VIOLENT IMAGE, SAVAGE SOUNDTRACK, ITALIAN WESTERN, BEFORE AND BEYOND.

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If I were to say that the Italian or Spaghetti western came into being because of the Hollywood Biblical epic, people would probably laugh at me or at least raise an eyebrow. But the Italian or Spaghetti western as it was so cruelly nicknamed did begin its life because of events that stemmed directly from the demise of the epic film as produced by Hollywood. For a number of years Hollywood filmmakers had been travelling to the famed Cinecitta studios and utilising the facilities, plus employing literally thousands of extras for the mammoth productions which also gave employment to hundreds of camera crews and a number of second unit directors. As the 1960,s dawned, the cinema going publics taste for these biblical slanted tales began to curtail somewhat, and people looked for something that was different and more exciting. Because of this Hollywood moguls decided that it was time to quit Cinecitta, and by pulling out of Rome they created mass unemployment within the Italian film industry. Italian filmmakers were at first furious and concerned about the future, but decided that they had to think of ways that they could save their ailing film industry, or it could be disastrous for the countries already frail economy. Producers in Italy had begun to notice that a handful of German filmmakers were having some mild success’s with westerns, the sauerkraut western as it was labelled had become fairly popular within the borders of western Europe. If one takes a closer look at these productions one would soon realise that they were basically a clone of the American made B western film. German westerns were very much black and white in their storylines and scenarios, by this I mean the good guys wore white and the bad guys were unshaven and wearing black, and this was quite literally at times.

The plots for these were also very predictable and somewhat clichéd, containing more than their fair share of the Hollywood westerns established format.

R-150-997992-1182357759So a few adventurous Italian filmmakers decided to attempt making westerns, they at first took the lead from the Germans, and infused a touch of Americana in their first forays into John Ford,s domain, thus creating nothing more than imitations of the German movies, which as I have already stated were themselves clones of American films. Early examples of Italian made westerns included, UN DOLLARO DI FIFA (1960) which was directed by Giorgio C. Simonelli and starred Ugo Tognazzi and Walter Chiari, which was a comedy western that had a musical score by composer Gianni Ferrio. Then came another vehicle for actor Tognazzi in the form of another comedy, I MAGNIFICI TRE (1961), again directed by Simonelli and scored by Ferrio,it was Ferrio who also wrote the music for a third addition in the western all,italano catalogue in 1963 which was another comedy entitled GLI EROI DEL WEST. DUELLO NEL TEXAS followed again in 1963 and although this is not considered as a true Spaghetti western it is an example of film that hinted of things to come, the score was by Ennio Morricone but again did not include anything that could be considered as being original. 1964, brought a handful of key additions to the genre, MASSACRO AL GRANDE CANYON,(which was Sergio Corbucci,s first western) LE PISTOLE NON DISCUTONO (directed by Caianol), BUFFALO BILL,(dir;Mario Costa) MINNESOTA CLAY(dir: Corbucci) and A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS (Directed by Sergio Leone). The formula that Italian film makers had attempted to use on their western productions was not that successful or original and it was not until Sergio Leone stepped into the western arena that things began to change and become a little more interesting. Leone,s style of direction and his story telling abilities were to alter the way in which westerns were made in the future and also his vision of western movies would not only pave the way for hundreds of other Italian made westerns, but also would in time also influence non Italian made westerns that would follow, such as THE QUICK AND THE DEAD, BIG JAKE, 100 RIFLES, THE HUNTING PARTY, HANNIE CAULDER and to a degree THE WILD BUNCH. The Italian western also included a number of examples that were politically slanted and a handful of these stand out as some of the best examples of the genre. When I say politically slanted, they were invariably set in the period of the Mexican revolution, these “Zapata” westerns as they were dubbed were part of a sub genre that sprang up within the spaghetti western genre and were successful because of the popularity of the Italian made western, this collective of films would often introduce audiences to another kind of anti hero or central character who was in essence a Mercenary. But was never seen as the bad guy.

