Long, LONG overdue release of Jerry Fielding's superlative music for the third Dirty Harry film, scored by Fielding because Clint Eastwood's longtime collaborator Lalo Schifrin was kinda busy in 1975 (scoring 5 films plus the TV series Starsky and Hutch) and in 1976 (with 6 more movies).
Fielding's score is another typical mesh of orchestral jazz, big band jazz, and clusters of dissonance and weird meters to convey the violence that seems to spillover and stain Harry Callaghan's personal and professional lives. Nothing is sacred in Harryland, and there's rarely a break in the rogue cop's life; if scored today by the current crop of action composers, the music would be fighting between songs and a clamorous mix of sound design.
Fielding's approach to drama, action, and suspense often featured an alternative, intelligent method of writing music that impeccably blends into a scene - something perhaps best exemplified in Howard Shore's own crime thriller scores for Se7en and The Game (neither of which wielded the force of an orchestra like sledgehammer).
The release of The Enforcer – here presented in complete form for the first time, though 3 cues were released in edited versions on the 1983 compilation LP and tape Sudden Impact and the Best of Dirty Harry on Eastwood's Vivo label– brings another stellar example of how to write a cerebral action score.
Harry's theme, heard in the main titles, is a breezy big band tune that swaggers in line with the character's bravado and disregard for red tape: brass exclaim a kind of independence, while off-kilter percussion nestled between melodic statements give solo brass moments of spiraling improv before everything groups into an unresolved set of closing bars – acknowledging the kind of adventure and head-butting we're about to enjoy.
There's some significant stylistic similarities between Enforcer and Fielding's next Clint Eastwood effort, The Gauntlet, although in the latter, he made greater use of long melodic solos, and a stellar Bolero riff – arguably that score's standout cue.
It's still amazing how fluidly the orchestrations, particularly in Enforcer, glide between material written for big band, jazz orchestra, and a modest orchestra with a punchy rhythm section. In “Warehouse Heist” Fielding plays with sustained synth notes, sudden guitar chords, and a kinetic stream of cymbal taps, bass hits, drum ripples, and waves of string plucks that glide over each other. “Alcatraz Encounter,” another cue that appeared in edited form on the compilation LP uses similar configurations.
“Rooftop Chase,” also edited for the LP, is a more familiar action cue with big band, wacka-guitar, twittering flute, and a resonant electric bass that nicely relates Fielding's score back to the bass-heavy sound design that made Schifrin's own Dirty Harry scores so memorable. (Eastwood's hair was sharp, his sunglasses were cool, so why shouldn't the bass groove heavily under the floorboards?)
The cue's middle third also appeared on the LP, and it's an almost humorous section that twists the chase into something cool and fun, with Fielding using the jazz orchestra to support burst of improv between woodwinds and steady keyboards. The final two sections of the long track switch to electric bass, brass, and heavy guitar, followed by another piece that unfolds with drum kit and beautifully vibrating string bass. In its entirety, the track forms the perfect template for humorous/action cues, and one can trace its lineage in buddy cop films like Lethal Weapon.
Even a short cue like “Raid on Mustafa's” demonstrates how much colour a composer can create using drums, an electric bass ostinato, and ambient, warbling flute & synth shading on the stereo sidelines. It's the kind of funky writing younger film directors remembered from their childhood, and have applied to their own action films, even in retro scores like the comedy/genre spoof Hot Fuzz.
Like Schifrin's own scores for Dirty Harry, and Magnum Force, and Sudden Impact, there' an obligatory source cue, “Tifanny's Number Eleven,” which is a straightforward big band blues piece. The most interesting cue for listeners is “Finale,” which appears in two versions. The film version is more melodic, and forms a fitting tribute to another tragedy death that reinforces the lethal effect Harry has on partners. (Tyne Daly's intro notes also point out her satisfaction that the closing cue pays tribute to her tough character who fought hard within a sexist and brutal world, although the alternate, still a good cue, more or less slows down and ends with just a portion of the full orchestra, emphasizing melancholy instead of tragedy. A nice bonus left at the tail end of the alternate is some brief studio chatter.)
The full score runs a smidge over 40 mins. – admittedly brief – but with the exception of the source cut, this is a perfect score. Any more cues would've invaded the smooth narrative crafted by Fielding and his exceptional orchestrators.
A total must-have.
© 2007 Mark R. Hasan