THE HAUNTING OF MORELLA is a horror movie which was produced in the style of the Poe films of the 1960.s as released by American International Pictures and either produced or directed by Roger Corman. Released in 1990, it was directed by Jim Wynorski and produced by Corman, this is a movie that certainly oozes the mystery and the intrigue of those vintage horrors. Made in the same year as Wynorski’s TRANSYLVANIA TWIST. THE HAUNTING OF MORELLA is a highly watchable movie because it contains some interesting horrific touches, plus little brushes with lesbianism, nude bath scenes and also a handful of less than elegant period wigs and garments of underclothing. But it is the music we are primarily concerned with here, and the score I have to say for a fairly low budget movie is excellent. Music is courtesy of Frederic Ensign Teetsel with additional material provided by Wynorski’s long-time collaborator Chuck Cirino (seeing Cirino was involved was enough for me to want to listen to it). The movie opens showing us a witch who is executed in the America’s when they were British Colonies. She leaves behind a husband and a young daughter, the film then moves forward some seventeen years, the young girls is now grown up and is in line to inherit a large sum of money which has been put into trust by her Mothers family. It is now that the story begins to become more interesting as we are made aware that the Mother wants to be returned to life via possessing her daughter’s body.
To be fair this is not a bad movie whatsoever, and considering again it was relatively low budget, both the producer and director have managed to create a picture that pays tribute to the earlier works of Corman when he gave us such classics as, THE HOUSE OF USHER, THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM, PREMATURE BURIAL, THE TERROR, THE RAVEN and THE HAUNTED PALACE,ok maybe it is not so polished but there is something present that makes it entertaining and compelling. I think that the musical score aids the movie greatly, in fact it manages to re-create both the atmosphere and the mood of titles I mention. It has to it a gothic and highly attractive sound which is almost luxurious and purveys a sense of foreboding and apprehension throughout. I think it can described as a fusion of the music of the likes of Les Baxter and also composers such as Harry Robinson who worked on a handful of Hammer horrors most notably THE VAMPIRE LOVERS and TWINS OF EVIL, there are also at times shades of James Bernard and hints of the likes of Ronald Stein and David Whitaker.
The score is essentially symphonic, containing trumpet, French horn, cellos, violas and violins make up the string section as well as bass’s, plus brass and percussion are also present, and at key points we are treated to a spidery and icy feel that is conjured up via the use of harpsichord flourishes that seem to delicately trip across the other instruments. The work however does contain a scattering of synth choir, but this just further embellishes the work, giving it a greater depth and filling it with a chilling air. Chuck Cirino was not available to write the score for the movie, so Frederic Teetsal was engaged but director Wynorski had an idea to utilise some themes that Cirino had penned some years before which the director had in his music library. Teetsal, discussed the themes with Cirino and then wove them into the fabric of his score. The result is a work that is driving and powerful but also one that has romantic and melodic interludes. Which is perfect for the genre of movie and for the period in which it is set.
I was impressed with this soundtrack it is filled to the hilt with enticing and beguiling thematic material and has to it a fearful and tense musical aura. The notes by the flawless Randall D Larson are an interesting and absorbing read in which the writer talks to both Chuck Cirino and Frederic Teetsal as well as giving us a synopsis of the movie. Another great release from DRAGONS DOMAIN. Recommended.
Staying with a subject I have been pondering during these days of isolation and of lockdowns because of the COVID 19 pandemic, I look again to the works of Ennio Morricone, who I have been a fan of from day one or at least A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS. The composer’s output is so great that at times it was hard to keep up with his prolific creativity, and it was difficult to take on board that one man had been responsible for so many memorable film scores. Films such as THE SICILIAN CLAN for example which although was not what I would call a huge success at the box office still managed to inspire the Maestro to fashion a score that in my opinion stands as one of his best from the late 1960’s.
But THE SICILAN CLAN is a score that most ardent Morricone followers are aware of and hold it in high esteem. But what of scores for movies such as THE HILLS RUN RED and A SKYFUL OF STARS FOR A ROOF in the western department and also soundtracks for movies such as A MAN TO RESPECT, LA DONNA DELLA DOMENICA, HUNDRA, FEAR IN THE CITY, THE TREASURE OF THE FOUR CROWNS and LA DAME AUX CAMELIAS.
All wonderfully melodic and atmospheric, but maybe not visited enough by collectors. Then there is a movie made in Japan entitled MUSASHI which had a score written by Morricone, although this is a good score it is a film that very rarely is mentioned when discussing Ennio Morricone’s work for the cinema. So, I think what Iam saying is even if you are like me an avid Morricone collector, there are always some scores that you probably have in your collection that do not or very rarely get aired.
But I suppose one can apply this to any composer who has written extensively for film, when I look at my morricone collection I often think “Not heard this in a while” and because of this lockdown I have to admit looking through and not just thinking about listening to these but actually sitting and appreciating them. One of the scores I always used to listen to was TWO MULES FOR SISTER SARA, (AKA-GLI AVVOLTOI HANNO FAME in Italy. Which translates as THE VULTRES ARE HUNGRY) and when I heard that an official CD was to be released I was so pleased, but its been a long time coming and there does not seem to be any sign of it on the horizon as yet, and probably because of the strange times we are living in right now I would think it won’t surface any time soon.
So I will have to be content with the edition I have on the Italian Legend label which is paired with DAYS OF HEAVEN, two very good scores, of course the latter has been issued in full on FSM records which is a wonderful release. The version of TWO MULES FOR SISTER SARA that is on the disc is taken from the LP tracks and it is rather dubious as to if it is an official release or a very good bootleg, the original release was on vinyl and was issued by MCA records. To be fair the sound quality on the Italian LEGEND CD is exceptionally good although it does distort at times on the DAYS OF HEAVEN tracks. I am sure an official recording of TWO MULES would be much better.
