’s mother has never allowed her son to celebrate Halloween. A lovely version of Phillip’s theme is performed with a jaunty skip-along beat as the boy gets his first “Trick or Treat” experience - Butch-style. When the farm owner tells Phillip it’s the day after Halloween so she can’t give him any treats, Butch covertly shows her the gun in his belt to motivate her to play along. At this point (1:10) the light-hearted music changes to something less innocent - a not quite fully formed version of Butch’s theme, laid-back and slightly weary, a musical Reality Check that reminds us that Butch is a potentially dangerous criminal. As the nervous lady returns with an armful of treats for Phillip (including a roll of dollar bills), the music becomes all skip-along innocence again, the boy blissfully ignorant of what’s really happening here (essentially a robbery).

10. Rooftop Ride
This starts out as source music from Butch’s radio as they continue their journey along backroads. Then (at 1:38) the cue morphs into actual score as we see Phillip sitting on top of the car, arms held high, as Butch treats him to an improvised “rollercoaster” ride, the music bursting into another catchy country dance tune to underscore Phillip’s exhilaration.

11. I Want To Go Home
Parked in a field at night, Butch urges Phillip to make a list of all the things he’s never been allowed to experience. A more plaintive version of Phillip’s Theme plays as Butch and Phillip talk. At this point in the story the boy and the man have become so closely connected, when we hear the theme here it seems to belong to Butch as much as Phillip - we’re starting to associate it with their friendship, not just the boy.

12. Big Fran's Baby
The ghostly tune from the opening of the movie finally makes a proper appearance in this source music (composed by Eastwood). Butch and Phillip have been taken in by a friendly black farmer, who lives nearby with his mother and son. Butch finds this record among the mother’s collection and gets her to dance with him, while Phillip dances with the farmer’s son. It’s a nice, carefree moment, but it doesn’t last very long…

13. Butch Snaps
We’ve already seen that Butch has an issue with kids being mistreated - in a previous scene he was upset when a mother heavy-handedly scolded her misbehaving children, and even more upset when the black farmer casually slapped his son for not obeying him. And now, when the farmer hits his son again, Butch finally snaps, and takes us into the film’s darkest moment. Butch violently slaps the farmer and threatens him with his gun. It’s clear Butch is projecting his own personal demons onto the man (Butch’s father regularly beat him) but his reaction still feels extreme. For the first time in the film, Butch looks genuinely frightening. Niehaus magnifies our growing unease with stealthy sounding strings, as if he’s scoring some predatory jungle creature stalking its prey, which is terribly appropriate. When Butch tells Phillip to get the rope from the car and yells at him when he doesn’t move quickly enough, Niehaus underlines the boy’s confusion and dread with a fragment of his theme, the harmonica sounding sad and hurt as strings rise and fall fretfully.

14. Say It Like You Mean It
Butch’s Theme undulates dangerously beneath the dialog as he forces the farmer to tell his son he loves him. The farmer obeys, but Butch is still not satisfied. He seems to be in the grip of something he can’t control. A tormented Phillip watches from the doorway as Butch begins to tie the family up. Niehaus adds subtle electronics to the cue, which becomes increasingly tense.

At this point Butch puts on the record of “Big Fran’s Baby” again, and the carefree tune plays in ironic counterpoint to the grim visuals as it becomes frighteningly clear that Butch intends to kill the family.

15. Phillip Shoots Butch
Butch puts down the gun while he uses tape to gag the family, and when he reaches for it again he’s surprised to find Phillip aiming it at him. As Butch turns to face him, Phillip shoots him. Overcome with what he’s done, the boy runs outside. Phillip’s Theme is now augmented with the “panic” synths from “We’ll Take The Boy” along with tense bursts of snare drum as he drops the gun down a well and takes the car keys. Inside, the gut-shot Butch hauls himself to his feet and - accompanied by ominous sounds from the orchestra - takes out a knife and approaches the family. Is he going to kill them after all? No, he just puts it on a table and thanks them for their hospitality. Phillip’s desperate act has shocked him back to his senses.

