Salute to Lalo Schifrin

You don’t hear a lot about Lalo Schifrin these days, and that’s too bad because he’s a tremendously talented composer. So, we thought we’d remedy that and remind readers about his contributions to spy entertainment.

One of his early contributions came during the second season (1965-66) of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. He scored only one episode that season, “The Ultimate Computer Affair.” That was the first episode produced that season (and the third broadcast). But Schifrin also did a new arrangement of Jerry Goldsmith’s theme.

Goldsmith HATED Schifrin’s arrangement, according to film and TV music expert Jon Burlingame. Regardless, the 1965-66 season was also U.N.C.L.E.’s most-watched season so a lot of people sampled Schifrin’s take. Here it is:

Schifrin also was doing film scores. We’ve linked to this before but we’ll do it again, the composer’s main title theme for the second Matt Helm movie, Murderers’ Row:

This was the prelude to Schifrin’s biggest contribution to spy music, the theme to Mission: Impossible, where the composer also contributed a number of scores for individual episodes. Here’s the main title to the pilot. Trivia note: the hand holding the match that lights the fuse is that of creator Bruce Geller.

By the show’s fifth season, there was a movie to bringing in younger agents, via Lesley Warren and Sam Elliott. Schifrin obliged by providing a jazzed up arrangement of the theme.

In 1988, ABC sought to revive the show. It only last two seasons but Schifrin scored the pilot and did yet another new arrangement of his theme:

In 1996, Paramount released a Mission: Impossible movie. It took many liberties — including making Jim Phelps the villain. Schifrin got passed over in favor of Danny Elfman for scoring the movie. Still, the studio did include the theme, if not Schifrin himself:

Finally, while Schifrin never was retained to score a James Bond movie, in 2007, he provided a taste of what he could have done. Schifrin did a concert in Paris that included his own music but he also showed off his take on The James Bond Theme. (Sorry, this video isn’t complete)

One Response

  1. If you guys play guitar, you might be interested in my tab for Lalo’s version of the MFU theme:

    I was just enjoying his work in Enter the Dragon the other night!

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