The movie was directed by Don Siegal and produced by Martin Rackin, it starred CLINT EASTWOOD and SHIRLEY Mc CLAINE, and was filmed in Mexico. Released by Universal Pictures in the June of 1970, it was a movie basically that was cashing in on the success of the spaghetti western, and also the high profile of Eastwood, who had become an icon within westerns such as the DOLLAR TRILOGY and later in the rather tepid Ted Post Directed HANG EM HIGH.
There had also been a movie released in the same year entitled MADRON which involved a storyline with an ageing gunman and a nun who had survived a massacre by Indians. The movie was scored by another Italian Maestro Riz Ortolani who was nominated for an Oscar for the song from the movie, TILL LOVE TOUCHES YOUR HEART.Released in December 1970, the movie which was filmed in Israel starred Richard Boone and Leslie Caron and sadly was not as popular as the Eastwood movie although in many ways was slightly superior.
Morricone’s score for TWO MULES FOR SISTER SARA was a fusion of the style he had employed in Italian made westerns and also a more dramatic and symphonic style, but also present were hints of music that was linked with Mexico, with the composer employing soft and soothing guitar at certain points within the score, Morricone also utilised a mule sound which instantly caught the attention of the audience and for the SISTER SARA character the composer provided a nuns chorus which was angelic yet slightly irreverent.
It is a score that I think is one of the composers more interesting ones for a western, not that any of his western scores are un-interesting, its just that TWO MULES FOR SISTER SARA explored other musical avenues and has to it an intimacy and a less grandiose or operatic style, the composer fashioning various themes throughout which all originate from elements and sounds introduced within the opening or core theme of the soundtrack that accompanies the opening credits, the Maestro arranges and presents them in a different way each time. Thus, the sound and the style of the score remains not only consistent, but fresh, energetic and vibrant. The music entitled the BATTLE is however somewhat out of pace with the remainder of the score, running for three mins or just over it is a fast paced and highly aggressive sounding piece, that for me personally is more akin to Morricones pulsating opening for THE BATTLE OF ALGIERS or even one of the highly dramatic cues from a later score of his THE UNTOUCHABLES rather than for a western movie, however it works within the context of the films storyline and also makes for great listening away from the picture too.
It is a percussive piece which also includes brass performances that are relentless and strings that hit new heights in the way they are manipulated and utilised at times creating a searing and sharp sound. It is a commanding and pulsating musical affair and one of the scores highlights. On watching the movie again in recent years there are a number of cues within the film that are not represented on the soundtrack release, which during this period was the norm, at times many of the scores being re-recorded for the soundtrack album release. My hope is that when the score is eventually given an official release onto CD there will be extra cues because this is a Morricone score that so deserves a definitive release.
TREASURE OF THE FOUR CROWNS, is an odd movie, an attempt I think to maybe create a kind of Indiana Jones character, but an attempt that I fear was less than successful. The star of the movie Tony Anthony, was an actor who was also a director and producer, he was the star of the STRANGER westerns from the early part of the 1960’s making an appearance in for example A MAN A HORSE AND A GUN (SHOOT FIRST LAUGH LAST)and also took the central character role in the unusual spaghetti western BLINDMAN, I also seem to remember him being in the movie COME TOGETHER which was a kind of hippy, flower power road trip. In THE TREASURE OF THE FOUR CROWNS Anthony took the part of J.T. STRIKER who is described as a Soldier of Fortune. He is employed to retrieve a cache of precious gems which are hidden inside two mystical crowns, after enlisting the assistance of a group of professional thieves Striker encounters all sorts of obstacles which include, spear bearing skeletons (shades of JASON AND THEARGONAUGHTS and Ray Harryhausen, but maybe not as effective), and a magical cave in which he discovers a scroll that tells him of the fourth crown which had not been seen for many years, Striker and his team embark on a quest to find the remaining crowns which are kept in a heavily fortified which is under the protection of a cult headed by the evil Brother Jonas, so involved yes, but entertaining that’s debatable, it was also filmed in 3d so the storyline was at times stretched a little to accommodate the use of the 3D effect. It is a movie where there is a lot going on and at certain points it is hard to separate many of the scenarios that are being acted out.
The score by Morricone, was an interesting one, the composer employing choir and a rich sounding string section, which evoke memories of his music for both DESERT OF THE TARTARS and NOVECENTO, it has to it a lush and eloquent sound, and the central theme when given time to develop is anthem-like. A case once again of the score being far superior to the movie it was intended to enhance, and this is again probably the reason why this is not a score that is discussed that much by Morricone fans. The movie was released in 1982, and helmed by veteran film maker Ferdinando Baldi, who’s most notable movies include DAVID AND GOLIATH and THE TARTARS which were both movies that starred Orson Welles. There was talk of a sequel to the film, but I think based upon audience reaction and poor box office returns, this was cancelled. The soundtrack was first issued on CD by Hillside CD productions and later the expanded edition was released by Intrada.
Cast your mind back to 1990, and to a movie entitled STATE OF GRACE (THE IRISH MOB IN HELLS KITCHEN). This was in my opinion that rivalled THE GODFATHER and GOODFELLAS and came remarkably close to being level with ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA and THE UNTOUCHABLES. But sadly, it was a movie that was not to be a favourite with cinema audiences, maybe by this time cinema goers were beginning to tire of Mafia type films, who knows? This American made neo-noir crime movie, was directed by Phil Joanou and had an impressive cast which included Sean Penn, Gary Oldman and Ed Harris. Written by Dennis McIntyre it is based upon true life events that took place concerning the Hells Kitchen gang called The Westies. The film was however received with positive reviews from the critics, but because of the high profile and the success of GOODFELLASit became overshadowed and was ignored by the public. The score by Ennio Morricone is an accomplished one and in many ways does outclass his THE UNTOUCHABLES, the composer employing a rich and melodic score for most of the film, scoring it in a subtle and delicate fashion.
