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Coogan’s Bluff
  • Composed by Lalo Schifrin
  • Intrada / 2012 / 57m

A very important film in the career of its star Clint Eastwood, 1968’s Coogan’s Bluff showed that he could lead a modern day film and not just a western and served as the first collaboration between Eastwood and director Don Siegel, who went on to make several films together (including, of course, Dirty Harry).  Eastwood plays an Arizona sheriff charged with bringing a prisoner back from New York City – a prisoner he loses and has to recapture.  The small-town-cop-in-big-city idea was not a new one (and has been done countless times since); but it gave Lalo Schifrin a nice hook to hang his score from.  The score opens with western-style scoring for its Arizona opening, with Coogan’s theme appearing in rambunctious form when it first appears in the Goldsmithian “Coogan’s Wild Ride”.  The theme goes on to be heard in numerous guises and completely dominates the score, from traditional orchestral arrangements to a kind of country rock instrumental.  It’s a great tune, one worth all the mileage Schifrin gets from it.

Aside from the theme, the other dominant feature of the score is light jazz (Schifrin of course a master at that).  From the romantic “Song to Julie” to the big band sound of “Get Out”, along with the slightly peculiar but maddeningly catchy songs “Pigeon-Toed Orange Peel” and “Everybody”, it’s laid back and entertaining, if not particularly substantial.  There are only occasional forays into more dramatic territory, but they’re done very well when they arrive (“Wrong Number” is terrific).  The most typical Schifrin action material comes very late on, for the two-part finale cue “Ringerman’s Chase”, which is impressive stuff with a distinct edge to it.  The album does have a bit of a piecemeal feel (there are lots of very short cues and those changes in style from what is essentially easy listening source music to the more dramatic pieces of scoring can be a bit abrupt) but it’s a very nice one to listen to and that main theme is wonderful.

Rating: *** | |

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