Alla_conquista_CDCR94Mexico was a very explosive and dangerous place to be during the days of revolution, many of the movies would reflect this atmosphere and also include villains that were more often than not from foreign lands, Austrians, French or German, the scenario for many of these political westerns was very often that a corrupt Mexican government would be supported by an even more greed driven and corrupt foreign power, who assisted the corrupt government with arms , troops and money, to assist in the intimidation and persecution of the ordinary people, this Foreign power would also take great delight in systematically annihilating the majority of the peasant population. Enter then the Mercenary figure, who would themselves be of either European or American extraction. This character would then befriend one of the peasants who would normally be a ruffian or bandit, the foreigner then schools the peasant in the art of warfare, revolution and sabotage and after a few minor success against government forces this peasant then takes on the status of a Simon Bolivar or Pancho Villa figure amongst his fellow Mexicans and they look to him for leadership. So a Mexican peasant or bandit has been elevated to the status of a freedom fighter and a saviour of the people. Instead of robbing banks to line his own pockets he robs the banks to give to the poor, in the same way we are told Robin Hood did in England centuries before. The foreigner or soldier of fortune to label him correctly has then been successful as he has gained out of his training because he has been paid for his services and his knowledge out of the money from the banks. But in effect the Mercenary has become the bandit because he takes the money and invariably wants more and more as the story progresses. This scenario is best seen in Sergio Corbucci’s, A PROFFESIONAL GUN, but it also present in A BULLET FOR THE GENERAL, COMPANEROS and DUCK YOU SUCKER. Maybe it is a little different in DUCK YOU SUCKER and BULLET FOR THE GENERAL, as in these two films the foreigner does not exploit the Mexican for gold or payment as much, but instead use him to get closer to their own personal goal, for example in BULLET FOR THE GENERAL, Ninio (LOU CASTELL), uses Chuncho (GIAN MARIA VOLONTE) to get close to the General of the revolutionary forces so that he can assassinate him and in DUCK YOU SUCKER the Irish rebel and explosives expert played by James Coburn befriends the Mexican bandit played by Rod Steiger to free prisoners from the vaults of a bank, Steiger and his gang think that the vaults are filled with gold but instead find hundreds of imprisoned revolutionaries. After this escapade the Steiger character is hailed a hero of the revolution, at first he is an unwilling candidate but soon he warms to the idea.

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This type of scenario or partnership is also seen within other examples of the spaghetti western genre, DAY OF ANGER being one of them, Frank Talby played by Lee Van Cleef takes the town down and out under his wing teaching him the ways of the gunfighter, but this backfires on Talby when the town idiot played by Giuliano Gemma, becomes better than his teacher. Sergio Sollima believed that his Cucillo character in THE BIG GUNDOWN and CORRI UOMO CORRI was representative of the third world, eventually Cucillo rebels against his so called masters, ie Walter Barnes in THE BIG GUNDOWN, the Barnes character representing the capitalistic west, Sollima believed very strongly that the third world would one day rise up against the rich countries of the west and he put this notion into the scenarios of some of his movies, but presented them in the guise of a blood spattered and all action western.

 

 

 

 

THE BEGINNINGS OF THE GENRE AND MUSICAL CHANGES.

A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS was a Franco/Spanish /Italian co production, it starred a little known American actor in the principal role. Clint Eastwood, who’s claim to fame had been up until then bit parts in Universal movies and a role on an American TV western show called RAWHIDE, took on the persona of the man with no name, a soldier of fortune, an anti hero and a character who the audience could not really identify as a good guy or a bad guy. He offered his services to the highest bidder, and was a servant to two masters or more at times. Sergio Leone had originally wanted American actor James Coburn to play the Man with No Name, as he had been successful in THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, but Coburn proved to be to expensive for Leone’s meagre budget, so Eastwood was given the role. Leone cast Gian Marie Volonte in the role of the head villain and dubbed the actor Jon Wells and also changed his name to Bob Robertson, this was something that Italian film makers did at times, thinking it would make the film more acceptable to American audiences and even composer Ennio Morricone went under the name of Dan Savio.

morriThe film proved to be a breath of fresh air for cinema goers, and one which soon became popular, leaving audiences wanting more of the same. Leone returned as did Eastwood with FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE, this time the cast was beefed up with Hollywood bad guy Lee Van Cleef, who played an unlikely ally to Eastwood in the role of Colonel Douglas Mortimer, Leone also recruited the brilliant Klaus Kinski and again cast Gian Marie Volonte as the villain of the piece, or at least the character who was the most evil, on this occasion Volonte was not asked to alter his name. The movie was a little more ambitious than its predecessor and because of the success of FISTFUL OF DOLLARS it had the advantage of a slightly bigger budget. As with any successful genre, imitations soon began to appear or at least movies in the same style of the dollar films. Italian producers and directors were quick to realise that this formula was working and fast becoming popular. But it was not just the films that were being noticed, the music from them was also starting to gain recognition, at first it was Ennio Morricone’s music for A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS that turned audiences heads, and then his theme and chiming watch theme from FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE.