There are however a number of more tense and dramatic interludes as in THE SHOOTOUT which from the start is recognised as classic Morricone, the composer building tension and creating a taught dramatic atmosphere via, percussion, organ, and strings, this slow paced but apprehensive and dramatic cue is typical of the Maestro’s trademark sound and a style that would re-emerge later in his career including in the Oscar winning HATEFUL EIGHT. There is that almost guttural and dark sound within it, which the composer achieves through low woods and a foreboding oboe performance. I think the reason that I like this score so much is because it a varied one, there are a number of styles employed within it, and although all are fundamentally Morricone, with the Maestro, purveying a whole plethora of emotions and senses. This time it is a case of because the film was ignored that the score too is not that often mentioned. Which is a great pity, because the movie was excellent, and the score is pure class. With the newly expanded compact disc now available on Quartet records, it is top notch Morricone. And listening to it again in recent days I can hear where Andrea Morricone found his inspiration for LIBERTY HEIGHTS which he scored nine years after his Father worked on STATE OF GRACE.
Back to the 1970.s for the next score or two scores as both were issued onto CD by BEAT records back in 1994, SEPOLTA VIVA (1973) and THE ANTICHRIST (1974) are scores that are essential to have in one’s collection. Although written close together they are totally different stylistically and they perfectly display the versatility and the originality of Morricone.
THE ANTICHRIST was not issued onto LP at the time of the films release, probably because the music in the film was sparse and only two cues have ever been issued to represent this score that is credited to both Ennio Morricone and Bruno Nicolai, however I am not certain that Nicolai did have a hand in the composition of the music, he certainly conducted the orchestra and possibly performed the organ on the soundtrack, but as for composing there is no real evidence to back this up The two themes were however issued on a 45rpm single in 1974. The movie was a low budget affair and one of the many movies around during this period that attempted to cash in on the success of THE EXORCIST, others including the awful DEVIL WITHIN HER (AKA CHI SEI ?-BEYOND THE DOOR).
THE ANTICHRIST starred Carla Gravina, Arthur Kennedy and Mel Ferrer and was directed by Alberto de Martino, to give it a fair review the movie was not actually that awful, and the score was well suited to the spooky and virulent acts that were being acted out on screen. The plot focuses upon a young woman who is confined to her wheelchair due to paralyses who becomes possessed by the Devil himself when a hypnosis session goes wrong, and instead of curing her illness it triggers memories of her past life when she was a witch practising the dark arts. The music by Morricone is a tormented work, the composer relying primarily upon the use of solo violin and sombre sounding church organ. The only two cues released were. IL BUIPI and LA LUCE which have a combined running duration of just over nine minutes. The organ solo is probably Bruno Nicolai as I have already stated and the violin performance could be Dino Asciolla who performed on many of Morricone’s film scores, THE RED TENT, L’UMANOIDE and MOSES THE LAWGIVERto name but a trio. Although the music represented from the score is brief, it is still affecting, the tortured sound that the composer purveys has an urgency and spitefulness to it, creating an uneasy and sinister atmosphere.
The main score on the BEAT CD (CD CR 17) is the totally beguiling and romantically infused SEPOLTA VIVA, a soundtrack that I have had in my collection for years, firstly on a BEAT LP record, and then with this CD release. This is Ennio Morricone at his melodic best, filled with melancholy and overflowing with a rich and tender abundance of themes. This fully symphonic and classical sounding work is a must have purchase and even now stands as one of the Maestro’s finer works from the 1970’s. There are so many themes within the score, each containing their own unique sound and musical persona, but at the same time all having the unmistakable musical stamp of Morricone. We are treated to lush and rich love themes, chamber slanted works, and a scattering of dramatic and mysterious sounding pieces. The composers utilises solo piano, melodic and romantic sounding woods which are underpinned by light use of organ and sliding strings in the opening of the first cue ROMANZA A CHRISTINA, this slight but affecting introduction soon builds and the swelling string section begin to become even more protuberant. The strings then take on fully the central theme and enhanced by piano start to develop it to a greater level, the strings rising and bringing to life the haunting and eloquent theme. There is an intimacy and a fragility to the work which makes it even more endearing and affecting.
The subtle nuances and delicate tone poems being perfect for the storyline and various scenarios and again as with most of the composers romantically laced works highly listenable and entertaining away from the images on screen. Within the work we can hear that this is undeniably Morricone, a sound that has been utilised in numerous other scores, a sound that is instantly recognisable and one that is also totally absorbing. There is no choral work within the score, but beautiful piano work and heartrending violin solos, are featured throughout. It is another one of Morricone’s evergreen scores.
Back in 1974 ITV in the UK aired a six part series entitled MOSES THE LAWGIVER, the mini series was divided into six one hour episodes and shown every Sunday early evening, I think this was the only time it was actually screened in the UK although later an edited version did appear which was cut down to just two hours, in many ways this edited version seemed to be more powerful and also because of the four hours of film that was shed easier to watch and understand. The series starred Burt Lancaster in the title role and his son William as a younger version of Moses. The RAI television production all had an all-star cast, with the likes of Anthony Quayle, Ingrid Thulin and Irene Papas taking key roles, the series was narrated by Richard Johnson, and had a dramatic and highly emotional soundtrack composed by Ennio Morricone.
Directed by Gianfranco De Bosio who also had a hand in writing the series this was a superb telling of the story of Moses and his early life and his quest to lead the Jews out of Egypt and slavery. The series also had some convincing special effects which were courtesy of famed Italian film maker Mario Bava. The musical score proved to be challenging for Morricone as he said at the time of the production that he struggled to create music for a story ages old using what was essentially a modern musical palette. However, what the composer did produce was a stunning and remarkable musical score, filled with drama and overflowing with poignant and effecting themes. The soundtrack was issued onto LP record on RCA in Italy and got a release via PYE records in many other territories including the UK. Sadly, not all the music was included on the LP recording, simply because there was just far too much music to fit onto a conventional LP.
Morricone had written well over two hours of music for the series with the work including additional music by Dov Seltzer. A compact disc was released by RCA (OST 113 (2) in 1992, which was a double CD containing approx one hour and forty minutes of the score, which according to the sleeve notes is the complete soundtrack save one cue of just over six minutes which the composer felt was unsuitable o include. As far as I know this is the only CD release to date of this score. I think this is another case of a Morricone soundtrack that is overlooked and rarely spoken of and one that is overshadowed by the composer’s other works. I did notice on the CD release that Morricone is credited for conducting the score, however on all the LP releases and also on the credits of the series the conducting was credited to Bruno Nicolai, which makes sense as Nicolai was still collaborating as a conductor with Morricone during this very busy and fertile period of the composers career.
