Hard Contract/North

August 7, 2009

Hard_contract_VCL06091097

A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) was a style that Alex North developed and carried with him for his entire soundtrack-writing career. He has a slow west coast style cool jazz with dissonance in the right places to add some improv flavor to the bluesy tracks. Considered harsh by many, it is certainly a biting unique style that I’ve enjoyed over the years. If North had gone in the direction of a jazz artist who knows how far or where it would have taken him.

While Hard Contract boasted a stellar cast that included James Coburn, Lee Remick, Lilli Palmer, Sterling Hayden, Burgess Meredith, and Karen Black the story itself about a hit man who finds love and a conscious is all too familiar. One and done director S. Lee Pogostin who also wrote the script likely didn’t help matters. His career was mainly as a writer and it probably should have remained that way.

The new Varese Club release (VCL 0609 1097.2) is divided into two sections, mono and stereo surviving material, making the nearly 55 minutes of music misleading. Many of the tracks are exactly the same except for the mono or stereo difference. “Cunningham,” “Sheila,” “Rape,” “Number One Man,” “Number Three Man,” “Main Title,” and “End Title” are the same cue. However, there are a few cues such as “TorreMolinos,” “Fulfillment,” “How To Kiss,” “Number Two Man,” and “Skin” that are unique to the stereo/mono surviving material.

The “Main Title” begins with two piano chords followed by a Chinatown type theme without strings, slow and melodic, easy to listen to. You will hear this theme in different arrangements such as muted trumpet, guitar, flute, and other combinations. While Hard Contract is not a monothematic score there is quite an emphasis on this theme. “TorreMolinos” is a nicely arranged Samba dance tune for a source situation in the film. “Sheila” is a lush arrangement of the main theme that really cries for strings but the budget wasn’t there. “Number One Man” is a good example of the dissonant style North uses that some find difficult to listen to. “Skin” is a variation on the main theme with some good interplay between muted trumpet, saxophone, clarinet, and orchestra.

As of this writing (08-05-09) the limited edition release of 1000 copies is sold out. I would assume that most of the Alex North fans have already gotten their copy and are enjoying the music. However, http://www.moviemusic.com/ appeared to still have copies available at $24.99. As far as the average soundtrack listener goes I would pass on this one. There is just not enough additional music to justify the purchase price other than the outstanding main theme.

Maintitles Rating is **

Varese Saraland #VCL 0609 1097.2

Track Listing:

 

Track listing

1. Main Title (02:35)

 

2. Cunningham (01:43)

 

3. TorreMolinos (02:18)

 

4. Sheila (01:22)

 

5. Number One Man (01:57)

 

6. Gone (00:37)

 

7. Rape (01:08)

 

8. Rape (Alternate) (00:42)

 

9. Resurrection (00:43)

 

10. I Do Women (00:31)

 

11. Hands (01:15)

 

12. Rest Period (00:39)

 

13. Him Too (01:00)

 

14. Number Three Man (01:49)

 

15. End Title (02:44)

 

16. Main Theme Demo (02:06)

Tracks 1 to 16: Surviving Stereo Mixes

17. Main Title (02:37)

 

18. Cunningham (01:43)

 

19. Sheila (01:20)

 

20. Fulfillment (02:55)

 

21. Number One Man (01:59)

 

22. How To Kiss (02:34)

 

23. All About God (03:05)

 

24. Gone (00:36)

 

25. Number Two Man (01:07)

 

26. Skin (03:26)

 

27. Rape (01:07)

 

28. Resurrection (00:44)

 

29. I Do Women (00:39)

 

30. Hands / Hotel Lobby (01:34)

 

31. Rest Period (00:41)

 

32. Him Too (01:00)

 

33. Number Three Man (01:51)

 

34. End Title (02:44)

Tracks 17 to 34: Surviving Mono Film Masters

Total Duration: 00:54:51

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