Welcome to the Track by Track Commentary

Here, you will find an in-depth description of every track on the Complete Score bootleg. There's also an assortment of goodies on the sidebar.

Also, if you haven't done so yet, check out the audio page!

Imitating Danny Elfman is not easy to do as The City of Pargue Philharmonic has proven in their Alien Invasion: Space and Beyond II compilation album. The City of Prague Philharmonic replicates famous main and end title music from great sci-fi scores over the past 50 years in their Space and Beyond Series. The performance of the majority of cues (works by Goldsmith, Horner, Tiomkin and such) are quite good. However, Elfman's Mars Attacks, with its delicate blending of choir, orchestra, and electronics, yielded a different result. Nic Raine and the orchestra are top-notch, but their performance just doesn't quite cut it.

Play the Mars Attacks March from Alien Invasion

Buy the 2-CD set from Amazon

01. Burning Cattle / Main Titles (4:05)

As Tim Burton has said he likes to do (see Sleepy Hollow DVD) the music begins as the Warner Bros. Logo appears- this time with a Martian saucer flying by in the background. Elfmanís music starts with flute and other woodwinds passing around a melodic line with the basses and other low sounds playing a syncopated rhythm that makes the pulse of the cue difficult to find. Gradually more and more instruments enter as the cue gets more and more dissonant to accompany the "horrific" image of flaming cattle running down the road. This is one of the more dissonant passages in the score (thanks to the hollowing woodwinds). The music suddenly pauses, though, as we see and hear the flying saucer shoot up into the sky. Then the orchestra comes back with a huge fanfare as the saucer speeds away from earth and the logos appear. The actual main title music then starts a few seconds after the opening titles have begun.

The Mars Attacks March (The Main Titles cue) is a definite highlight of the score. With a powerful combination of orchestra, electronics, and choir, the march is one of Elfmanís strongest main titles. All three components blend together seamlessly in typical Elfman fashion. Attempts to replay this march, though, have issued less-than-spectacular results (see sidebar). If the melody seems a bit familiar (you have good ears, by the way) itís because Elfman used a motif similar in the opening few seconds of the Batman Returns Main Titles. The march itself is pretty much the essence of camp Ėoverly aggressive to the point of being ridiculous. This 50ís Sci-Fi camp is the tone of Burtonís film and within the opening titles Elfman brilliantly nails it. The syncopated cadence as the Mars Attacks logo appears is a powerful motif that Elfman uses in climactic sections of the movie. This march, alone, is reason enough to own a copy of this score.

02. Newspapers (0:15) *

After a few scenes that introduce us to the large cast of characters, Elfmanís music reappears. This is a short, but excited, stinger heard as newspapers with news of the Martians is delivered to newsstands.

03. First Sighting (1:26)

Again, after another few minutes of music-less scenes, Elfman comes back with some very foreboding music as the world meets the Martian leader via a transmission. The theremin is the center of attention in the music. This is an instrument that gets a workout later.

04.White House Walk (0:28) *

To counter some of the dramatic and over-the-top music in the score, Elfman writes some flowery yet sad music for Natalie Portmanís character, Taffy. Taffy seems to be lonely and ignored. (lonely and ignored teenage girl? Where have we seen that before?) She is more of a Tim Burton creation than a stock 50ís Sci-Fi stereotype, so music that is grounded more in reality is appropriate.

05.Barbara's Speech / Billy Glenn Leaves (2:20) *

The music for Barbaraís optimistic al-anon speech is a continuation of the flowery woodwinds and piano thatís heard in track 4. This segues into Billy-Glennís departure music. To add a very cliched sense of national loyalty, Elfman switches the spotlight to restrained trumpets and snare drum. The departure music is quite melodramatic- dripping with the patriotism youíd hear in, say, John Williamsí Saving Private Ryan.

06. White House Discussion (1:15) *

The music becomes march-like, a classic motif for American government and military, as the war-hungry Gen. Decker argues over the proper way to meet the Martians. This cue serves as an introduction of sorts for the next track, but does slow down for a second and returns to Taffyís music as she chastises Gen. Decker for being too loud. "People live here, you know."