The choral work was excellent as always and performed by IL CANTORI MODERNI, with solo performances by Gianna Spagnola whos distinct vocals added so much depth and authenticity to the proceedings. Spagnola like Edda had a unique and flawless vocal talent, Morricone often turning to her for performances that contained a rawness as in THE HILLS RUN RED, NAVAJO JOE and GUNS FOR SAN SEBASTAIN.
Or in this case a mesmeric quality her performance in the opening theme in particular is affecting and haunting, her vocal containing a gentle yet at the same time rich and full persona. One of the many stand out cues includes ISRAEL (track 3, disc 1) in which we hear IL CANTORI MODERNIperforming just the word ISRAEL underlined by a mix of percussive instrumentation that builds and grows as the voices increase in volume, in many way it is similar to ABOLICA from QUEIMADA or BURN which Morricone scored some five years before, it is a joyous and celebratory sound that is achieved with a sound and style that can only be Ennio Morricone. Gianna Spagnola features many times within the score for MOSES THE LAWGIVER, and LAMENTAZIONE PRIMA and LAMENTAZIONE SECONDA are both what I would call classic sounding Morricone, being both emotional and at the same time somewhat foreboding. Violinist and viola player, Dino Asciolla, also featured on the score and produced some of the most heartfelt performances. A score that as a Morricone you should own, alas the two CD set is hard to find.
From 1974, to 1977 for the next Morricone soundtrack that is somewhat overlooked, EXORCIST ll THE HERETIC. I think the score is sometimes forgotten because people do prefer to forget about the movie it was written for, at the time of its releases nothing but bad things were said about it and these opinions have not altered over the years, it is seen as the worst movie in the Exorcist trilogy, with its only saving grace probably being Morricones atmospheric and chillingly perverse soundtrack. Morricone’s score certainly was as polished and as engaging and innovative as any of the Maestro’s scores from this period, but even this inventive and original sounding work could do nothing to save or improve the John Boorman directed picture. At least we can be grateful that Warner Bros released a soundtrack album and were able to savour the Maestro’s at times chaotic and virulent sounding work.
Listening to the score alone can be a rather risky thing to do, especially when coming across tracks such as SEDUCTION AND MAGIC with its whispering voices and sinewy strings that together work their dark and unsettling magic on ones sub conscious. The score however does contain two highly melodic pieces in the form of REGANS THEME which has affiliations with other Morricone central themes such as DEVIL IN THE BRAIN and LA COSSA BUFFA, and then there is INTERRUPTED MELODY which is a beautifully relaxing and highly melodious piece performed by solo violin shades of which can be heard in the composers score for LOVE AFFAIR. But the score contains a lot of darker interludes which outweigh the lighter moments, which is to be expected given the subject of the movie.
DARK REVELATION for example is a hissing and uncomfortable listening experience. Which does I have to admit create a rather extraordinary atmosphere, as does the cue NIGHT FLIGHT which is made up of vocal performances, such as screams and manic laughs, interspersed with cracking whips, child like choir and cracking effects, that are underlined and given support via strange sounding percussive elements and more sinister sounding strings, the cue builds and becomes darker and even more unsettling, with a children’s choir chanting PAZUZU which is the title of the scores central theme. Interrupted melody makes a welcome return after the madness of NIGHT FLIGHT and in this more developed version of the theme, we hear wordless female vocal which I am sure is Edda, accompanied by subtle violin that brings a touch of normality and melodic content back into play.
Then we return to the darkness, in EXORCISM, a tantalising but rather unwelcome cue that thankfully is brief and brings the soundtrack to a conclusion, in many ways EXORCIST ll THE HERETIC is somewhat akin to the Maestro’s music for THE HATEFUL EIGHT it has that unnerving and unsettling aura to it, which I think is brought to the surface by the composers use of woods, they just seem to purvey a sound that is uneasy. The score was released onto compact disc by Warner Brothers in 2001 and Perseverance records re-issued the soundtrack on vinyl as a limited edition of just 3,000 copies more recently. It is yet another forgotten Morricone, which should be on any discerning Morricone fans wish list if they have not already got it that is.
It’s a funny thing that when one thinks of Ennio Morricone it is his western scores that come to mind instantly, which is a little worrying as his western soundtracks made up a very small percentage of his musical output, yes they were brilliant and innovative, inventive and have endured over the decades. There are a few however that still seem to escape the spotlight that so many put on the Maestro’s scores for movies such as THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY, ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST and THE BIG GUNDOWN to name but three. GUNS FOR SAN SEBASTIAN was released in 1968, and although is nearly always classed as a Morricone western score and film it was more adventure or even a historical period piece set in Mexico during the mid-sixteenth century. Based upon the novel A WALL FOR SAN SEBASTEIN by William Barby Farherty, the movie was considered by many film makers including British born Ken Annakin with French actor Alain Delon rumoured as the lead before Henri Verneuil finally took the directorial helm. The cast was an impressive one which included Anthony Quinn, Charles Bronson, Anjanette Comer, Sam Jaffe and Jaime Fernandez.
The musical score is in my opinion one of Morricones most accomplished and romantic sounding from this period of his career, and dare I say it, was amore developed and inspired work than his early efforts as in A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS and FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE. The exquisite LOVE THEMEfrom the movie is the foundation of Morricones soundtrack, a central thematic piece that the composer builds the remainder of his score upon.
