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STARSKY & HUTCH – Theodore Shapiro

starsky&hutchOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

It is de rigueur in Hollywood at the moment to re-make classic TV shows of the 70s and 80s as big-budget cinema outings: we’ve already had Charlie’s Angels and SWAT, and there are rumors of A-Team and Knight Rider movies in the pipeline. Starsky & Hutch was one of the comedy successes of the min-genre, paying loving homage to the well-loved original series while gently lampooning the fashions and morals of the decade. Directed by Todd Phillips, the film starred Owen Wilson and Ben Stiller as the eponymous Bay City detectives, the roles made famous by David Soul and Paul Michael Glaser. Here, they find themselves on the trail of shady businessman Reese Feldman (Vince Vaughan), who they believe is a drug dealer; along the way they are helped by their flamboyant jive-talking snitch Huggy Bear (Snoop Dogg), and hindered by their cantankerous boss Captain Doby (Fred Williamson). Plot is, of course, secondary in a film like this, which revels instead in the comedy set pieces, and the sense of nostalgia in the production: everything, from the classic Ford Torino, to the costumes and hairstyles, and the sexual attitudes, are a prefect recreation of the original setting. It’s a blast.

The original score for Starsky & Hutch is by the extremely talented Theodore Shapiro, who enjoyed a breakout year in 2004 with four movies which grossed over $50 million at the US box office – Along Came Polly, 13 Going on 13, Dodgeball, and this one. Despite having a classical background, Shapiro is proving to be something of a film music everyman, able to turn his hand to lots of different styles of writing, and excelling at all of them. Starsky & Hutch, for example, it the ultimate 70s cop show score.

Of course, scores such as this are supposed to be light and breezy, and Shapiro’s score is just that. His main theme – sub-headed “Twin Dragons” – is a rocking affair replete with all the wonderful clichés of the era: heroic trumpets, a modern rhythm section, wah-wah electric guitars, fluttery bass flutes. It sounds cheesy, but of course that is the whole point – it’s the kind of music that accompanied the original series, siblings such as CHiPS, and all those wonderful blaxploitation movies like Shaft and Truck Turner. It’s almost as though Shapiro is channeling the musical spirit of Isaac Hayes and Lalo Schifrin. It appears in several cues thereafter – notably on low, low pianos in Score Cue 28, with an added timpani element in the following track, and with a laid-back groove in the conclusive cue, where the two ‘special guest stars’ make their appearance…

The action music, when it comes, offsets the main theme against some fast-paced string work, notably in Score Cue 16; additional cues embrace a certain amount of “sneaking around” music with low, creeping strings and tinkling pianos, while others use a delicious combination of electric guitar and Hammond organ to give the score that typical urban groove. There’s also a nostalgic, but all-too-brief string and woodwind love theme in Score Cue 14 that’s gone before it makes an impression. On one occasion, in Score Cue 23, it even seems to want to burst into a rendition of Charles Louis Trenet’s “Beyond the Sea”!

The original soundtrack for Starsky & Hutch, released by TVT at the time of the film’s release, featured only one track of Shapiro’s score (the main theme), accompanied by a whole series of disco and funk classics from the era from the likes of K.C. and the Sunshine Band, the Jackson 5, Johnny Cash, the Starland Vocal Band, and others. This release is a promo CD produced by Shapiro’s agents at Gorfaine-Schwartz, combined with the commercial CD’s songs to provide a definitive overview of the film’s musical voice. On the evidence of this year’s output, and his previous work on films such as State and Main and Heist, Shapiro looks to have a great future ahead of him. If only more of his work was released on CD…

Rating: ****

Track Listing:

  • Starsky and Hutch Theme (“Twin Dragons”) (2:45)
  • Untitled Score Cue 1 (0:42)
  • Untitled Score Cue 2 (1:56)
  • Untitled Score Cue 3 (0:43)
  • Untitled Score Cue 4 (0:54)
  • Untitled Score Cue 5 (0:26)
  • Untitled Score Cue 6 (0:34)
  • Untitled Score Cue 7 (0:50)
  • Untitled Score Cue 8 (0:33)
  • Untitled Score Cue 9 (0:29)
  • Untitled Score Cue 10 (0:35)
  • Untitled Score Cue 11 (0:37)
  • Untitled Score Cue 12 (0:34)
  • Untitled Score Cue 13 (0:49)
  • Untitled Score Cue 14 (0:28)
  • Untitled Score Cue 15 (0:39)
  • Untitled Score Cue 16 (0:46)
  • Untitled Score Cue 17 (1:18)
  • Untitled Score Cue 18 (0:55)
  • Untitled Score Cue 19 (0:27)
  • Untitled Score Cue 20 (0:43)
  • Untitled Score Cue 21 (0:40)
  • Untitled Score Cue 22 (0:35)
  • Untitled Score Cue 23 (0:44)
  • Untitled Score Cue 24 (0:50)
  • Untitled Score Cue 25 (0:33)
  • Untitled Score Cue 26 (1:26)
  • Untitled Score Cue 27 (0:39)
  • Untitled Score Cue 28 (2:28)
  • Untitled Score Cue 29 (2:45)
  • Untitled Score Cue 30 (0:36)
  • Untitled Score Cue 31 (1:29)
  • Old Days (written by James Pankow, performed by Chicago) (3:30)
  • Dazz (written by Reginal Hargis, Edward Irons and Raymond Lincoln Ransom, performed by Brick)
  • Folsom Prison Blues (written and performed by Johnny Cash) (2:46)
  • Right Back Where We Started From (written by Vincent Edwards and Pierre Tubbs, performed by Maxine Nightingale) (3:17)
  • Use Me (written and performed by Bill Withers)
  • Feel Like Makin’ Love (written by Eugene McDaniels, performed by Dan Finnerty)
  • Dancing Machine (written by Hal Davis, Donald E. Fletcher and Weldon Dean Parks, performed by Jackson 5) (3:18)
  • The Weight (written by Robbie Robertson, performed by The Band) (4:36)
  • That’s The Way I Like It (written by Harry Wayne Casey and Richard Finch, performed by KC and the Sunshine Band) (3:03)
  • Don’t Give Up On Us (written by Tony Macaulay, performed by Owen Wilson) (1:09)
  • I Want’a Do Something Freaky To You (written and performed by Leon Haywood)
  • Love Will Keep Us Together (written by Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield, performed by Brigitte Romanek) (3:26)
  • I’m a Ramblin’ Man (written by Ray Pennington, performed by Waylon Jennings)
  • Afternoon Delight (written by Bill Danoff, performed by Starland Vocal Band) (3:16)

Running Time: 84 minutes 01 seconds

GSA Agency Promo (2004)

Music composed by Theodore Shapiro. Conducted by Pete Anthony. Orchestrations by Pete Anthony and Jon Kull. Recorded and mixed by Chris Fogel. Edited by Jonathan Karp. Album produced by Theodore Shapiro and George Drakoulis.

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