Category Archives: REVIEWS IN BRIEF.

MOVIE MUSIC ITALIANO UNO.

The first in a series of reviews and news old and new about music from Italian movies.

After so many years fans of Guido and Maurizio De Angelis, will be in raptures as BEAT records in Rome finally release the score for Banana Joe.

It’s been four decades since the movie first appeared in cinema’s and is a much-requested soundtrack amongst the fans of the composers and devotees of Italian film music. It has been something of a mystery as to why this score has never seen the light of day until now that is, and a title that is long overdue taking its place in the composer’s discography alongside so many other cherished works for TV and Cinema from the 1970’s and in this case the 1980’s. Thanks to locating  the original master tapes in Cabum archives, the label of the siblings it has been possible to prepare this deluxe CD with a 16 pages coloured booklet. It is a perfect gift for the festive season, and once heard is a score that will be returned to again and again.

This is however a ltd edition with BEAT releasing both LP (DDJLP15DLX), and CD (DDJ28DLX), with numbers restricted to seven hundred copies, so hurry and order it now. The booklet boasts liner notes by Daniele De Gemini of BEAT and is remastered by Enrico his brother. The artwork used is the original work of the great artist Renato Casaro. If you love Italian movie scores and are a follower of the sometimes-quirky style of De Angelis, and catchy vocals this is an essential purchase.

Staying with BEAT and the label have released for the first time onto compact disc the music from Commissariato Di Notturna, a 1973 comedy directed by Guido Leoni and starring Gastone Moschin, Rosanna Schiaffino, Maurice Ronet, Luciano Salce, Carlo Giuffré, Giorgio Ardisson, Antonio Casagrande, Emma Danieli, Giacomo Furia, and Gisela Hahn.  Plus, La Supplente a movie that successfully mixed both comedy and sex which was released two years later in 1975.  The film was directed by Guido Leoni and starred Carmen Villani, Eligio Zamara, Carlo Giuffré, Dayle Haddon, Alvaro Brunetti, Gisela Hahn, Gastone Pescucci, Giusi Raspani Dandolo, Giacomo Furia. For Commissariato di notturna  composer Renato Rascel wrote a score based on a central theme that he repeated throughout the movie in various arrangements and was performed by a variety of instrumentation, the theme which was pop orientated and upbeat at times  was performed by the choir of Nora Orlandi Coro 4+4, as well as being given a tango treatment and then delivered by a moog synth.

The score also contains an affecting and haunting love theme entitled Addio Sera, which is performed by solo guitar that is underlined by piano and supported by strings, and in one variation is performed with solo female voice. La Supplente, is a little different although just as rewarding and entertaining with the composer employing Latin rhythms that weave in and out of the proceedings purveying romantic interludes and joyous passages. The score too has its fair share of drama which is conveyed perfectly via the utilization of orchestral textures and colours that are enhanced by choral performances.

Another release from BEAT that will be available soon is the full score for The Tiffany Memorandum, which is the work of Riz Ortolani, the film is essentially a homage to the worlds of James Bond, Matt Helm and the Our Man Flint movies. This time around BEAT have included extra cues and improved sound quality, again another worthy addition to your Italian film music collection.   

Fellow Italian soundtrack label Digit-Movies have re-released Maestro Bruno Nicolai’s The case of the scorpion’s tail (Italian title; ‘La coda dello scorpione’), The case of the bloody iris (Italian title; Perché Quelle Strane Gocce di Sangue sul Corpo di Jennifer?), All the colours of the dark (Italian title; Tutti i Colori del Buio) and Your vice is a locked room and only I have the key (Italian Title; Il Tuo Vizio è Una Stanza Chiusa e Solo io ne ho la Chiave) on compact disc but this time in a very desirable box set.

The four thrilling and arguable most well-known soundtracks composed by the Maestro for Giallo movies are once again brought to life in this deluxe edition, many thought that these impressive works for the genre would never resurface but at last more collectors can now savour the enticing work of Nicolai. Who is a composer that was at times ignored and underrated.

