In the death cell (Love theme reprise)


This is basically just a more doomful repeat of what we’ve heard before. With darker synths, worse acting and, well, just more doom, it loses a little charm, but still stands as a lovely piece of sound work.

In the death cell.

I love the way the tone shifts and opens up. The simple theme is repeated over and over again, with more or less noise passing through it.

Eventually the doom coalesces into a steady, heavy drum, and the synth finally builds to an obvious terror.

It’s narratively solid, the trapped lostness is repeated, swapping tin cans for prison cells. The overwhelming might of the empire is still an irrestistible force, pulling us forward, but this time it is more ritualistic, more purposeful. There is no excitement, we know what’s coming.

Even as our narrators tell us it’s all a dream, we know what is coming. Even if our pulpy narrative instincts tell us there has to be a way out.

It broods though. Death runs through the love theme. Not just the pull of the drums, but the massive weight of the synths. There is no escape.

It’s a genuinely effective piece of music.

Marred only by weak dialogue and bad acting.

‘Look, water is leaking from her eyes.’

There are two love stories here. Aura seeing something in Flash’s rippling abdomen (which, if I remember rightly, has the word ‘Flash’ written on it, so you don’t forget who he is…though possibly he’s topless now), or perhaps hoping if he has such a powerful effect on Dale, maybe he can make her leak wat…

Oh god I’m sorry, that one snuck up on me.

Anyway, I guess that what makes it the love theme, even though I’m pretty sure ‘doom theme’ would be much more appropriate, as it only seems to crop up when our ‘heroes’ are at their most doomed. Dale loves Flash for some reason. Aura sees something in Flash too. Maybe love can save him?

Well, I reckon we’re less than a third of the way through the film, and if Flash dies now, that song at the beginning will sound pretty ridiculous.

I still really like Roger Taylor for his synth work here. I really think it’s a beautifully constructed soundscape. A perfect distillation of the dramatic tensions at play, and a dark brooding atmosphere suggested just through simple tones. The synth is used to create a deep structure, beyond the main theme. It is texture, rather than just noise. It is depth and weight.

It is laden with death.

Which is an impressive thing to say about a short piece of synth sound track work.

Sure, these days a synthesiser sounds too corny and kitsch and unreal. The tools of the time were unsubtle and now have a peculiar nostalgia to them, in the same way that you can tell how old a film or tv show is by the type of colour it uses (although interestingly, Flash is one of the last films to use actual technicolour, and so looks much, much older than it is, albeit in a way that suits the comic book mood perfectly…it’s a genuinely brilliant artistic decision, in a film you wouldn’t expect to see many of those in).

Synth sounds like this date a sound, but if you’re willing to look past those associations, I think you can hear a rich and poignant moment here.

And while those glorious chords are missing from the beginning, they are mirrored in the next piece…




Queen: An Exploded Diagram is me having big and little thoughts about every Queen song in chronological order. If you want to support me, making it more financially viable and easier to explain to people at parties, please back my patreon.

Illustration by Emma.

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