Music composed and conducted by Lalo Schifrin
Label: Aleph Records

Year: 2008
1. Main Title
2. Murder By the Sea
3. Too Much Sugar
4. Frisco Night
5. Target Practice
6. The Road to San Paolo
7. Remembering Terror
8. Cocktails of Fire
9. Robbery Suspect
10. Ginley’s Bar
11. Another Victim
12. You’ve Come a Long Way
13. Darkness
14. Crazy
15. Hot Shot Cop
16. Alby And Lester Boy
17. The Automag
18. Unicorn’s Head
19. A Ray of Light
20. Stairway to Hell
21. San Francisco After Dark (End Titles)
Bonus track:
22. Main Title (Alternate)

Total Time: 58:29

Reviewed by
Jorge Saldanha


In 1983, one decade after The Enforcer, Clint Eastwood decided to revisit Harry Callaham – the San Francisco police detective nicknamed Dirty Harry. So in Sudden Impact we meet again the tough officer, this time older and having to figh not psychos, death squads or terrorists, but a young lady who is murdering one by one the men that raped her years ago. The big differential here is that Eastwood made his directorial debut in the series, and the newly star/director called back the veteran composer Lalo Schifrin to write the original score.

For the former film Jerry Fielding wrote an interesting score, but Eastwood did notice that the composer didn't manage to create the musical mood typical of the series. For this reason the Argentinian once more took over the duties exercised with excellence in Dirty Harry and Magnum Force. This work, previously released properly only in vynil, arrives to CD in an another album from Schifrin's Aleph catalogue, which already had included a Dirty Harry soundtrack anthology and the complete scores from the first three movies.

The Dirty Harry scores, like the own movies, were gradually becoming weaker. Schifrin is a musician that, in this kind of urban cop film, always blended jazz with contemporary pop rhythms, and in the particular case of Sudden Impact this method caused some serious damage because the '80s groove quickly became dated. A fine example of this problem already arrives at the initial track, "Main Title", a mix of dance music, slap bass and scratch effects used ad nauseam by every DJ since then, while in the background we hear some radio police chat. An indigest combination, which fortunately is not repeated throughout the score. From there, Schifrin shows why is a distinguished composer, adding creative orchestral colors and even making reference to themes that he created for the previous films, even if so in a discreet way (for instance the melancholic Harry's theme receives an exquisite development with Ernie Watt's tenor sax in "San Francisco After Dark").

Compared with his music for Dirty Harry or Magnum Force, here Lalo expanded the use of orchestra, creating more symphonic and acoustic pieces emphasizing woodwinds, horns and a large string section. But to save the series musical mood, eventually we'll listen the rhythmic percussion and the fender bass that is a kind of trademark instrument for Harry. When the cop takes some forced vacations we follow his trip with the more than adequate "The Road to San Paolo", where the trumpet assumes the front position of the orchestra. Agitated tracks like "Cocktails of Fire" and "Robbery Suspect" remember the jazz/pop/orchestra that made the composer's reputation, while others like "Remembering Terror" and "Unicorn's Head" blending carnival music, orchestral suspense and even rock music, may even surprise some listeners. Also, Schifrin creates an interesting theme for the murderer evoking the innocence lost with her rape, which contrasts with the harsh, dissonant strings that recreate the brutal murders perpetrated by her.

By all means this is a typical action score from Schifrin, made in a time when the music wasn't ashamed to sound sometimes exaggerated – today we listen music during every second of a movie, but rarely something manages to catch our attention. Sadly, unlike the previous releases of the label, this one (which as usual features extensive and detailed notes from Nick Redman) can't be considered as a complete soundtrack album. Even containing all source music and even a bonus track (an alternative version of "Main Titles" with slight orchestration changes and the addition of a wah wah guitar), the disc misses "This Side of Forever", the same melody of "San Francisco After Dark" sung by Aretha Franklin - this is the song that we listen at film's end credits. However really odd is the omission of the first (and better) half of "A Ray of Light", which is available in integral form at the Dirty Harry Anthology CD. The omission of this segment in a song that originally is already short (it lasts just over two minutes) can only have been caused by a mistake in the track's editing. Even so this is a highly recommended release for all action score fans.