But undoubtedly, the sounds most associated with the genre of the Spaghetti western was to be the cries and shrieks heard over the credits of Leone’s third Dollar movie, THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY, I remember hearing this original theme and being just amazed , but then I heard the cover version by Hugo Montenegro being played on the radio and thinking what is that, of course Montenegro’s version got to number 1 in the chart in the UK and I think it also reached the top of the pile in the USA, so maybe it did do Morricone some good, because if it had not been for Montenegro covering the theme, maybe Morricone’s music would not have reached so many people, In fact a number of people are still under the impression that Montenegro wrote the theme. As with popular genres of film etc, popular music too had its imitators, some good, some bad and some really ugly. A cover of FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE courtesy of Leroy Holmes, appeared and this was not just the theme but the entire score, or at least certain themes from the score,which to be honest sounded nothing like the originals, but again maybe this did gain more recognition for Morricone an also placed Italian western music into the public eye. Holmes also released versions of the themes from A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS, THE BIG GUNDOWN and ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST all of which were included on compilations by the musician on the United Artists label. Holmes and also orchestra leaders such as Geoff Love in the UK, recorded albums of western themes and included were versions of Italian examples.
ARIZONA COLT for instance was covered by Holmes, and to be fair it was a fairly good version as was his version of DAY OF ANGER composed by Riz Ortolani, Geoff Love did a great arrangenet of Marcello Giombini,s SABATA and Hank Mancini got in on the act with A MAN A HORSE AND A GUN from the movie THE STRANGER RETURNS by Stelvio Cipriani. But what we have to take into account is that at this time during the infancy of the Spaghetti western soundtrack, collectors were glad of what they could get hold of.
It was probably because companies such as UA began to notice collectors buying these cover versions that Italian/Euro soundtracks started to get UK issues, THE SICILIAN CLAN for example was issued on STATESIDE records in the UK, items such as THE BIG GUNDOWN were given a release on UA as was a collection entitled THE BEST OF ENNIO MORRICONE, which included selections from NAVAJO JOE, THE BIG GUNDOWN, DEATH RIDES A HORSE and THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY, If they knew then what we know now, I don’t think they would have called it the best of Morricone. Then came GREAT WESTERN FILM THEMES VOL 2, now this just highlighted how popular and influential the Italian western and its music had become. It included THE HILLS RUN RED, FACE TO FACE and NAVAJO JOE and the subsequent VOL 3 in the series, showcased the infectious theme INDIO BLACK from THE BOUNTY HUNTERS by Bruno Nicolai. I always thought even back then, well if they have got one cue from the score they must have the complete score, so why don’t they release it. I even wrote to Alan Warner who was at UA records at the time asking this question, I got a short reply back, remember this was in the days when people actually wrote letters,

Mr Warner told me “It is not as easy as you may think to issue a score or soundtrack on a recording, costs and also copyright issues are very difficult to negotiate, especially with foreign movies”.

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During the 1970,s Michael Jones appeared on the soundtrack scene in London, and was responsible for the stock at SOUNDTRACK, this was situated in the foyer of the Arts Theatre Club in Soho and later moved to 58 DEAN STREET in London. It was here that many soundtracks from Italy began to filter through, CORRI UOMO CORRI, LANDRAIDERS, QUIEMADA, FIND A PLACE TO DIE, QUELLA SPORCA STORIA NEL WEST, A PROFFESSIONAL GUN, THE FIVE MAN ARMY, THE GREAT SILENCE, JOHN IL BASTARDO, THE BOUNTY KILLER etc etc and composers such as DE MASI, FERRIO, FIDENCO,CIPRIANI and NICOLAI also began to become known to collectors in the UK.

