When the first Ninja Turtles film came out, fans everywhere were amazed at seeing their favorite characters come to life from the animated series to the big screen (Comic book to screen for the diehards). Between the directing, and the especially the performances by the animatronics/puppeteers, the film transcended beyond what it was, and as time has gone by the first film has only continued to hold up more and more. But of course, what also helped the film was the score by John Duprez. His compositions helped give the first two films the gravitas they needed, especially the first film. Much like how everything took inspiration from the original comics by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, the score was no different. However, it also did take a page from the first animated series with adding a sense of fun to it as well, so while it still had that grittiness from the comics, that was balanced out by the lighter parts. And much like the best scores, you can easily listen to the tracks and know exactly what the scene is without even needing to see it with your own eyes, and it doesn’t sound like a typical orchestra.
For me, I can point out five specific scenes where the score just meshes so well with the moment, for example, the introduction scene, which at first gives the audience a different feel and for a moment everyone wonders if this is even a Ninja Turtles movie.
Then the second introduction that immediately takes the audience into familiar territory but doesn’t do it in a cartoony way, but on a bigger level. (But then again, Raphael dropping a four-letter word showed that this film wasn’t a straight adaptation of the animated series, but the original Eastman/Laird books)
Then when Splinter talks to Raphael, you see how the audience forgets that it is animatronics/puppeteers and stunt-actors in the suits, because the scene brings you in and all the aforementioned stuff transcends what they are and true art is formed.
Then when the Shredder appears in the flesh, John Du Prez conveys through his score that you aren’t dealing with some cartoon caricature, but a seasoned martial arts master who is not playing around, is a man on a mission, and is not going to take any failure or outside interference lightly. Yet at the same token Shredder is quite the charismatic manipulator given what he says to these other teenagers that have gathered around him, and while they may be Foot Clan members, the audience realizes that these gang members are just as much victims as the people they mug.
And finally, the campfire scene where once again the characters all transcend what they really are (stunt-actors and puppeteers) and convey what the scene is – a father/sensei speaking to his sons/students and giving them a renewed sense of hope in a time where they are still feeling lost and incomplete despite Raphael’s recovery.
For many years people had clamored for the score to be released, and there would be nothing but crickets, but then on October 19, 2018 Waxwork Records released the entire John Du Prez score as an LP at NY Comic-Con with artwork done by co-creator Kevin Eastman himself. Though it was in a limited amount, this album would find its way to digital stores like iTunes some years later, and for this Arcader, it was worth the wait. The score to the second movie would also find its way to iTunes as well, and as someone who watched the Turtles films – namely the first two – these scores are a must-have even if you didn’t get the LPs, which I’m sure fetch a pretty penny on Amazon and eBay at this point.
In all, John Du Prez’s scores for these two films are classics, and show how a movie score can be more than a stereotypical one, but no less effective as a storytelling tool.
Fantastic scores, and one that will definitely make you want to say, “Cowabunga!”