The set comes with new artwork on the outer box that houses the four discs and new notes within a booklet of thirty-two pages. The set is also available as a four CD and two LP set with different artwork, the LP edition contains, double marbled yellow vinyl with a selection of the best themes of the four soundtracks, one for each side of the records.

Four CD’s containing the full scores, a thirty-two-page booklet and a poster. Certainly, a feast for fans well worth looking at if you did not get these releases first time around.

A box set of vinyl seven-inch singles that has been released by Four Flies Records in Italy is Alessandroni Proibito-Music from Red Light Films 1977 to 1980. The collection contains fourteen tracks from composer Alessandro Alessandroni, which are spread over five discs and show a very different side to the composer, because they display a more experimental and pop orientated style that maybe many have not heard from him in the past. We associate him with Morricone more than any other film composer, but Alessandroni was essentially the sound of the Italian western score, as a whistler, guitarist and choral director and performer for many other composer’s as well as Morricone, often he was overlooked and he himself once told me that he was “A Performer Not A Star”. Today his persistent presence and important role within Italian film music from the early 1960’s through to the 1990’s has been finally recognized by music professionals and enthusiasts alike, and quite rightly so he is also now considered the true father of Italian library music – a genre whose sound he shaped and was responsible for developing since 1968. Looking at the Four Flies website there is a treasure trove of Italian quality movie music there plus albums by composers who worked in both film and in the composition of library tracks and easy/lounge music.  Check it out I am sure you will find something.

This box set contains music from the four soft-core erotic films that included hard-core sequences and, therefore, fell somewhere in-between normal commercial distribution and the underground scene of adult movie theatres. Many being screened in what was referred to as specialty cinemas or art house picture houses. The films are Lulu La Sposa Erotica, La Parte Piu Appetitosa Del Maschio, Incontri Molto Ravvicinati…Del Quarto Tipo and Emanuelle a Thaiti. It’s an interesting collection, that contains compositions that are jazz influenced and purvey that steamy sound associated with many Italian movies of the 1970’s and 1980’s. But also at times resemble The William Tell Overture and even bare some resemblance to Hotel California by the Eagles without the vocals. It is a must have for fans of Italian movie scores and is also available on the likes of Spotify. The vinyl edition is wonderfully packaged and presented, and the music is something that you will return to and treasure forever.

HELLO HALLOWEENERS.

Its nearly time? Time for what I hear you ask? Well time for those delightful little munchkins to come knock on your door and demand candy with menaces, threats of eggs and flour and even worse, yes Halloween is nearly upon us and with the approaching all Hallows eve celebrations imminent, we also get the annual landslide of horrors and unmentionable abominations in the world of cinema and TV knocking on our doors. The thing I always ask myself is should we really be celebrating Halloween, isn’t it a bit weird to celebrate the world of dark spirits, goblins, ghouls, devils, demons and witches? This year there are a few movies and TV shows that have already surfaced, because like Christmas which we start preparing for in August, Halloween is starting to creep into the daily routine of many in September or even earlier before the actual day of the dead or is that the undead?

Disney have already unleashed Hocus Pocus 2, which was ok I suppose, I was quite excited about this long-awaited sequel and when I watched it like a kid in a candy store on September 30th, I did have a few reservations and after waiting twenty-nine years for the sequel was it worth it, the jury is still out on that one for me I am afraid. Although it did have a suitably mischievous and sweeping score from composer John Debney.  My take on Disney and Hocus Pocus 2, is they decided to go ahead and make it because they saw a chance of cashing in on the idea for a future franchise, and when I say franchise watch them franchise the hell out of it now, the original witches have gone and there are three new spell casters in town, so watch out Salem. (Streaming now on Disney + and the score is on digital outlets). There have also been a few movies firm horror favourites re-surfacing on the various streaming channels, with The Re-boot of The Munster’s also heading our way.

