Tag Archives: Gianni Ferrio




The opening lines for the song THE LAST GAME, which was from the spaghetti western SENTENZA DI MORTE, (SENTENCE OF DEATH). music by Gianni Ferrio, vocal performance by Nevil Cameron. The soulful and smouldering jazz infused cue, was something a little different in the spaghetti western music genre, but there again Gianni Ferrio never did seem to conform to the perimeters of the SOUND of the Italian western, and out of the majority of composers that were involved in the creation of the Italian western soundtrack with its distinct sound, Ferrio I think was the exception as in not going with the majority.




His western scores often being a fusion of the old style western as fashioned by American composers in Hollywood and a sound that was partly Spaghetti as we know it plus Ferrio’s own style, which often included the utilisation of jazz undertones, and a more contemporary overall musical persona.  Which was also a style that was employed by fellow Italian Maestro, Piero Piccioni, the thing is that this way of scoring a western worked, and it gave the quirky and gimmicky productions from Cinecitta an even more distinct flavour and musical aura, the jazz elements not sounding out of place at all. Like many other composers involved with the scoring of Italian produced westerns, Ferrio would very often utilise a song as the opening track, it was at times thought that the use of a vocal was something that non Italian cinema audiences would welcome and in effect would make the music and the film itself more acceptable to the American market.




It worked in the majority of cases but on occasion, it did fall flat and have no influence whatsoever, this was I think mainly due to the lyrics which were from time to time translated directly from the Italian into English, and this is when the saying it got lost in translation comes to mind. Prime examples of an Italian western song would for me be, FIND A MAN from QUELLA SPORCA STORIA NEL WEST by De Masi, ANGEL FACE from A PISTOL FOR RINGO by Morricone, I MUST GO from UCCIDI O MUORI by Rustichelli and DJANGO by Luis Bacalov. Ferrio had a style that maybe was not as grandiose or operatic as composers such as Morricone, Nicolai, De Masi and Bacalov to identify just four, but his style and the placing of his music in films was effective and memorable.


Ferrio also conducted the majority of his western scores, whereas other composers would from time to time have a conductor such as Bruno Nicolai, Gianni Dell Orso. Willy Brezza and Gianfranco Plenzio.  I would not say that the western scores of Gianni Ferrio were as powerful or as well structured as the work of say, Morricone within the genre, but they still managed to enhance and support the picture in question and became part of spaghetti western music history. Even though Ferrio would employ a jazz orientated style to many of the western movies he scored, he would also utilize instrumentation that we as a cinema going audience would associate with the genre of the western film whether it be Italian or American made. Harmonica, guitar, galloping passages and kind of home on the range sounding strings that were homely and laced with brass that could either be restrained, proud or racing and urgent.


One of the best Ferrio western scores must be FIND A PLACE TO DIE, which is on a par with his soundtrack for PER POCHI DOLLARI ANCORA (FOR A FEW EXTRA DOLLARS). FIND A PLACE TO DIE however, is a score that combines elements of the Hollywood western score as realised by the likes of Bernstein, Tiomkin, Newman and Morross and fuses these with a more Spaghetti sound, plus there are elements that lean towards a faintly jazz style influence, and of course songs, yes more than one in this case. Both of which are good. JOE’ CERCATI UN POSTO PER MORIRE aka-FIND A PLACE TO DIE was originally issued on one side of a CAM LP way back in 1968 (MAG10.018).


I still have a copy in my collection today, it was paired with Carlo Savina’s score for another western entitled JOKO INVOCA DIO ,,,E MUORI (VENGEANCE), that contained a song penned by Nico Fidenco. Ferrio’s music for FIND A PLACE TO DIE, is nothing short of stunning. It oozes with drama and is filled with numerous and varying themes. In my opinion it is the best of Ferrio as far as western scores are concerned. It is certainly a prime example of how this innovative composer added his own musical stamp to the Italian western genre and score.


