I am not being unkind in any way when I say that we do not often consider films that have been made in Mexico. Which is an oversight by all of us because there have been a number of movies of note that have come from there. The Mexican film industry has its origins as far back as the nineteenth century. The then President Porfirio Diaz saw something in cinema that he thought maybe could help his career as a politician. So, he encouraged the production of short movies as far back as 1896.




He utilised film to document his presidency in which he was often portrayed as the perfect head of state. When the Mexican revolution started in 1910, both Mexican and foreign film makers produced silent movies that would show the outside world the violent events that were taking place in Mexico, focusing upon both government and revolutionary leaders. But from 1915 onwards Mexican cinema would alter and concentrate more upon films that had a storyline whether that was fact based or fiction. Major Mexican productions although few and far between have influenced and also gained accolades within the global film industry. The Golden age of Mexican Cinema as it was referred to was between 1933 and 1964, and during this period Mexican movies would dominate The Latin American industry of Pelispedia.




Mexico also has twice been honoured at the prestigious Canne film festival, winning the highest award. The movie MARIA CANDELARIA (1946) won the Grand Prix du Festival International du Film and in 1961 the movie VIRDIANA garnered the Palme d’Or. Making Mexico the most recognised Latin American country in the film making arena. Only last year in 2019 the film ROMA attracted much attention from critics, film makers and audiences around the world, becoming the first Mexican motion picture and the fourth Latin American film to win the Oscar for best foreign language film. It also was recognised with the BAFTA for best film at The British Academy Awards.


However, for this article I would like to go back a few years to the  1940.s initially and then into the 1960.s and onwards into the early 1970’s. The purpose being is to focus upon Westerns that have been produced by Mexican filmmakers, we all talk about and are aware of The Italian made western and of course the sagebrush sagas that were created in Hollywood. But, Mexican westerns are rarely even glimpsed at, or if they are very little is said about them which is something of a travesty because these productions were very entertaining and also quirky. Which can also be said for TURKISH made westerns, which we may discuss at a later date.

One of the early Mexican westerns was released in 1943, CUANDO HABLA EL CORAZON was directed by Juan Jose Segura and starred Pedro Infante, Maria Luisa Zea and Victor Manuel Mendoza. The film mixed action and drama with musical numbers, it opens in 1905 but we are soon catapulted forward to 1915, when we see that a friendship is being put into jeopardy by a mutual enemy of the two friends in question, this spiteful individual attempts to cause a rift by disclosing some mischievous and damning information. The film is filled with intrigue, action and some fairly sprightly songs. A number of these musical westerns were produced both in America and Mexico and it was the Mexican productions that always seemed to come out better containing the right balance of music, songs and romantic drama.


The musical score and songs were the work of composer’s Ernesto Cortazar and Manuel Esperon. Cortazar was born in Tampico Tamaulipas, Mexico on December 10th, 1897, he was a writer as well as a composer and was known for NOCHES DE RONDA (1943) and LA MUERTE ENAMORADA (1951).





He passed away on November 30th, 1953 in Lagos de Moreno, Mexico. Esperon, was born Manuel Esperon Gonzalez on August 3rd, 1911, in Mexico Distrito Federal, Mexico. He was a prolific composer and penned nearly a thousand songs, winning many awards for his work. He and his long-time collaborator Ernesto Cortazar wrote the Mexican section for the Disney animated film THE THREE CABALLEROS which was released in 1945.




Walt Disney himself asked the composer to become involved on the soundtrack of the movie. He won the Silver Ariel Awards in 1947 and 1955 for his songs, CANTACLARO and CUANDO ME VAYA respectively. Esperon, was the son of an engineer, his musical influences came from his Mother who was a concert pianist. He had a formal musical education in Mexico and once he graduated began to perform as an accompanist for silent movies in theatres. He then began to work as an arranger and an orchestrator, but in 1933 broke into writing music for films, in his career he wrote many songs that would become standards and scored over five hundred motion pictures. He became known for being able to incorporate Mariachi styles of music into his film scores and became much sought after by many in the film industry to work on their projects. He passed away on February 13th, 2011, in Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico.