Jones I think was responsible for establishing what is now referred to as a specialist soundtrack outlet, his was the first and soon others followed in the guise of Harlequin records, who dedicated near entire shop space to the soundtrack section. Michael Jones brought in the first Japanese releases on LP, these included SABATA. He also promoted composers such as Bacalov, Romitelli, Calvi, Rustichelli, Micalizzi, and De Angelis. It was also around about this time that record producer Lionel Woodman began his mail order business selling Italian long playing records and various other outlets popped up here and there and in Italy we had Consorti Roma in the Italian Capital and Bongiovanni records in the industrial town of Bologna. But now some 50 years on, we collectors are still waiting for certain scores, and as RCA in Italy are rumoured to be preparing to trash or destroy all their master tapes of soundtracks (so we are told), collectors can but dream and hope that their holy grails are not thrown out and maybe someone somewhere will step in and rescue them all. I think it was during the late 1970,s that I decided, I wanted to find out more about Italian film music, Italian movies and also the composers, directors, producers and actors that had brought these magnificent examples of cinema to life. I wanted to know what made them tick basically, what was their inspiration, their drive and their vision, so that’s why I started to interview the composers.

I was amazed that so little was known about Italian composers of film music. There was a short section on a handful of composers in Laurence Staig’s excellent book ITALIAN WESTERN- OPERA OF VIOLENCE, but this was short and sweet with most of the section being given over to Morricone, this is in no way a criticism of the book as it is a Bible as far as I am concerned when it comes to the Italian western, because at the time information was sparse and hard to come by, remember this was pre-internet days, but Staig unearthed information that delighted collectors, and is still in use, referred to and quoted from today. OPERA OF VIOLENCE is a perfect description of the Italian western, and also a gentle poke at a remark that was made by one film critic about Leone’s ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST, the critic saying that it was a western that contained operatic like scenarios but the arias were stared and not sung. Within Staig’s book there are many explanations and theories explored and explained giving a unique insight into the world of the western All’Italiano. Music in Italian westerns as we have already established was different from anything that had gone before within the genre of the western film as a whole, whether it was a Hollywood production or a European movie there had never been anything like this.

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The new approach to scoring and the originality of this scoring played a major role within the movies themselves and it is fair to state that music in an Italian western was not just background to the action but an integral and important component of the film and the movies storyline. There are a number of examples of Italian western scores that take this integration to another level, by this I mean that there are more than a handful of examples within the genre where there is a musical instrument utilized within the story and obviously the composer has been able to use these and integrate his score further with the action of the movie, prime examples are of course Leone’s FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE, where the pleasant sounding chiming of a watch penned by Maestro Morricone becomes more of a sinister and foreboding sound because it is used by one of the movies main protagonists to begin a gunfight and also it is utilized to mark the time when each party in this gunfight must draw their weapon and shoot as it winds down and eventually stops. Probably the best known use of an instrument within an Italian made western is from ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST, Leone and Morricone again, this time the instrument being a Harmonica, which in the hands of the films central mysterious figure, who has taken his name from the instrument takes on an ominous and fearful persona.
Then we have SABATA scored by Marcello Giombini, and directed by Frank Kramer, now in this example there are a number of instances where the score becomes integral to the action because of the instrument used by one of the main characters, Banjo played by William Berger, walks around town plucking out a lovely little tune on his ukulele and even plays his adversaries a tune before gunning them down in the street or where ever they might be. The instrument has a sawn off rifle concealed inside it and when Banjo has finished entertaining his opponent he uses the instrument to dispatch them. Giombini even incorporated the use of sleigh bells within his score because the character Banjo wore bells on his trouser legs and jingled as he walked. Also Banjo played music to another of his victims in SABATA this time on a church organ, Giombini also made good use of this within his score and not just within that scene. In fact music for gunfights were the pinnacle of any Italian western score, and were often magnificent set pieces filled to brimming with soaring trumpets solos, aggressive sounding guitars, choir and bells and chimes. It is hard to actually describe just how much impact the Italian western score has made upon film scoring in general, even today in adverts and television programmes and motion pictures when a confrontation between individuals or parties of people is being acted out on screen, invariably music either from an Italian western or written in the same style as an Italian western is utilized, and people watching “get it” they understand the concept and the connection . They realize either consciously or sub-consciously where the idea comes from and where the music has originated from, so the impact and influence of the spaghetti western score has lasted and is still popular and recognized now some three decades on. The most recent examples of Italian western style music being utilized in a movie have been in one of the latest PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN movies and also the same composer worked in a spaghetti sounding theme into his scores for the Guy Ritchie directed SHERLOCK HOLMES capers. So although many of the Italian Maestro’s who wrote these atmospheric, original, quirky and attractive western scores have passed away they left the world a rich and full musical heritage to draw upon, listen to savour and enjoy.

