cover art for Petulia



LP: Warner Brothers WS-1755

CD: Film Score Monthly FSM0820

  1. Main Title (1:55)
  2. Friends of the Evergreen (2:05)
  3. Highway 101 (2:31)
  4. A Little Old-Fashioned Nostalgia (2:50)
  5. Motel (4:48)
  6. Petulia (3:00)
  7. Petulia (3:21)
  8. Comprehendo? (1:58)
  9. Border Gate at Tijuana (2:38)
  10. Once Having Been Lovers (3:05)
  11. Eat Topless (3:27)
  12. End Title (5:00)


The Movie

I've tried this a couple of times now over the last couple of years, and I just can't take it. I like to think I'm fairly sophisticated—I've got the liberal arts degree; I regularly read books that you don't normally see by the checkout stand at the grocery store; I ask for more in movies than what you typically get from superheroes.

But I can't take this thing. It's not just the flash-forwards and backs, though I've hated that in other movies as well. I like George C. Scott. I bought the soundtrack years ago and played it until the needle cut a hole through the vinyl. I was predisposed to like this thing.

But I hated it—at least until I bailed out on it mid-way through. Julie Christie is supposed to be presented as kind of a loveable nut, and as the movie progresses it gets darker. I didn't see it getting dark. I saw it getting dull. It started dull and pounded its edge on the concrete to blunt it even more. It's one of those movies where I felt the film-makers were martians making a movie about martians filmed on Mars. And I can get around this if I find the characters interesting—I didn't here. I think there's a good reason this movie tanked at the box office: bad characters doing nothing of interest for two hours. If I want to see that I'll go to a neighborhood park for lunch.

The Music

Film Score Monthly wrote a wonderful review of this score. I'm quoting a little bit of it here but I suggest you read the whole thing.

Petulia is one of Barry's finest albums, a deeply moving and almost unbearably melancholy work which shows the depths of his emotional gifts. The album is a very different musical experience from the film, featuring several cues not included in the movie, and even some of the cues that were included were partially dialed out or mixed so quietly as to be nearly inaudible — overall the musical approach of the film is much more European than Hollywood. The Petulia score is dominated by a simple main theme, a variation on a four note motif, which (especially given the tone of the film) is more of a loneliness theme than a love theme. (If you really tried, you could sing the name Pe-tu-li-a to the theme, but given the nature and tone of the film, the lyrics would likely be incredibly depressing). Barry himself was quoted in the book John Barry: A Life in Music (by Geoff Leonard, Pete Walker and Gareth Bramley) as saying of his score that "the interpretation was cold and icy, but worked in a strange way." Barry would win his third Oscar for another 1968 score, The Lion in Winter, and though the film Petulia was not a success at the time, its reputation has soared over the intervening years, now regarded by some critics as one of the finest American films of the sixties.

Release Notes

The LP came out with the movie, but it wasn't until 2005 when Film Score Monthly released it on CD paired with Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

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