Then we have the new version of Hellraiser (2022), now this looks interesting and the score too by Ben Lovett, is worth a listen, the composer utilising the now familiar theme penned by Chris Young in an innovative and inventive way, with his own score being original and entertaining in a sort of macabre and threatening way. Hellraiser 2022 the score is available now on digital platforms, it’s a commanding work a chilling musical journey that has to it foreboding and sinister aura. Let’s put it this way when listening one does at times feel decidedly uncomfortable because the music is creating a mood and fashioning atmospheres that are dark and uneasy. And that’s without any images. The original Hellraiser theme weaves in and out of the work, adding hints of a fearful and chilling persona, with Lovett enhancing this with his own style and sound. Recommended.

Continuing with Dark Night of the Scarecrow 2, When a mother and her young son are forced to move away from their home and re-locate to a small, rural community, they have no idea of the past terrors that have happened there, and unbeknown to them these horrors are about to be re-awakened by their presence. The dark and shadowy score is the work of Joe Stockton, I suppose one could say that this is a typical horror score, lots of tense and nervous moods which bubble and brew under the surface creating a sense of real unease. This is a brooding and malevolent sounding work, the music conjuring up horror scenarios before they have even happened. The score builds throughout underlining, augmenting, and giving greater impact to the storyline, with the composer at times fashioning haunting themes that have to them a romantic core in a perverse kind of way. It is an effective score and one which I have to say surprised me as there is far more to this work than the normal bangs, crashes, and musical stabs of your average horror score. Its on digital platforms now, check it out if you dare.

The Midnight Club is a Netflix production, which focuses its attention upon a group of terminally ill teenage patients resides at Brightcliffe Hospice, and together they create the Midnight Club. They meet in secret at midnight to tell horror stories. Together the group forms a pact, that whoever dies first would make the effort to contact the rest of the Midnight Club members from beyond the grave. Interesting idea, but maybe its just a little too predictable, the director Mike Flanagan was know for creating really polished horror tales but then he signed to Netflix, and it all seemed to change, with the director concentrating his efforts more on directing a lighter and more audience friendly horror if there is such a thing, I suppose what I am saying is he has become as predictable as Netflix, and instead of bringing to fruition solid and more hard core horror has been lost to a more commercial type of horror. The music for The Midnight Club is by the Newton Brothers, who as far as I am concerned get better with every scoring assignment. The Haunting of Hill House score was excellent as was The Haunting of Bly Manor which were Netflix productions, and both directed by Flanagan. Their work on The Midnight Club is exceptional, the score literally overflows with a rich and succulent musical atmosphere, the composers filling it with beautifully beguiling but at the same time edgy thematic properties. That have to them an oldy worldly style, that gradually becomes more intense and affecting as the score progresses. Recommended. Marvel are even getting in on the Halloween bandwagon or is that the ominous looking dark coach drawn by black hearted stallions at this time of year.

Ok, I digress, Werewolf by Night is the latest from those Marvel studio superheroes, again based on a comic book of the same name. Music this time comes from the ever-busy Michael Giacchino, who has in my opinion written an effective and high-class score for this horror tale. I was a little worried about the composer because he has been so busy of late and everything it seemed had a score by him, and things were beginning to sound very much like they were all from same movie, but I am glad to say the composer has produced a score that is not only supportive but is also entertaining. The stock sounds of Giacchino are still present but for this outing he has penned some interesting and original sounding pieces, the darkness oozes out of the score creating and cementing a foreboding and turbulent identity into its foundation and framework, on which the composer builds upon, adding a powerful and daunting sound that becomes an important and integral part of the storyline. Well worth a listen, it’s on digital platforms now. Halloween is more than just trick or treating, it’s a night when all the spirits that have passed are supposedly brought back to life for one night in a grand fright fest, that often turns into a blood bath or a mass slaughter. Its also a time to tell ghost stories, think of monsters, play tricks on one’s friends and family and be afraid, be very afraid. What’s your favourite scary movie? Sorry did I sound a little freaky then, and that was my best telephone voice to.

