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Monday, October 20, 2008


Neal Hefti died on October 11th just short of his 86th birthday. He will probably be best rembered by screen music followers for his themes and scores for The Odd Couple, Barefoot in the Park and the Batman TV series, but, like fellow composer Lalo Schifrin, he also had a whole other career in the jazz music field. Other film credits include How To Murder Your Wife, Sex and the Single Girl, Boeing Boeing, Duel at Diable and Harlow.

One Man Jury
Music by Morton Stevens
BSX Records BSXCD 8841 (US)
19 Tracks 55:36 mins

Morton Stevens was one of those journeymen composers who wrote consistently quality work for all kinds of film and especially television productions through the 50s, 60s, 70s & 80s, and is probably best known for his theme for Hawaii Five-0, though I enjoy equally his theme for Police Woman and very much admire his work in the likes of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. as well. In addition, I remember what a great job he did on adapting and scoring for the final parts of the Masada mini-series (the first two parts were of course scored by Jerry Goldsmith, a man Stevens had long been associated with).
It's a shame then that so little of his work is available on CD, but BSX Records have done their bit to hopefully start the ball rolling by releasing his score for the 1978 thriller One Man Jury, which stars Jack Palance, in a kind of good guy role for a change, as a tough crime fighting cop in the Dirty Harry mould.
Stevens' music was recorded in England with the National Philharmonic and the album commences with his "Main Title" which, after an opening string scherzo, moves along in flowing fashion to a pop beat. Much eeriness and suspense follows in "The Killer/The First Victim," ending in Psycho-like stabbing strings and wild piano. By complete contrast, "Wendy Walking" is breezy, but all too brief, before a quick return to the eerie and then stabbing strings again in "The Second Victim." A lament for organ follows in "Nancy's Funeral;" the mood changing again for the warm romance of "Bedroom Scene;" and yet again for the dark menace of "Ambushed." A stealthy pursuit follows in "Following the Killer/The Killer Confesses/The Cop Who Played God/Aftermath," turning dissonant and eerie again as the track moves to its violent conclusion. More eerie strings briefly open "Body Pulled from the Lake/The Next Day," giving way to a great trumpet-lead variation on the main theme, followed by a brief touch of romance in "After the Fight." More violent action follows in "Busting the Hijacking/Killing Chickie," ending in something of a dirge. The next track covers a variety of scenes and begins with more stabbing strings and also features some dynamic, brassy, beat-driven action writing for the "Big Chase, before concluding with some dark dissonance for "The Killers Killed." The eerie strings, dissonance and suspense return for much of "Then You Killed Him!/Wade Shot/Going After Wendy," but the cue does pick up somewhat, moving tensely to a pacy conclusion; the score proper concluding with the exciting action of the lengthy "Boat Shootout & Finale," with its triumphant ending, as the killer is finally dispatched by one of his would-be victims. The "End Credits" play out against a laid-back, jazzy and quite gorgeous trumpet refrain of Stevens' main theme.
Of course, in the 70s, it was still the fashion for the film's composer to provide the source music on a project, and the final five tracks on the album feature Stevens' source cues for the film.
The disc is accompanied by an excellent 8-page booklet, featuring Randall D. Larson's informative notes on the film, its music and composer, as well as an invaluable cue-by-cue guide. Limited to just 1000 units, you'd better hurry along to to secure your copy.


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