Ladyhawke turned 30 in April. I was all set to celebrate that anniversary, lonely Ladyhawke fan that I am.

But then things started going very wrong in my blog’s last network home. And I just didn’t feel much like hosting people for interviews there. So I took several months off, moved to this new place, and boom — now I get my Ladyhawke fix.

So here’s the deal:

I received an unexpected package in the mail. It was from Timothy Greiving, a film score scholar whose thoughts on soundtracks I have long respected. Turns out Greiving knows my dark secret: I love — to an embarrassing degree — what may be the most maligned soundtrack in movie history. And, making me feel courageous enough to admit that, it turns out that he does too.

I still enjoy watching Ladyhawke now as much as I did then. In the wrong hands, it could have been a silly catastrophe. But director Richard Donner (Superman: The Movie) treated the material as seriously as if he were directing Shakespeare. The cinematography is glorious, full of iconic moments, including a star-making, moonlit moment when Michelle Pfeiffer makes a breathtaking entrance.

And I cannot say enough about what the cast brings to the material. Donner gambled by casting Matthew Broderick as a trouble-prone thief who carries on a one-sided conversation with God throughout. Broderick was a teen star at the time, riding a wave of popularity with two big hits: WarGames and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. But it works because even though he’s the character who carries us all the way through, he’s not really the leading man. He’s the comic relief, which the film needs as a counter to the gravity of the rest of the cast. Rutger Hauer is in rare heroic form. Michelle Pfeiffer plays a beauty you’d believe knights would fight for. John Wood plays the villain—an imperious bishop with a satanic heart, helped by a sinister wolf-trapper played by Alfred Molina. And best of all, there’s the great Leo McKern in a show-stealing turn as a priest with a serious drinking problem.

But back to the soundtrack: Greiving, who writes about film scores for NPR, didn’t just pick up a copy of the soundtrack for me. (I already have it.) No, he sent me La La Land Records’ new limited-edition 2-CD soundtrack.

When I listen to this music, my head fills with vivid images from a movie that ignited my 15-year-old imagination. What’s more, it’s an album that I asked my parents to play on the car stereo during road trips through Oregon, and much to my surprise, they came to like it—electric guitars and all. What’s more, I listened to Ladyhawke while I wrote stacks of fantasy novels in my late teens and on through college.

So I cannot give you an objective review—it’s all tangled up in experience.

Tim Greiving portrait
Film score scholar Timothy Greiving

Instead, let’s consult the man himself, who wrote the liner notes for this release.

Please welcome Timothy Greiving.

Give us some background on your relationship with film soundtracks. Which were the first to grab your attention? How did you become a film music journalist?

In 1994 ​I heard the soundtrack for Jurassic Park (on cassette) in my cousin’s minivan in Florida. I was ten. I had to ask what he meant by “soundtrack” (“You mean like dinosaurs roaring and stuff?”). I realized I already loved the soundtracks of John Williams from the Star Wars and Indiana Jones films (among others), went home and bought Jurassic Park, and just started collecting—at first—John Williams scores. He was my first love, and remains my favorite composer/musical artist of all time. It gradually expanded into film scores in general, and became a lifelong obsession.

I began writing for the e-magazine Film Score Monthly Online in 2008 (for no pay), which let me in on a world where I could interview composers (eventually some of my idols) and write about the art form I loved more than any other. It was intoxicating, and eventually blossomed into paying work writing liner notes for specialty, archival soundtrack releases. I moved to Los Angeles in 2011 to get a master’s in arts journalism, and have slowly built a career as a freelancer writing and producing radio stories for various outlets (NPR, Variety) almost entirely on the niche field of film music.​

What are some of your favorites?

​My favorite score of all time is John William’s A.I.: Artificial Intelligence. The film hit me at the sweet spot of ​16, and became my favorite film. As he often does, Williams wrote a tapestry of unforgettable themes for characters and situations, and in A.I. with a mature depth and melancholy and aching beauty. The score ends with a heartbreaking lullaby theme that perfectly concludes and sums up the whole work. Other favorites are E.T. (for similar reasons), James Newton Howard’s Signs (where he takes a tiny three-note motif of mystery and brilliantly coaxes it into a symphonic masterpiece about faith restored), and George Fenton’s poignant, Oxford-flavored score for Shadowlands. (I have hundreds of favorites…it’s so hard to narrow my focus!)

How much does the quality of the movie itself affect your opinion of the soundtrack? 

There’s something really wonderful when the alchemy of film and score work together to create a singular, magical experience. But I love many, many scores for films I don’t care for or haven’t even seen. One of the beautiful things about film music is that it’s arguably the only “layer” of the filmmaking process you can peel off and enjoy as its own art form. Jerry Goldsmith is a close second to Williams in my heart, and he made a career out of scoring stinkers. I love his scores for The Final Conflict (the third Omen movie, which I’ve never seen, but looks pretty awful) and The Shadow. There’s a long list of scores I love but have no affinity for the film they accompany.

You’ve just written the liner notes to a collector’s edition double-disc soundtrack for the 1985 Richard Donner fantasy film Ladyhawke, which is a sentimental favorite of mine. It’s hard for me to admit my love for that score because so many people rate it as one of the worst soundtracks ever composed.

You had to give Ladyhawke some serious attention to do the write-up that you did. How dod you feel about the soundtrack? And why do you think people have such strong feelings about it?

​People have strong feelings because the juxtaposition of heavy, synthy rock music with the medieval story/imagery​ feels jarringly anachronistic to a lot of people. Several film critics drew attention to the score when Ladyhawke came out (critics often ignore the music altogether), and mostly because it distracted them in a bad way. Most people would expect big, Romantic-era, (let’s face it) John Williams-style fantasy music for a film about knights and castles and magic, so to hear something so unapologetically poppy and “contemporary” is/was criminal to many filmgoers. And in 2015 it now has the added “crime” of being dated and not contemporary. But many will defend the score and its power in the film, and many have come around to appreciating the effect Richard Donner was going for.

I never knew this film or its score until I was assigned to write the liner notes for this release, so it was a revelation to me. If I’d encountered it just a few years ago, it probably would have triggered my gag reflex, because I had such a strong distaste for ’80s film scores with heavy synth/rock flavors. But over the last two years or so I’ve completely fallen in love with the work of Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream, Vangelis, Giorgio Moroder, etc. (everything I used to despise!), so Ladyhawke came along at a great time.

I’m still not a big fan of the film itself, but can appreciate its qualities.

You obviously put a lot of work into these Ladyhawke liner notes?

​I always love interviewing directors and the people who made the film and the composers who wrote the score, and on Ladyhawke I got to interview Richard Donner and his wife, producer Lauren Shuler Donner, as well as the star Rutger Hauer. Both were great interviews, full of fun memories and interesting trivia. I also got to speak with composer Andrew Powell in depth about his compositional choices, working with Donner, the criticisms of anachronism he’s had to deal with for 30 years, and a lot more. It was a very rewarding project overall.

Have you had any interesting responses to this release? Is there a Ladyhawke ​​soundtrack fan club out there that’s going to snatch these up?

​I haven’t heard much myself, but I know it’s sold ​very well for the record label that put it out (revealing that the​ score’s​ naysayers are only very vocal, and not necessarily ​in ​the majority​). I don’t know about a fan club devoted just to ​this score, but there is a community of film music nerds (okay, aficionados to be polite)​ who gobbled this up, as well as fans of the Alan Parsons Project. ​’80s film scores sell exceptionally well​ in general​, in part because the current zeitgeist is nostalgically obsessed with the movies of that decade.