Vasco Vassil Kojucharov worked on many Italian made movies and excelled it seemed within the genre of the Italian or Spaghetti western. Although the composer was not Born in Italy he is as far as many are concerned an important Maestro when it comes to discussing Italian made movies. Born in Sofia Bulgaria, in 1940, the composer not only worked on westerns, but all genres and his score for IL PLENILUNIO DELLE VERGINI is one that many fans and critics alike regard and interesting to say the least. This Hammer style Gothic tale was released in 1973, at times called THE DEVILS WEDDING NIGHT or FULL MOON OF THE VIRGINS it was directed by Luigi Batzella who the composer collaborated with on a number of occasions with sections of the movie being overseen by filmmaker Joe D’Amato. It starred Mark Damon and Rosalba Nen.
The film, which was a tale of bloodlust, sacrifice and vampires, revolves around two Brothers who are searching for a ring which is said to have magic powers. The ring of Nibelungen is a mystical and beguiling gem that supposedly can give its wearer incredible powers. The brothers Karl and Franz are in search of it for two different reasons, Karl who is an archaeologist wishes to find the piece of jewellery to give to an institute who would study it and safeguard it. However, Franz, is looking for it for his gain and hopes that it will make him rich and famous. Franz steals Karl’s research into the ring and heads to Transylvania and to the Castle of the infamous Count Dracula. He arrives in a village close to the castle and is told that on the first full moon of the summer five Virgins from the village are selected by evil powers to be taken to the castle where they are sacrificed. He is also told that the area is filled with many vampires who are all out to drain the blood from humans.
Franz is given an amulet by the village innkeepers daughter, which is for his protection. After Franz spends the night with the girl, he leaves for the castle but forgets to take the amulet. When he arrives at the castle Franz is made welcome by the housekeeper a girl named Laura, he is introduced to Countess Dolingen De Vires who he is told is the widow of the Count. Franz discovers that She uses the ring to bring the Virgin girls of the village to the castle where she murders them and bathes in their blood. The Countess soon turns her attentions to Franz and bites him and thus has power over him, they are married and soon after the sacrifice of five new Virgins takes place. It is not long before Karl realises what has happened and follows his Brother to Transylvania.
It is an interesting take on the Count/Countess Dracula tale, and Kojucharov’s score adds much depth and atmosphere to an already dark and sinister storyline, and at times is wonderfully supportive of scenes that in all honesty desperately need music to make them work. It is a score that has to it a hypnotic sound with the composer utilising organ, strings, percussion, and brass to fashion a work that will probably be more memorable than the film it was created to enhance, available on BEAT RECORDS there is an eerie and apprehensive aura to Kojucharov’s soundtrack, the composer providing low key but at the same time sinister sounding passages alongside sections that are at times up-tempo and more robust in their overall sound and style, the score also includes choral work and I did think at times that certain themes or phrases could easily be from a western score, but this is in no way a disparaging remark or observation. In fact, it is these short interludes that keep the work fresh and vibrant throughout. I would not say it is one of the composers best, but its also not a score that I can say is dreadful and is one that I found entertaining. There are certain similarities within the music that maybe could be influenced by the work of Bruno Nicolai or even Stelvio Cipriani, but there is too present a distinct and original musical fingerprint.
Kojucharov graduated with distinction and honours in conducting and composition from The State Conservatory in Bulgaria. He studied with Khachaturian in Moscow from 1961 to 1963 and then after this re-located to Italy. It was here in Rome that he began to do work for Nino Rota where he worked on many of the composer’s film scores as an assistant and occasionally carrying out orchestrations. It was also whilst working for Rota that he began to compose Ballets, chamber pieces and suites of music. Kojucharov also began to teach and became the founder of The SINFONICA S, CARLINO ALLE QUATTRO FONTANE and conducted it in many concerts in the Italian capital.
Between 1966 and 1969 the composer scored a dozen westerns in his own right and also began to collaborate with fellow composer Elsio Mancuso on several others including DJANGO IL BASTARDO, which is due for release on BEAT records early in June this year under the pseudonym of VASCO AND MANCUSO or at times VASCO MANCUSO. The sound that he achieved as a composer in his own right was in many ways typical of the Spaghetti western genre, although probably not as grandiose as that of Morricone, it still contained fast paced and catchy sounding themes that became firm favourites with connoisseurs of the genre.
I think if asked I would have compare the sound that the composer achieved with the flavour and musical textures as created by Nico Fidenco or Francesco De Masi it has to it a colouring of a pop sound as well as being dramatic and vibrant and always action led, in fact two other composers also come to mind who seemed to achieve this type of sound and put it to good use within westerns, they are Mario Migliardi and Amedeo Tommasi, because both of these always incorporated a kind of rock or pop orientated style within their scores and although it at times sounded odd and different in most cases it did work. Kojucharov would utilise the trumpet solo to great effect, and often lace this with strident strings and an array of percussion, he often used harpsichord that added much to the overall sound of his scores, adding a flourish here and there giving them an elegant sound.
His score for LA COLT ERA IL SUO DIO (GOD IS MY COLT 45) I feel is rather neglected, but for why? I am not sure as it has some remarkably interesting themes, the composer creating a style that although can be identified as being pure Spaghetti western also has to it an individual and original array of instrumentation. Released in 1972, the movie is the work of director Luigi Batzella who again was assisted by Joe D’ Amato, although a fairly solid film and an entertaining entry into the Spaghetti western genre, it contains a number of scenes from two other westerns directed by Batzella, PAID IN BLOOD (1972) and ANCHE PER DJANGO LE CAROGNE HANNO UN PREZZO (1971).
The former being scored by Elsio Mancuso and the latter containing a score by Kujucharov. Other westerns that Kujucharov penned on his own included, GOD WILL FORGIVE MY GUN (1966), ONE BY ONE (1968), SARTANA THE GRAVE DIGGER (1969), A CRY OF DEATH (1971), A BOUNTY KILLER FOR TRINITY (1972) and many others.
His collaboration with Elsio Mancuso was a fruitful one, and the composing duo wrote the scores for several westerns. Kujucharov at times also conducted scores for other composer, Franco Salina for example on the movie CHURCHILLS LEOPARDS in 1970.
But it was not just westerns that Vasco was involved with, he provided soundtracks for many genres of film, KILLERS GOLD (1979), HEROES IN HELL (1974), BYLETH-THE DEMON OF INCEST (1972) among them. The composer died a few years ago, but the specific or exact date is not publicised and was not made known outside of Italy.
BEAT records in Rome have embarked on a series dedicated to the film scores of Kojucharov, and already have a number of compact discs available, it is a series I recommend that you check out as the film music of this unsung hero of the silver screen score is something to be treasured and savoured.