January 2000 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

Lalo SCHIFRIN The Osterman Weekend music conducted by the composer ALEPH RECORDS 010 [45:15]

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As so often with Sam Peckinpah, The Osterman Weekend (1983), the great director's final film, promised more than it delivered. Starting with an ingeniously plotted, if rather contrived Robert Ludlum espionage novel as source material, it could have been a movie thriller classic. Unfortunately the men in suits didn't allow Peckinpah to rewrite the not entirely coherent script, to cast his own first choices in leading roles, or to have final control over the editing process. The result was an entertaining, but frustratingly botched movie.

Lalo Schifrin's score is both in the lineage of his Dirty Harry urban thriller soundtracks, and very much of its time. Thus we have the agitated minimal jazz of Schifrin's 70's work, stark atonal textures, and elements of stripped-down instrumental 'almost' rock as pioneered by John Carpenter in his scores for his own films Assault on Precinct 13, The Fog and Escape From New York. 'The Osterman Weekend theme' opens with a choppy funk guitar riff, and when a brooding resonant synthesiser filter sweep glides menacingly across the soundfield expectations are raised, but then the track breaks into an upbeat jazz rock fusion piece in the style that was popular in the early 80's and any tension immediately evaporates.

'Face of Love' is a laid back easy listening jazz sax tune that might have suited Francois Lai's Bilitis, and is situated somewhere approaching the moon and New York city. Yes, Arthur was released the year before The Osterman Weekend. The suspense proper begins with 'Winter Games', dark jazzy atmospherics that really don't stand alone well, setting the tone for several other cues scattered throughout the disc. Meanwhile 'Restless Nights' is more cocktail sultry sax, pleasant but too middle-of-the-road to sustain interest. The main theme is put through some featherweight sub-Weather Report variations in 'Status Symbol', more the kind of thing associated with a Henry Mancini Pink Panther OST than a dark and savage thriller.

'The Love Theme' is distinguished by what sounds like a decidedly wrong note at 20 seconds in, but that is all. 'Newsbreak' is exactly as the title suggests, pastiche tv news report music. 'Omega' builds on a repeated, Carpenteresque two note riff, and does generate some suspense, but it is too little, too late. 'It's a Mystery' continues in similar vein, adding glacial wooden flute over repeated a five-note sequence, while 'Jesus Loves Me' is ice cold atonal minimalism. The final track, 'Face of Love' is another MOR sugary sax-led tune, rounding off a thoroughly un-engaging set.

This is a score which adds little to the film, and offers few pleasures indeed on disc - the mixture of lounge jazz and suspense tracks really doesn't add up to a coherent listening experience. Sound quality is good though, especially on the jazz tracks. The electronic elements tend to have that dry, thin quality which makes early synthesiser scores sound so flat and unappealing, and the album does have one notable credit - apparently Mr Schifrin had an 'electronic assistant', Gary Stockdale. The cover design is somewhat tacky, but the CD itself fits the subject of the film, being presented as an archery target with the only text being the copyright legend. Lalo Schifrin has written some fine scores, but this is not one of them. One for completists only.


Gary S. Dalkin


Gary S. Dalkin

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