The Dave Grusin Archive
Music for the Screen
A Howling in the Woods





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Stars:  Barbara Eden, Vera Miles, John Rubinstein, Lisa Gerritsen, Tyne Daly, Larry Hagman

Director:  Daniel Petrie

Producer:  Douglas Benton

First Broadcast:  November 11, 1971

Story:  A woman about to get a divorce returns to her family home to discover a new `step brother,' her father seemingly missing, mysterious behavior by the townsfolk and a strange howling in the woods.
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For a Television movie with a title like A Howling in the Woods, this is a surprisingly poetic score.  With numerous dialogue-free sequences (especially the first five minutes, there is ample room to develop the music thematically, and indeed the score is a lengthy one with a number of elements.

To portray the principal character, Liza, Dave Grusin has fashioned a kind-hearted and optimistic piece with an unmistakable sound to the orchestration.

Among the secondary themes are a sweet melody which is played in music box fashion at the opening of the film for the child victim, then reprised to substantial dramatic effect as source music played on the piano by her murderer.  Until the revelations at the end, this connection is never revealed, but nevertheless remains planted in the minds of the audience.

There is also a pretty `love theme' to characterize the relationship between Liza and her husband, which until the end of the film is only describing a couple at odds, however, with the potential for reconciliation.  (It is, in fact, only the music which ever gives us the idea that this could possibly happen.)

Additionally, there is a considerable amount of original music in terms of incidental cues.  The mystery element of the film - that there is something `not quite right' going on - is thoroughly explored .  Exemplified not only by a variety of deft suspense themes, but even more thoroughly via a kind of psychological stress motif, this is a form which Dave Grusin had been developing since early TV movies, and which reached a pinnacle in the often surreal score to Three Days of the Condor.

The composer has commented emphatically that lack of time and resources in television severely affect the quality of the product. However, the credibility of this score indicates a well-judged use of available commodities.


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