07. To the Landing Site (3:33) **

The first major cue in the movie, despite the opening, is "To the Landing Site." As the title suggests, the military and hundreds of curious spectators rush to the middle of Nevada to greet the Martians. A large trombone section gets to play the Mars Attacks theme with snare drum accompanying. As Gen. Casey talks on the phone with his wife, Elfman gives the snare drums an extended solo section. Itís actually a bit longer than what appears on the official release. After Casey is off the phone, the music switches gears to show us the large flock of people driving to the landing site. One person in particular, the insanely cheerful Barbara, is seen driving in her convertible wearing New Age spiritual garb. Elfman for a second, latches onto the spirit of the character with bongos and la-la female choir. (In one shot Barbara seems to be singing. The way Elfman plays off of that with the choir is a brilliant touch.) The march continues as we move back to Gen. Casey, but eases off a bit for the dialogue to be heard. Back to Barbara, perched on top of a cliff with her crystals, Elfman offers us a nice sitar section. Heís having lots of fun with Beningís character. The march slowly eases down to a stop.

08. The Arrival (5:06) **

Suddenly the choir enters with all of its glory as the flying saucer appears out of sky. Itís a grandiose Elfman moment with choir, orchestra and especially theremin as the saucer slowly lands. After the craft lands, the music is suspenseful with plenty of theremin and odd electronics. The music switches between suspense and brightness & tranquility as it appears that the proceedings between the general and the Martians are going well. When the Martian ambassador says, "We come in peace," Elfman unleashes the choir in all of its glory. This is one of my favorite moments in the score as a hippie-like man releases the dove and we have the birdís-eye-view (no pun intended) of the audience rejoicing. The orchestra and choir reflect this rejoice with a lustrous sound thatís as cheesy and campy as anything Iíve ever heard, and in this score that is a GOOD thing. However...

09. The Martians Attack (2:58) *

...immediately the music changes gears to the first action cue in the movie. This cue is a highlight of the score and itís a real shame that it didnít appear on the commercial release of the soundtrack. Itís as bombastic and melodramatic as anything Elfman has ever done. The Martians were lying when they said they came in peace because they shoot the dove and begin to shoot everyone else. As Jason (Michael J. Fox) tries to save his girlfriend, Nathalie, (Sarah Jessica Parker) Elfman becomes quite theatrical. When Nathalie grabs Jasonís decapitated hand, the music is delightfully dissonant (much in the style of the cow-burning scene). To top off this exciting cue- the music ends with the syncopated cadence thatís heard in the main titles as the Martians leave and the viewer gets a wide shot of the destruction and Barbaraís dismay.

10. Message to the Martians (2:15)

The tense military music returns as the president and the professor (Pierce Brosnan) decide to send an apology to the Martians and ask them to return. The theremin and electronics are quite present in this cue, although the music stays very much hidden in the background, that is, until we see the Martians retrieving the presidentís message. Then the Mars Attacks theme returns briefly. After that, the orchestra all but disappears as we watch the message being delivered to the Martian ambassador and then to the Martian leaders. Elfmanís assortment of electronics mixed with theremin add a lot of color to Burtonís odd visuals. After the ambassador and the leader laugh at the message, the leader then fixes his attention on a caged Nathalie and an old Playboy magazine. Elfman plays with this scene by adding in a saxophone riff and playing-up the disturbing manner in which the leader is reacting to the picture. We assume the leader is scheming something truly dastardly as the choir and orchestra come to a boil.

11. Barbara & Art (0:16) *

Barbara is arguing with her husband, Art (played by Jack Nicholson who also plays the president). When she realizes that her husband is too selfish to realize what may happen to earth her attention focuses on a bottle of alcohol. It seems that sheís going to start drinking again. The music here is a little awkward as it only appears for a few seconds. Perhaps it is to lighten the scene up. In ID4, for example, a scene like this one wouldíve been approached quite dramatically. Perhaps Elfman was only trying to remind us that weíre watching a comedy. However, the music stops in time for a joke from Art. It seems he wasnít really paying attention to most of his wifeís dramatic speech at all.