It may be also worth mentioning a Mexican production that was released in 1936, LETS GO WITH PONCHO VILLA VAMONOS CON PONCHO VILLA was I suppose an anti-hero picture, because rather than showing the audiences how wonderful the leader of the Mexican revolution was, it focused upon the brutality and the cruelness that Villa inflicted on his own people as well as his enemies.

vamonos con pancho villa


The movie, which was directed by Fernando Fuentes, starred Domingo Soler as Villa, the film tells the story of a group of friends who decide that they will join Villa and his revolutionary forces. But what they think will be an adventure turns into something of a horror tale, as they are shown the reality and the brutality of war. Villa displaying no respect or regard for his men’s welfare and lives. The film had two endings, which at the time was something new, the first version of the films end shows a surviving member of the group of friends returning home totally exhausted and disenchanted with Villa and the revolution. The second ending to the movie which was not discovered for many years returns to the home of the sole surviving friend ten years on, Villa attempts to recruit him once again for the cause, but the man refuses as he does not want to leave his family, Villa has his wife and daughter killed, the man then tries to kill Villa but is himself shot dead by one of the revolutionary leaders men.



Villa then takes the man son with him to fight for the revolution. When the film was released it was a failure, many refusing to believe that the great Poncho Villa was the tyrant that he was portrayed as in the picture, but in later years the movie gained much recognition and is often said to be one of the best Mexican movies made. It was part of a trilogy of movies the others being EL PRISIONERO TRECE and EL COMPADRE MENDOZA. Music for LET’S GO WITH PONCHO VILLA was the work of Silvestre Revueltas, who also made a cameo appearance in the movie.



The composer was known for his chamber music, Ballets and orchestral works, and was an accomplished violinist and conductor. He was born on December 31st, 1899, the composer/performer began his musical career late in life and started to become involved more in his music when he was the associate conductor of the Mexico Symphony Orchestra a post he held from 1931 to 1934. Before this he had played violin in a theatre orchestra in San Antonio and had been a conductor of a small orchestra in Alabama. He studied music in Chicago and Texas adding to his basic knowledge which he had gained in Durango and Mexico City. Revueltas style and sound is for want of better words innovative and absorbing. He at times displayed an abundant gift for creating complex and colourful musical compositions. Often evoking the style and musical prowess of the likes of Stravinsky. He would also often integrate into his works fragments of music that were linked with the Mestizo culture, using elements of folk songs and dances to fashion music of great variety. The composer encountered problems with alcoholism towards the end of his life and ended his days as a teacher in the Conservatory in Mexico City.

silver blood
Stepping forward to the 1960’s for the next example and to 1964 when, EL REVOLVER SANGRIENTO or THE BLOODY PISTOL was released. The film directed by Miguel M. Delgado, was a dramatic western, which starred Luis Aguilar. Lola Beltran and Flor Silvestre, the music was composed by Antonio Diaz Conde, who had by the early 1960’s already established himself as a prolific writer of film scores, composing more than 100 soundtracks from 1942 to1964, and in later years his total output was a staggering 277 scores for the cinema. This western focuses upon a silver handgun which has a curse placed upon it and follows its life in the hands of various owners.

So, a western essentially with mysterious and dramatic undertones. Antonio Diaz Conde, scored numerous Mexican produced westerns including, UNA HORCA PARA EL TEXANO and ARRIBA LAS MANOS TEXANO both released in 1969 and DUELO DE PISTOLEROS, EL SECRETO DEL TEXANO and VUELVE EL TEXANO from 1966, but the composer also wrote the music for films that were looked upon as drama and adventure movies in Mexico which would probably be thought of as westerns outside of the country because they were set in the period of the Mexican revolution, a period which many of the Italian produced sub- genre of films associated with the spaghetti western entitled the Zapata westerns such as A BULLET FOR THE GENERAL, THE FIVE MAN ARMY and A PROFESSIONAL GUN were also set.



These included, VALENTIN DE LA SIERRA in 1968. Although the composer worked on many western film’s he was never one to be type cast in any way, he wrote the music to a wide variety of genres, these included romance, sci-fi. Crime and police dramas, horror, musicals, film noir slanted dramas and period adventure tales.



la choca

He began to score films during the early 1940’s with his last assignment in 1974 being a vicious and brutal western entitled LA CHOCA, which was a story of revenge, where the titular character a woman, carried out a brutal vengeance upon the men who had killed her family, and at the films conclusion is the only one left standing, walking off into the sunset to hopefully a new life. Scenes of rape and gratuitous violence filled the movie, the opening theme was tailored to these events with a brass led piece that accompanied scenes of murder and of wild animals hunting and attacking as the title credits rolled and before the film had actualy started. It is a rather dis-jointed movie which contains what I think were unnecessary scenes mainly of the leading lady in a state of undress in water that basically filled time rather than adding anything to the story, but maybe there was some sort of underlying purpose or a hidden message within these and I missed it I am not too sure. The score however is a powerful one which at times resembles the work of both Italian and Hollywood western soundtracks.




