The other night I watched John Frankenheimer‘s The Manchurian Candidate with a friend, and all I saw were the mistakes and plot holes and dialogue that needed rewriting. I realized all the more that it wouldn’t work half as well without David Amram‘s string-quartet score. That music tells you from the get-go that something unusual and high-toned and even a bit curious is about to unfurl. Frankenheimer’s film delivers on these counts, of course. Amram’s main-title music tells you “this movie was made by adults with a thoughtfully baroque mindset…a mature thriller with a mind of its own.”

On the other hand the opening main-title bars of Don EllisFrench Connection score couldn’t be less complex. Bang bang, clang clang, wham bam. It tells you “this movie is going to be blunt and raw and hard-hitting…it’s a fairly sophisticated film in a sense, but it’s not going to deliver in any kind of roundabout way…what you’re hearing and feeling is what you’re going to get, trust us.”

I’m not saying Nicholas Ray‘s King of Kings is anything to sing and shout about, but the film that it is wouldn’t be half as effective without Miklos Rozsa‘s score.