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 MODERNI performing 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.