The eloquent and gloriously melodic theme becoming a soaring and unique listening experience, with the distinct vocals of Edda Dell Orso making a powerful but at the same time emotional impact. Morricone’s score for GUNS FOR SAN SEBASTIAN in my humble opinion rivals his most famous work for THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY, it has the rawness and the savagery of the Spaghetti western sound but also has to it a poignancy and heartfelt persona that oozes an emotive and affecting quality which at first stuns and then eventually mesmerizes. The action cues from the score are more akin to the composers sound and style on the Sergio Corbucci western NAVAJO JOE with dark and dramatic piano forming the foundation of these cues on which the composer constructs a jagged and commanding composition that is a collaboration of brass and strings, with urgent woodwinds adding much to the atmosphere. There are also similarities to the NAVAJO JOE score, in the tracks that underscore the YAQUIS in the movie.
The soundtrack was released on an MGM records Lp SE-4565 ST back in 1968, and then re-issued by MCA records for vinyl release in 1986, this edition however had inferior sound quality and it was not until 2000 that the score would appear on compact disc, firstly as a thirteen track representation of the soundtrack that was paired with THE DARK OF THE SUN by Jaques Loussier and issued on the Chapter lll label CHA 0134. Again, the sound quality on GUNS FOR SAN SEBASTIAN failed to impress as it did on an MGM compact disc when the score was paired with Dominic Frontiere’s HANG EM HIGH.
We had to wait another six years for a definitive edition of te score with excellent sound quality to be released, this expanded twenty four track release was on the Film Score Monthly label, and was the labels 142nd release. Attractively packaged with wonderful artwork both on the cover and inside the booklet which contained informative notes by label owner Lukas Kendall, who also provided a track by track analysis. The score also included a number of vocal performances by Gianna Spagnola who’s gritty and earthy voice provided Morricone with a frenzied and harsh sound that, her gravely but at the same time attractive performances added much to the was particularly effective in some of the action cues. Spagnola had also made major contributions to the NAVAJO JOE score.
Her gravely sounding performances being ferocious and at times terrifying and the opposite to the vocals of Edda which are soaring and majestic. This is a score to cherish, one to savour and also one to hold dear and appreciate. A gem from the Maestro’s illustrious career that at times I feel is somewhat overlooked. The composer creating a gloriously thematic work, in which both symphonic and choral combine to bring to fruition one of those very moments in film that I would call perfection.
THE WHITE STALLION is a prime example of such writing, with choir (IL CANTORI MODERNI) and Solo Female voice working together underlined via brass percussion and strings. If there is a chance that you may not have heard this score or seen the movie, then you should rectify this NOW.
As part of the soundtrack supplement feature, I thought I would look at scores that maybe should not have been released and also scores that are worthy of the release they have had and are crying out for a remastered or a expanded edition release. Ok we maybe in lockdown we may be bored and scratching around for things to do, things to watch and also things to listen to, BUT, this is no excuse for releasing soundtracks that in my opinion (other opinions are of course available) should have really stayed in the depths of a dusty archive hopefully never to be seen or heard again. The re-issue programme of soundtracks in Italy for example never seems to slow, and especially now that labels outside of Italy have begun to acquire soundtracks that have been licensed from the likes of Sugar music, so labels in Spain, Japan, Canada and Italy continue to release normally interesting items, but of course amongst the quality there are a fair number of items that can be referred to as being the quantity as in inferior, uninteresting and often prompt collectors to ask WHY did they even bother to commit this to a CD or digital download. So, I thought I would look at releases that maybe should have remained in the vaults and also some that are long overdue getting a release or re-issue because they were so good. This includes mainly past releases that you may already have, but there are a handful of new releases scattered throughout.
In 2013 BEAT records released two scores on one CD, both composed by Nico Fidenco. They turned out to be rather lack lustre musical affairs, which were attempting to pass as comedies, all I can say is the filmmakers and the Maestro must have been having a bad day at the office. When Fidenco penned the music for CHE CASINO…CON PIERINO!(1982) And 3 SUPERMEN CONTRO IL PADRINO (1980), I do not think he was really thinking straight. To say they are unlistenable is a compliment, I kid you not, it was embarrassing to sit through them. Even the author of the sleeve notes hints at them being somewhat uninspiring. The opening lines of the text being, “OK, LETS START WITH A FACT, A COMPOSER CAN’T MAKE A LIVING ON MASTERPIECES ALONE”. So that’s good opening up the booklet to be greeted by that sentence. Well these are far from masterpieces; in fact, I think they are scores that should have been screwed up and binned as soon as they saw the light of day.
I am not criticising Fidenco here as many composers write scores for films that later in their career they regret and try and forget about, we all do things we later in life think WHY?, just look at Michael Caine’s filmography. But why, why, why release them? The record company BEAT in Rome have issued some iconic Italian soundtracks many of which I have in my collection, but since 2012 I think the pickings have become a little few and far between, and that is why we are seeing material coming out that really should not, as a record company dedicated to releasing quality scores they should know this.
As I have said this double abomination was released back in 2013, but I thought that I would give it another chance, something I regret to be honest. I was told once by Maurice Jarre that a film has to be good for the music to be good, so I guess that is right in this case because the films were both a waste of celluloid and the music did not help in any way in fact it only made matters worse and probably highlighted the fact that the movies were just awful, because even a seasoned composer could not help in any way to save them. Fidenco is a professional no doubt about that, so why did he take the assignments, your guess is as good as mine, but I am sure it had nothing to do with artistic reasons. The music is a nothing, it is instantly forgettable (thank God) and bares no resemblance to the great works that Fidenco produced during the 1960.s and 1970.s. The two scores which were both owned by CAM originally which is now effectively Sugar music, did not get a release when they were originally in the cinema, Probably because they were not around long enough for soundtracks to be issued because of their painful plots, direction and acting. So, avoid even if its on markdown or in the bargain bin because it should be in the rubbish bin, enough said.
The next release which in my opinion should not have even reached the consideration level is another Italian score, and sadly again released by BEAT, (no I am not picking on them before I get the threatening e mail from Rome, as other labels will be included later in this article). BEAT have or had a wonderful catalogue of film soundtracks, and it is a testament to the label that their releases have been consistently very good, this goes back to the days of the LP when the company often used colourful art work for their covers or exciting scenes from the movies that the soundtracks were taken from. However, in recent years, there have been a few shall we say blips along the way where quality control may have been sleeping on the job. Its true to say that collectors of Italian film would at one time buy anything by certain composers.
