Personally, the Italian peplum movies have not exactly created much interest, and the scores at times I have thought have been rather predictable and ordinary. I was not excited by these tales or the scores from them as I was by the Italian western or the Italian police/crime dramas etc. I do however remember as a kid going to Saturday morning cinema and seeing the likes of Hercules, Goliath and numerous Spartan and Roman warriors doing battle up on the screen, ironic that I was blissfully unaware of the composers who scored these sword and sandal epics would play such a big part in my later years. Digit movies seem to have been the champions of late of the peplum and its musical heritage and have released what I would say was the lion’s share of soundtracks from this collective of movies. One of their more recent releases a double compact disc set containing the scores from SETTE A TEBE and also ALL’OMBRA DELLE AQUILLE by Maestro Carlo Savina is for me a real eye opener and has actually fired up an interest in the music of the Peplum. The first CD SETTE A TEBE (SEVEN FROM THEBES) is from the 1964 movie directed by Luigi Vanzi set in Spartan times and is certainly one of the best scores from this type of film I have heard, its style and construction being very close to that of the late and great Miklos Rozsa in areas. Savina fashioned a fairly large scale score, that is brimming with rich and sumptuous string led thematic material which itself is bolstered and supported by lavish use of brass flourishes and booming percussion, that combine to create some stunning and near breathtaking musical moments. Full of romanticism and luscious sounding themes this has to be a contender for the most entertaining and melodic peplum score that has been released thus far.
The more than gentle nod in the direction of Dr Rozsa is not that surprising as Savina as we all know conducted on a few occasions for Rozsa, but as well as the sheer epic sound there is also present another more modern sounding style which is straight out of the Italian school of film music, the composer fusing with ease the two styles seamlessly and combining them to create a powerful and pleasing work. The second compact disc in this set is from the 1966 Ferdinando Baldi directed movie ALL’OMBRA DELLE AQUILLE (IN THE SHADOW OF THE EAGLES) which starred Cameron Mitchell. The music here is too epic in proportions, heavy on percussion and the utilisation of brass, this is also full to overflowing with rich themes and catchy musical passages as only an Italian composer could provide. The opening track or Titoli is short lived and a fairly fast tempo affair which relies predominantly upon brass and percussion the brass taking the lead whilst the percussion acts as a driving force in the background as the string section joins the proceedings to bind all the elements together. An exhilarating start to the work, which is the trend throughout, the composer employing thundering percussion and proud anthem like brass to excite and tantalise the listener. Again another wonderful score from the genre of the peplum, again Savina combining a more traditional style of scoring with the unmistakable sound of the Italian method of film music. An eerie sounding organ is employed at times to great effect creating a almost unworldly effect. To say that one of these scores is superior to the other would I think be a mistake, because both scores are interesting and full of delicious themes, dramatic pieces and epic material that harkens back to the days of Rozsa, Waxman,Newman and their like. This set is a gem of a release and one that I know I will return to many times, it has given me an insight into the musical world of the peplum and has made me want to listen to anything else that is released from this group of movies, recommended highly.