I come to “The NeverEnding Story” as a profound admirer of the movie and the mystery surrounding its international release. A handful of odd changes in tenor and pacing separate the English-language version of the film from its native German cut (unavailable in the U.S.), with the most direct division in presentation located in the music department. In short: America went to the disco while Germany stayed enigmatic.
The score from “Story” is credited primarily to composer Klaus Doldinger, who provided a rousing musical complement to boy hero Atreyu’s high-impact adventures and apocalyptic puzzles, leading with traditional orchestral enchantment to give the murky narrative some wings. It’s a phenomenal piece of confident scoring from top to bottom, occasionally grounding the flamboyant visuals with a delicate solemnity that’s completely unexpected. It’s a themey, proper musical endeavor that binds the extravagance of the filmmaking, lending the whole enterprise the storybook quality it’s sweating to achieve.
In Europe, “Story” was accompanied only by Doldinger’s score. For the larger release of the film, pop maestro Giorgio Moroder was hustled in to air out the film a little, making it palatable to family audiences and to increase the chances of a chart-topping hit single, hiring Kajagoogoo’s Limahl to belt out an iconic title track. Moroder’s contributions are far more mechanical than Doldinger’s work (meticulously defanged in the International Cut), painting the corners of the picture with a crisper synth layer that works to a certain degree, but obviously lacks the lush distribution of the original score.
Here are the opening titles in the International Cut:
The opening titles in the German cut:
It’s quite a difference in tone, and it’s impossible to pick a favorite. The adult side of me adores the mystery of the Doldinger piece, and how the stark titles pique curiosity. The kid in me loves the magic sand Limahl tune, and how it brings the colorful wonderland of Fantasia to your doorstep. It’s a frustrating push and pull of preference.
For further comparison, listen to these two takes on the Ivory Tower sequence.