12. Ungodly Experiments (0:52)

This cue is much in the same manner as the second half of "Message to the Martians." The music is different as thereís some interesting percussion and punctuations by the choir on beat one of every measure. The theremin also returns. As youíve probably already noticed, Elfman almost always uses the theremin in scenes where we "see" Martians, which is a large portion of the film! Again, the orchestra peaks as we (and poor Nathalie) see the result of this ungodly experiment.

13. Martian Response (0:32) *

This is another short cue. It begins with theremin and turns into some more military music. Itís nothing we havenít heard already.

14. Blowing Up Congress (4:19) **

The "Blowing Up Congress" cue is slightly longer in the film and bootleg than what it is on the commercial release. However, the version on the Atlantic release cuts out lots of the less interesting and sustained sections. The Martians return to Earth to address Congress. As when the Martians arrived in Pahrump, the music is tense and quite odd as the ambassador marches down the aisle to the podium. When the Martian ambassador pulls out its gun and starts firing, Elfman puts the orchestra in high gear and delivers an incredibly dissonant cue. There is a theme emerging here. When the Martians create chaos on the planet, Elfman creates chaos in the orchestra with extreme dissonance. Unfortunately for our ears, the clashes are clearly heard in the high brass and woodwinds! Also, like in Pahrump, the music end dramatically as we see the saucer fly away. This segues into...

...more military music as the president meets with his staff and General Decker. This time, the sounds of drums and trumpets are a bit more demanding- not as passive as they were in earlier cues (with the exception of "To the Landing Site.") Like many of the other unreleased cues up to this point, this cue ends before it starts.) In fact, itís not even on the bootleg!

15. Instructions (0:46) *

One of the myriad of humorous elements in Mars Attacks! is the awkward or silly speeches that the president gives. Granted, they are no more inane than the ones Bill Pullman gives in Independence Day. Elfman mocks Nicholsonís speech to his staff with rousing music. This is music for a dignified and heroic president, which President Dale is not.

16. Loving Heads (1:17)

The following three cues all appear in full-form on the commercial release. Loving heads is mock "love" music for the decapitated professor and the dog-woman Nathalie.

17. Martian Spy Girl (2:59)

This sequence in the film with the Martian Spy Girl is one of the best scenes in the film- and itís apparent that Elfmanís music adds A LOT to this scene (however, much credit should be given to Martin Short and Lisa Marie for making their characters so much fun). Utilizing the female voice as a motif for the "Martian Madame," the music is as odd-yet-seductive as the Martian girl herself. Using yet another odd ethnic instrument in the score, the tabla makes an appearance. Itís interesting, to say the least, how the voice, tabla, sitar, electronics, and orchestra all blend together to form an innovative yet cohesive cue. Itís a testament to Elfmanís creativity and Steve Bartekís skill as an orchestrator. Watch in the film how Elfmanís music flows with Lisa Marieís movement. When she sneaks forward the music moves forward. When she glides again, the music becomes cool and controlled again.

18. Jerry's Secret Lounge (1:51)

The following cue contains two of the finest minutes in Elfmanís canon of film music- a quintessential moment in the Burton/Elfman collaboration. This cue is perceived as source music as Jerry (Martin Short) turns on lounge music, although Iím sure the cue wasnít composed yet when the scene was filmed. Elfmanís take on campy love-lounge music is nothing anyone has ever heard before. The bongos and vibes are present, as is typical in that sort of music. The saxophone and flute make appearances as well. However, a slew of other sounds come in too like Hammond Organ, trumpet, female choir singing unintelligible syllables, and of course the theremin. This is some of the most original film music ever composed. The tone of the cue changes (and stops being source music) when the Martian lady bites off Jerryís finger. The cue peaks at the moment where the Martian girl knocks out Jerry with a statue- a moment that works really well in the film.

