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  • big_sleepComposed by Jerry Fielding
  • Intrada Special Collection Vol 112 / 2009 / 35:20

It’s not often talked about, but the collaboration between composer Jerry Fielding and director Michael Winner is surely one of the most important in film music history.  Perhaps it’s just because, until not long ago, none of the scores were actually available on CD.   But now – thanks to Intrada – they all are.  The final film of their collaboration was 1978’s The Big Sleep, which transplanted Philip Marlowe (played by Robert Mitchum) to contemporary London.  Changing fashions meant it was the last particularly noteworthy film directed by Winner (though he has made several more in the three decades since); and Fielding would only score another seven films before his untimely death in 1980.  He was a film composer who was pretty much incapable of writing uninteresting music – and, for all the quality of his music for Sam Peckinpah, I think his scores for Winner are his very best.

As Nick Redman (probably the world’s foremost Fielding authority) points out in his liner notes, for The Big Sleep the composer included several hints of past scores – and that is all part of the reason why this could be considered vintage Jerry Fielding.  Some gloriously funky 70s music (guitars, drums) mixes with some extremely modernistic orchestral writing.  The funky stuff is so cool, it would be impossible to listen to it without wearing sunglasses; the orchestral parts complex, daring, modern.  (Thirty years on, no film composer would be able to write such daring music.)  The way Fielding wrote for orchestra was so detailed – there’s so much going on, but all the different lines are actually adding something important.  It’s so impressive.  As a score it’s a kind of mix between the more crowdpleasing Lawman and the astonishingly complex The Mechanic.  Highly recommended!  ****

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  1. Clark Douglas (Reply) on Tuesday 22 December, 2009 at 21:32

    I quite liked this one, though I was struck by how distinctly different it is from many noir scores of the era. I was expecting something more along the lines of Shire’s marvelous “Farewell, My Lovely” (the prequel to this film), but Fielding’s music couldn’t be more different in tone. Great stuff, though.

  2. Ian James (Reply) on Wednesday 23 December, 2009 at 08:05

    Fielding’s collaborations with Winner rarely get the spotlight because the latter isn’t really all that good a director, certainly not one of the best, and if he hadn’t made a controversial hit such as ‘Death Wish’, I doubt whether anyone would be talking about his films at all. His last handful of films before he became a raconteur, restaurant critic and advert spokesman for an insurance company would be tough to remember for any seasoned film enthusiast (they were also reportedly quite bad). Which is, perhaps, why Fielding’s efforts with the garrulous one don’t spring to mind easily, despite the composer’s undoubted appeal and following.

  3. Lasse (Reply) on Thursday 24 December, 2009 at 08:05

    Thanks for the nice reviews. And this might not be the place but anyways, Merry Christmas James and keep up the good work. Today i’ll be listening in a bit further on Peterson’s ‘The Red Canvas’ (Great new score from a promising new composer) and some christmas stuff (Well, why not?). Cheers.

  4. James Southall (Reply) on Thursday 24 December, 2009 at 09:01

    Thanks, Lasse! I’ve read so many good comments about The Red Canvas – would like to hear it myself.