The composer combining urgent brass passages with a lilting and more folk orientated style. The tense and commanding opening music is somewhat reminiscent to the cue THE BATTLE from TWO MULES FOR SISTER SARA by Morricone, with pounding percussion and jagged brass underlined by strings that at times evoke the hissing of a snake and heighten the sense of tension to a peak.

It is a staggering fact that the Mexican film industry produced a few hundred westerns, but they were not as successful as their Italian or German made counterparts outside of their country of origin, maybe this was due to poor distribution in territories beyond Mexico. Because it was not down to these pictures being in any way inferior to the Spaghetti or Sauerkraut westerns, in fact many were more entertaining and inventive with ther storylines, and the musical scores to were as innovative as their Italian counterparts, but probably in a different way. I have just scratched the surface of the surface with these few examples, but I hope that my ramblings might inspire you to go and check out the Western Mexican style and whilst there also explore the Horror films that were produced by Mexican filmmakers. Another collection of movies that will entertain and surprise.



Normally soundtrack supplement is a feature that I do here on Movie Music International that gives a brief outline on various soundtracks by different composers, not full reviews but just a few lines on each so that the collectors are aware of the scores. This time the entire section is dedicated to one composer who has been working steadily in film and TV for several years. His soundtracks have been issued on the BSX label and others, but it is BSX or Dragons Domain who have issued the majority of them recently. Louis Febre is a composer many will probably be aware of via his connection with the SMALLVILLE TV series.




But it is surprising that he has written so much music for both the small and big screen. The composer was born in Saltillo Mexico on June 21st, 1959, he wrote his first piece of music at the age of just eight, which when he was studying piano at a conservatory in the North of Mexico. In the early 1970’s Febre’s family re-located to Los Angeles, and he was encouraged to continue his studies there also. His tutors in the United States were Francois Regnat and Robert Turner. The young musician went from strength to strength with his studies an began to take formal education in music under both Frank Campo and Lorraine Kimball, whilst receiving his musical education Febre composed a few Chamber works as well as more large-scale pieces. During the early 1990’s the composer landed a position at a B Movie company which was called PM Entertainment, it was here that the composer decided that it was writing music for film was what he wanted to do as a career.


In 1996 he was mentored by composer John Debney, and this proved to be a fruitful and a rewarding collaboration for both Febre and Debney. Febre worked with Debney on the feature length TV movie DOCTOR WHO (1996) which got the young composer noticed and led to him writing his first TV score which was THE CAPE, an assignment that earned him an Emmy for best Dramatic Underscore in 1997. As his career progressed Febre enjoyed much success writing for films such as TOWER OF TERROR a Disney production and SWIMFAN.



He also received acclaim for his music to a handful of straight to DVD or Video movies of SCOO-BE-DOO one of which SCOO-BE DOO AND THE ALIEN INVADERS garnered him an Annie Award in 2001. In the same year he was awarded a Pixie for his music to THE REVENGE OF THE RED BALOON which was an independent short movie.




Febre also collaborated with composer Steve Jablonsky on the first series of DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES and later as an orchestrator and additional music composer hooked up with John Debney again for CATS AND DOGS, CHICKEN LITTLE and JIMMY NEUTRON. He also collaborated with Mark Snow on various episodes of THE X FILES as well as writing music for DISNEY WORLD TOKYO.

In 2009 he wrote the score for a low budget sci-fi movie entitled ALIEN TRESPASS the film which was based upon the B movies of the 1950’s failed to get a favourable reaction from audiences and critics alike, but Febre’s score was as they say mentioned in dispatches and critics compared it to the style of Hollywood giant Bernard Herrmann. But it is SMALLVILLE that many associate Febre with, after the composer Mark Snow departed the series in season six, Febre was asked to become the main composer for the series. The composer added a more personal and intimate sound to the series and as the character of Clark Kent began to develop more so did the composer’s music, becoming more complex at times and also eventually working towards a theme for the central character. The composer’s more recent assignments included additional music composer for Mark Isham on Disney’s TOGO. (2019) and also as orchestrator for John Debney on THE NEGOTIATOR or BEIRUT as it was originally titled in 2018. Febre also worked on the TV reboot of CHARLIES ANGELS as well as writing the scores for the TV updating of THE FUGITIVE for CBS.