19. Presidential Bedroom Assassination (1:41) **

A small portion of this cue appears on the Atlantic album. Most of it, though, does not. After knocking out Jerry, the Martian girl then proceeds to kill the president. The solo female voice continues as the girl sneaks into the presidentís bedroom while he and the first lady are sleeping. Thereís a nice swell in the score as the girl takes off her mask to reveal that sheís actually a Martian. The unreleased material starts after she fries the dog. The orchestra becomes quite frantic as panic ensues. The bongos are still quite prevalent, even above the orchestral bombast. Like many of the action cues up to this point, the music rises to a climax and then calms back down as the Martian is killed and the president is saved.

20. Martians Prepare for Battle (1:38) *

Following only a few seconds after the previous cue comes one of the highlights of the score and the best presentation of the Mars Attacks March outside of the main titles. Burton gives Elfman a nice little section where his music can be brought to the front of the movie. We see the Martians equipping themselves for a full-scale invasion. The Mars Attacks March is presented with full orchestra and choir. The music calms for a few seconds for some dialogue between Nathalie and Donald (the prof.) and then is back in full force for a neat shot of the saucers grouping around the White House.

21. Washington Under Fire (0:54) *

This is the point where the movie and score kicks into high gear for almost the remainder of its running time. The majority of the remaining cues are unreleased. This is where Elfman starts to have some fun with pipe organ and high trumpet shakes. The movie gets quite zany and chaotic during the Washington Under Fire scenes and Elfmanís score matches this zaniness aurally.

22. White House Massacre (1:41) *

This is more of the same manic action music. Itís definitely not boring, though. Elfman is never one to go on auto-pilot. The music is chaotic like previous action cues, but with the help of theremin and xylophone, thereís a strong sense of mischief aurally as the Martians run amok, blasting everything that moves. The strings also do some nice Herrmannesque Psycho-glissandos in this cue.

23. Viva Las Vegas (0:38) *

More wild action as the Martians blow up Artís new hotel as heís pitching it to investors. This little cue ends before its starts and the ending really is quite abrupt. Since this bootleg is taken from the DVD of the film, this cue comes down quite quickly to get out of the way of Tom Jonesí performance of "Itís Not Unusual" that comes directly after it. If this were re-mastered for an official release, this cueís ending probably would be presented at full volume. Itís a small price to pay on this great bootleg, though.

24. Casino Shoot Out (0:41) *

Another short action cue. This cue occurs as Byron KOís a Martian in the casino. These short action cues are very heavy on the low brass- itís a bass trombonistís dream!

25. Under Siege (0:59) *

Yet another short action cue. This one is a lot of fun, though. The bongos and funky synths return as one of the Martians carries around the interpreter saying "Donít run. We are your friends" as the mayhem ensues. This is the classic, zany Elfman that so many of us love. The patriotic trumpet music returns for a second as we see a shrine devoted to the late Billy-Glenn.

26. Paris Burning (0:59) *

The president sits in his war-room, devastated. The music is particularly melancholy with vibes, strings and theremin. The music rises upward for a second as the president of France tells President Dale that they are meeting with the Martians and have negotiated a settlement. Soon, the music is back into chaos-mode as President Daleís warning to the French comes too late.

27. The Atomic Bomb / Worldwide Destruction (3:07) *

This is yet another wonderful, wonderful action cue that was kept off the official release. The president finally agrees to nuke the Martians. The military music returns, more forceful than ever as the missile is fired and the president attentively watches what happens on a monitor. The woodwinds are fast and furious as the missile charges through the air into space. The horns really shine too. The music gets even more exciting with trumpets and anvil as the missile gets closer. However, the music quickly fades away to clear room for the sound of the explosion. (Yeah, I know about the laws of sound and fire in space.) The music settles back down with flutter-tongued flute and vibes. It appears that the nuclear missiles are no match for the Martians.

Immediately following is a cue that was in the trailers and TV spots for the film- it contains a blaring pipe organ with wild and sporadic trumpet shakes. Then we get a montage of the Martians destroying all of the worldís most famous land-marks (with plenty of stock footage). Instead of playing dissonant and bombastic music, Elfman settles into the Mars Attacks March. Pay attention to the Godzilla clip that follows this sequence. Elfmanís music for this film is used as the underscore.

