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The Enforcer: The Original Score Soundtrack Review

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by Chris McEneany Jun 15, 2008

  • Movies review

    987

    The Enforcer: The Original Score Soundtrack Review
    This is the one Dirty Harry score that's doing its own thing. Sans the prime mover and shaker of funkmeister Lalo Schifrin, Eastwood turned to one of his favourite composers for the third instalment of Insp. Callahan's chaotic career - the estimable perfectionist, Jerry Fielding. Heavily intoned with jazz flavourings - Eastwood's preferred slice of musical sound - Fielding, who was best known for his work with Sam Peckinpah and then Michael Winner, with The Wild Bunch and Straw Dogs (for the former) and Chato's Land and The Nightcomers (for the latter) providing scintillating proof that he could master both intense action as well as resounding classical ends of the spectrum, found the dive into urban gunplay a pleasant and diverting process. The relationship he developed with Eastwood also progressed with him scoring The Outlaw Josie Wales, Escape From Alcatraz and The Gauntlet for the actor/director.

    Now, the thing is, for a long, long time I have not liked this score, and that is simply because out of all the films in the series, this is the jazziest. To me, when watching the movie, this element takes me out of the picture far too easily. Where Schifrin's jazz-fusion eminently worked - in the reflection of the era, the tone, the character and in the sheer excitement of it all - Fielding's compositions are altogether too breezy and upbeat. Just think about the Rooftop Chase as Harry pursues a fleet-footed bomb suspect across the skyline of the Bay Area and you'll realise that the sequence is shorn of all tension, all urgency and made much too playful by the harmless sounding club-exuberance. Far too often, the score seems to take the easy way out, lessening the issue of rogue hippies toting heavy firepower and knifing all and sundry in the back with one of the most vicious blades in history - a First War US Fighting Knife with built-in knuckle-duster. Although the film waters down the effect of the escalating violence despite a pretty large bodycount by injecting far more humour than had been evidenced in the first two instalments put together, not least with the controversial inclusion of Harry's new female partner, rookie Insp. Moore, played by Tyne Daly, this musical softening can't help but lower the film's suspense and excitement levels quite drastically.

    But, all this time, I may have been doing Fielding's one and only Dirty Harry score a bit of an injustice. Certainly, in recent years I have come to enjoy Fielding's work across the genres and have discovered his unique approach to material to be surprisingly technical and hugely versatile. And the score for The Enforcer is a prime example of such skilful diversity. In fact, all that jazz that had so troubled and alienated me to begin with is actually a wry deception from the innate darkness of much of the music. Track 1 commences with discordant tension and violence as, on screen, Bobby Maxwell (Deveren Bookwalter) and his gang of hippy-terrorists begin their murder spree by killing two delivery men and robbing the truck that they will need to transport the LAWS rockets they intend to snatch. Cold and menacing, with a throbbing bass-line and delicious cymbal clashed finale, the track then segues directly into the Main Title - which is pure jazz, swirling over the aerial views of San Francisco that usher us back into Harry's urban battleground.

    p>Fielding does a similar trick with Track 2, Harry's World - he opens the brief cue with an ominous flurry for oboe and a harsh, rising underscore of threat before then plunging into an admittedly catchy riff for Harry. But, if you listen out for it, there is a neat little homage to the character's material from the first film just noodled into the track towards the end. The lengthy Warehouse Heist flings more heavy menace our way as Bobby's gang raid the titular building after needlessly killing the old security guard they fool into letting them in. Quite a suspenseful track, this also features the 70's staple of slurring electronica on a rise and fall mission to get our pulses racing. Percussion and guitar make their presence felt and that nifty little oboe creeps in again, with great back-up from cello that reminds me of some of the wilder stuff heard in The Evil Dead and The Thing. The track is certainly atmospheric and pretty intense, but then - yep, you guessed it - Fielding ups the pace with more pure jazz for a final minute that totally dates the piece and sort of destroys the mood so excellently set up throughout its majority.