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 My quest to find composers to interview was not an easy one, I began before I had internet or even a fax machine, so I had to write letter after letter, in fact my first interview with Alessandro Alessandroni was carried out via letter, only meeting him some 4 months later in London. My interviews with Piero Piccioni, Nico Fidenco, Franco Micalizzi, Francesco De Masi, Stelvio Cipriani and singer Peter Boom were also carried out via letter, only meeting Micalizzi later in Rome and also meeting with Piccioni’s son Jason when he was in London. But all of the Maestro,s were very helpful as was BEAT records who put me in contact with these composers and artists. Let us not forget that Italian cinema did not consist solely of western movies, as we all know genres come and go, audiences tire of certain types of movie and want something different and I think more than any one else Italian filmmakers were able to gauge this shift in taste and also were able to adapt to it, especially after they had been nearly ruined by Hollywood’s film companies exodus from their shores years before. Cinecitta produced, many types of films, sex movies, romances, crime capers, giallo’s, comedies, period dramas, historical pieces, political slanted pictures, horrors, war films etc and excelled at all of them and accompanying all these movies were infectious and original musical scores, written arranged and conducted by numerous Maestro,s, some of which are interviewed on this blog.

WINNIE MANDELA.

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Composer Laurent Eyquem first came to my notice with his highly melodic score for COPPERHEAD which was released earlier this year on Varese Sarabande, after looking a little closer at the composer I found out he had in fact scored a number of movies and on listening to samples from a few of them I was pleasantly surprised that a composer who had not really been working in film for a long time was capable of creating so many varied and beautiful melodies which he intertwined with dramatic and exciting musical passages. One movie in particular seemed to stand out to me it was WINNIE which the composer scored about two years ago, this is a bio-pic about Winnie Mandela, and starred Terrence Howard and the ever popular Jennifer Hudson in the title role, Hudson also performed the title song, BLEED FOR LOVE which was written by legendary lyricist Diane Warren and arranged by Eyquem.  The score will I am pleased to say be released on September 6th by RCA records to coincide with the movies U.S. release, the title now being WINNIE MANDELA, When writing the score Laurent went to the Mandela family and was granted permission to utilize the world famous and respected Soweto Gospel Choir in Johannesburg. His music is once again totally engrossing and stunning, it has a highly emotive sound to it which is created by the composers use of strings and choir which are enhanced further by woodwind and brass which have a kind of Barry-esque aura to them, they create a sound of solitude but at the same time have a warmth and emotion to them that is heartrending and attractive. This I think can be heard more prominently in track number 5, SOUND OF HOPE, faraway sounding horn begins the composition, at first it is a solitary sound but the addition of low but slowly building strings changes the atmosphere of the music, the composer bringing to the fore the string section whilst also introducing a brief but effective plaintive sounding wood instrument adding a touch of melancholy to the proceedings, the strings swell and grow to perform a rich and fuller sounding take of the central theme. Track number 6, ENCHANTMENT too is a highly emotive sounding piece, solo piano performing the central theme with support from strings, it has a sound that again radiates a feeling of tenderness and warmth, delicate woodwind is also utilized but fleetingly giving the composition a subtle and tantalizing atmosphere and style. Track number 9, DREAMS is also piano led, with at first a faint hint of strings and woodwind, but the piano melts into the background midway through as the strings become more prominent and bring the composition to its conclusion. Track 10, A WEDDING SONG is a combination of romantic strings which are enhanced by choir and have piano trickling through them, this is a piece that is far too short and one will find yourself returning to the beginning again and again and listening to it through.

This is also true of track number 12, ON THE RUN, although this does run for almost 4 minutes, sorrowful sounding cello opens the cue which is underlined by equally sad sounding strings, however the tempo picks up slightly as the composer introduces more strident sounding strings which are supported by percussion these gain momentum as the composition progresses and grows altering the atmosphere from sad to a more urgent and upbeat one, but still maintaining a melody at the same time. The score is an emotional one and filled with intricate, delicate and subtle nuances, which put me in mind of John Barry and also at times James Horner, it has a presence to it that is attractive and appealing but also has its fair share of more dramatic and darker moments. A score to be savored and also a score that I recommend. Look out for this one…

https://jonman492000.wordpress.com/2013/07/03/laurent-eyquem/

PAUL FERRIS.

