Good Omens

Composer David Arnold is a music-smith that we probably associate with the James Bond franchise, and big blockbuster scores such as Narnia, INDEPENDENCE DAY and GODZILLA, he also has written some beautifully lyrical scores such as THE LAST OF THE DOGMEN and from time to time has ventured into the world of TV music most notably SHERLOCK. His most recent TV scoring assignment is for an Amazon prime production, GOOD OMENS which is a rather irreverent black comedy, that pairs actors Michael Sheen and David Tennant as an angel and a demon respectively. Based upon the 1990 comic story by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, this is a comic tale that possess a hell (excuse the pun) of a powerful punch and is a series that I know will attract much attention during its six-episode run. Composer Arnold has fashioned a wonderfully impish and darkly discordant but at the same time alluringly attractive soundtrack. Right from track one I was hooked on the irreverent but witty style and sound, which is overflowing with vibrancy and has an off kilter and slightly oddball waltzlike theme, in which the composer entices the listener in and invites them to get comfortable for a jaunty and entertainingly bumpy musical ride. This central theme can also be heard at various stages within the score in a number of arrangements, at one point performed by rock style guitar.  I have to say that this is one of the best TV scores I have heard in a while, it is relentless in its offering up of strong thematic material and has to it an addictive and unstoppable musical persona, that is impish and imposing at the same time. Filled with mischief and inventive compositions it is certainly entertaining. Arnold combines symphonic with synthetic and also utilises choral work throughout, there is a majestic and dare I say celestial sound present at times which is always accompanied by a darker and more threatening aura, this richly dark and wonderfully theme laden work is for me a tour de force of musical colours and textures and a welcome return to David Arnold at his most inventive and entertaining. The style employed does at times have a Elman-ish sound, but this is not a bad thing whatsoever. The release which is a double CD is on the Silva Screen label in the UK and is certainly worth adding to your collection, you will be wowed by its varying musical styles and sounds and left wanting more and more as the score progresses and grows. Ominous growling organ and percussive sounding passages combine with at times sinewy sounding strings to create an atmosphere of unease and foreboding, it is a work that I know you will love, it has this compelling and haunting presence that I found impossible not like and found myself returning to the score many times after my initial listen. I love the way in which Arnold employs the choir and supports and embellishes it with little snippets of themes performed by the string section, harpsichord and also cymbalom or at least something sounds similar, the track LULLABY is enchanting, but although being light and charming there is still some doubt if it will not suddenly transform into something more sinister.

Thankfully it does not, but the following cue HELL HOUND has something of a similar intro but soon alters and becomes threatening and fearsome. Arnold combining the quietness of a variation of the Lullaby theme with ominous sounding electronics that rumble in the background, causing a disturbing and unsettling moment. I love this score and I recommend that you go out as soon as you can and get it. Great stuff.

Talking to composer PETER SCHICKELE.


Peter Schickele is an American composer, musical educator, and parodist, best known for comedy albums featuring his music, but which he presents as being composed by the fictional P. D. Q. Bach. He also hosted a long-running weekly radio program called Schickele Mix. The composer has had a handful of forays into the world of film music, his most well-known film soundtrack being from the 1972 sci-fi post-apocalyptic environmentally themed SILENT RUNNING, which is now a cult movie and is regarded as an iconic film score.


Can I start by asking you how did you become involved on the scoring of SILENT RUNNING?

I had worked on a few movies, including John Korty’s “Crazy Quilt” in 1966, and I was eager to do more film scoring. One day when I was home in Brooklyn, the phone rang and it was literally Hollywood calling: a young director named, Doug Trumbull asked me if I wanted to do the score for a new sci fi film he was directing. I said yes immediately.


I think I am correct when I say that you have not scored many movies, would you like to do more?

I’m a real movie buff, and as a composer, I really enjoy the challenge of working within the parameters that come with scoring a movie, so yes, I’ve always been open to doing more projects.


What size orchestra did you use for SILENT RUNNING I ask because it sounds really grandiose in places and did Douglas Trumbull have any specific ideas about what kind of music he wanted for the movie?

We used different sized ensembles for different cues. Doug didn’t want the music to be weird in the way that space music often was in films. It’s one of the things that drew me to the project. He thought space could be represented on screen as beautiful, not scary, and he wanted the music to communicate that.


