Soundtrack and Music inspired
by the film
'The Fox, main title', opens with a burst of menacing piano, before quietening
abruptly to introduce the pretty flute led melody that features prevalently
throughout the entire work. It is heard in various incarnations on tracks
like 'Fox Variation #1' and later given an almost tragic air in 'Dead Leaf'.
At other times the theme is used as a counterpoint for the more threatening
aspects of the score, where a strong sense of suspense and foreboding are
created, particularly in tracks such as 'Paul's Memories', 'Frost Trees'
and 'Snowy Bushes'. Add to this both a jazz version with female vocal on
'That Night' (not so welcome) and a final big band interpretation in 'The
Fox Symphony' with virtuoso piano and laid-back rhythm section and the main
theme certainly gets a lot of mileage.
However, despite the predominance of that theme, probably the most
interesting cues are those that emphasise the psychological elements of this
adaptation of D.H. Lawrence's novel of confused emotions. In fact these suspense
cues come as something of a surprise with tracks like 'The Proposal' at times
sounding like it could have easily been lifted straight out of the TV version
of 'Mission Impossible'! Whatever the case, it certainly shows Schifrin on
fine suspense form and the same can be said of the equally accomplished 'The
Foxhole' and 'Desperate Interlude', the latter benefiting from an almost
The main problem with any score once it is reduced to purely a listening
experience is how well it holds up simply as music. Among admirers of this
singular art form there are different schools of thought as to how film scores
should be best appreciated. Some argue that you cannot judge a score in proper
context without having first seen the film it was written for. For my own
part I take the opposite view. While I accept that often another dimension
can be added once you have seen the images the soundtrack was specifically
written for, truly great film music should also be simply great music. It
should be able to stand alone, regardless of its origins.
And this score does illustrate this point in that despite its ambition and
unquestionable technical prowess, it remains a work less satisfying separated
from its source.
Even so, this Oscar nominated score is clearly an important work in terms
of the composer's career and will be well received by his many fans. Ironically
though its major claim to fame will probably always be its notoriety in France
where it was used to advertise a leading brand of women's stockings. All
I can say is that I trust Lalo was duly compensated!
But our guest reviewer Peter Holm is much keener:-
Lalo Schifrin's THE FOX hit me like a bolt of lightning from a clear sky.
I was immediately hooked from the dramatic opening piano punch to the powerful
resolution. Of course I've listened to his other spectacular scores such
as Enter the Dragon, Bullitt, Dirty Harry (and it's
sequels) and also watched several of the movies carrying his name, but I
must admit it appears that I've missed the crown jewel itself.
Before I start discussing the music let me just say that I simply adore the
CD cover. The highly imaginative and colourful artwork of the 60's is simply
a joy compared to what we're used to these days (in exception for some of
Varese's covers when they commission Matthew Peak).
The Fox, from 1968, is a drama based upon a novel by D.H. Lawrance. Schifrin's
music has earlier been issued on vinyl record and he also received an Oscar
nomination for it, but lost to the equally impressive The Lion in Winter
by John Barry. However this is a new recording featuring the complete score
along with a bonus jazz version of the principle theme.
To portray the film's gripping triangle drama the music balances between
two distinctive sides. On one hand it's intensive, brutal and frenzy, and
on the other delicate, soft and sometimes almost tragic in character. All
of this is strengthened by Schifrin's choice of orchestral setting. Instead
of a large one with big, bold and sweeping musical frames he chose a strong
and highly intimate setting, like that of a quartet and chamber orchestra.
This creates a sense of classical aura for the music, yet with a modern touch,
such as 'Minuet in C' or 'Fox Variation #2'
Claude Debussy and Bernard Herrmann are mentioned in the liner notes, but
only to a specific cue. However I feel that Schifrin has found some inspirations
in their respective works and developed and integrated it and created his
own sparsely musical landscape and emotional voice for this score. The elegance
of Georges Delerue's music is another comparison, but Schifrin's a lot more
powerful in that aspect.
Apart from the usual musical elements such as strings, woodwinds and brass
the score features piano, harp, harpsichord and percussion. Due to the setting
each instrument's voice becomes clear and present and very useful when the
score takes on an experimental and dissonant path. These passages are also
the most dark and menacing ones with colourful patterns. 'The Proposal' and
'The Foxhole' are two of these cues filled with turmoil and menace from the
hammering piano and mournful flutes and they sure give a good thrill down
the spine of pleasure.
The main theme is presented on flute in the opening cue. It's a hauntingly
beautiful and memorable one with a lot of grace and sensibility and just
enough touch of loneliness. Perhaps it was this theme that John Scott glanced
at when he wrote the epilogue for Red King, White Knight in 1989?
The theme is used throughout the score along with a second one that appears
in 'Paul's Memories'.
Indeed Schifrin's music has many dazzling and refreshing cues to offer and
several of them have a lavishing tapestry of a landscape in season transition
(autumn to winter), for example 'Frost Trees' and 'Snowy Bushes'.
Schifrin's complex and compelling score is one that will grow with each listening
and present new angles on its structure, nuances and emphasis on various
instruments. Compared to his other jazz oriented scores The Fox is
unique in that aspect and I find it to be a true masterpiece.