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Composer Paul Ferris was born Richard Paul Ferris on May 2nd 1941 in Corby Northamptonshire, England.  It is probably true to say that Ferris is better known as a composer for his beautiful but also sinister sounding soundtrack to the Vincent Price horror movie THE WITCHFINDER GENERAL which was directed by filmmaker Michael reeves and released in 1968.  The movie has since its release attracted much attention from cinema goers, film buffs and critics alike and when discussing this classic British movie the musical score by Ferris is always mentioned. The score and the film reaching cult status in recent years. The film which was set in the uncertain times of the English civil war tells the story of Matthew Hopkins a self appointed official who rides around the English countryside exposing so called witches and their accomplices or servants of the Devil was at first frowned upon by many but also was hailed as a masterpiece by others, and has in recent years emerged as one of the more credible horror movies of the 1960,s and certainly one of Vincent Price’s best movies. The film also starred a fresh faced Ian Ogilvy, Nicky Henson, Rupert Davies and introduced to cinema goers the beautiful Hilary Dwyer. Other actors involved were Robert Russell, Wilfred Brambell and in the role of Oliver Cromwell. Patrick Wymark. A few years ago, more than 20 actually, it was revealed the De Wolfe music had the entire score for the movie within its vast archive, an LP record of the music had been released previously but only to radio stations etc for promotional purposes. The album which also contained sections from THE CURSE OF THE CRIMSON ALTAR by Peter Knight, soon became a rarity and a holy grail for many collectors of film music, probably more for the Ferris score if the true be known.  A single record was released which included a cover version of the theme from the movie by Roberto Mann and his orchestra, but this too faded into obscurity and was deleted from the catalogue too soon. In 1995 Silva Screen commissioned Philip Lane to reconstruct parts of the score and to create a 7 minute suite of themes from the Ferris soundtrack for inclusion on the labels HORROR compilation. I was present at the recording of this suite and was amazed at the sound that was achieved by the orchestra who were performing it, which was THE WESTMINSTER PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA under the baton of seasoned conductor and arranger, Kenneth Alwyn.  I sat in the middle of the orchestra and just listened, it was a great experience and one I will never forget. The music kind of drove me to learn more about the composer, who had sadly passed away just a month previous to this recording.

MV5BMTYyMDYzNjc5MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwOTYzNjkxMQ@@._V1._SX148_CR0,0,148,200_Information was a little sparse to say the least, but eventually thanks to PRS I received a phone call from the composers widow, who helped me to gather some information and then I approached DE WOLFE MUSIC, asking them if the score could be released as a fitting tribute to the composer, the obvious label at that time to release the score was of course Silva Screen and David Stoner of the label was more than enthusiastic, but all efforts on my behalf and also by David on behalf of Silva Screen failed and De Wolfe were adamant they would release the score themselves very soon. 1998, still no release of the score, enter then GDI with its Hammer compilations and also full score releases, again I went to De Wolfe about WITCHFINDER, but to no avail, 15 years on and we are still waiting, true it is now more likely that the soundtrack will be released by De Wolfe as they have advertised this fact on their website. So maybe after a wait of 45 years, this classic score will be available to collectors, we will see.

Witchfinder General
Witchfinder General

Paul Ferris became involved in writing for films in 1966,when he penned the soundtrack for SHE BEAST a Michael Reeves low budget affair which starred screen icon Barbara Steele who had starred in numerous Italian horror movies and was a favourite of Mario Bava, Reeves followed Bava’s way of working and wanted Steele to have the central part in his first motion picture. Reeves shot the movie in Italy and asked his good friend Ian Ogilvy be one of the films main characters. The score that Ferris composed was not an outstanding one, but it served the picture well. This led to Ferris scoring THE SORCERERS again starring Ogilvy with Reeves at the directorial helm and vintage actor Boris Karloff taking a leading role. In 1968 director Vernon Sewell enlisted the musical expertise of Ferris on his BLOOD BEAST TERROR, which starred Peter Cushing, Robert Flemyng and Wanda Ventham. The next assignment was WITCHFINDER GENERAL, the composer providing the film with a beautiful central theme that also doubled as a love theme. Ferris also starred in the movie, a minor role in which he portrayed the husband of a young girl that The Witchfinder burns at the stake, his character Paul Clark goes to the inn where Hopkins (Price) is staying with the intent to kill him, but Hopkins shoots Clark in the chest close range killing him. Ferris adopted the name of Morris Jar for the part as a homage to his favourite composer Maurice Jarre.

