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Category:    Home > Reviews > Action > Drama > Soundtrack > The Yakuza (Limited CD)

The Yakuza (Limited Edition CD Soundtrack)

 

Sound: B     Music: B

 

 

The Jazz musician Dave Grusin has been wildly successful in his genre, but also in film and TV music beyond what many still are aware of.  Besides some memorable TV theme songs with Marilyn & Alan Bergman, he has also come up with some fine feature film scoring.  His ongoing collaborations in particular with Sydney Pollack began with The Yakuza, a 1975 drama thriller made at a time when Asian stereotypes were still too much in tact in Hollywood and ideas of eastern religion, arts and fighting arts had more mysticism in them.

 

Now, the FSM label of Film Score Monthly Magazine has issued the soundtrack for the first time ever in this CD edition limited to only 3,000 copies (which can be ordered directly from the magazine’s site at www.filmscoremonthly.com) and have done their usual exemplary release of the music.

 

The film involves an old detective (Robert Mitchum) with a cloud hanging over his head about his time in Japan, who must now return there after a long period back home in the U.S. to find the kidnapped daughter of a good friend (Brian Keith) and may be one of the only men who could do it.  That involves tangling with the title organization, the largest Japanese organized crime organization of all.  We will covert the film another time when we get the DVD (or HD equivalent), but one of the plusses of the film is the score.

 

Instead of the formulaic (to say nothing of stereotypical) Oriental cliché music we would here, Grusin creates resonance throughout with an ironic Jazz score.  It is often laid back, as so much music was in the mid-1970s, but brings out the character side of the narrative more than if it were a slam-bang action genre film.  It has some action, but it is not in the overly slick, overemphasized, youth-market driven garbage mode we see too often today.  Besides the directing and script (by the Schrader Bros. and Robert Towne!), it is well cast and the score allows Pollack to walk a fine line between the Hollywood type of production it is and the Japanese crime genre filmmaking it is also drawing from.  Grusin would continue this approach in Pollack‘s films, like Three Days Of The Condor, which gave all the talent on screen and behind the camera more room to do better filmmaking.  The film has appreciated in value in 30 years beyond the current retro-karate/ninja sludge we keep seeing, so you might want to get this soundtrack before the film becomes even more popular.

 

The PCM 2.0 16Bit/44.1kHz Stereo sounds good, and since the film has not been restored and the masters never used to make a soundtrack, all the tapes needed to be were preserved.  Fortunately, Warner had the 2” 16-track master, while other sources include a ½” 3-track supplement master and monophonic sound effects master.  This sounds so good, Warner could get 5.1 out of this for the film itself.  Also included is the usually well-written, well-illustrated booklet with a fine amount of information on the history of the film, its players, the score and its composer.  Now I want to see the film, preferably the 123 minutes version over the shorter 112 minutes cut.

 

 

-   Nicholas Sheffo


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