The Legend of the Candyman, a son of slaves whose father became rich in 1890
after inventing a device for mass producing of shoes. The educated
Candyman was an artist, but when the daughter of a powerful man got
pregnant by him, her father hired some hooligans that saw off his right
hand with a rusty blade, took him to an apiary with dozens of hives with
hungry bees, smashed the hives and smeared honeycomb on his naked body.
Candyman was stung to death by the bees, then his body was burnt in a
giant pyre and the ashes scattered on Cabrini Green.
Boy…who would have ever thought that in 1992, the great artist Philip Glass would compose a score for a cheesy horror film like Candyman? The story that we learned afterward makes a lot of sense: the young director Bernard Rose wanted to make the movie as a social commentary on the "boogieman," a.k.a. African-Americans living in the projects of which white people, like Virginia Madsen's character Helen are terribly afraid. That was the project that Glass signed on for.
Rose's vision never was realized, he was jettisoned, the whole production got taken over by the studios who wanted to make it a run of the mill slasher flick. With that said, I really like Candyman and I actually think Rose' vision came across though it probably wasn't communicated to most people.
Candyman is also tremendously important in the creation of Orange Mountain Music by artist Don Christensen. Christensen, a long-time friend of Glass was at a meeting one day, and he pointed out to Glass how the music for Candyman was a hot commodity on the bootleg market and that it should be considered for release. I believe at that time Glass had a record deal with Nonesuch who surely wouldn't have put such a thing out. So basically Glass told Christensen, "you want to put it out, put it out." Thus the creation of a record label able to release "archive" items like the score to Candyman. Candyman was the label's first release with the catalog number is OMM0003. Today, OMM's latest release is the Glass Chamber Players at OMM0069.
Glass had dismissed Candyman as bad in his mind because it seemed the experience of making the film and what he considered being duped was a negative experience for him. I'm very happy Christensen was so persistent.
The Candyman soundtrack begins with its most famous theme, that of the Music Box (Helen's theme.) I consider it one of the catchiest things Glass ever composed. Helen is a graduate student investigating the myth of the "Candyman."
Glass' sound palette for the film is a very gutsy one: chorus with organ. What was the last film score you remember being so limited and disciplined instrumentally? In this case it works. The only variation is the Music Box/Helen's theme is also played once on piano and once on celeste.
I really don't think the social commentary is lost in Glass' score. We are terrified of the boogieman along with Helen. However, the music drags us along with Helen as she wanders into the Cabrini Green projects in Chicago. The silly supernatural elements eventually engulf the story, but they mystery of what happened to Candyman remains. The artist who became immortal because of the injustice of his death which was caused by no other sin than love. These are all strong themes in Glass's other work as we were just discussing Orphée last week.
So here is "It Was Always You Helen" which appears at the close of the film combines Helen's Theme with the terrifying music for organ (Candyman) and a peaceful and harmonious chorus singing the film's second theme, as we watch the giant pyre burn in the projects we hear this music, something of a lullaby, as we (Helen) accept injustice as we die.