28. The Chase / Saving Grandma (3:45) **

A large portion of this cue appears on the Atlantic release. Richie goes to get grandma with the gigantic robot in pursuit. Meanwhile, the Vegas group tries to make it to the plane. Thereís some nice low-piano as the group sneaks around the Sign Graveyard. A 2-16th note rhythmic motif dominates this scene with Elfman passing it around to different instruments. The music calms again and theremin and cricket-shakers appear as Danny Devito meets up with a nasty Martian (this is the unreleased section of the cue). The cue returns to being dissonant and bombastic as Ritchie escapes the robot and tries to save his grandma. The cue climaxes right before the Slim Whitman music kicks in.

29. Shrinking General (2:12) **

This cue, too, is on the Atlantic album, with only a small portion of it being unreleased. Thereís a nice gag in the music with celeste when we find that the Martians didnít really toss a bomb into the war-room, but a Martian snow-globe. The following section of the cue is my favorite theremin passage in the score. General Decker gives quite a speech as the Martian Leader scoffs at him and uses a shrinking ray to make him small enough to squash. The music is quite creepy with muted trumpet and orchestra mixed with the theremin. Thereís some nice punctuations as the general is stomped upon. The unreleased material follows. Itís more bombastic Martian-blasting music as the Martian leader starts to shoot more people in the war-room. It only lasts for a few seconds.

30. The President's Speech (2:44) *

This is the last real highlight of the unreleased cues. This cue really shouldíve been put on the official release. Itís really the synthesis of this score- a combination of patriotic music and wild, madcap Elfman. The president gives a "stirring" speech and it looks like itís having an affect on the Martian Leader. Elfmanís music is more stirring and patriotic than it ever has been in his career, with soaring trumpets and warm strings. Thereís a funny little note on the bells as a tear-drop falls from the Martian Leaderís eye- a wonderful touch. As the Leader and the president shake hands, the music suddenly becomes incredibly frantic, almost aleatoric or indeterminate, with woodwinds, piano, and a barrage of electronics. The Martian Leaderís hand detaches and spastically runs around the presidentís body. A shrill horn cluster pierces through the orchestra as the hand pierces through the presidentís chest. A small motif from the Mars Attacks March swells as the Martians salute the flag that has sprung out of the presidentís chest. Itís one of the most disturbing scenes in this film thanks in part to Elfmanís music.

31. On the Run (0:38) *

This short cue is a rehash of the music heard earlier when the Vegas group was sneaking around the Sign Graveyard. Sans Danny DeVitoís rude gambler, the group makes it to the hangar.

32. Airfield Fight (2:04)

The rest of the material on the bootleg can also be found on the Atlantic Release, except for the source material following the end credits. Airfield Fight is another exciting action cue heard as Byron takes on the Martians with his fists. This cue marks the end of a LONG stretch of action cues.

33. New World (1:44)

Finally! A change of tone in the score! The professor and Natalieís heads detach. Their heads roll around and then roll into each other as have a farewell kiss. The music swells **in a major key** as the saucers plummet into the ocean. Elfman has a tendency to make his finales quite grand (There is NOTHING wrong with that!!!) and this cue definitely fits that mold. As the Vegas crew lands on the deserted island, the female voices return for some campy, Elfmanish utopian music. (The visuals are pretty funny too with all of the friendly animals.)

34. Ritchie's Speech (3:08)

For once in the score, the music is genuinely quite serious and touching. The patriotic music for Billy-Glenn and the presidentís speech returns for Ritchieís Speech. Itís nothing we havenít already heard in the score- but itís quite fitting nonetheless.

Finally, we return to Washington D.C. as Byronís family cleans up from the mess the Martianís made. The theremin returns one last time as we see a dead Martian body. Then, as a fitting end to Elfmanís score in the film, the music become heroic as we see Byronís foot squash a dead Martianís head. The heroic music lasts for only a second. It gets out of the way for Tom Jonesí performance of "Itís Not Unusual" with all of the animals dancing.