The quality of the music is testament to his inventiveness, and this can also be said for his soundtrack to another western, AMICO STAMMI LONTANO ALMENO UN PALMO aka FRIEND STAY AWAY or THE BALLAD OF BEN AND CHARLIE which was directed by Michele Lupo in 1972. Looked upon by many as a new take on the TRINITY movies it starred Guiliano Gemma and George Eastman. Ferrio combined a pop sound with that of ragtime and jazz to realise an effective and entertaining score. One track DIXIEBAND resembling sections of Burt Bacharach’s THE OLD FUN CITY from BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID, the composer also integrated a more sinister and dramatic sound into the proceedings which contained certain elements of the spaghetti western sound.

But Ferrio was not a composer that would be influenced greatly by other composers contributions to the genre, he very rarely enlisted the whistle within the framework of his scores, and although choir did feature at times it was not ordinarily to the heightened degree of other Maestros such as Fidenco, Savina, Orlandi and their like. Although saying this there is a particularly nice cue on AMICO STAMMI LONTANO ALMENO UN PALMO which features boys voices in the form of Y CON UNO DOS TRES, which concludes with baritone voices adding a touch of comedy to the work. Ferrio also includes an array of percussive instrumentation which at certain points is embellished by a fuzzy almost rock sounding electric guitar and breathy woods in the style of Lalo Shcifrin, which are more prominent in the cues, TEMA DI PERCUSSIONI and OSTINATO PATETICO. The score also had a sweet and romantic theme for the female character in the movie, with strings purveying a melancholy theme in the cue ADDIO SARAH. The soundtrack was issued on LP in 1972 by Cinevox records, and in later years received a re-release on the same label to compact disc.

Within this western score by Ferrio more so than others he penned we also hear the more melodic side of the composer and catch glimpses of themes or at least fragments of themes from non-western soundtracks such as LA CALANDRIA and to a degree THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND OF CAPTAIN NEMO. The composer utilising harpsichord flourishes to great effect in the more romantic and less dramatic sections of the score. A BULLET FOR SANDAVOL to contains an interesting score, released in 1969, and directed by Julio Buchs the movie starred Ernest Borgnine, the movie was also known as LOS DESPERADOS in Spain and Portugal. The score was a little more downbeat than other Ferrio westerns, with the composer utilising various percussive instruments and experimenting with brass sounds that were had an echo effect to them. There was also a sense of the grandiose purveyed in the action cues, with strings, brass and percussion being employed to create exciting and fast paced interludes. But, still there was a trademark sound beneath it all, with Ferrio’s use of breathy woods and percussion that are supported via harpsichord present at key points within the score. Spanish guitar too was brought into the equation which added a certain authenticity and melancholy to the work.


It is certainly a more dramatic and less theme led work than the other western scores I have highlighted, although it does have its moments that are thematic. Originally issued on a Cinevox LP record the score received a CD release again on the same label, with a further expanded version of the soundtrack being made available in the mid 2000’s which included a handful of outtakes including a five-minute suite. Ferrio made some original and interesting contributions to the spaghetti western genre, FOR A FEW BULLETS MORE, FASTHAND, MASSACRO AL GRAND CANYON, EL DESPERADO, CALIFORNIA, DJURADO, and the excellent scores for PER POCHI DOLLARI ANCORA ( FOR A FEW EXTRA DOLLARS) (1966) which was co-written with Morricone, I say co-written but this was a Ferrio score with one composition from Morricone the majority of the score being undiluted Ferrio.


Check out the powerful opening theme entitled DIAMOND its breath taking, with its trumpet solo and commanding percussive support driving strings and flawless choral work. and UN DOLLARO BUCATO (ONE SILVER DOLLAR) (1966) which contained the song A MAN A STORY in which the composer utilised whistler, choir and a more traditional spaghetti sound if there is such a thing as traditional in the scoring of Italian westerns.


Ferrio was also responsible for the score for an early Italian/Spanish western which was a comedy, GLI EROI DEL WEST is probably a soundtrack that ONLY Ferrio completist would listen to let alone purchase, let us say that it was not just the comedy that did not cross over well to non-Italian audiences.

Gianni Ferrio worked on many genres of movies in his illustrious career, with westerns making up but a small percentage, but this small number of scores within a genre that effectively altered the way in which the western was made in the future and also influenced the way in which music was used in movies, are a long standing testimony to his talent and evident gift for writing for the cinema and at the same time creating a style within a style.



