This is not, as many collectors thought, a spaghetti western but an action adventure movie set during the early 1900s. Ty Hardin is cast in the role of a British Colonial Policeman, Lieutenant King Edwards (sorry if that should make anyone think of potatoes) an unfortunate name for the leading character but hey, the movie was a pretty solid adventure yarn and also starred respected actors Rossano Brazzi and George Sanders. Directed by Nino Scolaro and Sandy Howard, this Italian, Spanish and American co-production tells the story of a policeman’s pursuit of a band of killers who have escaped from prison and whilst doing so take a hostage, Pier Angeli, who provided the love interest within the story. Edwards pursues the killers over sprawling and desolate plains in Southern Africa and tackles wild and untamed countryside which as the title of the movie suggests is ONE STEP FROM HELL. The musical score for the movie was composed by Italian Maestro Gianni Marchetti who, although being an original and talented composer is almost unknown outside of Italian film music collecting circles.
The composer worked steadily on many Italian produced films throughout the 1960s and into the 1970s, providing scores not only perfectly shaped to the needs of the movie but with an abundance of composition which managed to have a life away from the film. Marchetti utilised a symphonic sound for the majority of his assignments but infused and bolstered this with an almost pop or up-beat style, akin to the sound being utilized in many Spaghetti westerns of the period. Marchetti paired electric guitar with driving percussion, brass and strings to create some tantalising and effective film music moments. His score for ONE STEP TO HELL could at first easily be mistaken for an Italian western soundtrack, but after one begins to explore the music more deeply it yields up an eclectic sound encompassing many styles and incorporating a plethora of instrumentation. Harmonica player Franco De Gemini features throughout the work producing some fine musical interludes and moments as does a solo female soprano; but I do not think that on this occasion it is Edda Dell Orso.
The score begins with a rousing and infectious theme. Brass and timpani combine with underlying strings and woodwind to create a sweeping and romantic sound – add to this female voice and we have an entertaining and haunting beginning. Track two is completely different from the opening. It leads with a slightly subdued introduction from the string section which is short lived as the composition launches into a full-on, urgent cue where throbbing African sounding drums take the lead. These are punctuated by brass stabs; almost big band in style. Harpsichord is added to the equation as the brass play out a pulsating theme, continually accompanied by the percussion creating an exciting and dramatic atmosphere.
Track three is for me personally the one closest to the sound of the Spaghetti western. It begins with a martial beat played lightly on drums. This is accompanied by woods and then overwhelmed by a flourish from the strings. Brass again makes an entrance, this time mirrored by bass guitar. Strings then segue into the proceedings along with bursts of harpsichord and faint woodwind, the timpani all the time gaining momentum from background to foreground. The music lulls for a few moments; timpani is re-introduced alongside electric guitar which then act as background to a brief interlude from female voice.
African sounding drums then return to beat out a slow but rhythmic musical passage, bringing the cue to its conclusion. Track four is another great composition, having an infectious rhythm and percussion is again utilised to create an African sound; highly rhythmic and laced with flourishes from harpsichord and brass, which rise and fall giving the percussion support, depth and even more musicality. These elements act as a background to solo flute which picks out the now established central theme from the score. Track six is a more upbeat affair. Pulsating drums hammer out a tense and near frantic backing to big band brass which is also quite tense in its presentation and performance. If I was asked to describe the sound achieved here by Gianni Marchetti, I would say it’s a score having elements of the spaghetti western genre, combined with easy listening lounge music of Italian cinema and the grandeur and romanticism of Hollywood and Cinecitta combined.
The CD is well presented by Hillside with a great front cover and another illustration inside which doubles as a front cover. The liner has no notes but is filled with colourful stills from the movie. The sound is amazing and in full stereo. I urge you to buy this score and if you have yet to discover the originality and infectious compositions of Gianni Marchetti, this is a perfect introduction. Maybe SEVEN RED BERETS will now receive the CD it deserves alongside numerous scores by Marchetti, lying in dusty vaults. Highly recommended.