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FSM Vol 8 No 12

Artwork copyright (c) 1975 Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.; review copyright (c) 2005 James Southall



Intriguing, impressive score as east meets west


One of the longest-running and yet least heralded composer/director partnerships is that between Sydney Pollack and Dave Grusin.  Perhaps it's because of his jazz background that Grusin's film work barely seems to get mentioned (apart from when people shout "The Goonies!" whenever there are guessing games about imminent limited edition releases) but he's been a prolific and, indeed, Oscar-winning film composer for over 40 years.  OK, he doesn't work much these days, but he's worked on a number of high-profile projects, including The Graduate (not a movie often remembered for its original score, I will accept), Three Days of the Condor, On Golden Pond, Tootsie, The Fabulous Baker Boys, The Firm and various other well-known films.

His association with Pollack has been on nine movies so far - the most recent is 1999's Random Hearts - the first was 1975's The Yakuza, shortly before Condor.  It was a crime thriller (scripted, no less, by Paul Schrader and Robert Towne) starring Robert Mitchum as a private investigator who goes to Japan to help out a friend whose daughter has been kidnapped by a clan of Japanese gangsters - or "yakuza", if you were wondering where the title came from.  For the score, Pollack wanted music which wouldn't sound offensively western to Japanese ears - but wouldn't sound too alien to American ones.  Grusin succeeded in this pretty well - he makes use of a number of authentic instruments, but keeps just the requisite amount of western-style melodies to keep both audiences happy.

The striking prologue and main title pieces, blending the two different styles very well, including lots of percussion effects and even an electric guitar.  As the score goes on, there is plenty on offer: "20 Year Montage" betrays Grusin's jazz origins and is a beautiful piece; "Scrapbook Montage" offers a particularly attractive version of the main theme on piano with mild orchestral accompaniment; "Get Tanner" is a brilliant piece of subtle action music with Grusin again emphasising the percussion and some unusual string textures, adding shakuhachi as well.  "The Big Fight" is an even better example of this, with Grusin's music remaining resolutely delicate and subtle, to brilliant effect.  

After 45 minutes or so of the score itself comes a suite of bonus material, including a couple of alternate takes, some brilliant jazz source music by Grusin and a Japanese vocal of his main theme, "Only the Wind".  This is a really enjoyable, impressive album of music.  I don't think it will be for everyone - it's too subtle for that - anyone wanting another Enter the Dragon would be disappointed.  But it's good stuff, highlighted by a typically strong Film Score Monthly package, including excellent liner notes by Nick Redman and Jon Burlingame.


  1. Prologue (2:42)
  2. Main Title (3:16)
  3. Samurai Source (2:02)
  4. Tokyo Return (1:26)
  5. 20 Year Montage (3:26)
  6. Scrapbook Montage / Scrapbook Epilogue (2:10)
  7. Kendo Sword Ritual / Alter Ego / Night Rescue / Amputation / Amuptation (alternate) (3:16)
  8. Man Who Never Smiles (1:48)
  9. Tanner to Tono / Tono Bridge / The Bath (2:26)
  10. Girl and Tea (1:35)
  11. Pavane (1:09)
  12. Get Tanner (1:38)
  13. Breather / Final Assault (4:41)
  14. The Big Fight (5:50)
  15. No Secrets (1:31)
  16. Sayonara (2:00)
  17. Apologies (2:08)
  18. Bows / End Title (1:41)
  19. Shine On (9:44)
  20. Bluesy Combo (6:18)
  21. 20 Year Montage / Scrapbook Montage (film mix) (4:58)
  22. End Title (film version) (1:08)
  23. Only the Wind (2:49)