Wolf: (Ennio Morricone) With a $70 million budget that would reunite director Mike Nichols with actor Jack Nicholson and cinematographer Giuseppe Rotunno, Wolf explored the intriguing idea of inserting a classic monster movie fable into the world of corporate politics. After being bitten by a werewolf, a senior editor of a publishing company (good old Jack, of course) exacts his revenge against the rich investor that fires him from his post and the yuppie rat-like replacement who taunts him. Pairing up with the daughter of the investor who will befriend any enemy of her father, Nicholson and Michelle Pfeiffer present a "beauty and the beast" scenario of convenient romance despite the looming suspense of Nicholson's transformation. The film succeeded in its first half, when animal instincts provide the title character with an uncanny ability to stir up trouble in the human world, though the film devolved considerably when lackluster make-up jobs on Nicholson were demanded, and somewhat flimsy special effect shots of the wolf leaping from buildings entangled the film in B-rate horror trouble. Maestro John Williams was originally reported to score Wolf, though after his astounding success in 1993, Williams would make the concert rounds and refrain from scoring a film in 1994. That left Wolf with the odd assignment of Italian Ennio Morricone, and you have to wonder how much of an influence the darkly classical score for Dracula a few years earlier by fellow European Wojciech Kilar had on the hiring of another European in a situation where any number of American composers might have sufficed. Morricone's abilities in straight drama, romance, and action are well-respected, though his horror work has never really turned many heads. Undoubtedly, Wolf would allow him to follow some of the familiar romantic and/or melodic lines that we have come to expect from Morricone, though the end result is a tumultuous score that never establishes a clear direction or style outside of its own disjointed sounds.
As expected, Morricone begins with a classically jazzy noir approach in Wolf, and utilizes fragments of the resulting melodic structures throughout the score as Nicholson transforms. The problem, however, is that Morricone never really established the jazzy lure of editor's previous life in the big city, instead choosing to start the score in an already-devolved state. Snippets of noir shine throughout Wolf, with the "Will's Final Good Bye" cue presenting a remarkably layered brass farewell, and the tense moments of romance between the main characters takes us back to a few shots of Morricone's romantic strings. But the transition cues are handled with a complete lack of creativity, landing firmly on the side of atonal sound effects, grinding with the ensemble in an attempt to heighten the horror of the events while losing all the romantic appeal of the fantasy. Likewise, Morricone doesn't necessarily succeed when he attempts to get really creative either. In "The Howl and the City," Morricone uses wailing solo brass, with no regard to pitch, as well as the awkward combination of high woodwind blasts over rambling drum rhythms. Perhaps the most interesting (and ultimately irritating) element in Wolf is the use of a synthetic harpsichord effect that appears frequently throughout the score. Rarely existing in the same key as the rest of the cue, this electronic effect is slowly mixed into a cue, where it is overbearing in volume, and then slowly fades away. It's clear that Morricone was attempting to use this sound effect to represent the animal instincts that come and go in the title character, as well as the inherent suspense in the story, but the execution of the sound in otherwise already-effective suspense cues is extremely distracting. On the whole, Morricone's score has no clear direction and seemingly no goal, despite the film's strong goals and direction. He hits you with the devolved version of a noir score heard only in shadows, and without starting at point 'A' and arriving at point 'B,' we have no frame of reference for the horror music once it hits us early on. There are fragments that work, including the solace heard in the final "Laura" cue, though even this music is interrupted by the synthetic harpsichord effect that ultimately ruins this score.