A film I like to watch at this time of year is Tigon films production of Witchfinder General (1968) and the British horror Theatre of Blood (1971) both with magnificent but over the top performances by Vincent Price. I also love returning to the wealth of great movies as produced by Hammer and AIP, those heady days of horror with movies such as The Fall of the House of Usher, The Cry of the Banshee, Dracula, Twins of Evil,Kiss of the Vampire, Vampire Circus, etc etc etc, seem so far away now, and films such as these will I am sad to say never see the light of day again, there was just something about the films of the 1960’s and the 1970’s the look of them, the storylines, the acting, and the at times totally non PC content.

The Blood on Satan’s Claw is one such production from 1971, now considered a horror genre classic. It was produced by Tigon films, with many still thinking it’s a Hammer film because it was so polished and believable. It’s a movie that caused more than a stir when it first came to cinema screens. The film was originally meant to be a three-part story in one film that would play out separately, but all having the unearthed remains of Satan linking them together. The stories of Peter Edmonton and his mad fiancé, the possessed village children, and the Judge’s battle with evil were all at first supposed to take place independently.

However, when the script was rewritten it was decided that the plots should be combined to create one central story with many characters and scenarios that would all be brought together at the films conclusion. Linda Hayden was superb in the movie as Angel, her interpretation oozing a wicked and malevolent persona.

The action was aided enormously by the atmospheric score by composer Marc Wilkinson, a soundtrack that was finally released on trunk records in 2007, it is an accomplished and affecting work, that is arguably more popular than the movie itself. The director of the movie Paul Haggard said “Marc wasn’t somebody who would ever give you a stock sound. And I think he absolutely excelled himself on The Blood on Satan’s Claw. It’s certainly one of the best scores I’ve ever had for a film”. The nerve-jangling soundtrack has received its own share of praises and attracted much attention for its use of the Ondes Martenot, an electronic instrument like the theremin, and the cimbalom.

These haunting sonorities, with several others, are used to the maximum in what is otherwise a rather spare and unsettlingly quiet score. Also effective is the composers almost fanatical utilization of a short simple motive based on the tritone, or the Diabolus in Musica which symbolizes the film’s resurrected demon and his total control over his evil disciples, this repeated, possessive sound creates a compelling, hypnotic, and sardonic tone throughout the soundtrack. It’s a perfect soundtrack for any Halloween gathering, play it alongside The Monster Mash, and your guests will be craving more horrific encounters. And maybe even some apple bobbing. I was always told as a kid, why do you want to watch horror films there are enough real scary tings in the world without thinking about more that are not real. And in these troubled times I kind of now agree, but we love to be scared don’t we, well don’t we? 

So, what will you watch for Halloween, maybe the Exorcist, or The Devil Rides Out the classic Hammer movie, or even Abbot and Costello meet Dracula? There are so many movies out there, some good some excellent others not so good, but whatever your taste there is something for everyone within the Halloween horror bag. Or if its the sounds of horror, mayhem and the macabre you like, then go over to the Howlin Wolf Records website and see what tricks and treats they have there for you delight.

http://howlinwolfrecords.com/store.html

Or if you have Spotify, please click on this and enjoy a compilation of music for Halloween from MMI.

VAMPIRE THE MASQUERADE-BLOODHUNT.

“Vampires suck blood from human characters and non-hostile subjects. Your character can use vampiric powers, weapons, and wit to eradicate your enemies and deal with the hunters.

This is how the developers of Vampire the Masquerade, Sharkmob describe the game. Bloodhunt the latest edition in the series is a thrilling free-to-play battle royale set in a Prague consumed by a ruthless war between vampire factions.

