The re-issue program for Italian soundtracks never seems to slow, there always is something that has either never been issued before or a score that has had a LP releases years ago being given the re mastering treatment, Italian westerns were of course one of the most popular soundtrack genres amongst collectors as it was probably these Spaghetti sagebrush sagas that attracted many collectors to Italian film music in the first place. Record companies such as HILLSIDE, HEXACORD,BEAT,DIGIT MOVIES, CINEVOX, GDM etc have over the past decade or so been hard at work finding and releasing many of these at times lost musical treasures and preserving them at first on CD then to digital format, and they are a collection of scores that are well worth preserving after all they are a huge slice of filmic and film music history. I am convinced that the Italian western score has influenced the path of so many composers and also maybe directors and because of these influences the Italian western as in the actual films and the scores have shaped the way in which so many films and TV productions have been created. When you think about it a genre such as the Spaghetti western with its estimated output of around 700 movies, has certainly had far reaching and highly influential connotations. So, I began to look at what soundtracks have been released onto either CD and now digital edition on platforms such as I TUNES and SPOTIFY. All the classics are there of course the Morricone’s, the Nicolai’s, De Angelis, Ferrio, Cipriani, Rustichelli, Baclov, Giombini, S ,M Romitelli, Umiliani, Trovajoli, Savina, Ghiglia, De Masi, Fidenco, yes the list is truly endless, and I am of the opinion it is near on complete, or is it? Well there are some obvious omissions that stand out such as Morricone’s, SEVEN GUNS FOR THE McGregors, SEVEN BRIDES FOR THE Mc Gregors, GODS GUN, One or two of the Stranger movies as penned by Stelvio Cipriani and a handful of others by the likes of Tallino, Alessandroni, Orlandi and Dumont. Hang on Dumont? RE-wind, Dumont? Yes Charles Dumont, sorry? Charles Dumont, Oh, yes French composer who worked on films like TRAFFIC. Yes, that him, So I hear you say what has Dumont got to do with the Italian western? Well, this French composer wrote the score for a little-known Italian western entitled THE BELLE STARR STORY. No! Yes, I kid you not.
The movie was released in 1968, and selections from the soundtrack have been issued before on LP record back in 1968/69 as the A side to A MAN A HORSE AND A GUN by Cipriani,(yes the classic score by Cipriani was at the time relegated to the B side) the LP which was on the famous CAM soundtrack label (SAG 9004) contained just a handful of cues (6) that were released as a representative of Dumont’s score. I suppose because of A MAN A HORSE AND A GUN, being more of a prominent movie and score Dumont’s efforts were somewhat overlooked, but I remember thinking at the time of getting the LP back in around 1971 that the score was pretty good. The song from the movie was also released on a 45rpm single, (AMP 34).
So, heres a question, why has it not been re-issued in any format? It is after all a member of the Italian western score club, ok, it has no real musical affiliations with the rest of the genre as in stock sounds or even is it remotely connected stylistically with the sound that we so readily associate with the Spaghetti western, apart from a saloon track which seemed to be obligatory in most Spaghetti scores. But it is still a pretty good western soundtrack, and I think deserves to be given a full release, are you listening BEAT, DIGIT MOVIES, or even Kronos, Quartet and Music Box.