16. I Believe In Ghosts
Phillip runs across fields and hides in a tree. Butch, bleeding badly, staggers after him, telling him he wasn’t really going to kill the family (which we desperately want to believe). As Butch sits under the tree he reads a postcard from his own father which invites him to come and stay with him in Alaska. Alaska has been Butch’s destination throughout the story, but it has always felt like wishful thinking - even more so now. Butch says he’s going to rest a while and lays down in the grass. The cue begins as Phillip drops down from the tree and leans on Butch, fearing he’s dead. Butch squints at Phillip and quips about believing in ghosts (Phillip is still wearing the Casper costume). As Phillip helps him sit up, a particularly tired and gloomy version of Butch’s Theme convinces us this is the end of the road for the escaped convict - a notion reinforced by the arrival of a line of police cars on the horizon. Red and Sally have caught up with their quarry, and the stage is set for the film’s heart-wrenching final act.

17. Bye Phillip
Phillip’s mother has been flown in by helicopter and now Red pleads with Butch to let Phillip go. Butch says he’ll “deliver up a ghost” if the cops come up with enough candy for the boy, and also if his mother agrees to take him to the Fair and let him eat cotton candy and ride the rollercoaster. As Butch tucks the roll of money into a tearful Phillip’s Casper suit and says goodbye, Niehaus reprises the sad harmonica and fretful strings from the end of “Butch Snaps.” Phillip reluctantly walks across the field towards the cops, his Casper mask on, his hands in the air. And then he stops. Ignoring his mother’s urgent commands to “Run!”, Phillip turns and sprints back to Butch, who has been crawling away in the opposite direction. Phillip asks Butch if they want to shoot him, and Butch’s silence confirms the boy’s fears. In a touching moment, Niehaus plays Butch’s Theme and Phillip’s Theme simultaneously, the two musical ideas now bonded as closely as the boy and the convict. In probably the film’s single most moving moment, Phillip hugs Butch, sobbing. They’ve spent their whole journey acting like a surrogate father and son, and now they look like the real thing. When Phillip takes Butch’s hand and leads him across the field towards the cops, it’s the most grown up thing the boy has ever done, and Niehaus elevates the moment with a sublime version of Phillip’s Theme, played for the first time by full orchestra and without harmonica. It fills our hearts and makes us believe this might end happily after all.

18. Shot Again
Red walks across the field to meet Butch while an FBI sharpshooter keeps his sights on him. When Butch kneels down to talk to Phillip and tells him he wants to give him something, he reaches into his back pocket for the postcard from Alaska, and says maybe one day Phillip will go there. Mistakenly thinking he’s going for a gun, the FBI man shoots Butch in the chest. Niahaus scores the moment just before the shot with a fragment of Butch’s Theme - but it’s played on harmonica, again blurring the distinction between the boy and the convict. When the bullet hits, the orchestra seems to fall down with Butch, Niehaus using some very Fielding-esque descending notes. The harmonica transfers to Phillip’s Theme again as the distraught boy pulls the mortally wounded Butch into a sitting position and tearfully hugs him.

19. Butch Lays Down
A mournful version of Butch’s Theme plays as he collapses lifelessly onto the grass. Phillip takes the postcard from his hand, and then his mother gently pulls him away. Phillip distressingly calls out Butch’s name as his mother leads him back across the field. The money Butch gave him begins to fall out of a hole in his Casper suit and drift away in the breeze. As Red gazes down at Butch, low ominous notes underscore his obvious anger with the trigger-happy FBI man. (Red clobbers the guy when he returns to the line of police cars.)

20. End Credits Medley
As the helicopter flies Phillip away, he sees Butch’s lifeless body below in the grass - but now he’s positioned just like he was in the prologue, one arm behind his head, looking for all the world like a guy just relaxing in the sun, and we realise this dreamy image is how Phillip prefers to remember the moment. The end titles begin with a very moving orchestral version of “Big Fran’s Baby” - and then Butch’s Theme appears in a beautiful new arrangement for trumpet and full orchestra. Gone is the furtive, weary sound - this is joyful music for the Butch who never was, the Butch who could have been… a man finally at peace with himself. The cue segues naturally into Phillip’s Theme, a powerful and uplifting version of the “hopeful” music from “Bye Phillip.” As the film comes to a close with a poignant rendition of the harmonica theme, it feels like a final salute to Phillip’s brief but unbreakable friendship with Butch.

