DEATH, DECEIT AND DESTINY ABOARD THE ORIENT EXPRESS – Stelvio Cipriani


Original Review by Alan Rogers

Stelvio Cipriani’s score for the 2001 Canada/Bulgaria/US co-production Death, Deceit and Destiny Aboard The Orient Express is difficult to praise but it is also difficult to criticise too harshly. Cipriani’s music for this apparent turkey of a film is a “by-the-numbers” effort: it’s functional without being too memorable. The film’s plot concerns a group of terrorists holding captive (on the Orient Express of all places) a number of very rich people for ransom. What follows is ninety minutes of clichéd set pieces, bad dialogue and hopeless acting in a movie that bears very little resemblance with Agatha Christie’s Murder On The Orient Express – just in case you were wondering.

South African-born director Mark Roper chose Italian-born composer Stelvio Cipriani (Tentacoli, La Polizia Sta a Guardare) to score the film and Cipriani gives Roper a much better score than the film deserves. The opening track “Destiny (Bolero)” is a six-minute piece that sails quite close to Ravel’s famous piece. As the track progresses it swells and fills out satisfyingly with the addition of various sections of the orchestra. But I am curious how this quite classical piece fits into the film (perhaps the formal rhythm somehow relates to the train that dominates the film). “Arrival At Destination” follows on from the first track and is notable for its lovely string and woodwind melody that’s got a definite European, romantic feel to it. What then follows is a series of tracks that are connected by their track titles. “Train Raid” contains action scoring that relies heavily on string ostinato and includes some quite dramatic and effective brass statements (e.g., “Train Raid (M36)”). This cue does suffer though from some very disjointed sequences that I assume reflects the disjointed on-screen action. It all sounds quite clumsy. And the appearance of a cartoon “stinger”-styled descending woodwind motif (that would be just as at home in a Tom and Jerry short) does seem quite out of place. Interspersed tracks entitled “Yearning” and “Mysteria” slow the pace down somewhat with some delicate flute writing that does have a slight John Barry feel to it (e.g., “Yearning (M07)”). 

“Imminent Danger” (with a train-sounding sting motif and percussion rhythm that reminds me of similar rhythms from Howard Shore’s The Aviator) and “Detonation Action” (with a pounding piano motif reminiscent of Don Davis’ The Matrix) features some reasonably good scoring that reflects the pace of the train as well as the danger of the situation. But it’s all quite simple, using tried and trusted devices to illustrate and support the action. There’s not much complexity in terms of countermelodies or orchestrations. Particularly perplexing is that the last few tracks are obviously synth-generated. “Train Raid (M18)” has some nasty-sounding percussion rhythms and “Yearning (M12)” features some cheap-sounding string synth chords alongside acoustic guitar.

Cipriani’s score for Death, Deceit and Destiny Aboard The Orient Express (what an awful name for a film!) does have some highlights but they are buried in amongst some rather ordinary scoring. I have not heard much music from this composer (though he is listed as having composed for over 200 titles) but music for this film and from some of his other scores that I have heard (such as Queen’s Messenger and Testa T’Ammazzo, Croce…Sei Morto…Mi Chiamano Alleluja) does suggest that when his name is associated with a title it is worth listening to some clips “just in case”. Death, Deceit and Destiny Aboard The Orient Express is a score that won’t appeal to many people but there are some good tracks (particularly the action cues) that are worth hearing as long as your expectations are not too high. This score is available as a digital download at online stores.

Audio samples can be found HERE and then click on blue arrow next to running time for samples of entire album or individual tracks.

Rating: **

  1. Destiny (Bolero) (6:20)
  2. Arrival At Destination (3:41)
  3. Train Raid (3:29)
  4. Yearning (M07) (2:19)
  5. Imminent Danger (2:35)
  6. Detonation Action (2:59)
  7. Mysteria (M25) (1:38)
  8. Train Raid (M36) (3:15)
  9. Yearning (M12) (3:25)
  10. Train Raid (M18) (2:03)
  11. Mysteria (M24) (1:23)
  12. Final Raid (1:37)

Running Time: 34:49

Fonit Cetra WMI (2010)

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