"I, The Jury" (1982)
La-LaLand Records LLLCD1275
32 Tracks/Disc Time: 61:21
Grade: A+ (Best of 2013)
Mickey Spillane's classic detective Mike Hammer first appeared on television in the 1950's after successfully being a literary success and his novels made into movies. Throughout the years following, Mike Hammer was still a popular character and the moment was right for Hammer to return to the silver screen. The film is a remake of the 1953 version which was based on Spillane's original novel, with a major 80's updating and a few changes to the character to make him more contemporary with Armand Assante ("American Gangster", "Judge Dredd") stars as the iconic character with style and rough grace. Paired with his sexy loyal assistant, Velda (Laurene Landon, "Hundra") Mike takes on a case that involves an old friend from Vietnam, who was found murdered in his apartment. Aided by his friend NYPD Captain Pat Chambers (Paul Sorvino, "Goodfellas"), Hammer searches high and low to who killed his friend and why. Digging deeper and deeper into a sordid world that includes corrupt government agents, a mobster (Alan King, "Casino"), sexy women, and seemingly innocent but mysterious psychiatrist Charlotte Bennett (the uber sexy Barbara Carrera, "Never Say Never Again") behind the plot. The film which has appeared on cable over the years has a cult following and was also the last film that television director, Richard T. Heffron would direct theatrically. The film would also inspire the return of the character to regular television in 1983 with two Mike Hammer movie mysteries that would lead into a regular series ("The New Mike Hammer") on CBS that would last from 1984 to 1987 with Stacy Keach in the lead role and would reprise the character once more for a late 90's revival syndicated series which would only last a season.
The film is strong in every aspect from the acting with Assante giving one his more memorable roles along with Carrera (for obvious reasons), Larry Cohen's screenplay which is gritty, dirty and tough, Andrew Laszlo's excellent cinematography and Oscar winner Bill Conti's fun, energetic jazz based score. Conti was really riding high by the time that he was hired to score "I, The Jury" with the success of three "Rocky" films, the comedy "Private Benajmin", the sports drama "Victory" starring Michael Caine and Sylvester Stallone and of course, "For Your Eyes Only" the hit and one most popular James Bond films of all-time. There was no genre or television show that Conti couldn't tackle.
The music for the film is one of utter brilliance and energy. Utilizing a jazz combo that featured renowned jazz pianist Michael Lang, guitarist Dennis Budimir, drummer Steven Schaffer and saxophonist Tony Ortega, Conti's score really comes to life the moment of the opening bars of Lang's performance of the main theme is first heard on screen ("Main Title") which is a jazzy and contemporary featuring a touch of that old disco beat that he made good use of in "For Your Eyes Only" along with Ortega's sultry sax solo. I love this piece, I have to say that it's easily one of my favorite Conti compositions other than "Rocky". The rest of the score features alot of sultry noir jazz that is just intoxicating and full of energy such as tracks "Stomach Ache", "Wooden Arm", "Widow's Wake/Window Watcher/Tails Tale", and "Velda's Vamp". Conti also brilliantly infuses the sultry jazz aspect and classical for some rather steamy love scenes in the film in the tracks "Pat's Patsy", which plays out more like a tango featuring Budimir's classical guitar playing up against Ortega's sultry saxophone and Schaffer's drums and "Chopin's Nocturne/Stairway To Surrogate" featuring Lang performing a wonderful piano solo that leads to Conti's main theme turned into a full blown sultry love theme highlighted by a ultra sexy and sultry saxophone solo.
The action material Conti also cooked up for the score is one of sheer enjoyment with entertaining material for "Rummy Run", which is loosely inspired by his "Drive In The Country" track from "For Your Eyes Only", "Michael's Taxi Ride", which is a fun big band styled track filled with fun urgency that leds to the very frenetic "Concrete Chase Conclusion" that features the ecclectic big band material that works brilliantly to perfection. "Mike's Early Exit", "Two Guard Takedown" and Romero's Wrong Way" are easily my favorite of the bunch because of the rythmic material that Conti orchestrates with sheer enjoyment and energy featuring Budimir, Lang and Schaffer's cool musicianship and are really memorable tracks that are really are alot of fun and would inspire Conti to write action material for another brilliant film, "F/X" years later. The score wraps up with a reprise of the scores' major thematic material in "End Credits" which is just a solid finish to a score that is just almost virtually flawless.
La-La Land Records' album is really an enjoyable little masterpiece and in particular for a film that really deserves alot more attention that really is getting at this point except for those who have seen it and enjoyed it own its' merits despite its' somewhat convoluted story. Conti you can tell was really inspired by the material and it's easy to see why I love this score so much. It just simply works on every level and the jazz aspects of it make it even more potent. He really brought a cool, hipness to Armand Assante's version of Mike Hammer and really ran with it. It's easy to see why La-La Land Records (finally!) released this score after almost thirty years after the films' release and it really is one of Conti's best scores other than the likes of "Rocky", "The Karate Kid", and "The Right Stuff". "I, The Jury" is just one of those special scores that shouldn't be forgotten and I'm really glad it is here, finally! Thumbs way up! Great score!