I know I have been caught in that trap a number of times, its like you buy say THE ANONYMOUS VENITIAN or A MAN A HORSE AND A GUN by Cipriani and then along comes, IL ROLLERBOY, circa 1980, this low budget Italian production (very low budget) has a curious and really uninspiring plot, by uninspiring I mean it was a waste of time actually writing this rubbish and then turning into a movie. So, the less said about the boring and uninteresting film the better. The score by Cipriani is certainly not up to his normal standard in any way, shape or form and although I have to say I am normally a fan of Cipriani and he was a very genuine person and in 99.9 percent of scenarios delivers great film music that is original and memorable he certainly must have been having a sort of artistic block when he got involved with this little classic.
It is basically a collection of upbeat instantly forgettable tunes with a few vocals thrown in (literally) along the way. It is a mystery to me that BEAT records who have like many other labels begun to release a lot of soundtracks that were originally issued on the illustrious CAM label decided that this was a good example to issue, so why pick material such as this? It is not exactly interesting or original in fact its mind numbing in the worst sense of that word. The scores only saving grace is one particularly attractive cue entitled THE ROAD TO CALIFORNIA, which has harmonica lead and is a pleasant easy-going theme. The remainder of the score is a serious film music collector’s nightmare and includes sub- standard disco hits; you know the ones that you find on the compilations as fillers alongside the real hits, or the ones that have been re-recorded by the fifteenth incarnation of the original band.
The songs include that evergreen disco stomper by Dwayne Ford YOU, VE GOT TO BE MEANT or is that MEAN (I think so). Track number seven is DISCO MEN, yes; surely you know that contagious classic? (Nope, neither do I) but it goes down a storm in roller discos and sounds very similar to DANNY BOY by the way. Enough said I think, IL ROLLERBOY, is certainly a case of the music being better than the movie it was written for, but saying that the music is nothing special in fact it’s really forgettable and nothing at all, certainly a miss in my book.
Again it’s a case of record companies issuing scores for the sake of doing so, why release this when there are so many other good soundtracks in the ex CAM catalogue that deserve a release on compact disc for the first time, it’s a waste of time and effort not to mention money for record companies, a pointless exercise that will I know end up stuck on a shelf in an archive or languish for weeks in the bargain bin until finally some poor unsuspecting member of the public decides to shell out 50 pence on it and even then they would have paid over the odds. It is also an insult to the memory of a superb composer.
So onto another classic of bad taste, let’s go back a few years now, LA MORTE HA FATTO L’UOVO or DEATH LAID AN EGG has music by Bruno Mederna, this in my opinion is one of the most uncomfortable listening experiences I have ever had, and I am not sure whether its because the music is not good or whether it is strangely attractive, it is not melodic in any great way but taking into account that the movie was an Italian Giallo, one does not expect that much in the way of melodious content. But saying this Morricone always managed to write something that was not just disturbing but blissfully and sensually haunting, as in THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE.
Maderna was not a composer I actually followed, I could never get onto the same musical wave length as him, and with this score in particular I did have difficulties, the soundtrack was issued onto compact disc by Finn de Siecle records a label that is sadly no longer in operation. The soundtrack did get a release on Cinevox on vinyl back in 1968, an album I did not buy then and one I should have not wasted my money on in 2009 when it was re-issued onto CD. It maybe what many call an experimental sound that the composer achieves here, but its not in anyway a pleasant one at all, it grates on the senses and makes one reach every time for the fast forward button on the CD Player, there is no real rhyme or reason for this collection of harsh sounding disjointed pieces of what is referred to as music. The notes author obviously is a fan of the movie and the entire genre of the Giallo because he writes with an informed passion on the subject (the notes are more interesting than the score) but I have to disagree with him when he recommends the score, because what is there to recommend. Yes within the film it probably does work, but let it stay in the movie, why inflict it upon the soundtrack collecting community, again not the fault of the composer or the filmmaker, but the record company, why would they think this is something that collectors or music lovers would want, did it sell do you think, well not sure as the record label is no longer around to ask them. Ummm, I think I just answered that question. So another to steer clear of.
Fin de siecle released a few good Italian soundtracks, and also a few that were border line items such as UN OMICIDIO PERFETTO A TERMINE DI LEGGE, by Giorgio Gaslini for example, now this was off the wall and certainly quirky, but at least it had a modicum of thematic material as did the composers score for REVELAZIONI DI UN MANICO SESSUALE AL CAPO SQUADRA MOBILE, another Giallo and another soundtrack that Fin de Siècle issued under license from Cinevox in 2008 which contained some atonal cues that one would gladly skip over, but made up for these with glimpses of themes and female solo voice performances that can be likened to the work of Nicolai and at times Morricone. It displayed to us the true innovative brilliance of a composer who I think is still today underatted. So, two scores that I will recommend then, if it is still possible to get them, as they were deleted many years ago on the Fin De Siecle label.
Armando Trovajoli is a composer who I have always admired, his use of jazz in his film scores is at times subtle and slight but also there are a number of his works for the cinema and TV that are near full on jazz orientated, Trovajoli was undeniably one of Italy’s best composers of film music, I certainly think of him in the same class as Morricone and his like, his output being vast and verging or even surpassing the brilliant. It is surprising that the composer being active in the same period as the likes of Morricone, Rustichelli, Ferrio, Piccioni etc only scored one western, but what a score it was THE LONG DAYS OF VENGEANCE is filled to overflowing with text book spaghetti themes, and I have to say it is probably in my top five Italian western scores. It has been released on numerous editions on compact disc, with a Japanese compact disc being my own personal favourite, but there have also been expanded versions of the score made available in recent years, with more cues being made available, but there is an old saying that LESS IS MORE and I still prefer my Japanese release because of the sound quality and also for the great art work that it has.
If you have not experienced Trovajoli in Spaghetti western mode then you have to rectify this, the soundtrack is on a number of digital platforms, so why not try before you buy, I guarantee after hearing the opening cue with its racing timpani and soaring trumpet solo you will be clicking the add to basket and buy now buttons.