21. End Credits Medley (film version)
In the film, bagpipes play a ghostly version of “Big Fran’s Baby” as the helicopter flies away, just before the end credits begin. The bagpipes don’t appear on the promo track, so I’ve included the film version here as a bonus.

PM for link.

09-01-2015, 04:05 AM
Thank you!

09-01-2015, 04:34 AM
Thanks for the share.

09-01-2015, 04:59 AM
Great thread!
Thank you so much for your excellent work!

09-01-2015, 05:19 AM
Cool indeed!

A great Niehaus score, well deserving a (more) proper treatment :D

09-01-2015, 10:42 AM

Mike Flaherty
09-01-2015, 10:52 AM
Thanks. Do you have the official CD Soundtrack. I've been searching for that for years. Any chance you could share that as well?

Update: Got it.

This has been a secret favorite score of mine for a while. Thanks for the work.

09-01-2015, 12:11 PM
Thanks. Do you have the official CD Soundtrack. I've been searching for that for years. Any chance you could share that as well?

Hi! The official soundtrack is available elsewhere on the forum - try: [Only registered and activated users can see links]

09-01-2015, 12:47 PM
Thanks feedthecats! :)

09-01-2015, 06:55 PM
Thank you for your work on this!

09-02-2015, 06:47 PM
Thank you share!

09-07-2015, 01:37 PM
Great Feedthecats for this upgrade of a lush Niehaus score many thanks L

09-07-2015, 03:27 PM

09-09-2015, 12:13 AM
Fantastic - thank you!

09-09-2015, 09:58 AM

09-09-2015, 10:00 AM

09-09-2015, 10:03 AM
Thank you! :)

11-10-2016, 11:30 PM
thank you so much for sharing!!!

Dhanavarsh Reddy
04-07-2017, 09:35 PM
Thanks a lot for the link

04-08-2017, 01:44 AM
Could I have a link please ?

04-11-2017, 02:07 AM
Thank you so much for sharing!!!

04-26-2017, 02:17 PM
Could I get a link to this, please? This has been my most-often recommended movie and soundtrack for years. Had no idea an expanded score existed!

04-26-2017, 02:22 PM
Could I get a link to this, please? This has been my most-often recommended movie and soundtrack for years. Had no idea an expanded score existed!

Hi there. I'd love to send you a link for this, but the forum won't let me PM you until you've posted (I think) at least 5 replies. I suppose you could start by posting another reply here, and then it'll be just three to go.

04-26-2017, 04:04 PM
Ah, I see. Thanks. I used to have a different login here and wondered what happened to the PMs.

04-26-2017, 04:05 PM
received it, thank you!!

04-26-2017, 04:27 PM
Ah, I see. Thanks. I used to have a different login here and wondered what happened to the PMs.

Well, you're up to 2 now. Only three more to go. And by the way, it's great that you appreciate this score. You can tell by my notes that I'm a big fan too :)

04-28-2017, 04:23 PM
Yes, your exquisite liner notes have only further whetted my appetite...

04-28-2017, 06:04 PM
Yes, your exquisite liner notes have only further whetted my appetite...

Your PM function is now working, so I've just sent you the link. Enjoy :)

08-25-2017, 09:32 AM
may i have the link please

09-06-2017, 01:24 PM
Hello:) could you sent me the link please?

12-10-2017, 05:42 AM
Thank you very much for the link.

12-09-2018, 02:14 PM
Link received.
Thank you so much for sharing!!

12-13-2018, 04:44 PM
Link received :) Thank you so much!

12-16-2018, 03:32 PM
Link received and rep added. Thank you very much again!