After their debut release, Huk!, Screen Archives Entertainment (SAE) followed up with another vintage Albert Glasser score for Tokyo File 212 - an obscure, anti-Communist espionage thriller set in post-WWII Japan. Uniquely filmed on location, the low-budget suspenser was originally released by RKO, and recently popped up on DVD, via public domain specialists Alpha Video.
Glasser's score was transferred from the original studio transcription discs from 1950, so the audio quality is less pristine than the aforementioned Huk! album. The tracks on Side A have shorter space gaps, while gaps on Side B are oddly longer. Side B's tracks were also taken from less than ideal discs, and much of the cues have a sharp, pinched sound from obvious efforts to filter out far nastier noise.
Glasser's score, however, is a familiar mix of ethnic styled cues - the bold suspense tracks and declamatory "Main Title" music transpose Glasser's Japanese-styled main theme for a small but punchy orchestra - and there's some wonderfully light and romantic cues.
"Steffi Is Tired" is a good example, repeating Glasser's delicate theme for high strings, with an alternating 'walking' tempo to add a sense of lofty buoyancy to the cues' intro and closing bars. "The Telegram" also makes use of a lofty, fancy-free style, although the cue itself is meant to counterpoint suspicions of mounting danger. "The Big Shrine" also underscores a scene of suspicion and potential betrayal, and Glasser uses his Japanese-styled theme to heighten the sadness in which Jim's romantic feelings for Steffi are tested when he sees her at a possible Communist rendezvous hot-spot.
The score's melodramatic suspense cues offer a familiar balance between sharp trumpet fanfares, cymbal crashes, and emotionally strained strings, which Glasser employs to further accentuate moments of betrayal, and much like Huk!, the score has a steady, narrative skeleton. Even without picture, Glasser constructed his scores with a concrete beginning and end, and he generally offers enough thematic variation in the mid-section to evoke the story's progress without heavy thematic repetition.
SAE's LP also gathers some of the film's source cues, themselves arranged in close chronological film order, and they include several short jazz source bits, a Russian chorus track, and a brief Kabuki Theatre cue.
An important archival release, SAE also boosts the album's overall content with another elaborate and detailed booklet, containing an excellent story & production breakdown by author Michael H. Price, and extracts from Glasser's anecdotal 1985 autobiography, I Did It! (The material is written in Glasser's peculiar, fragmentary style: peppered with plenty of all-caps key words, he still manages to cover his involvement with the production, and there's two cheerful stills from the original recording sessions.)
Like Huk!, Rocketship X-M, and The Fantastic Film Music of Albert Glasser, Vol. 1, Tokyo File 212 remains unavailable on CD. SAE's third release, the Paul Sawtell-Bert Shefter classic, Kronos, under the Cacophonic banner, would be their last on LP, before the label switched over to CD, and launched an ongoing series of Max Steiner collections.
© 2006 Mark R. Hasan