The White Buffalo

1977

CD: Prometheus PCR 518

cover art for The White Buffalo
  1. The White Buffalo (2:15)
  2. Main Title (3:59)
  3. Mr. Otis (0:27)
  4. Charlie One-Eye (1:40)
  5. Buffalo Rampage (0:53)
  6. Mourning Worm / Buffalo Bones (1:59)
  7. Dead Miners / Fetterman (1:36)
  8. Up French Crek / Bein Afraid (2:07)
  9. Eatin' Crow / Snow Walk (1:53)
  10. "Ol" Nicodemus (1:02)
  11. Killer Fires (1:08)
  12. Hang a Wooden Suit / Capital Expansion (2:02)
  13. Night Visitor (1:17)
  14. Still Bein Afraid (2:05)
  15. The Place / Buffalo Charge (2:06)
  16. Ohinyan / End Credits (4:57)
  17. Jenny Weeds (0:32)
  18. Lost My Bet (1:19)

The remaining two tracks were arranged, conducted and produced by David Shire

  1. Camptown Medley #1 (1:53)
  2. Camptown Medley #2 (1:37)

The Movie

Wild Bill Hickock (Charles Bronson) and Chief Crazy Horse (Will Sampson) team up to kill a buffalo. But this isn't just any buffalo--it's a white buffalo. And it isn't just any old white buffalo--it's a killer buffalo. A killer buffalo with a taste for human blood! Bwahahahahahahaha!

I finally saw this thing. It was--something. It was better than I'd expected, but I expected the absolute worst. It has interesting moments, but mostly I don't buy it, and it's plodding, and the moments I found interesting are simply too few and far between.


The Music

James Southall wrote the booklet notes for this soundtrack, and for the most part I agree. I'll quote what I think is the best part:

There are two main themes. Hickock's theme, presented first in "The White Buffalo," is a classic Barry piece for strings, oboe and horn chords, and rolls with sadness, longing and desire of the character into one piece. The buffalo's theme, heard most fully during the "Main Title," is a piece of deep menace and horror, something of a departure for the composer. Devoid of any of the warmth so often associated with John Barry's music, it is as bleak as a coal mine on a cold day, almost funereal. The piece incorporates ethnic percussion that clearly foreshadows the "Pawnee Attack" music in Dances with Wolves, which makes perfect sense.

I agree, though I'll add that I also find this one downright creepy in places--namely the "buffalo" theme. There's a bass trill that I heard that, on my cheap headphone speakers, I first thought was distortion. When I played it on my good stereo I realized it was music--and it goes down my spine. Wonderful stuff, but un-nerving.

One thing I don't quite agree on:

The White Buffalo could not be more atypical of Barry--while his dramatic sense is as strong as ever, neither before nor since has he written such a bleak musical painting for a movie.

I disagree--I think Four in the Morning holds that distinction.

Regardless--it's a worthwhile score and addition to the collection. This appears to be from the same core team that gave us Frances and High Road to China and Hammett--and they're to be commended. It's professionally done, it sounds great, and it's not the same old stuff. And as with those other limited edtion CD's--get it before they're gone. As I write this (summer of 2004), Hammett is still for sale but good luck finding Frances or High Road to China, unless you're willing to pay dearly.


Release Notes

The movie tanked (killer buffalo, indeed) and there was no soundtrack release. The Prometheus CD is the first and only original score to be released in any format.