DRAGONS DOMAIN RECORDS have, released a Louis Febre collection volume one, which includes two sores, THE HAUNTED WORLD OF EDWARD D. WOOD JNR (1996) and BIGFOOT THE UNFORGETTABLE ENCOUNTER (1994). Both are entertaining works from the 1990’s and the first has to it an almost John Barry/Jerry Goldsmith sound. It is rich in thematic material and also lends itself well to the movie, which is a documentary, as well as standing alone as an incredibly melodious and affecting work away from the images. The composer employs a kind of proud and inspiring air to the proceedings with sumptuous sounding synth strings if that’s possible? Plus wistful and subtle woods and on occasion a haunting trumpet solo performance that has a martial style to it adding melancholy to the work. The score also has to it a mysterious and quirky feel and sound, which given the subject of the documentary is understandable, at times these little expressions and phrases lean towards the comedic but are wonderfully entertaining and absorbing. The music displays a light but at the same time sad persona, reflecting I suppose the life of the filmmaker. The documentary highlights Woods well known 1950’S productions, which for all the wrong reasons went down into cinema history. GLEN OR GLENDA, JAIL BAIT, BRIDE OF THE MONSTER, NIGHT OF THE GHOULS, and the infamous PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE.

All of which were looked upon as terrible films when released, but maybe in the ensuing years attained a cult status because they were so bad that people began to love them rather than loathe them, maybe because of the obvious passion Wood had for film making even if he did not have the budgets to transfer what he could see in his mind’s eye on to the screen.

Febre’s score is an accomplished one and when watching the documentary one can feel the melancholy and the emotion via his melodious and lilting tone poems. The second score that is represented on this collection is a film that Febre scored whilst at PM ENTERTAINMENT.   BIGFOOT AND THE UNFORGETTABLE ENCOUNTER tells the story of aa young boy who becomes friends with the much-documented forest legend BIGFOOT. The boy decides that he must help the creature escape the bounty hunters who are tracking him. The score is a delightful work that enhances and supports this family movie romp. Filled to overflowing with syrupy but at the same time attractive themes, the composer again utilises strings and horns that are further embellished with woodwind to score the film, of course there are a number of more dramatic elements introduced, as the hunt for the creature begins to take shape, again a effective work and also one that is a pleasure to listen to away from the movie. The composer achieving the correct balance of light and dark, with romantic sounding passages being fused with slightly apprehensive and action laced interludes, but nothing to dark or foreboding.


The next score by Febre is FISTS OF IRON, the film which was released in 1995 was one of the many that were released during this period that dealt with kickboxing, Karate and other martial arts. To be fair it is not an awful movie, with the action being relentless from start to finish. It has a storyline that also is fairly typical of these types of films, a greedy and bloodthirsty villain is responsible for the death of the films central characters best friend, so the hero sets out to have vengeance for the death of his friend.



The movie stars Michael Worth the good guy and Matthias Hues, as the not so good guy. What happens? Well maybe I don’t really need to tell you. The score released on BSX records digitally is a mix of styles and sounds and although largely dramatic and action led it still contains some good solid thematic material on which the composer builds the score, there are a number of almost grandiose moments within the score, the composer utilising a fusion of symphonic and synthetic performances to create a powerful and high octane work. I suppose there are a number of affiliations with this and other soundtracks that were around in the 1990.s which relied on the electronic sounds and layers rather than conventional instrumentation and musical colours.

But this does not mean that the score was not an effective one, however I would not say that it is a soundtrack I could sit down and listen to without watching the movie, even though it does have a few jazz orientated moments that lead into the central theme for the movie and for a movie that was not exactly high profile the composer wrote a lot of music for it. Dramatic and action led for the majority of its duration with a handful of cues that can be put into the apprehensive category stylistically again I was reminded faintly of the style of Jerry Goldsmith when he worked on thrillers such as BASIC INSTINCT, NOT WITHOUT MY DAUGHTER and MALICE, Febre, fashioning effective fleeting musical moments via breathy woods and underlying swirling but subdued string effects and for those reasons I would say that this is probably a score that you would return to a few times after your initial visit. THE SECRETARY is another in a batch of releases from BSX that are available digitally and once again the style and sound achieved by Febre is filled with foreboding and virulence, I already mentioned the similarities I thought he had with the style of Jerry Goldsmith on a few of his soundtracks, THE SECRETARY is another work that displays these traits, Febre creating deliciously dark and richly sinister sounding pieces, that are haunting and unsettling. BASIC INSTINCT again comes to mind, but there is also a masterful touch that can be likened to that of Bernard Herrmann, the composer concocting a visceral and sinewy work which for me did bring to mind VERTIGO the strings conjuring a sense of menace and purveying an atmosphere that is unnerving.  is a score that I would recommend, I love its edgy and subdued persona, one for the collection, I think.