At what stage of production did you become involved on the film?

I believe that when I came on, they had shot some but not all of the footage. Doug called me in May or June of 1971, and I spent the summer in Malibu working on the score. I went back out a few times to make changes to accommodate changes they made in editing.


How much music did you write for SILENT RUNNING and was all of it included in the movie and the soundtrack release?
I think all, or virtually all of the music I wrote ended up being included. Music I did for a few cues wasn’t included; I had to write new music for the opening sequence after they added the voice over explaining the premise of the movie. I’m not sure if we ended up using the original opening music elsewhere in the film.


What was your routine if you can call it that when you were working on the movie?

I used to watch scenes on a moviola I had in the house I rented in Malibu and I’d play the piano as I watched each scene and notate the score and then drive back into LA and get another batch of film.


You worked with Joan Baez before SILENT RUNNING, was it your idea to have songs on the score and did you have her in mind to perform these and did she contribute to the lyrics?
Doug liked the albums that Joan Baez and I had done together so he very much wanted her to do the vocals. I was very pleased when she said yes, I always enjoyed working with her. She didn’t write the lyrics, I did those with Diane Lampert.


You work on many types of music, is there ever a time that music comes to you easily?

Writing satirical music is just as hard as writing film score or any other kind of music, and vice versa.


How do you work out your musical ideas, piano, or by other means?

A little of both. I like to drive around and get musical ideas and then jot them down.


What composers or artistes would you say that you admired or maybe have been inspired by?
So many! I’d guess I’d say I have been greatly inspired by Mozart and Hadyn on the classical end of things, and the two composers I studied with most closely — Roy Harris and Vincent Persichetti — were major influences when I was a young composer. In terms of film scores, I love George Delerue’s work in “Shoot the Piano Player.”

What musical education did you receive?

I studied at Juilliard.

Do you consider orchestration to be as important as the actual composition of music?
Certainly, orchestration impacts how a musical idea comes across, but it isn’t always the first thing I think about. Sometimes an idea kicks around for a while before I figure out the orchestration.


You have been writing your memoirs recently, how is this going and when can we expect to see the book?

We don’t have a publication date yet, but I’m having a great time working on it and I’m looking forward to sharing it.




Released on Digit-movies in 2015, IL TUO DOLCE CORPO DA UCCIDERE or YOUR SWEET BODY TO KILL, was an Italian/Spanish co-production and a movie that just about fits into the ever popular Giallo genre of films that were so popular during the late 1960’s through to the late1980’s. Although many would argue that the Giallo is still alive and doing well today. In my opinion the movie is more of a horror than it is a true Giallo, as there is hardly any gore in fact I think you would miss it if you blinked, and also surprisingly for an Italian movie of this type from this period there is no nudity at all. Directed by Alfredo Brescia and released in 1970. The film tells the story of a husband who becomes obsessed with fantasises about murdering his wife, It, is unfortunate for her that he finds out that She has been having an affair, and finally he kills her. It’s a little disjointed in places, but still makes for a quite enjoyable watch. The movie is aided greatly by a highly atmospheric soundtrack that s the work of the seasoned Italian film music Maestro Carlo Savina. Savina was a composer that worked on many varying genres of film and seemed to be at home in all of them. The score for YOUR SWEET BODY TO KILL in my opinion is one of Savina.s more entertaining works, the composer employing up-beat and vibrant sounding pieces that are more akin to the style and sound of Morricone and Nicolai, when those two great composers worked in this genre. Wordless Female voice is featured throughout, and it gives the work a sultry and at times steaming sound, the vocals adding a seductive and alluring persona to the proceedings. Savina also makes affective use of percussion and organ which at times is sombre and performed as a solo and at other points within the score is supported by an up-tempo pop orientated beat which is infectious and haunting. We are also treated to pleasant sounding Samba’s and jazz numbers in which Savina introduces Hammond organ, harpsichord flourishes, vibes and muted trumpet, the composer creates some laid back pieces for Sax and also clarinet that are easy on the ear and have to them a wonderfully light and entertaining style. There are also several darker cues which of course we would expect in this type of movie, but the composer never seems to go to foreboding which also reflects that the movie does contain comic sequences. Fuzzy electric guitar is featured too add a sense of menace, and this is accompanied by echoing trumpets and punctuated by little nuances from the harpsichord which is further embellished via an underlying percussive presence. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by this score and it is one that I would recommend. The Female vocals which I think are performed by Edda are excellent, with piano solo performances also taking centre stage, in many ways I would say that this can be compared to other Italian scores such as THE INSATIABLES by Nicolai, DEATH WALKS AT MIDNIGHT by Ferrio and FEMMINA RIDENS by Cipriani, just to give you an idea. Sound quality is clear and crisp and the CD as with all Digit movies releases is presented well with eye catching front cover art.