Vivi o preferibilmente morti (ALIVE BUT PREFERABLY DEAD).


As you all are aware, I am a huge fan of the Italian western, and also an even bigger fan of the music from this genre. However, there are a few examples of the genre that I am not shall we say bowled over by, these are mainly the handful of comedy westerns that were produced by Italian film makers and also scored by Italian composers, I think we the exception of the TRINITY movies (well the first two at least) there are really no other comedy westerns per say that I am that keen on, I feel that the genre as a whole contains comedy but it is normally of the darker variety, which in movies such as THE BIG GUNDOWN, SABATA, THE BOUNTY HUNTERS and also the DOLLAR trilogy, is fine. But a film that is a comedy within this genre maybe lost its way a little, mainly due to scenarios and one liners or punch lines that are delivered in Italian do at times fall flat when being translated into other languages especially English. It is I suppose all about the way in which something funny is perceived in different countries, for example American humour is shall we say an acquired taste, unless of course you are American. Also, British comedy too can fall flat when seen outside of the UK. So, it is not something that is confined to the Italian western. There have been a few comedy westerns within the Italian western collective and don’t get me wrong I have seen them and I suppose found them fairly enjoyable, but it’s not a sub- genre within the Spaghetti western that I would go out of my way to watch, such as the Zapata westerns etc.

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One movie within the COMEDY collection is ALIVE BUT PREFERABLY DEAD, although it had quite a good plot and had an impressive cast I still cannot get excited or enthused about it, directed by Duccio Tessari in 1969, the film contained a somewhat energetic soundtrack courtesy of composer Gianni Ferrio, now Ferrio in my opinion was a fine composer and worked on numerous westerns as well as literally hundreds of other types of movies. What I liked about Ferrio when he scored a western was that he did’nt necessarily stay within the boundaries that had become known as the ITALIAN WESTERN SOUND, and like his fellow Italian Piero Piccioni utilised jazz at times within his western scores, which in most cases was effective and added another dimension to the films he was working on, but Ferrio also created a western sound that I consider to be all of his own, fusing jazz passages with grand orchestral pieces as well as at times employing whistling and maybe the odd cracking rifle butt sound on occasion. One only has to take a listen to his. FIND A PLACE TO DIE score, to hear that he was an innovative and inventive Maestro. His score for ALIVE BUT PREFERABLY DEAD was not solely orchestral, as it contained several songs, which basically told the story as it was being acted out on screen.


The soundtrack was originally released in 1969 on a CAM LP record ,(sag 9023) I remember at the time buying it just because of FIND A PLACE TO DIE and SENTENZA DI MORTE which is another western score by Ferrio, and with a title like ALIVE BUT PREFERABLY DEAD it was bound to be good, wasn’t it? Well its not actualy a bad soundtrack, but for me the use of kazoo’s in anything kind of take the edge off a little. However, I skipped over the vocal tracks and the actual music from Ferrio was essentially very good for a comedy score, foxtrots, galloping tracks and fast paced comedic sounding pieces were heard between the songs, which made it bearable Just! A few years later in the 1990’s CAM re-released the soundtrack on a compact disc, as part of their SOUNDTRACK ENCYCLOPEDIA alas no extra tracks were forthcoming and it was a straight re-issue of the LP.


Then CAM re-issued it once again and it was one of three western scores by Ferrio on one disc, the other two being UN DOLLARO BUCATO and SENTENZA DI MORTE.


Then Digit movies in Italy re-released the score in 2013 with ten extra cues, but of course some of these were vocals, let us say that Ferrio served up a nice mix of styles, the songs being performed by THE WILDER BROTHERS, were country sounding, with guitar and hoe down sounding fiddle featuring large. Ferrio’s soundtrack was vibrant and robust and had amore American flavoured sound within it rather than spaghetti. But a classic spaghetti score it cannot be filed under, I am however pleased it is available in a fuller edition. Plus, recently Digit-Movies also re-released SENTENZA DI MORTE with extra cues, which is certainly worth having even if its just for the title song, THE LAST GAME performed by Neville Cameron and a rather upbeat track entitled HOT MEXICO which contains a very nice guitar solo. Check out ALIVE BUT PREFERABLY DEAD, as it is packaged well and has great sound quality. I however prefer the more conventional Italian western score, if there is such a thing, that is.