In 1994 Febre provided the score for the sci-fi picture T FORCE. Set in the near future the movie focuses upon a Cybernaut unit called T FORCE, which has been ordered to be disassembled after one of their missions which was a hostage situation goes badly wrong. The robots in the unit however take things into their own hands and see this action as a threat to their existence, thus go on a killing spree. Enter then Jack Floyd a police lieutenant and one Cybernaut who has remained loyal to his human masters to stop the T. FORCE at all costs. Febre’s score is in my opinion better than the movie it was written for. A largely synthetic score, with little conventional instrument performances here and there to enhance it and give it a more depth, it is a driving and relentless work. But even though electronics have the lion’s share of the score the composer still manages to create numerous fast paces action cues which have to them thematic qualities. The music actualy helps the movie look a little better at times or at least eases the disappointment some for anyone watching. So, if you are into your action scores this is probably one for you. Again, a digital BSX release.


I have to say that Louis Febre is a talented composer and seems to be able to turn his hand to any style and genre of film. The final soundtrack of his I am going to look at is A TIME TO DIE which is a thriller/mystery that was released in 1991. The soundtrack has been given a digital release by the BSX label, and is a more upbeat and up-tempo score, with the composer utilising an interesting array of percussive elements throughout. There is a definite electronic sound here, I say this because within this score more than any of the others I have listened to it is more obvious that it is a score realised via synthetic means. Again this does not mean that the score is any less worthy or indeed any less enjoyable to listen to, Febre makes interesting use of keyboard, percussion and a dusting of piano solo performances within the work, the piano adding a chilling and somewhat uneasy atmosphere to the proceedings. In fact, the majority of the soundtrack has the listener sitting on a knife edge the music building and falling to create an atmosphere that is dark and tense. Its, probably not until we hear the end credits that the tension is relieved a little with a nice flowing and easy going saxophone solo that is accompanied by laid back percussion and piano, but this soon alters and as it reaches its conclusion slips back into a more menacing mood. The scores I have mentioned are all released by BSX and DRAGONS DOMAIN records, check out their website for more delicious scores to add to your collection.





Talented and inventive composer Holly Amber Church talks about being on  lockdown for COVID 19. 

I am guessing you are on a lockdown or at least part lockdown, how has this been for you and are you managing to write any new music at all?

I am in a lockdown situation in Los Angeles currently. It’s strange how quickly things turned and how this feels like the new “normal” now, but I am grateful to have a roof over my head, food to eat and healthy loved ones. I have still been writing some new music during all of this but I will admit that my productivity is not what it normally is as I am so distracted by the news or trying to order groceries online now (and mostly spending hours searching for Lysol or some other disinfectant online too).

What music have you been turning to mostly during the Pandemic and the lockdown?
I have mostly been turning to music right now that makes me happy or peaceful, so a lot of Disney music or Hawaiian music (and I also love some good vintage “tiki” music like Martin Denny and Arthur Lyman).

Have you been watching what we refer to as classic movies ,or are you taking this time to check out more recent releases and maybe looking at shows or films that normally you would not?

It’s interesting because I have been mostly turning to classic films that I love or have seen before right now because they make me happy and there’s a sense of comfort to them. Again, a lot of Disney and Muppets. I do have some more recent films that I would like to check out during this time though too.



Whats the food and supplies situation been like for you?
Getting food and supplies around LA has been interesting but not impossible. We’ve mostly been ordering groceries through delivery services or via Amazon but as many know that can be interesting and a lot of the time you get half of what you placed in your order because they were out of stock. I am just grateful to have whatever we can get.



As well as audio and visual entertainment have you been reading anything at all?
I did finish a book last week that I really enjoyed called “The Science of Monsters” by Kelly Florence and Meg Hafdahl.

Do you think that after this Virus has been beaten that the world and the people in it might be a little different in their behaviour towards each other and also the planet and animals?

holly a church 3
I hope that some good can come out of this virus in that we don’t take things or people for granted ever again. I think we’re also seeing the effect that people staying home more has had on the environment around the globe and I hope that people will take that to heart and we can think about our impact and what we can do in the future to be kinder to each other, the animals and the environment.