by Tony Maygarden

Stanley Kubrick was known as one of the great film auteurs, in that he was always in total creative control of the making of his films (including selecting the soundtrack music). When he died in 1999, Kubrick left a relatively small but highly regarded body of work. This article is going to look at the available soundtrack albums to his films (excluding Eyes Wide Shut which was not released on LP).

Spartacus (1960) is generally not considered a "Stanley Kubrick" film as such since he was only a hired gun as director. Still, his directorial style surely had a lot to do with how the music was composed and selected so it is included here. Alex North, who had written the Academy Award nominated scores for A Streetcar Named Desire and The Rose Tattoo, was selected to write the score.

Spartacus LP cover


Spartacus LP inner gatefold photo

Lavinia (Jean Simmons) and Spartacus (Kirk Douglas) from the beautiful gatefold cover to the Spartacus LP. Inside the gatefold is a fold-out booklet with many color stills, and a large 12" x 24" photo of Spartacus in the gladiator ring.

According to the liner notes, North used Prokofief's score for Alexander Nevsky as a model, with a heavy brass section and martial drums. North, from the liner notes: "I strove for a barbaric quality..."

Anything but barbaric is the beautiful and haunting "Blue Shadows and Purple Hills," the love theme of Spartacus (Kirk Douglas) and Varinia (Jean Simmons). The cue "Oysters and Snails," from the notorious bath scene with Antoninus (Tony Curtis) and Crassus (Laurence Olivier), features an unusual sound created by an Ondioline. North, again from the liner notes: "...the Ondioline is an electronic instrument which looks like a miniature piano, is played by one hand and produces sounds not easily identifiable because they simulate a combination of woodwinds, mandolin and percussion." North states that this was the first use of the device in Hollywood.

The score for Spartacus was nominated for an Academy Award, but did not win.


Lolita LP cover

The heart-shaped sunglasses became all the rage after the film's release.

Lolita LP back cover

Back cover with still of Sue Lyon as Lolita.

Veteran arranger Nelson Riddle composed (with Bob Harris) and conducted the music for Kubrick's next film, Lolita (1962). The score, typical in style of the Hollywood soundtracks of its day, is suitably moody and atmospheric, and, as might be expected, the orchestrations are lovely.

The standout track is "Lolita Ya-Ya," with its loping guitar riff and baby doll "ya-ya-wo-wo-ya-ya" vocal. "Lolita Ya-Ya" was released as a single and was credited to Sue Lyon, although she does not receive credit on the LP. A four minute version of the song is reprised later on as "Thoughts of Lolita."

Dr. Stangelove LP cover

Dr. Strangelove LP back cover

Interesting stills from the back cover of the Dr. Strangelove LP . Tracy Reed as "Miss Foreign Affairs" does not wear a mink stole in the film.

The soundtrack LP to Kubrick's film Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) is not much as soundtrack LPs go. It contains only one piece of music from the film, "Theme From Dr. Strangelove," written and performed by Laurie Johnson. Basically a reworking of "When Johnny Comes Marching Home," it was used in the scenes of Major Kong's B-52 run into Russia. The instrumental version of "Try a Little Tenderness" used during the opening credits, the song "We'll Meet Again" (sung by Vera Lynn, I think) played under the mushroom clouds at the end, and the incidental music heard on the transistor radios at the air base, are not included on the album. The album is filled out with original music from other Colpix soundtracks (like Lawrence of Arabia) and some studiotracks by Morris Stoloff. Soundtrack fanatics may want to note that one of the included tracks is "Theme From Psyche 59," from the obscure film Psyche 59, which as far as I know is not available elsewhere.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) was an incredible success. Kubrick combined pioneering special effects with a story line that was both inspiring and bewildering. It's little surprise that the soundtrack was also different and surprising, and a big sales success on its own. Comprised of modern (or in the case of Johann Strauss' "The Blue Danube," not so modern) orchestral works by Richard Strauss, Ligeti and Khatchaturian, Kubrick blended music and film seamlessly and beautifully together. Never had orchestral works been used in quite this way before in a film. In fact, there was some criticism at the time from music lovers who complained that the music and film were too closely associated. Even now it's hard for me to hear R. Strauss' "Also Sprach Zararthustra" without thinking of an ape smashing bones, or hearing "The Blue Danube" without thinking of a pirouetting spaceship.

Because the music and the film are so tightly wound together, it was interesting to discover that this music was initially only supposed to be "timing" tracks, i.e. temporary music used to edit the film. The real score was to be written by Alex North. When Kubrick heard the early pieces North had written (how was he supposed to replace "Also Sprach Zarathustra"?) he decided not to use them.


2001 LP cover

All of the selections used in the film were from the Deutsche Grammophon catalog.

There are supposedly two different versions of Ligetti's "Atmospheres" (heard while Bowman is flying the ship after HAL is disconnected) available on different pressings of the LP.