The Yakuza (Limited Edition CD Soundtrack)
Sound: B Music:
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
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