There is certainly no doubt that composer Francesco De Masi was one of the busiest film music Maestros working in Italy from the 1950,s through to end of the 1980,s, whether it be as a composer or at times as a conductor De Masi was always gainfully employed and in 99 percent of cases produced original and memorable works. Released in 1965 and directed by Michele Lupo, SETTE CONTRO TUTTI,(SEVEN REBEL GLADIATORS) is something of an odd score because although it is for a sword and sandal epic or peplum the music sounds as if it could be from an Italian produced western or adventure and a western/adventure that could contain comedic influences as well, I say this because of the presence of a kazoo type instrument that is paired with jaunty sounding harmonica at times to create an entertaining combination and sound. In fact there are certain similarities to this and a number of Spaghetti western soundtracks that De Masi scored,(QUELLA SPORCA STORIA NELL WEST, RINGO IL VOLTO DELLA VENDETTA,VADO L’AMAZZO E TORNO and even scores such as MAD DOG and LONE WOLF McQUADE) by this I mean that there is the undeniable style and sound that the Maestro created for the western/adventure genre present throughout with harmonica taking the lead or drifting in and out on a number of cues and harpsichord flourishes being used to create a certain air of mystery from time to time plus we have the use of original sounding percussive sounds that are both symphonic and synthetic the composer fashioning an echo effect on occasion that is highly effective. There is also the presence of a core theme or heroic sounding theme which is also utilised within one of his most notable and well know scores for a western entitled SETTE DOLLARI SUL ROSSO which was released in 1966. The central theme for SETTE CONTRO TUTTI is for all intents and purposes an arrangement of A MAN MUST FIGHT which was also one of the central and key themes for SETTE DOLLARI SUL ROSSO and manifested it self as a song performed by Peter Tevis, but of course as SEVEN REBEL GLADIATORS was released first I am guessing that the composer re-cycled parts of the theme into the score for the western a year later and further expanded upon his original ideas, giving it a new lease of life as both an instrumental cue and a vocal. Or there could also be the scenario that the western score was written first but the film was released late? Now I realise that composers in Italy were extremely busy during the 1960,s as the western all’a Italiano became one of that countries film industries main stays, most movies taking their lead from A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS which hit the cinema screens in 1964, numerous B productions seemed to literally be churned out from Cinecitta ten to the dozen, during this decade, some good, some bad and some, well lets just say not so good.
I suppose composers themselves found that they were under a great deal of pressure to create soundtracks to enhance them and these had to be written quickly, some in a matter of days, so inevitably thematic properties or musical ideas for these themes did at times rear up within other scores, or a least at times came into play briefly.
In an interview with composer Harry Robinson we touched upon the subject of music being re-used etc, his take on the subject was that he was the composer of the piece so it was basically his property and if he re-used it he was stealing from himself so it was ok. It’s a practise that Bruno Nicolai engaged in from time to time especially within westerns, simply because he was so busy often scoring two or three movies at the same time and even the great Maestro Ennio Morricone has been known to repeat himself on the odd occasion. I think its because SETTE DOLLARI SUL ROSSO was such a popular western score that this particular theme is more noticeable and one thinks that its odd for one of its themes to actually be from a movie about gladiators so it just seems out of place. Saying this however, the composer does give the theme a somewhat different arrangement from what he did a few months later, it seems more grandiose there is a definite fanfare at the outset and the galloping effect is slightly more up-tempo, powerful and urgent with the string section adding its considerable weight and harmonious support to the proceedings creating an almost windswept feel to the composition. SETTE CONTRO TUTTI is an interesting enough movie, nothing really earth shattering just a fairly entertaining romp which was certainly helped along by De Masi’s equally entertaining musical score. I say entertaining but it is also quite a simple work as there is just three central themes or styles present throughout, two I have already mentioned the heroic and adventure filled central theme for orchestra and also the less grand sounding motif for harmonica and kazoo, the third theme being a slightly dramatic and mysterious piece which is performed by strings and punctuated by percussion and the use of bass electric guitar at times, the end result is effective but again I did think that the instrumentation for a Peplum was rather unorthodox. The score is interesting in many ways but I do have to say it’s a work that you have to stick with because part of the way through I felt drawn towards the move to next track button, but I persevered and I was glad I did as mid way through the work does get what I call a second steam and the composer treats us to a rousing arrangement of the main title in the track SEVEN ATTACK PART 1, which is swiftly followed by part 2, that contains variations on the core theme plus the composer introduces new thematic passages which although short lived make their mark.
I am pleased that Kronos have seen fit to release this score, it is a worthy addition to the labels GOLD series and a soundtrack that Italian film music fans will relish, enjoy and return to many times. Nice art work and also notes by the composers Son, well worth pre ordering.