Sometimes, there is an unexpected inception to a movie, like in a certain action star’s self-directed and underappreciated thriller from the early ’80s. Where the accompanying song makes for a near-perfect music-movie-moment, which wholly brings a smile to your face as it plays out on screen. Specifically, the opening titles sequence of Sharky’s Machine, and we have a few to thank for this. Notably, the late-Thomas Lesslie “Snuff” Garrett (July 5, 1938 – December 16, 2015).
Hold that thought.
One of the better director credit visuals onscreen.
Before his career took a downturn that decade, Burt Reynolds had his third outing behind the camera, and starred in this highly underrated adaptation of the William Diehl novel by the same name. A brutal yet exciting tale that played to the actor’s strengths and paraded his unanticipated knack for movie direction. The tracking shot at the start of the film’s credits was particularly deft1, and placed William A. Fraker‘s fine cinematography on clear display.
The sequence, sprinkled with blood-red, neon-like titles, set the stage for the grit of Atlanta’s back alleys no tourist brochure ever promotes, against the stark work of the police undercover on his way to a drug bust. One doomed to fail as surely as the color of the titles hinted what’s to spill on those same streets as a result. A marvelous setup of story and character as much as the producers’ use of the Westin Peachtree Plaza Hotel skyscraper as a phallic symbol of the picture.
This is where we’re beholden to the film’s music supervisor, “Snuff” Garrett. The man always had a knack for picking just the right song. The American record producer made his name during the ’60s and ’70s. Although not a musician by training, he surely could pick hits and talent. Spanning Lubbock, Texas, to the famed songwriting work coming out of the Brill Building in New York City, to producing unanticipated period hits. Including those of Sonny & Cher on their meteoric rise.
Not to mention, the likes of Leon Russell, Del Shannon, Gary Lewis and the Playboys, Nancy Sinatra, Eddie Rabbit and others on the West Coast who blossomed under him.
IMO, his selections for the Sharky’s Machine soundtrack produced one of the greatest2 ever compiled for a genre film. A wondrous mix of needle-dropped tunes by jazz and blues dignitaries like Flora Purim, Peggy Lee, Manhattan Transfer, Sarah Vaughan, Joe Williams, Julie London, Chet Baker, Eddie Harris, and Doc Severinsen that was a joy to listen to. Squaring The Crusaders’ hit Street Life, with Randy Crawford‘s supreme vocal, to the film’s gateway scene.
The refashioned and repurposed ’70s jazz fusion song set the tone by marvelously matching music-to-movie for one of the better cinematic entrances, ever.
- Observe that filmmakers’ will perform its reverse for the film’s closing credits. ↩
- For the longest, this movie soundtrack was only available on vinyl, for which I credit putting a turntable back into my life. In early-2014, the Varese Sarabande label released the film’s soundtrack on CD, finally. ↩