La Morte Risale a Iera Sera.


La morte risale a iera sera is an Italian made Giallo movie directed by Duccio Tessari and released in 1970. The score is by the highly talented and much respected composer Gianni Ferrio. Ferrio made his musical mark on Italian cinema audiences during the early 1960,s with his soundtracks for Italian westerns such as Sentenza di morte and crime capers such as Il killers.

The score for La morte risale a iera sera did receive a release on LP in 1970, issued on the Cinevox label. This latest re-issue of the score contains all the music cues from that LP recording, plus two bonus tracks, inserted at the end of the compact disc, which represent about 7 minutes of music.
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Ferrio’s compositions are a fusion of jazz and easy listening, with some strong orchestral passages adding support to the already robust and interestingly original and furtive score. The main theme, which opens proceedings on the compact disc, is an almost 4 minute cue containing a jazzy, near sleazy sounding, trumpet solo enhanced by the use of piano organ and sporadic but effective sprinklings of harpsichord.

Track number two follows in a very similar style, but this time the harpsichord takes the lead to great effect. Ferrio also includes some interesting and fast paced action cues in LIVIA (track 3), and IL DURO SCAPPA (track 6), both of which have almost a big band sound to them. There are also a number of cues that are more of the atonal type, as in MORTE DI SALVATORE, where Ferrio again utilises a big band jazz sound that’s heavy on the brass section of the orchestra.

This is most definitely a soundtrack I would recommend. I know collectors will delight in and return to it on many occasions, each time finding something fresh and appealing. The sound quality is, for the most part, excellent and in full stereo. Also included are eye catching art work a colourful booklet including informative notes and a mini publicity poster.


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LA MORTE ACCAREZZA A MEZZANOTTE or DEATH WALKS AT MIDNIGHT is an interesting and absorbing mystery motion picture which was produced in Italy in the early 1970,s and released in 1972. It was one of three detective films that were directed by filmmaker Luciano Ercoli during the 1970,s. The gripping and taught story was the work of now famed film director Sergio Corbucci and contained a screenplay which was courtesy of the combined efforts of Ernesto Gastaldi, Guido Leoni and Mahnahen Velasco (under the alias of May Velasco). Valentina is a beautiful fashion model who agrees to take part in a scientific experiment which involves the taking of a new drug. Whilst under the influences of the drug Valentina experiences a vivid vision of a young girl being brutally murdered, the murderer killing her mercilessly with a spiked metal glove or gauntlet. It transpires that Valentina had an hallucination or a nightmare of a murder that has actually taken place and soon she finds herself being stalked by the same killer. The movie features the talents of Susan Scott, Simon Andreu, Peter Martell. Claudie Lange and Luciano Rossi. All of whom contribute much to the movie and also bring a sense of realism to the storyline.


The musical score for the movie is the work of Italian film music Maestro Gianni Ferrio, who’s unique style and sound had already by this time established him as a highly polished and talented music-smith when it came to scoring motion pictures. Ferrio had been particularly active within the Italian western genre but he never conformed to what became know as the SPAGHETTI WESTERN SOUND, his works for the genre were original all on their own, the composer utilising a fusion of jazz oriented sounds and grand Americana styles to create his own particular “sound” for any westerns he scored. LA MORTE ACCAREZZA A MEZZANOTTE is in my opinion one of the Maestro’s best scores, it contains so many strong thematic passages and vibrant motifs which are arranged and orchestrated with such flair and imagination. Primarily an upbeat sounding work the composer makes effective use of percussion, choir, big band sounding brass and an ample amount of mysterious and dark atonal material.

Gianni Ferrio and Mina.

The vocalist MINA makes a massive contribution to the soundtrack adding her fragile but sensual sounding voice to the proceedings, performing the haunting central theme from the score VALENTINA augmented and supported by harpsichord which is set to a bossa nova tempo. Hammond organ too is not in short supply giving us the true sound of the 1970,s with its groovy and rich sounding support.