Onto another Italian composer who I have followed for many years, my first album by him was the soundtrack to the Italian western QUELLA SPORCA STORIA NEL WEST or THE DIRTIEST STORY IN THE WEST, this was issued on CAM records, back in the 1960’s and I remember getting mine from SOUNDTRACK in the Arts theatre club foyer in London, where Michael Jones told me I had to have it (thanks Michael). The music of Francesco De Masi has taken over a big chunk of my collection over the years, and I did eventually get to interview him, he was a gracious and generous man. The score I have to recommend here and was so glad that BEAT records released the expanded version of the soundtrack, is ARIZONA COLT, this is possibly one of the greatest scores from the Italian western genre, ok, it maybe not as powerful or grandiose as Morricone, but there is just something about the theme in particular that is endearing and irresistible, after all De Masi conducting, Alessandroni on guitar and whistle, De Gemini on the harmonica and Il Cantori Moderni producing some wonderful choral work, that’s a force to be reckoned with.
“HE CAME OUT OF NOWHERE, WITH NO ONE BESIDE HIM, HE RODE OUT OF THE SUNRISE ALL ALONE, A MAN OUT OF NOWHERE WITH NO ONE TO LOVE HIM, HIS ONE FAITHFUL COMPANION WAS HIS GUN”.
Classic lyrics performed by Raoul on the soundtrack. This is BEAT records at their best. It was a labour of love for both BEAT and the composer’s son, who worked together and tirelessly bringing us the definitive edition of this iconic score. Again. if you have not heard this, then I urge you to take a listen as soon as possible. There is a version of the score on Spotify which has thirty-one cues, that is the one you need to go listen to.
Staying with westerns for the next two soundtracks, and both are excellent as are the movies that they are taken from. Both however need to have better sound quality editions released, but we are told on one of them THE REVENGERS (1972) that the tapes are lost and the recording for the CD release on Screen Trax was taken from the original LP release. The movie starred William Holden, Ernest Borgnine, Woody Strode and had a special appearance from Susan Hayward. Directed by Daniel Mann with Martin Rackin acting as producer THE REVENGERS is a surprisingly violent movie and one that possess the styles of both the Hollywood and the European western. An entertaining sagebrush saga, with an atmospheric and upbeat score by Italian pianist, arranger and composer Pino Calvi.
The movie is at times comparable with THE WILD BUNCH, which also starred Holden and Borgnine, but this comparison only goes as far as the use of violence, because the storyline and direction is certainly not in the same class as the Peckinpah western. It is a revenge western hence the title, with Holden portraying an ex Union army officer turned rancher who’s family is massacred brutally by bandits, Holden’s character then sets out to track down the murderers and enlists the help of six convicts who he recruits from a labour camp in Mexico in his quest for vengeance. The music is fast paced and haunting, and contains elements of the Bernstein silver age style as in SCALPHUNTERS and to a degree DURANGO which is fused with a more jazz oriented persona and a distinct Spaghetti sound, the composer creating a balanced and vibrant soundtrack, it is a score that works well on screen and supports and enhances the films action sequences superbly. The music also stands on its own away from the images and the storyline of the movie as an entertaining collection of themes. This soundtrack is way overdue for a re-issue and also a remastering, maybe someone will find the tapes?
Another western that was doing the rounds in the early 1970’s was THE DESERTER (1973). Again, not a thoroughbred Italian made western, but an Italian/American co production directed by Burt Kennedy, that was heavily influenced by the style of the Italian western in places.
Produced by Dino De Laurentis, the film was another violent entry into the western genre, with scenes that many thought was gratuitous and utilised as a sensationalism to get the film noticed which had been the trend during this period as displayed in films such as VALDEZ IS COMING (1971), this I think was not gratuitous but maybe a more realistic way of purveying a savage storyline to audiences. It tells the story of a cavalry officer who’s, wife is butchered by Apaches and of his search for her murderers and any Apache that just happened to be within spitting distance of him. The film had a strong cast, which included Bekim Fehmiu, John Huston, Richard Crenna, Chuck Connors, Ricardo Montalbán, Ian Bannen, Brandon de Wilde and Woody Strode, filmed in Spain and Yugoslavia, the movie utilised the same locations as films such as THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY, BLINDMAN and A REASON TO LIVE A REASON TO DIE.
The musical score was by Piero Piccioni, who had like other Italian composers been involved in writing scores for numerous Spaghetti westerns, Piccioni however, did not conform to the sound as created by Morricone for the western and as imitated by the likes of Fidenco, Nicolai etc, instead the Maestro effectively fashioned his own western sound, which was a fusion of dramatic and strong symphonic colours that were enhanced and given a more contemporary style via the composer’s use of jazz styles. He worked on several key movies within the Spaghetti western genre including, SARTANA, MINNESOTA CLAY, COLT IN THE HAND OF THE DEVIL, I DO NOT FORGIVE I KILL and IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER THE SON AND THE COLT.
THE DESERTER or LA SPINA DORSALE DEL DIAVOLO as it was titled in Italy, is an outstanding score, and probably one of Piccioni’s best soundtracks for a western. And although there were numerous themes within the work, these were at times somewhat subdued and brooding rather than grandiose or operatic like in the scores produced by other Italian Maestro’s in the period leading up to and including the 1970’s.
The downbeat and somewhat apprehensive style that Piccioni employed on the movie was effective and in-keeping with the mood of the film, the soundtrack was issued onto compact disc on the LEGEND label in 1997 and is now long out of print. Again, this is a candidate for a re-issue I think.
