Classic Movie Themes: Hawk the Slayer
According to Wikipedia “Hawk the Slayer is a 1980 British sword and sorcery adventure film directed by Terry Marcel and starring John Terry and Jack Palance. The film has developed a cult following”. That doesn’t do the movie justice by any reckoning. Hawk the Slayer is a quirky, low budget, high camp fantasy movie that compensates for its budgetary shortcoming by being so preposterously silly. It is loaded with hard boiled, fantasy steeped dialogue that parodies well known genre tropes. It treads a fine line between utter bilge and stupid fun. It is very much a product of its time and is also filled with British character actors. Some viewers will see nothing more than a cheap and cheerful cash-in on the eighties Sword and Sorcery boom. Others will delight at this inventive, stylised and silly fantasy orientated outing. Such is the nature of cult movies.
Harry Robertson (19 November 1932 – 17 January 1996) was a musician, bandleader, music director and composer. He worked as a musical director on British television shows throughout the fifties and sixties. He also composed and arranged the scores for various feature film, notably those of the Hammer production company during the late sixties and seventies (The Vampire Lovers, Lust for a Vampire and Countess Dracula). For Hawk the Slayer, Robertson chose to write a bright and modern score (within the idiom of the times), infusing a traditional orchestra heavy on strings and brass with synthesizers and electric guitar. There are plenty of nods to his own favourite composers such as Bernard Herrmann, Jerry Goldsmith, Quincy Jones, Ennio Morricone, and John Barry.
While the aesthetic of the film was to emulate Kurosawa in terms of camera angles and direction, Robertson considered the movie a Fantasy Western and wrote his score as such. He assigns the hero Hawk a signature motif not too dissimilar to The Man with No Name. There are several major themes used throughout the film to signify various characters. Like the movie itself, Robertson’s soundtrack will either delight or annoy. It a time reminds me of Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds in places. Here is the main title theme and central motif for the film. It is played as Hawk tracks down his various comrades and subsequently during various action scenes. It is a fun cue that encapsulates the inherent spirit of the film and channels a lot of eighties synth pop.