Hubert Selby, Jr.’s book “Last Exit to Brooklyn” caused quite a stir when it was published in 1964. Banned in both the U.K. and Italy, as well as in some places in the U.S., the overly frank story of violence, drugs, prostitution, homosexuality and transvestism set in the lower class neighborhoods of Brooklyn in the 1950s was simply too much for the average reader. It was, however, a critical triumph. It took 25 years before German director Uli Edel brought a film version to light, based on a screenplay by Desmond Nakano and starring Jennifer Jason Leigh and Stephen Lang. Although the 1989 movie was a success in Germany, and Leigh was nominated and awarded numerous times for her amazingly detailed performance, the material wasn’t appealing to (or appropriate for) a wide audience and the movie was seen as something less than a commercial success.
Despite that, Mark Knopfler’s film soundtracks were improving with time. This was his fifth soundtrack and, like the music done for “The Princess Bride,” this score is mainly composed of Knopfler’s guitarwork and Guy Fletcher’s multi-instrumental work on keyboards and synthesizers. Dire Straits’ saxophonist Chris White also appears on the track “Tralala.” Although only two violinists are credited, the majority of the tracks have a lush, orchestral feel. Hal Hinson of the Washington Post wrote that Knopfler’s “swooning, elegiac score” cried out to be taken seriously. All Music Guide’s William Ruhlmann agreed. “This was Knopfler’s most ambitious and accomplished soundtrack.” Movieline’s F.X. Feeney echoes, “The camerawork moves with the grace of curling smoke, and so does the music.”
Warner Bros. released the nine-track CD soundtrack (25986-2), which runs 41 minutes. It’s still available new for purchase online and at stores. Three tracks (A Love Idea, Victims, and Finale – Last Exit to Brooklyn) are found on Knopfler’s “best of” soundtrack CD entitled “Screenplaying.”