Theres a big movie in town this weekend and its star is the biggest in movie history. GODZILLA is back to cause mayhem and destruction in GODZILLA-KING OF THE MONSTERS, the music is by Bear McCreary who we all know from WALKING DEAD, and a few other well known TV shows and movies, his score for this incarnation of Godzilla is breathtakingly powerful, filled with commanding themes inventive choral passages and high octane action cues that never seem to let up keeping the pressure and tension full on throughout. This epic sounding symphonic bliss for any fan of quality film music is delight. The opening track of the score GODZILLA MAIN TITLE is superb, the blasts from the brass section heralding the coming of GODZILLA and the composer adds to this driving strings thundering percussion and harsh and aggressive choral chanting, that all combine to reach a wonderfully dramatic crescendo. Track number three, MEMORIES OF SAN FRANSICO begins slowly and subdued, but soon begins to build and alter its musical stance to become an imposing and grandiose affair for brass, percussive elements and again male voices, it is underlined by strings which are not so action fuelled giving the cue a kind of dual musical persona.



I love the way that McCreary incorporates ethnic Japanese sounds, which are a link between his score and many of the soundtracks to the original Toho movies which are now considered movie classics. In fact,  McCreary’s score is a homage to the many composers that went before him within the genre of monster movies, in particular the Japanese Godzilla pictures and he incorporates themes by Akira Ifukube into the fabric of his score, arranging them and orchestrating them sympathetically. I was brought up on the Japanese monster films and there would often be one or two on almost every weekend on the TV, I loved them and as I grew older began to appreciate not only the films but their scores. Monsters such as MOTHRA, GHIDORHA and RODAN who all feature in this latest outing for GODZILLA, all became familiar to me as did the music of composers such as, Akira Ifukube, Masuru Sato and Michiru Oshima.




Of course there have been non-Japanese composers such as David Arnold and Alexandre Desplat who were involved on versions of GODZILLA but I do not think that their scores were any where near as entertaining and imposing as the Japanese originals. McCreary however, has managed to fashion a score that is a fusion of both the Japanese styles and the European approaches, and what we are presented with is a rich and highly dramatic work that like the monsters featured in the movie rampages its way forward and generates a fearsome and unstoppable musical tour de force, that is an action film music fans dream come true.



The rasping and growling brass is complimented by searing and soaring strings and thunderous and booming percussion, the use of male choir too gives this a real ferocious and hostile sound, as if the music itself like the Monsters is intent of destruction of everything around, but saying this there are still driving and powerful themes present, and although at times the music is totally action orientated every so often from amidst the carnage and sounds of destruction up rises a wonderfully atmospheric theme. McCreary also makes effective use of slight but hauntingly ethereal voices, which at times are barely there, but add their weight to the proceedings. McCreary has created cues for all the main monster contenders and fashions a explosive and striking composition to accompany A MASS AWAKENING. This is a soundtrack that I know you will enjoy, It is relentless in its style and sound and also has to it richly dark and vigorous themes throughout. Recommended.

URSUS E LA RAGAZZA TARTARA. released Kronos records June 2019.



