Soundtrack By Tangerine Dream: A Video Mixtape

05/31/2012 10:57 AM |


The German space rock group Tangerine Dream (1967-) was one of the first-ever bands to adopt the synthesizer. Like Kraftwerk, Neu! and Can, they emerged from the same late-60s counterculture as the directors of the New German Cinema. Signed to the British Virgin Records in the early 70s, Tangerine Dream was less nationally identified than some of their Krautrock contemporaries. Throughout the 80s, they composed scores for dozens of American movies, helping to define the sound of the decade. Repertory nerds have long hoped for a Tangerine Dream retrospective, and it’s finally happening at BAM, June 1-7. What follows is a video mix of some of the best soundtrack moments in the series.


A must-see for John Carpenter fans, Michael Laughlin’s Strange Behavior is part comedy, part slasher, part homage to 50s sci-fi-horror, generously slathered in ennui and paced accordingly. Michael Murphy plays an policeman, widower, and single dad who spends most of his time sighing and collapsing into chairs. Until a string of high school kids are murdered, and his son (Dan Shor) starts acting spooky. Academy Award winner Louise Fletcher lends a hand. The pensive T. Dream score matches the wallpaper and keeps us on our toes by omitting conventional cues:

THIEF (1981)

Michael Mann’s first movie, Thief (1981), set the bar for his career. His signature is already stamped on every frame: macho melodrama, neon lights, spectacular set pieces, slow-mo battles, cutting to music and so on. Frank (James Caan) is a safe cracker eager to exit the criminal underworld and start a family with his newest wife (Tuesday Weld). Willie Nelson plays Frank’s mentor, and Dennis Farina, in his first movie role, has non-speaking part as a hired goon.

Spoiler alert. Things don’t work out for Frank. Yet, thanks to Tangerine Dream, his ultimate rampage of destruction feels like a triumph.

THE KEEP (1983)

Michael Mann’s stoner movie. What if the Nazis had won? What if they invaded a haunted fortress in the Carpathian Alps in 1961? Can a motorcyle-riding mystery man protect Romania from the Nazis and the black magic they’ve unleashed? The Keep’s plot is a stretch, but the soundtrack fit. Turns out dark, windy corridors are a perfect spot for space rock.

NEAR DARK (1987)

Kathryn Bigelow’s first movie is a Western with redneck vampires. Well, technically, vampires can’t be rednecks. but these bloodsucking Winnebago-dwellers come pretty close. Wafting among the tumbleweeds is electronic music of the extreme 80s variety, Tangerine Dream’s contribution to this gonzo experiment in genre.