The TV movie High Risk debuted—in a 90-minute time slot beginning at 9:30 p.m.—as the second half of a double feature on the May 15, 1976, edition of The ABC Saturday Night Movie.
In spite of a childhood love of music, composer Billy Goldenberg almost bypassed it as a career. When his father lost his job playing in a radio orchestra, Goldenberg was forced to set out on a more secure career path, studying mathematics and physics in college and taking a computer-related job working for an insurance company.
“I remember walking in that office for the first time and seeing miles and miles of desk,” he recalled in a 1975 interview. “I thought—my God, this is going to be the rest of my life.” After quitting his job and a stint in the theater, he travelled west and found success in Hollywood, principally in televsion. “I think I’m living out most of my childhood fantasies,” he continued. “You can take a pill or a drink every New Year’s Eve and say what you could have been. But it’s much more interesting to try and achieve a result. You have to gamble, take a chance.”
Goldenberg’s big break in Hollywood came in 1967 courtesy of Stanley Wilson, music director for Revue Studios and Universal Television, who provided encouragement even though the young musician had no experience working in film or TV. “No question it was the big break,” he told an Associated Press reporter in 1979. “Stan said, ‘It’s okay, it’s not that hard. You’ll learn, no big mystery.’ He said, ‘You just follow me around the lot. You’ll help me and I’ll help you.’”
- 15. Cholmec Civilization (Main Title)
- Goldenberg’s undulating main theme creates an air of mystery over the opening titles as a group of visitors enter the Washington, D.C., embassy of an unnamed Latin American country. Among those viewing an art exhibit of “Cholmec treaures” is Sebastian (Victor Buono); the cue subsides as he enters the gallery, although the finished telefilm tracks in the main theme once more when he takes a particular interest in a glass-encased artifact known as the Mask of the Sun.
- 16. Confirmed
- An ominous tag for brass and strings marks a transition to Dulles International Airport, where Sebastian acquires his boarding pass for a flight to Sarasota, Florida. Four other passengers were among the “tourists” who visited the art exhibit in the opening sequence; during the (unscored) flight, they discuss plans to steal the Mask of the Sun.
- Kiss Guthrie
- Goldenberg suggests material from “Cholmec Civilization” over a descending figure as the thieves arrive at a Florida mansion. Gentle arpeggios close the cue as they enter the house and greet their leader, Guthrie (Joseph Sirola).
- 17. Gather Around Children
- The team hatches a plan to steal the Mask of the Sun. An electronic theme wanders as Walker-T (Don Stroud) puts the finishing touches on a makeshift chandelier—an approximation of one positioned over the mask at the embassy—to be used in a practice run. Stark chords punctuated by harp mark a cut to Erik (Wolf Roth) sculpting a replica of the mask itself.
- 18. Concentrate
- Moody electronics underscore Erik fitting the mask with a pair of fake eyes approximating the jewels in the original. A wavering figure follows for a change of scene to Guthrie convincing a reluctant Sebastian to participate in the heist.
- The Mask Cast
- An ascending horn line underscores Walker-T and Erik using a plaster mold to cast a replica of the mask. The horn material yields to a bold new melody as Guthrie looks on, with sitar taking up the tune for the revelation of the fake mask. The horn theme sounds once more after a transition to the mansion’s grounds.
- 19. Daisy Can Do It
- Goldenberg generates sequential tension as the thieves practice for the heist: Walker-T lowers the fake chandelier—with Daisy (Ronne Troup) hanging from it by her feet—down toward a glass case containing the mask replica.
- Washington Embassy
- Goldenberg employs horns under trilling strings for a transition to the embassy back in Washington. Disguised as a tree inspector, Walker-T climbs up to the roof of the building, accompanied by harp and piano.
- 20. Playing Dominoes
- Walker-T justifies his presence to Ambassador Henriques (Rene Enriquez) with an excuse concerning an oak fungus. Accented chords surround mysterious lines for horns and strings as Walker-T proceeds to saw a hole in the roof of the building. The cue subsides as the thief reports back to Henriques about the fungus.
- 21. We Love Harry Lojewski
- Relaxing, guitar-driven lounge jazz plays during a dinner party as Sandra (JoAnna Kara Cameron) demonstrates how she will defeat the embassy’s photoelectric burglar alarms using a flashlight. (The title of this source cue is an in-joke reference to M-G-M music executive Harry Lojewski.)
- 22. Running Cable
- At night, the team executes their elaborate plan. For the lengthy break-in sequence, Goldenberg’s colorful cues alternate between fitful gestures, methodical wandering lines and ostinato-based suspense. The thieves begin by running a zip-line cable over the embassy’s gate and onto the premises, then use it to sneak onto the embassy grounds.
- Twisting Locks
- Erik uses a wire to unlock a ground-floor window, with Goldenberg’s music continuing to generate quiet suspense.
- Light Fixture
- Walker-T uses a winch to lower the chandelier, accompanied by nervous percussion and pizzicato strings.
- Reading the Chandelier
- Sebastian extends a long pole up to the chandelier, attaching a hook to the light fixture to draw it closer to the thieves.
- Erik & Daisy
- Daisy mounts the chandelier as Sandra signals to Walker-T.
- Cat Got Your Alarm
- Before Sebastian can maneuver Daisy to retrieve the mask, a cat trips an alarm, forcing the thieves to retreat.
- 23. What’s Happening
- As the alarm continues to sound, the thieves reach the zip line; a shimmering pattern for piano and percussion sounds over brass and strings as they make their escape.
- Look Closely
- The thieves devise a new plan to steal the treasure. Posing as a sexy expert on Cholmec art, Sandra attends a dinner party at the embassy along with other members of the team and manages to convince Ambassador Henriques to move the party into the exhibit room. A contemplative woodwind melody plays over sitar accompaniment as the guests enter the gallery. Harp and electronics underscore Sandra removing the Mask of the Sun from its glass casing, the material continuing as Sandra and Erik examine the treasure. Daisy creates a diversion when she “accidentally” tears off the ambassador’s toupee, allowing her cohorts to replace the mask with their replica. (A string quartet excerpt—from the third movement of Beethoven’s Op. 59, No. 2—plays as source music during the opening of the party sequence, but this music is not included on the CD.)
- A Memorable Evening
- Moody woodwinds join the harp, sitar and electronics as the guests leave the exhibit room; Sebastian pauses by the ambassador’s luggage to tie his shoe (and to hide the actual Mask of the Sun inside one of the bags).
- 24. The Airport
- Guthrie meets with Henriques at the airport and negotiates the release of four American medical missionaries after informing the ambassador that the mask has been replaced with a fake. A sweeping phrase for strings and horns greets the missionaries arriving back in the United States, with Sebastian and his teammates watching in approval.
- 25. High Risk—End Title
- A flourish of harp and electronics sounds once Guthrie reveals to Henriques that the actual mask was hidden in his luggage all along. Afterward, Guthrie joins his team on a plane that departs from the airport, accompanied by soaring horns, suggestive of the melody from “The Mask Cast.” The mysterious theme from the main title returns as Guthrie passes a puzzle-maze game among the thieves; Sebastian solves it effortlessly and hands it back to Guthrie, who smiles. The main theme continues to run its course over the end credits. —