Following the fortunes of the USS San Pablo, an American Gunboat caught up in the turmoil of an increasingly Nationalistic China of the 1920's the film was a compelling tale of human frailty in the face of events beyond ordinary control.
Jerry Goldsmith created some of his finest works in his early years and this score comes into the top bracket easily. Beginning with the opening barbaric fanfare of trumpets and leading into an edgy oriental\occidental cue, the overture gives us the haunting love theme for Maily and Tex, before returning to the fanfare.
Main Title gives us a slow, sombre, almost dirge like tune which grows slowly in pace and volume, until, like the awakening China, it bursts forth with the full power of the orchestra to the relentless beat of a wooden drum.
Following this is the more upbeat "and we were lovers" to underscore the gentle flirtation between the sailor and the missionary (Steve McQueen and Candice Bergman). This is a brief interlude before the music returns to the growing tragedy looming over all the characters and the savage action totally realised by some blazing action cues.
The only complaint about this superb score is the shortness of the music presented, but this is far outweighed by the sheer quality of composers work.
A must for any serious lover of Jerry Goldsmiths music, or the film fan in general.