You must use your supernatural powers, weapons, and wit to hunt your rivals and dominate the night! The music for Bloodhunt is atmospheric and alluring, at times becoming almost hypnotic, but all the time thematic and entertaining. The composer for the game is Altanas Valkov, who has also worked on the Polish TV series Krol (2020) and the movie Ambition (2016).

His music for Bloodhunt is accomplished, polished and inventive, it sounds like a fusion of symphonic and electronic with choral work woven into the score, but I am thinking that this is a high-quality electronic work which is at times relentlessly driving, but also has to it a more melodic and gentle side. The composer creating an epic sound throughout. Certainly, worth a listen and available digitally.

HOTEL PORTOFINO.

Another TV score and one that I for one think is just brimming with so many great themes, Hotel Portofino has a score that is composed by Stefano Cabrera, it is a sheer delight to sit and listen to on its own away from the series but is just as entertaining when hearing the score work with the unfolding storylines and images within the series. This is a score that tantalizes and works a dreamy kind of magic that envelops and caresses the images and elevates each episode.

There is a rich and wholesome sound to this work, which is created by joyous sounding strings that seem to skip along being punctuated by piano and woods. I cannot make up my mind which composer I most drawn to when it comes to making comparisons with this wonderful score and others, possibly Georges Delerue, and the early work of Alexandre Desplat, and Nicola Piovani, but also at times gives gentle nods to the style of Dario Marianelli.

There is a definite European sound present, but also a quintessentially English musical persona is in place throughout, underlining and dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s. Light, majestic and luxurious, with delicate nuances performed on harp, piano and clever use of subtle woods, the score has to it a fragility and an almost precious ambience that oozes sophistication and charm.

The composer at times, employing strident but low-key string passages that work marvelously emotive and poignant melodies into the proceedings seamlessly, which are touching and affecting. A quality soundtrack from an entertaining series, available on digital platforms via Silva Screen records UK.  Well worth checking out.  

THOR-LOVE AND THUNDER.

Marvel, I think are now becoming a little predictable when it comes to music for their superheroes, the latest excursion for Thor has a musical score by Michael Giacchino,(with additional music by Nami Malumad). Giacchino has worked his way steadily to the top of the film music game, scoring numerous big box office hits Star Trek, The Batman etc and also provided great music for a few turkeys-remember John Carter. Thor Love and Thunder I felt was just a re-hash of so many of his past scores, there is for me at least nothing new here, nothing fresh and certainly nothing that is remotely innovative or inventive. I do know that each composer has their own sound their own style and also their own little quirks of orchestration or a favourite instrument which is included in the majority of their works for the big screen, but this is just a fusion of everything he has done before and maybe also a few nods to the likes of Horner, Tyler, Debney and even Goldsmith, but these just seem to jar and grate on the listener (at least this one). The Thor series has had a different composer for each adventure, all composers including Giacchino are of course interesting and have produced so many great scores, but for this latest adventure with the Nordic God of thunder is for this reviewer tired and not very interesting whatsoever. The inclusion of a rock orientated guitar finished it for me, although granted the composer did throw in a few bold sounding brass flourishes here and there and frenzied strings that bang out a theme that I thought was rather like a watered down Masters of the Universe, compare this to the music for say Moon Knight and it pales in comparison, and purveys quite a lack luster persona and sound, there are some saving graces and these include the cello solo that can be heard in a handful of cues, which is romantic, mystical and melancholy, and co-composer Nami Malumad’s The Zeus Fanfares which evoke the golden age of Hollywood in epic movies such as Ben Hur and The Robe. As for the remainder of the score, predictable, uninspiring, and even flat at times, with just the occasional high created by the fusion of soprano, choir and orchestra, but there are not enough of these moments and passages that have this aura to them. Its like one is waiting for the score to develop or a theme erupt , but neither happens. So, it’s a no from me on this one, but that is just my opinion, check it out now on digital platforms.