35. End Credits and Source Music (12:38) **

The end credits continue playing Jonesí "Itís Not Unusual." After the song ends, Elfmanís end titles music sneaks in. Itís not nearly as ambitious as the opening titles. The Mars Attacks March can be heard, but added in is a solo female voice which is a very nice touch. Like with a lot of other Elfman end titles, this one slowly winds down....

Appended onto the end credits track is all of the source music found in the film with even the Mariachi Star Spangled Banner. Thereís also some nifty SFX.

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MORE Various Quotes on the FILM
Mars Attacks!

"Mars Attacks!", for those who truly understand it, is an outstanding comedy. For those who DON'T understand it, it is an incredible waste of time. What Tim Burton has done is present us with a beautifully warped tribute to those great cheeseball B-grade alien invasion flicks of yesteryear. Therefore, to really appreciate "Mars Attacks!", one must have a certain fondness in his or her heart for those old turkeys. The humor is imaginative beyond description in many places, and the film also is a scathing commentary on just how idiotic our society can be." - (IMDB) DblOught College Station, Texas

"I saw this movie about 2-3 years ago in the drive-in double-feature with my parents and I tried to keep from falling asleep. It was one of the dumbest movies I've seen and I sure hope I don't have to see it again. If you want to see a movie like this, see "Independence Day." (name withheld by webmaster)

"Burton succeeds in maintaining a consistently good-natured humorous tone. The film is an comedic homage to sci-fi and disaster films, not a satire. Even in the wonderfully cheesy closing scene, Burton resists the urge to smirk. His skilled hand also makes the many scenes of death and destruction easy to take. There is no malice in his vision, this is simply the work of a naughty little boy." Copyright 1997, Ed Johnson-Ott

"This movie probably wasn't intended to be just a live-action cartoon and/or a spoof of sci-fi movies, it's meant to be a humorous political statement through satire. Burton attempts to make some themes about the obsession of the media, but he doesn't nearly utilize the potential. After the halfway point, the film is just small chunks of pointless scenes meant to be funny but aren't." (C) 1997 Chad Polenz

"The whole movie has an overblown feeling to it. Everything that happens is comprehended to be an impossibility, and I reacted by laughing. It is humorous, but it is not a movie to search for one-liners in. It's the idea behind the movie, and not the dialogue, that makes the movie humorous. The martians are evil, and humans simply can't or don't want to comprehend that. Tim Burton used that idea to present the film in his own bizarre way." - (IMDB) dnroth Mount Rainier, MD


Kessler's final appeal

Links to Mars Attacks! sites:

The Official Movie Site

Mars Attacks! Central

Allen's Mars Attacks! Site

Shrine to Nathalie West

Early Draft of Gems' Script

Buy the Mars Attacks DVD at Amazon

How many centuries did he say?

To the best of my abilities, here is the gibberish that the auto-interpreter says early in the film:




Burton's concept art for the Martian Spy Girl. (Lisa Marie)

Inspired by the Master

As we all know, Elfman is often inspired by his idol, Bernard Herrmann. There is nothing in Elfman's score that sounds too similar to Bernard Herrmann's music, but Elfman himself has acknowledged the fact that Herrmann's The Day the Earth Stood Still inspired him when writing Mars Attacks. Listen for yourself.

Play a portion from the main titles of The Day the Earth Stood Still





Executive Crisis!!

Awards and Nominations for Elfman's Mars Attacks! Score:

  • Won the Saturn Award for Best Musical Score
  • Nominated for Golden Satellite Award for Outstanding Original Score

President Dale - about to be flagged.

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The content contained on this page is property of The Elfman Zone. The views expressed are solely the opinions of Tim Perrine and do not necessarily reflect those of Mr. Elfman or his management. The Elfman Zone does not condone the sale of bootlegged material. All content found on this page is for informational puposes only.

I'd like to thank Ian Davis for performing the truly mundane task of editing this long track by track section.

I'd also like to thank my friends at the messageboard for their input.

One final note: If anyone has a scan of the cover of the Red Planet Release, please let me know ASAP!