January 2000 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

Lalo SCHIFRIN Dirty Harry Anthology Music from Dirty Harry; Sudden Impact; and Magnum Force. ALEPH 003 [42:16]

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This diamond hard, brilliant, big band jazz-based collection of Dirty Harry scores commences with words that are now almost legendary to film fans: "Ah hah! I know what you’re thinking. Did he fire six shots or only five….do you feel lucky? Well, do you punk?!?"

Schifrin’s abrasive and powerful music with its hectic-paced, hard-driven rhythms is entirely appropriate for the taut urban thrillers of the San Francisco-based Dirty Harry series which began with Dirty Harry in 1971 and ended with The Dead Pool in 1988.

Of the five films in the series, Schifrin scored four. The memorable signature motif for Dirty Harry himself is announced on electric piano in the opening cue ‘Dirty Harry’s Creed.’ Much of this score is very dark, frightening even. Take the cue ‘Floodlights’ for instance, where there are evocative glissandi and clashing dissonances and running pizzicato string figures, and weird effects including subtle distressed female voices. Then there is the theme for the maverick vigilante cops of Magnum Force where, again, Schifrin uses female voices to forge the link between these first two films in the series plus harsh unrelenting snare drum motifs and dark synth material ‘The Cop’. In this score Schifrin weaves car radio voices into his synth tapestry. In ‘Unicorn’s Head’ he adds electronic organ and writes shadowy stealthy, stalking material, and a calliope sound suggests some demented fairground merry-go-round. These three tracks, especially, are the stuff nightmares are made of.

Some relief is found in the more relaxed opening of ‘Road to San Paulo’ which suggests a romantic interlude but as the tempo picks up one wonders how relaxing the journey really is. More settled is ‘San Francisco after Dark.’ After glittering opening bars, the music becomes romantically smoochy, saxophone prominent with piano, drums and sweetening strings.

But it is for the tense suspenseful music, that Schifrin delivers in spades, that this album is famed for – just don’t listen to it late at night if you are by yourself.


Ian Lace


Ian Lace

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