The collection of films that fall into the PEPLUM or SWORD AND SANDAL genre, as produced in Italy at the famous Cinecitta studios are for many an acquired taste, during the late 1960’s many of these movies found their way into British cinemas as a B feature or a support act if you will for the main film that was on the programme. Consequently, many of these Greek, Roman and Epic orientated movies were edited and edited harshly, in fact many being cut to the degree where the storyline and the continuity of the films were affected dramatically. Several the movies were produced as either spin offs or on the back of the success of the more popular Hollywood biblically slanted films such as THE ROBE and BEN HUR, plus taking their inspiration from films such as SPARTACUS. Of course, the budgets in Italy were not as big as Hollywood studios so this was reflected in the finished products. The Peplum threw up many variations of stories about characters such as Hercules, Goliath and others, at times the genre crossing over into other areas such as sci-fi and horror, which although rather odd always had to them a high level of entertainment value and were popular with audiences initially in Europe then outside of the continent. Film makers in Italy such as Sergio Corbucci cut his directorial teeth on creating sword and sandal yarns for the cinema and of course went onto be leading figures within the Italian Western genre and beyond, many directors, producers, screenwriters and actors that enjoyed success on Peplums, would also become stalwarts within other genres that were later created at Cinecitta. Although referred to as a SWORD AND SANDAL adventure, URSUS AND THE TARTAR PRINCESS or URSUS E LA RAGAZZA TARTARA-aka-TARTAR INVASION was not strictly a film that I would personally call a Peplum, because it was set in the 16000’s, at the time of the Polish/Tartar wars which was hundreds of years after the Romans and the Greeks. The film was a French/Italian co-production and starred Italian actor Ettore Manni and in the female lead Yoko Tani. The movies only real connection with the SWORD AND SANDAL genre was the name of URSUS in its title. The movie was for me somewhat disjointed and confusing at certain points, but this is probably due to the unsympathetic editing on the version I was seeing. Tartars from Crimea, attack Christians in Poland and in one of these attacks the Tartars capture the son of Ursus and take him to the Crimea where he is uncastrated.

Prince Stefan played by Ettore Manni is sent with a handful of soldiers to spy upon the Tartars, he is accompanied by Ursus who is anxious to bring his son back home. It is not long before Prince Stefan and his men are captured by Tartars who are led by Sulaiman (Tom Felleghy). But Sulaiman’s daughter Princess Ila (Yoko Tani) falls in love with Stefan and because of this Sulaiman spares Stefan on condition he converts to Muslim ways. Stefan however is strong willed, and it is the Princess who converts to Christianity so that she may marry Stefan. Ursus is re-united with his son but things do not end here, the Khan of the Tartars arrives and decides that the Princess should wed his son instead. Stefan and Ursus escape with Ursus’s son and the Princess and make their way to Poland. The Khan and his soldiers pursue them and there is a major battle in which the stories outcome is decided.

The musical score for the movie is by Italian Maestro Angelo Francesco Lavagnino, who composed numerous scores for the Peplum genre as well as writing extensively for Romantic tales, Westerns and Adventure films. Lavagnino wrote a rich and melodic score for URSUS AND THE TARTAR PRINCESS that is filled with dramatic and fast paced interludes, but it also has to it a warm and romantic sound, in which the composer employs lush strings and subdued but melodic and affecting woodwinds, that combine to create a wonderfully luxurious sound. The composer also utilises choral passages which inject and purvey an atmosphere that is filled with a distinctly religious mood. Lavagnino evokes the style of the Hollywood film score within this epic sounding work, recalling the styles of composers such as Miklos Rozsa, Franz Waxman and Alfred Newman with his majestic symphonic soundtrack. The composers clever use of brass and percussion is prominent for most of the work and it is this combination that creates the grandiose aura of the score.

THE OPENING TITLES, for example begin with brass flourishes that are underlined and pushed along by driving strings, interspersed by timpani and percussion the composer fashioning an urgent but at the same time regal sounding piece, the cue however soon slows and changes direction and style, Lavagnino creating a distinctive Eastern European flavour, via the use of balalaika and supporting this with strings, horns and gentle percussive sounds. The track MICHAEL ABDUCTED is a short-lived piece, but affecting, initially it is a quiet and low-key composition, but this alters as the action on screen also changes, the composer enlisting brass and percussion to create a more threatening and robust musical scenario. For a score that was originally recorded fifty-eight years ago the sound and style is remarkably good, Lavagnino utilises lilting tone poems alongside tense and dramatic pieces to generate a rich and vibrant work.