The musicians who performed on the score read like a who’s who in Italian music from this period and beyond, Alessandroni’s distinctive sounding IL CANTORI MODERNI are present throughout as is Oscar Valdabrini on trumpet and flugelhorn, Carlo Pes on guitar, Dino Asciolla on viola, Antonello Vannucchi on piano and Hammond organ, Franco Chiari and Carlo Zoffoli on vibes, Dino Piana on trombone and Sergio Conti keeping the beats going on drums and percussion. All of which are under the baton of Gianni Ferrio. Originally released on a long playing record on the Ariete label (ARLP 2012) this compact disc includes a couple of bonus tracks that did not appear on the original release. Sound quality is very good as is the presentation by EASY TEMPO records, with colourful and striking art work present throughout. The soundtrack was also released on a double long playing record by Easy Tempo, ET 902 DLP. This is a joy to listen to and is a soundtrack that will become one of your firm favourites.





There have been many releases of Italian western scores over the years and there were so many that it got to the point where it was hard to keep up with the near tidal wave of issues, re-issues and re-releases. Which if you are a fan as I am of the genre and its music is a good thing. However, when it gets to the stage when releases are put out that are sub standard in sound quality I think its time to take a step back look again or even stop. The Digit movies release of CALIFORNIA by Italian Maestro Gianni Ferrio is certainly a contender in my opinion for being given an award for the worst sound quality on a soundtrack. I do realise that with a movie as old as this the tapes would probably be a little worse for wear, so my question is WHY release it in this condition, it is I think a little immoral of the producers or re-mastering people isn’t it ? Or maybe not as they obviously did not spend any time on the sound restoration or re mastering. This is a score that is essentially a good example of the Italian western score from the end of the genres popularity because audiences tastes were changing. I have to say it would probably have been better to leave it in the archives rather than release a score that has terrible sound quality as this does, there is distortion, hiss and all sorts of fluctuation in its duration and instead of being a tribute or a reminder of the genius of Ferrio it is an insult to his memory and also in this case an insult to the harmonica playing of Franco de Gemini. The sound is dull, muffled and resembles the sound one got out of an old LP record after it had been played and damaged by a worn stylus, in fact it sounds as if it is a cheap bootleg,(I said sounds like) the type we used to get many years ago, but wait even they sounded better than this. In fact by the time I got to track number 10, I had just about had enough, what should have been a welcome release turned out to be a pile of garbage in the sound department, this was not re-mastered, edited,digitally selected (what is that anyway-ah maybe they line the tracks up and let a digit select them) or restored by Claudio Fuiano as the credits say (its there in bold print people read it and weep) because nothing has been done or if it has then oh my God those tapes were really bad. Restored????(TO BRING BACK OR RE-ESTABLISH A PREVIOUS RIGHT PRACTISE OR SITUATION) that means to be made as new doesn’t it or restored as in made to sound or look as it did when it was new, it was simply plucked off the shelf and thrown onto a cdr then released on a legiimate disc, once again the collectors are the loosers because they have paid out for a compact disc that is almost useless, I do emphasis that the score is very good, inventive and in places very innovative as most Ferrio westerns are but the sound quality lets it down, I suppose what I am saying is don’t waste your dollars on this piece of un-listenable junk. The compact disc also contains another western score by Ferrio, REVERENDO COLT (1970) or at least selections from it, again the quality of the music compositions, orchestrations and the performances on whistle and guitar by Allessandro Alessandroni are good, as are the fluglehorn performances by Oscar Valdambrini. I have to say that REVERENDO COLT does fare a little better in the sound department but not a great deal, again what should be a joy for collectors is marred by inferior sound quality. I have a suggestion, lets wait for the inevitable re-issue with extra tracks and better re-mastering, there is bound to be one along any day now, but dont worry if we miss that one there is always the definitive edition or the super duper thirty extra track edition with gold lining and free marks and spencer vouchers.

Packaging is colourful and eye catching, but the notes are in two short words, A JOKE. Back to the drawing board Digit Movies, better still recall all the copies apologise profusely and give the collectors their cash back. Then gather all the copies up and dump them in a furnace. There is an old saying, there is no such thing as bad publicity, wanna bet………