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'Badlands' Arrives On Criterion: 10 Things We Learned About The Terrence Malick Classic

by Rodrigo Perez
March 20, 2013 4:22 PM
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6. The iconic music in Badlands’ was originally intended for Irvin Kershner’s “Dirty Harry,” which Malick was hired to rewrite the script of.
The indelible piece of music used in “Badlands” is Carl Orff’s “Gassenhauer.” The way Malick came upon the piece of music points to one of the historical bits of trivia about the filmmaker.

“Terry had heard the Carl Orff music earlier when he was he was writing a movie for Irv Kershner,” Billy Weber revealed on the Criterion Extras. “And Kershner knew the music and played it for Terry and said he was thinking of using it. It was a movie that never got made. And so Terry fell in love with it and thought it would be perfect for Badlands.”

Badlands, Martin Sheen

The Irvin Kershner project (he directed “The Empire Strikes Back”) was an aborted attempt at “Dirty Harry.” In his time studying film (pre-“Badlands”), Malick worked as a rewrite man and helped shape, among others, an original script for "Dirty Harrry" intended for Kershner to direct. It never happened -- the now famous 1971 movie was eventually directed by Don Siegel with a script by Harry Julian Fink said to have featured some uncredited rewrite work by John Milius -- but both Marlon Brando and Frank Sinatra were considered for the role of Harry Callahan. One would love to look at that script and see if there were any similarities, if any, to “Badlands.”

What Malick loved about Orff’s song is that it was performed by children and had a naive and innocent quality to it perfect for “Badlands.” While the movie made the piece of music iconic, it’s perhaps better known by modern audiences for its use within another lovers-on-the-lam film. In a Quentin Tarantino-esque move, Tony Scott nicked and reappropriated the Orff piece for “True Romance,” only in his movie it’s slightly different, reworked by that film’s composer Hans Zimmer and retitled “You're So Cool.”

7. The final shot of “Badlands” was bought archival footage.
Weber says for the final shot of the movie, Malick wanted to depict the disembodied voice of Sissy Spacek to be flying through clouds. Not being able to afford the shot, he bought stock footage instead.

“We saw this footage, originally shot in 65mm from the 1970s action thriller, ‘Ice Station Zebra,’” Weber said. “It was meant to be plate shots meant to be inserted with planes overtop of it. And you could buy it, so we picked one we really liked and bought one that was like 30 feet.

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  • Paul Maher Jr | March 21, 2013 12:57 AMReply

    All of this has already been revealed in my book on Terrence Malick. 95% of the Criterion features are old news, not even from my book on Malick, but also the two films, Absence of Malick and Rosy-Fingered Dawn.

    Thanks for serving up this cold piece of warmed-over filler though (even the misspellings).

  • lulz | March 21, 2013 8:56 PM

    ha ha. PMJR, pwned again.

  • Kevin | March 21, 2013 2:04 PM

    Frank -- comment of the year. Bravo.

  • Frank | March 21, 2013 1:53 PM

    Paul Maher Jr. uses every opportunity he gets to plug his shitty book. No one cares. It's like an aural history of people who like peered over their fence five blocks away from where Malick lived. He is so painfully insecure anytime anything mildly authoritative on Malick appears he swoops down to shit on it because he MUST sustain his position as the ultimate Malick fanboy on the web. He's alienated a bunch of people including producers close to Malick who believe he's a sociopath. No joke.

  • Terrence Malick | March 21, 2013 1:47 PM

    Paul, they are better than you, sorry.

  • DG | March 20, 2013 8:11 PMReply

    I love this movie, especially the living in the wilderness sections. Strangely I never really thought about how much voice over there was before, it always just seemed to fit in really naturally.

  • Simone | March 20, 2013 5:40 PMReply

    Sissy Spacek is gorgeous in this.

  • Fancy | March 20, 2013 5:35 PMReply

    Billy Weber rules

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