Rob Price
Gutbrain Records
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2010 August 30 • Monday

The 128th Soundtrack of the Week is Jerry Fielding's music for The Big Sleep.

This was Mitchum's second outing as Philip Marlowe, the first being Farewell, My Lovely, whose David Shire score was our 28th Soundtrack of the Week.

While Farewell, My Lovely took place in the '40s, The Big Sleep moved the action to present-day London. Jerry Fielding's main title has a '70s jazz groove and a mixture of electric and acoustic instruments, at times sounding like cues from The Bionic Woman (for which Fielding also wrote music, including its great theme).

There's an appropriately elegiac and melancholy tone to much of the music. Apparently Fielding, like Marlowe, was feeling tired and despondent, having just had a heart attack. Bits and pieces that reminded me of Fielding's Bionic Woman music appear here and there and the liner notes to the Film Score Monthly CD mention references to other Fielding scores such as Straw Dogs, The Killer Elite, The Nightcomers and The Enforcer.

"Brody Takes a Bullet/Where Is It?/Tailing Marlowe" begins with a dramatic atmosphere, moves to a very fast piano bit that's like a hopped-up mutation of Bernard Herrmann's The Day the Earth Stood Still piano lines, then moves into a classic '70s funk electric bass guitar line complete with triangle and a doubled electric guitar line.

"Late Night" is a susprisingly tender cue and the crazed piano and funky bass line return in the beginning of "The Man with the Gray Car/Here's to the Truth, Harry". The second half has the score's other personality, eerie intervals followed by divebombing strings and crashing piano.

"The Truth" begins with a melancholy piano section and ends with angular, tense string lines. The "End Title" reprises the main title music. I haven't seen this movie in almost thirty years and I have no memory of it at all. It's not supposed to be that good but the music is great.