Masaru Satô

Active - 1955 - 2003  |   Born - May 29, 1928   |   Died - Dec 5, 1999   |   Genres - Drama, Action, Adventure

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Masaru Sato was one of the busiest film music composers in Japan from 1955 until the end of the 1990s. Born in Toru City, Hokkaido, in 1928, he studied at the National Music Academy and was instructed in the finer points of film scoring by Fumio Hayasaka, the composer most closely associated with Akira Kurosawa during the late '40s and the first half of the 1950s. With Hayasaka's sudden death in 1955, Sato was assigned by Toho Films to complete the two scores that his mentor had been working on at the time, for Akira Kurosawa's Record of a Living Being and Kenji Mizoguchi's New Tales of the Tairo Clan (both 1955). His first opportunity to score a film on his own came that same year when he was assigned to write the music for Godzilla Raids Again, the sequel to the studio's 1954 hit Gojira. In contrast to Akira Ifukube, the composer on Gojira and the musical voice most closely associated with the Godzilla movies, who was oriented toward formal orchestral writing in distinctly classical and traditional Japanese idioms, Sato's music was of a lighter-textured orchestral sound, akin to the music prevalent in postwar Hollwood -- Sato was also easily able to integrate Western pop and light jazz-style music into his work. His relationship with Kurosawa was sufficiently harmonious so that the renowned director used Sato on all of the films he made for the next decade, including such critically acclaimed works as Throne of Blood, The Bad Sleep Well, Yojimbo, Sanjuro, and Red Beard -- indeed, Sato's final film project was Takashi Koizumi's After the Rain (1999), which was based on a script written by Kurosawa. Sato authored more than 300 movie scores during a 44-year career, writing 18 in one single year at the peak of his activity. In addition to Kurosawa's work and serious movies by Mizoguchi, Hideo Gosha, and others, these scores included many popular genre movies such as Ishiro Honda's The H-Man (1958), Senkichi Taniguchi's The Lost World of Sinbad (1963), and three of the Godzilla movies done by Jun Fukuda, Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster, Son of Godzilla, and Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla. One of Toho's most beloved veteran employees, Sato died shortly after a party honoring him in 1999.

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