news reviews features composers magazine directory
<< contents

Dirty Harry (complete score) 

Dirty Harry (complete score)

Composer : Lalo Schifrin

Conductor : Lalo Schifrin

Producer : Nick Redman and Lalo Schifrin

Label / No. : Aleph Records 030

Year of release : 1971

CD release: 2004

Total duration : 43:04


Reviewed by: Andrew Keech

“Do I feel lucky, well do ya, punk?” is one of Clint Eastwood’s and cinemas most enduring lines and gave the world respect for the power of the Magnum .45 hand gun. Dirty Harry (1971) was the first of five films starring Clint Eastwood as Inspector Harry Callahan (Magnum Force (1973), The Enforcer (1976), Sudden Impact (1983), The Dead Pool (1988)), a no compromise San Francisco policeman. In Dirty Harry Callahan is on the trail of a serial killer holding the city to ransom. Lalo Schifrin scored all of the films except The Enforcer, which fell to Jerry Fielding. However, it was Dirty Harry that set new trends in gritty, tough “cop” films with Clint Eastwood bringing to the role the same macho, but justice driven two-dimensional character that made his Spaghetti westerns so special. Lalo Schifrin’s jazz music brought to Dirty Harry the lift that Ennio Morricone’s music brought to A Fistful Of Dollars; distinctive, unusual and highly atmospheric. It is therefore strange to note that this CD from Lalo Schifrin’s own label, Aleph, is the first full release of this groundbreaking score, albeit portions have been included in previous collections.

The score opens with church bells that meld into a brief surrealistic sequence that sets a scene of anarchic chaos with a ghostly echo that is used in later cues. The ‘Main Titles’ introduce portions of the wonderful theme, but swept up in a fantastic jazz improvisation that creates the feel of a coiled spring, an atmosphere and style often associated with Roy Budd’s contemporary scores. In contrast the following cue is traditional upbeat jazz, dominated by a groovy saxophone. The song ‘No More Lies, Girl’, with lyrics by Donna Schifrin, is sung by the gritty voiced Bernard Ito and is playing from the bank robber’s car radio in the famous Magnum scene. For many of the score’s cues that involve Scorpio, the psychopathic killer, the composer used a solo female voice (supplied by Sally Stevens) to generate an ethereal and deeply menacing atmosphere. This no more so than in the School bus sequence as Callahan waits on the overhead bridge to turn the tables and become the hunter. Inter-mixed with these intimidating cues are some wonderful fresh cues, like the delightful, slightly off-key ice cream van tune in ‘Off Duty’, along with the cue’s infectious improvised trumpet led jazz, the upbeat rock song in the ‘Strip Club’ cue and the exciting “prelude to action” cue ‘City Hall’. The ‘End Titles’ provide a wonderful melancholy slant on the theme to match Callahan’s smouldering anger as he throws his badge into the water. The album also comes with four bonus cues, interesting alternative versions of four cues that include a more upbeat ‘School Bus’ and a slower ‘City Hall’.

The score for Dirty Harry may not be to everyone’s taste, but there is no denying that its groundbreaking wraithlike atmosphere added considerably to the film’s tough and shocking message. It has a compulsive eerie feel that will either appeal or repel. “I know what you are thinking. Did he use four stars or five?” Well if you are feeling lucky, punk - make Lalo’s day and add Dirty Harry to your collection.

Other reviews by Andrew Keech:

© 2007 Music from the Movies
Designed by: Danny. C. Foster