    Code Blue brings in a painfully acute solo flute that signifies the death of Harry's friend, “Fatso” Frank DiGeorgio - another poor victim who has fallen prey to Bobby Maxwell's knife - and this is one of the things that Fielding has added to Schifrin's Callahan-canon that really works. This new level of poignancy is something that I will talk about later on for, just as it gets started and takes a grip of you here, Fielding then deviates back in jazz-mode, once again scuppering the mood evoked with the first part of the cue. Becoming quite typical this game of two halves approach to track structure isn't it?

    Next up comes the longest track on the album and, sadly for me at any rate, also the worst. This is the notorious Rooftop Chase. Now, if you like jazz, then I can assure you that you will love this. Hailed as a masterpiece of multi-stranded, set-piece compositions - upbeat, energetic and percussion charged at first; then a sly, more measured, slow-down, shut your eyes and lose-yourself-in-that-hidden-beat as you catch your breath type of sequence for the final stretch - this recalls Pink Panther-esque Henry Mancini and Tom And Jerry all at once. Folks, whilst many cite it as the score's standout cue, I have to say that I hate it. Whilst it does fit in with the album at large, it totally ruins the sequence in the movie and, hearing it here, just makes me cringe.

    Fielding slows things down again for Raid On Mustafa's with a brooding bass guitar, meditative backbeat and some crazy meowing sound going on at odd intervals. The next track, Kidnap Zap, is another half-and-half style of track, although Fielding maintains the mood of the piece by injecting little background jangles of eerie strings that evoke memories of Michael Caine's Cold War capers and other effects like drifting tablas. But we are in Sinatra slowboat-crooning territory for Track 8, Tiffany's Number Eleven, which is big and bold but grinningly sedate. An electric piano warbles on and the bass and cello pluck themselves to sleep and just what the hell this thinks it is doing in a Dirty Harry movie is utterly beyond me. The thing is, Clint Eastwood loves this stuff - so who do I think I am for knocking it?

    The Shooting Nun - a great little visual aside in the film - returns us to more conventional film-scoring. Edgy electronica thrums away, whilst the oboe and clarinet punctuate the development of Harry and Moore's investigation. The Mayor has now been kidnapped by Maxwell and they have him, and their vicious cache of rockets, holed-up on Alcatraz. Track 10, Alcatraz Encounter, marks the turning point of the score. Action and jeopardy become the order of the day as Harry and his eager-to-please partner arrive on the prison-island (now closed, of course) and take the fight to the terrorists, rocket-launchers or not. Fielding still keeps his jazz vibe glued onto the score, but tense, agitated piano and strings build momentum, furious percussion and staunch brass flurries keep us on our toes. The soft drumming beneath it all and those alarming cello-passages become quite infectious as the track gathers steam and, for me, this and the next cue, Death On The Rock, are what make the album a worthwhile addition to the series. Tragedy and sacrifice strike but Fielding keeps the thumb-screws on - that terrific piano tumble and some great Leonard Rosenman-style angry brass stabbings and a worrisome sense of discord are a delight. This seven-and-a-half minute double-track sequence storms along in the way I wish the rest of the album did ... but, then again, you could argue that the journey getting to it makes this finale all the more worthwhile.

    But before I discuss what is arguably the lasting testament that Fielding gave to the series with his Elegy For Inspector Moore, it is probably time to get some sort of balance to all of this. The texture of Harry Callahan's less severe, non-action-oriented side is jazz inflected. It always was. Schifrin's style in providing Harry's signature theme was two-fold, as we have seen in the first couple of score reviews for Dirty Harry and Magnum Force, he funked it up, but the essence was definitely located in Frisco syncopation. Fielding merely brought that more to the fore. Whereas Schifrin's music was powerful and loaded with testosterone, he tended to either sneak jazz structures into the cues or actually use them, full-on, as source cues within the film. Fielding was not so insecure about how he wanted to depict the character and the story and so, therefore, his jazz was up-front and ebullient. But, as I said a little earlier, there is still a sort of darkness to his scoring that is hidden deeper within the framework, something that drives the score along without being obtrusive, an inkiness of depravity lurking somewhere down below all that syncopated chin-jutting jive 'n' jazz. I only wish it was more apparent.

