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HOUSE OF BAMBOO: Music: Leigh Harline


Intrada Special Collection, Volume 30, TT: 55.15, 22 tracks (stereo)

**** Quintessential

Producer: Nick Redman, Performed: 20th Century-Fox Studio Orchestra, Conductor: Lionel Newman Orchestrations: Edward Powell by Ross Care In 1953 Leigh Harline created a great noir score for director Sam Fullers Pickup on South Street (with a little help from Lionel Newman whose song, Again from 1948s Road House, provided the love theme). He worked again with Fuller in 1955, providing a full original score for House of Bamboo, a crime drama set in post-war Japan. The film is mostly shot on location and opens with a prologue (without music) of a train high jacking picturesquely shot in front of an obligingly wide-screen friendly Mount Fuji. For the ensuing credits Harline provides a toccata-like Main Title, not dissimilar in feel to his excitingly urban MT for Pickup on South Street. This one opens with flurries of agitated strings followed by a sustained, fanfare-like theme in French horns that is tersely developed contrapuntally. Emphatic accents of brass and percussion add suggestions of the films Asian locale to this brief but exciting prelude. House of Bamboo is also one of a series of lush Fox films (Boy on a Dolphin, River of No Return, Three Coins in the Fountain, A Certain Smile, etc.) that showcase a variety of international settings with much authentic location footage shot in CinemaScope. Thus ensuing opening Bamboo tracks (Investigation Arrival in Japan) develop the main titles fanfare motif under documentary-like shots of a rather quaint, early-1950s Tokyo and environs in impressive wide-screen. (These lavishly scored films have by now also become bittersweet time capsules from an almost unbelievably uncrowded and benignly multicultural world!) Track six, Marikos Story, opens with a quiet passage for harp and solo oboe that showcases the unique sound of the Fox oboe soloist. The melody will also evolve as the scores major theme. Story accompanies the scene in which, after a chase through the city (Marikos Escape) Robert Stack, on a mission to investigate a group of ex-GIs involved in a crime syndicate, finally catches up with the Japanese girl whose American husband was involved with and killed by the mob. The cue accompanies her moving narrative about her husbands death. Tracks 7 and 8 also have an exotic feel and Harline, who has a wonderful sense of orchestral color and atmosphere, provides some haunting passages for English horn (a lower-pitched relative of the oboe) in its deepest register. Track 7, Meeting

2 Place, underscores the scene in which Stacks status as a good guy is established in a sequence beautifully filmed at the giant Buddha in Kyoto. Breakfast and Bath is a more idyllic version of the love theme in woodwinds, harp, and strings with a distinctive alto sax solo. Its one of the warmest, yet quietly exotic cues in the entire score for the scene in which Shirley Yamaguchi, as the widowed wife, agrees to live with Stack in order to help him infiltrate the crime ring. Given the films unlikely title, the love theme is also developed into a title song that is heard in several versions at the end of this disc. The song is surprisingly haunting, but then Harline is the guy who wrote When You Wish Upon A Star (from Pinocchio), but who also had to play second fiddle to the guy who wrote How Much Is That Doggie in the Window? on one of his last films, The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm. But then, thats Hollywood. (Harry Warrens Fox standard, Serenade in Blue from 1942s Orchestra Wives, is also included in the Bamboo score). For someone who started at Disneys Harline often has a distinctly unsentimental sound and his serious dramatic scores (such as this one) are meticulously composed from a technical/orchestral standpoint. House of Bamboo makes an interesting comparison to another Fox Scope score, Hugo Friedhofers Soldier of Fortune (set in China, and available on a FSM disc). Friedhofers score is much more overt in its exoticisms, and almost reminds me of an intellectual version of a Les Baxter LP such as Ports of Pleasure (and, loving Friedhofer and Les Baxter as I do, I mean that as a complement). Harlines House of Bamboo evokes the Orient in a more under-stated fashion and is really at the service of films dramatic and emotional elements. Its also an interesting contrast to his inventive and more fantastic fusion of East and West in 7 Faces of Doctor Lao, which has just been released by FSM. Following up the powerful Enemy Below (also Intrada), House of Bamboo is another welcome addition to the growing availability of Harlines once-neglected feature film work, and a score that will reveal more of its subtly detailed beauty with repeated listenings. WC: 761 Ross Care