The soundtrack on LP opens with a fanfare of sorts that introduces a vocal entitled NO TIME FOR LOVE, which is something the main character of the movie identifies with. The vocal is performed by the movies star Elsa Martinelli, who delivers a suitably sultry and sensual vocal. Dumont penned the music for the song as well as the score and the lyrics were provided by Andre Salvat and Norman Newell. The music for the song is sparse whilst the vocals are being performed, and comprises of woods, bass guitar and a subtle Spanish guitar, until the vocal or first part of it at least comes to an end, and then Dumont enters the fray with a galloping and quick paced piece that is performed by timpani, percussion and horns with strings supporting. This comes to an abrupt end as the vocal is again re-introduced this time with a more elaborate support of strings giving it a more romantic feel and atmosphere. Track two, is an instrumental version of the song and the composer employs dramatic strings to open the cue, but these are then tailed off and amore lush and sumptuous rendition of the song is performed by soaring strings which themselves fade and lead into a delicate and quiet guitar solo. Track three is WESTERN CASINO, which is self-explanatory, and this is where the saloon piano piece comes into the work, Dumont providing a jaunty, honky-tonk saloon sound via the at times off kilter piano that is backed and punctuated by strummed banjo. THRILLING PER UNA STELLA is the title of track number four, Dumont, switching to a more dramatic musical style, with electric bass, percussion, brass and bongos, combining to create a taught and apprehensive sound, that is quite reminiscent of Cipriani in A MAN A HORSE AND A GUN, the track builds with the composer adding strings that seem to envelope and carry the remainder of the instrumentation, bringing the track to a close. Track five, is a guitar version of the central theme and is entitled BELLE STARR GUITAR. Which is brief but effective, the final track is BELLE STARR, in which Dumont creates a suitably western sounding riding cue, with brass, strumming guitars, electric bass punctuations and rumbling percussion. A short but interesting and entertaining soundtrack, that sadly was at the time of its release ignored by many.
The film is also very interesting and one of the genres more, shall we say suggestive examples. It, starred Elsa Martinelli in the title role, who was supported by genre stalwart George Eastman. Belle who is a gambler is a fiery character and has the red hair and freckles that seems to go with her personality. She attracts the attention of Eastman’s character Larry Blackie, who is also a gambler. On their first meeting Blackie clears Belle out and wins all her money from her and even relieves her of her ring. Blackie suggests that maybe she could win her money and jewellery back from him, and also suggests that he will allow her to play using as her stake a night with her. Belle looses and Blackie takes her back to the hotel, where he realises she has lost on purpose, Belle takes a shot at Blackie but he is too quick and pushes her back on the bed, things get romantic, but in the morning Blackie tells Belle to go and not to gamble in his area again.
Belle leaves but warns him he has not seen the last of her, and it is not long before the two meet again after she has gunned down four of his men in a saloon. Blackie seems to be fascinated by Belle and She, by him, after a while she eventually tells him her story. The relationship or partnership that we see unfolding on screen between Belle and Blackie, I think can be compared to the partnerships that have been focused upon in Italian westerns such as Mortimer and The man with no name in FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE and the unlikely collaboration of Tuco and Blondie in THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY, other examples of such partnerships are featured in THE BIG GUNDOWN, with Corbett and Cucillo and also in films such as DEATH RIDES A HORSE and to a certain degree DUCK YOU SUCKER and A PROFFESIONAL GUN. It is a partnership that is unsteady and certainly not built on any kind of trust.
Of course, THE BELLE STARR STORY was a little different because the relationship was based upon sexual attraction, which was mainly portrayed via kissing and at times slapping. The film which also starred Robert Woods as Cole Harvey an old flame of Belle’s was directed by Lina Wertmuller who went under the alias of Nathan Wich, a name she also used for the writing credit on the movie as well as George Brown. I think I am correct when I say this was her only contribution to the Italian western genre and also, I am also certain this was the only Italian western directed by a woman. Charles Dumont began his career as a songwriter and at times would pen these under the aliases of Dilda, Gloria Lasso and Toni Rossi. He wrote over 30 songs for Edith Piaf and regularly performed with her. He also wrote songs for Barbara Streisand most notably I’VE BEEN HERE which was originally called LA MUR. During the 1960’s Dumont began to write for TV and film and collaborated with film maker Jacques Tati on TRAFFIC in 1971. He still performs and writes music and songs.
Watching THE BELLE STARR recently I realised that there is a lot of music within the film that has never seen the light of day on any recording, so it is in my humble opinion a prime candidate for a release onto cd. It maybe something of an oddity within the Italian western genre, but surely this is even more reason to release the soundtrack in its full quirky glory.