MV5BMTQxMDUwNTcyNF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMjM3MjcxMQ@@._V1_SY317_CR5,0,214,317_Actor Nicky Henson who was a great friend of both Ferris and Ogilvy told me that when the scene was shot it was hard for the actors to keep a straight face, “There was Paul covered in blood laying at the bottom of the stairs supposedly drawing his last breath and we were laughing, if you look at the film very closely you may even catch us smilingPaul had acted previous to this, and was a regular in television shows such as THE BARON in which he portrayed David Marlowe, who was John Mannering’s assistant and also had parts in the police series, NO HIDING PLACE and DIXON OF DOCK GREEN as well as a small part in the 1967 James Bond spoof CASINO ROYALE. During the 1960,s Ferris also penned the hit VISIONS for Cliff Richard, and his theme for MAROC 7, was performed by The Shadows in 1967.  His career as a composer continued in 1970, when he scored CLEGG but after this he worked mainly on shorts until 1973 when he wrote the soundtrack for THE CREEPING FLESH, two years later he worked on PERSECUTION and that is the last movie he scored. I was told by Nicky Henson that Paul worked as many things after this, at one time he was a sea captain and also drove articulated lorries for a living, he even sold fish and chips, “Paul always worked, and what ever he did he did well” remembers Mr Henson. Paul became ill and was diagnosed with the debilitating and depressing disease Huntington’s Chorea, which meant in his last few years of life that he was unable to work. On October 30th 1995 the composer was found dead in his Bristol flat, at an inquest which was held on January 30th 1996, the coroner arrived at a verdict of suicide by drug overdose. He was 54. Nicky Henson spoke of this. “Paul took medication for his condition, and I know he did not take his own life, this was an unhappy accident. I think Paul had simply forgotten that he had taken his medication and took it again”.

The Baron.
The Baron.

If Paul Ferris had lived, who knows what he might have done,i would like to think that he would have returned to writing music for film.

Cover of "The Creeping Flesh"
Cover of The Creeping Flesh
Film poster for the retitled U.S. release version
Film poster for the retitled U.S. release version (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

HUMPHREY SEARLE.

 

Information about the composer was gathered from his widow Fiona Searle a number of years ago and this information has been transcribed from a letter that she sent to me on March 22nd 1996.  In which she responded to questions that I had sent to her. I thought it was fitting to publish this now, as it would have been the composers 99th birthday this year.

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JM. Where was your husband born, and what musical education did he receive?

F.S. “Composer Humphrey Searle was born in Oxford England on August 26th 1915, He received some musical education whilst attending school in Winchester, he attended college in Oxford and studied the classics, after leaving college he won a scholarship to study at The Royal College of music in London. He also took private tuition at around the same time as attending The Royal College of Music with John Ireland. Searle then was offered an opportunity to study with Anton Von Werbern in 1937 in Vienna, he was the only British composer to study with Von Werbern”.

J.M. How did he become involved in writing music for film?

F.S. “I think it was sheer chance that H.S. first wrote for the cinema, he was asked to write the score for the film THE BABY AND THE BATTLESHIP, after the originally commissioned composer was dropped by the films producers. The music was a great success for him and gained him a reputation for being able to work quickly, often delivering the scores before the allotted deadline and also for being able to create good atmospheric music”.

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 J.M. Recently Silva Screen have included a re-recording of your husbands atmospheric music for THE HAUNTING, did you have the manuscripts for the company to work on their reconstruction?

 

 

 

 

F.S.” No I did not have the original manuscripts, Philip Lane who did the re-construction work had to acquire the rough scores from the British library (who have all the manuscripts, letters etc) and he did an excellent job re-constructing THE HAUNTING score”.

 

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 J.M. Your husband worked for Hammer films how did he become involved with the company?

F.S.” I am not quite sure how he became involved with Hammer, but I think it was something to do with John Hollingsworth, who was at the time working for them also”.

 

 

 

J.M. What was your husbands working relationship like with Haunting director Robert Wise?

The Haunting (1963 film)
The Haunting (1963 film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

F.S.” Humphrey got on very well with Robert. He and his wife Pat became great friends of ours and we later visited them at their home in Hollywood”.

 

J.M How much time did your Husband have to complete the score for THE HAUNTING; I ask this because it was quite a complex score?

F.S.” I think Humphrey had very little time to complete the music for THE HAUNTING, but this is something that is normal for composers, who work in film it is the nature of the job”.

 

 J.M. Did your husband have a favourite piece of music that he had composed, or maybe a favourite film score?