Born in Genoa Italy on February 22nd, 1909, Lavagnino, came from a musical family and was attracted to film music from an early age when he heard an orchestra accompany a silent movie. In many film music connoisseurs opinions Lavagnino was one of the Fathers of Italian film music, an innovator and a highly talented and original music-smith he graduated from the Giuseppe Verdi music conservatory in Milan, with a diploma in violin and composition and spent much of his early career working as a musician in orchestras that were performing in the concert halls and opera houses in Italy. Whilst doing this he also began to teach music and it was during this period that Lavagnino decided to start to compose music for film, his first foray into film scoring came in 1947 when he wrote the music for the comedy drama, NATALE AL CAMPO 119, which was directed by Pietro Francisci and starred Vittorio de Sica. As the 1950, s began Lavagnino started to become known within his native Italy as a composer of great talent producing music of high quality and also he was able to adapt to any genre or style of film. He also continued to teach music at this time and helped other composers come to grips with the technicalities of film scoring, one such composer was Francesco De Masi who he not only tutored but engaged as an assistant for a few years. The composers first major film scoring assignment came in 1951 when he provided the soundtrack for OTHELLO which was directed by Orson Welles, Lavagnino also scored the actor/directors FALSTAFF-CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT in 1965 and it was probably because of his first collaboration with Welles that the composer began to be offered assignments on bigger budget productions which included non-Italian movies such as Henry Hathaway’s action, drama, adventure LEGEND OF THE LOST, which starred John Wayne, Sophia Loren and Rossano Brazzi in 1957, the Italian/American co-production ESTHER AND THE KING for Director Raoul Walsh in 1960 and the British made monster movie, GORGO in 1961. Lavagnino seemed to excel when he wrote music for documentaries and won awards for his work in this area of film. At the Cannes film festival in 1955 he was nominated for the Palme d’Or for his music to CONTINENTE PERDUTO and won the special jury prize at the same festival for the score. In the same year he won the Silver ribbon award for his score to CONTINENTE PERDUTO which came from The Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists. In 1956 his stunning score for L’IMPERO DEL SOLE (EMPIRE IN THE SUN) garnered him another nomination from the film journalists and in 1957 he was awarded the silver ribbon from the same organisation for his music to VERTIGINE BIANCA (WHITE VERTIGO).

Lavagnino was Sergio Leone’s first choice of composer when the filmmaker was in pre-production on A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS, but the director was persuaded to engage a lesser known young composer named Ennio Morricone, because the film’s distributor felt that Morricone would be a better choice. One wonders if the music for the Italian western genre would have evolved in a different way or indeed would have been as successful as it was if Lavagnino had scored the first Leone western. I say this because although Lavagnino’s music was always highly original it was certainly more classical in its style and sound than Morricone’s and often leaned towards a more Americanized or conventional sound as in Dimitri Tiomkin and Max Steiner with some elements of what can now be deemed as being Spaghetti infused passages. After A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS, Lavagnino created numerous western scores and put his own unmistakable musical fingerprint upon them. In the latter part of 1964 and throughout 1965, Lavagnino composed the score for 5000 DOLLARI SULL’ASSO which was his first foray into the Euro-western Arena, in addition to this he penned the scores to, THE TRAMPLERS, L’UOMO DALLA PISTOLA D’ORO, THE MAN FROM CANYON CITY, OCASO DE UN PISTOLERO, SEVEN HOURS OF GUNFIRE, JOHNNY WEST IL MANCINO, SOLO CONTRO TUTTI and the comedy western I DUE SERGENTI DEL GENERALE CUSTER. He also provided music too at least another seven western movies over the next few years one of the last was, SAPEVANO SOLO UCCIDERE in 1971. Lavagnino scored over 300 movies during his illustrious career, which included, URSUS AND THE TARTAR PRINCESS, THE COLOSSUS OF RHODES, CONSPIRACY OF HEARTS, FIVE BRANDED WOMEN, THE LAST DAYS OF POMPEII, THE LOST CONTINENT, THE NAKED MAJA, VENERE IMPERIALE, L’ULTIMO PARADISO and THE WIND CANNOT READ, and was responsible for creating some of cinemas most haunting and atmospheric soundtracks for Italian and international productions, his music supporting, enhancing, ingratiating and in certain cases almost caressing the movie or project he was involved with. The composer passed away in Gavi, Italy on August 21st, 1987.

j mansell (c)2019.