Now to two new releases of Italian horror scores from a Canadian based label. The first THE MILL OF THE STONE WOMEN was released in 1960, the music is by Italian composer Carlo Innocenzi and is just one of hundreds of soundtracks that he wrote from the mid-1940.s through to late 1950.s and early 1960.s. Composer conductor Carlo Innocenzi was born in the final year of the nineteenth Century, May 29th, 1899 in Monteleone di Spoleto Italy. Originally Innocenzi worked as a draughtsman designing plans for the Ministry of Transport. He began to take more interest in music and decided to study the subject focusing upon composition with tutors Fattorini and Principe. For which he obtained a diploma in the 1930’s. He met his wife Sonia Pearlswig via their common interest in music and also their love of the arts. In a career that spanned some five decades the composer became known as a talented conductor and also the composer of numerous soundtracks for Italian cinema, Incocenzi put his musical stamp on approximately three hundred movies which included feature films and documentaries.
Many of the motion pictures were great box office success’s and starred well known Italian actors of the period, including Aldo Fabrizi, Giovanni Ralli, Peppino de Filippo, Alberto Sordi and Ugo Tognazzi. He was responsible for composing over seven hundred works for both Cinema and concert hall, leaving a rich and varied collection of works. He died in Rome on March 24th, 1962. As a film music composer he was responsible for the music to films such as, Cavalcata selvaggia ,Un canto nel deserto, Il terrore del’Oklahoma, Il terrore dei barbari, Giulio Cesare contro i pirati ,Sansone , La vendetta di Ursus , Tropico di notte , Maciste alla corte del Gran Khan ,Il conquistatore di Corinto , Trionfo di Maciste , La rivolta dei mercenari , I Reali di Francia , and many more. Primarily I think the composer will be remembered for his PEPLUM scores, but there was far more to this talented Maestro, he like Les Baxter would re-score movies, but in his case he wrote alternate music for American movies that were going to be shown in Italy. Disques Cinemusique has released his score for THE MILL OF THE STONE WOMEN, which is good news, but the only negative is that the recording contain some dialogue and also sound effects, this is because the tapes of the music re lost so this was the only way that the soundtrack could be released. Is this a good or bad thing, well at least we do get to hear the score, but the effects and the dialogue in Italian are for me personally distracting, I suppose it depends on the individual taste or if a collector is that much of a completist, for me however I think I would rather watch the movie and experience both the visual and the musical sides of things. In many ways the music for this movie has a sound and style that can also be heard within the soundtracks of both Lavagnino and Rustichelli. It has a classical sound and style as in symphonic, but the composer also adds nuances of organ and at times there is a slightly more up tempo and contemporary sound present. For me the music is something I would recommend, but I would be happier to hear it with no FX.
The same can be said for the second release recently from the same label, THE HORRIBLE DOCTOR HICHCOCK contains an atmospheric score by composer Roman Vlad, but again the impact and also in my opinion the enjoyment of the music is spoilt by the inclusion of sound effects, I realise that this is the only way the soundtrack could be presented, but it is like going back to the days of recording music from films being shown on the TV when collectors were desperate to hear the music.
This recording does however fare a little better than the previous one as the music is at least allowed to develop a little before any FX intrude upon it plus the sound quality is far better but that is probably due to the film not being as old as the previous release. But I must be honest and say, love the music again but the FX I could do without, again a personal preference.
For the final selection in this article I have gone for another release from a few years ago which was put out onto compact disc by the UK based Italian film music specialist label Hillside who released a number of classic scores from Italian movies in conjunction with either GDM as on this occasion or with Hexachord. LA BELLISSIMA ESTATE has an eloquent soundtrack by composer Alberto Pomeranz. The LP was originally released in 1974 on RCA records, this is a soundtrack that will delight and please any collector who subscribes to the romantic sounding film score. It will also be of interest to collectors who have a preference for the works of composers Franco Micalizzi, Ennio Morricone, Armando Trovajoli and Roberto Pregadio. I say this because the style and sound achieved is somewhat like Micalizzi’s scores for THE LAST SNOWS OF SPRING, TREE WITH PINK LEAVES and also ALLA CARA MIA MAMMA and affiliations with the sixties works of Morricone as in LOVE CIRCLE and HE AND SHE. Alberto Pomeranz utilizes to great effect the beautiful wordless vocals of Edda Dell Orso, and combines her unique aural talents with soaring strings and piano, which are at times combined and performed in unison creating some of those spine-shivering moments that we associate with scores such as SEASON OF SENSES.
Light and romantically laced compositions are the foundation of this work, along with choir and slight jazz influenced passages that create a magical and hauntingly mesmerising work. The movie itself is a tearjerker, one of many that was produced in Italy during the mid to late 1970s, I don’t think this particular example was that successful outside of Italy’s borders, but it starred the attractive screen siren Senta Bergerwhich for me has to be a plus. The score is breath taking and the composer seems to squeeze every drop of emotion out of the orchestra as they treat the listener to some wonderfully emotive tone poems that are filled with poignancy.
Every track on this compact disc is a joy to hear, the haunting melodies are richly elegant and affecting. The disc contains fourteen cues which originally appeared on the RCA long player, and a further eleven cues which are listed as bonus tracks, all twenty-five tracks on the CD are in full and crystal-clear stereo sound. I just love the sound that Pomeranz has created, he utilises piano to maximum effect and enhances and embellishes this with a light and delicate dusting of harpsichord, plus strings and equally delicate and touching woodwind. There are a number of slightly upbeat cues within the work, samba type compositions with Edda taking the lead in her own unique and stunning way in which she is supported by jazz infused rhythms, airy sounding strings and the light and lounge inspired sounds of laid back percussion and rich luxurious strings that are punctuated by woods and delightful but subdued choral support all of which are embellished by the use of sliding strings adding texture and substance to the compositions. Packaged attractively, but once again no notes, which I think would have been of great benefit to the release, as the film is virtually unknown, and the composer too is not that well recognised by collectors. But hey, we can’t have it all, and when the music is as good as this well, we can I suppose forgive Hillside/GDM.
There are a few additional compositions on the score which are the work of composer Luciano Michelini, but the track listing credits do not indicate which they are. But, Michelini performed piano on several soundtracks so maybe that is why he is credited here in a similar way to Luis Bacalov being given a credit as co-composer on Morricone’sPER AMORE when in fact Bacalov was performing the piano solos. The CD I am certain is still available on some online shopping sites but was a limited edition and is again a real contender for being re-issued.
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