F.S.” I can’t really answer that as I am not really sure if he had a favourite, but I do know he was very fond of the settings of James Joyce’s ULYSSES, which I know was very important to him”.

 

 J.M. Did he orchestrate all of his own music?

F.S.” Yes he did, he felt that that was an important part of composing, he also conducted a great deal of his concert music and all of his music for film, BBC radio and Television works”.

 J.M. Did he conduct his score for THE ABOMINABLE SNOWMAN, as this was a Hammer production and normally John Hollingsworth did the honours?

F.S. “I cant be sure about that particular score, I know that H.S knew John very well and respected him very much, so maybe Hollingsworth did conduct on that occasion, but H.S scored that film before I had met him “.

J.M. How did he compose his music, did he use an instrument or write straight to manuscript?

F.S. “He would compose at his old upright piano, which he had inherited from his Grandfather who was a Church of England minister who composed music for the Church”.

 J.M.  I understand that some of your husband’s music is being recorded very soon?

F.S. “Yes, the 2nd 3rd and 5th symphonies are to be released in *May (I think) this is for C.P.O. They will be conducted by Alun Francis with the Scottish symphony Orchestra. David Sutton Anderson is currently writing the notes for the sleeve.

 

 list of the composers works.

http://www.musicweb-international.com/searle/works.htm

KILLER CROCODILE.

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Released in 1989, KILLER CROCODILE was one of those horror rip off movies that Italian film makers seemed to do so well, basically this is the story of a group of environmentalists that head off to a tropical delta where they find someone has been dumping toxic and radio active waste into the Santa Domingo river, but the river not only contains the deadly waste but a even more deadly killer lurks beneath the water in the form of a mutant giant crocodile that has grown to a giant because of the effects of the radioactive waste. Many said it was based on JAWS which I suppose to a degree is true, but there again so many of these types of movies have been made in the shadow of the Spielberg block buster, PIRANHA for example, ORCA-KILLER WHALE and to a degree ANACONDA all took their cue from JAWS, plus lets not forget PIRANACONDA (wonder what that is about). KILLER CROCODILE does however manage to stand on its own two feet in the entertainment department, just about any way, and although not a great movie it’s watchable. Written and directed by Fabrizio De Angelis, KILLER CROCODILE is an entertaining enough horror flick, with plenty of blood and gore and ample helpings of tense and nervous action. The musical score is by respected Italian Maestro Riz Ortolani, who produced a soundtrack that not only serves the movie well but also has moments within it that are more than your run of the mill horror music, there is the obligatory JAWS sounding cue within the soundtrack that accompanies the hulking beast of a croc and announces his entrance, his attack and also his departure back into the dark depths of the murky river. Plenty of driving strings are present throughout the work, and a fair amount of what I refer to as tense lurking music, i.e.; the croc is hiding in the weeds so the composer underlines this with a dark but subtle musical presence, which gradually builds into a full blown version of the predators theme as it positions itself to strike at its unsuspecting victim, but although comparisons will be made between Ortolani’s croc theme and John Williams Shark theme and yes there are blatant similarities, that some would say verges on plagiarism, but  Ortolani,s central theme is made up of two very different sounding sections, there is the  darker murky side and also a full blown symphonic string theme which although dramatic is also melodic and sweeping in its overall impact. The composer makes effective use of strings for the action passages and punctuates and enhances these strings with percussive elements and added synthetics to heighten the tension and provide the listener with some highly dramatic writing. There are also a number of cues within the score that are hauntingly melodic.

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Track number 15 for example, contains an almost classical sounding theme which the composer relays via the string section and subtle and delicate woodwind, this I felt evoked memories of his music for THE VALACHI PAPERS and in places his romantic sounding themes for movies such as THE YELLOW ROLLS ROYCE and AFRICA ADDIO, Ortolani I suppose is along with Mario Nascimbene and Ennio Morricone one of the most prolific Italian composers who has written for the cinema and television, he also managed to successfully break into scoring films outside of his native Italy and of course co-wrote one of the most successful songs of all time MORE from MONDO CANE and it is this romantic sound that the composer also integrates into his score for KILLER CROCODILE, so as collectors of film music we have the best of both worlds in this release, tense and harsh sounding action cues that are accompanied by softer, easy listening and romantic interludes. A score well worth checking out. With a great cover and sound quality that is also very good. But hurry these are ltd editions available from Kronos records, get yours now before they are all “SNAPPED” UP.

http://kronosrecords.com/