    It is definitely a fact that Fielding's most emotional cues for The Enforcer, Death On The Rock, Track 11, and Finale (Elegy For Inspector Moore) and its alternate version - Tracks 12 and 13 - are more personal than anything Schifrin came up for depicting the broken, fragile side of Dirty Harry. Although I feel that the likes of Harry's original theme - the sad epitaph at the end of the first movie when he throws his badge away and the dark moment when he observes Scorpio's young kidnap victim hauled, dead, from a drain - are more profound and downbeat, Fielding's music for the tragic death of Insp. Moore is certainly more personal and heartfelt. Schifrin's is deliberately cold and impersonal, reflective of the terrible and unstoppable direction that Harry sees society heading in, but not an immediate study of his own personal grief. Out of all the scores that take Harry and the situation he faces as their main impetus - Sudden Impact tells a different type of story and from another perspective, as we shall see in the review for the score - Fielding's is the one that tries the hardest to scratch beneath his cool exterior and expose the raw nerves of his own torment. He always deals with the loss of friends and colleagues and the loss of the innocents caught up in the slaughter on the streets, but we never get to actually feel his sense of loss. Jerry Fielding imbues his melancholic and wistful lament for Daly's dying heroine with such pathos and warmth that it is impossible not to realise that Dirty Harry is experiencing it too. The slightly longer Alternate version of the same cue examines these emotions with a little more anger and is, perhaps, too neat and obvious for its own good. But the first version on the album - and the one that is used in the film - is painfully romantic and achingly touching. Fielding was able to do such powerful work seemingly on a whim, with such devastating cues appearing to come out of nowhere. I always remember and adore the moment in The Wild Bunch when Robert Ryan's Thorton surveys the carnage at the end of the film and sees Pike Bishop (William Holden) still has his revolver in his holster, and then reaches down to retrieve it. Fielding's music here is so sweetly tragic that it takes you by surprise and brings a lump to the throat of even the hardest swine.

    The Enforcer, then, is a difficult score to get a handle on. If you like jazz, then you are onto a winner, but if you love the manic edge and inordinate excitement that Schifrin ladles into his cool scores for the Dirty Harry films, you will almost certainly be a tad unsatisfied with this album. Although, as I've explained, the last sequences of the score work very well indeed. And, hey, for series completists, it is a totally vital purchase anyway. This accompanying booklet, once again written by Nick Redman, also features a few warm words from Tyne Daly about the film, her part in it and how much she enjoyed working with Clint Eastwood. She also takes some time to praise Jerry Fielding for allowing her character such an emotional musical send-off.

    Full Track Listing is as follows -

    1. Prologue/ Main Title 3.21

    2). Harry's World 1.03

    3). Warehouse Heist 5.20

    4). Code Blue 1.14

    5). Rooftop Chase 6.02

    6). Raid on Mustafa's 1.17

    7). Kidnap Zap 3.45

    8). Tiffany's Number Eleven 3.18

    9). The Shooting Nun 1.15

    10). Alcatraz Encounter 4.26

    11). Death on the Rock 3.04

    12). Finale (Elegy for Inspector Moore) 2.50

    13). Finale (Alternate) 2.56 - and listen out for the parting words of satisfaction after the cue ends!

    Verdict

    A curious hybrid of accepted Dirty Harry motifs and breezy jazz-riffs that manages to be both accessibly lightweight and quite emotionally affecting. Fielding is a terrific film score composer as his work for Peckinpah, Michael Winner and, of course, Clint Eastwood, proves, but his studied perfectionism sometimes seems to hold back on the dynamics of a soundtrack and he predilection for jazz in this instance definitely robs this movie of much of its trademark excitement and pizzazz. Technically outstanding, then, but somehow lacking in vigour, I often feel. This said, his score for The Enforcer fits the film well enough - although I will always have problems with that Rooftop Chase - and, most sacred of all, he retained the core elements of how Harry Callahan should sound, musically speaking. As usual, the album produced by Schifrin's company Aleph Records is wonderfully put together and sounds terrifically clean and crisp. For fans, this is a no-brainer, but this is still Harry firing out of not quite all six cylinders. Just like the movie, really. But Fielding wins out in the end with a terrific triple-sequence finale, including that wonderfully touching Elegy For Inspector Moore.

    The Rundown

    Movie

    7

    Overall

    7

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