Film scores

Soundtrack review: Man on a swing (Lalo Schifrin – 1974)

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“Man on a swing” is a 1974 crime thriller that pretends to be inspired from a real story. A clairvoyant comes to the aid of a police chief in investigating a murder. The clairvoyant keeps getting trances while the cop has his doubts. Lalo Shifrin wrote the score and it’s always nice to get an unreleased gem from this smooth and innovative composer. Quartet Records released this score together with “The president’s analyst”.

The release opens with the surprising “Maggie’s theme”. This short, half a minute long interlude shows a soft side to Schifrin, a quiet and emotional little cue that does enough to warm my heart. It’s developed a little better later and it’s the kind of soft piano tune that will charm you. It’s a little sad but a very nice introduction to the character. Suspenseful jazzy Schifrin takes over from “Evelyn’s story” and I recognize his unique sound.

I’m not sure I’m very happy about all the “Source muzak” inserts that kind of break the mood. There are 9 of them on this score and they sound like generic interruptions to me and I don’t have patience for them. They are mostly jazz lounge cues that were probably heard in the background of some scenes but they don’t help me get an idea of this score. I have “Will’s trance”, the most complex cue on this release, to help me with that. Lalo Schifrin wrote an uncomfortable and sharp theme which gives me the impression that the character is going through something not everyone could sit through. The cue is very quiet and it almost flat lines at one point. There are chimes and bells and very short piano pulses to maybe simulate brainwaves and visions. 6 minutes of that was a little too much for me.

I recognize Schifrin’s slithering suspense cues in “Man on a swing”. I recognize these motifs that are silent and effective like ninjas, always hiding in the shadows and sneaking up on the listener. They are always in contrast with the soft light provided by Maggie’s every appearance. The more I hear that theme the more I like it. It’s so different from anything else on this score and it’s like a ray of light accidentally making its way through the thick dark velvet curtains of this album.

“Man on a swing” requires a lot of attention if you are to enjoy it. Sometimes the music is too silent and you have to raise the volume to make something of it and the way cues like “Dialtone / empty porch / mailman” are constructed can lose you if you are not in the right mood. I don’t think you will be able to enjoy this score if you are tired or in a rush. If you want to hear a score where the suspense and tension can almost get unbearable, this one is for you. Lalo Schifrin always knows how to make things interesting and I don’t regret giving this score a try.

Cue rating: 72 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 1 / 36

Album excellence: 2%

Highlights:

Maggie’s theme

About the author

Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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