Home > Reviews > ENNIO MORRICONE REVIEWS, 1961-1965

ENNIO MORRICONE REVIEWS, 1961-1965

In this first installment of a new irregular series looking at the early career of some iconic composers, we stroll down memory lane to the first works written by the legendary Ennio Morricone. Morricone had studied at the Conservatory of the National Academy of Santa Cecilia in Rome, where he specialized in trumpet performance and composition; then, during the late 1950s, Morricone orchestrated and arranged pop songs for the RCA record label, including some for artists such as Paul Anka, Chet Baker and Mina. While working for RCA Morricone also wrote theater music and classical pieces, and began ghostwriting for composers such as Armando Trovajoli and Mario Nascimbene, before making before making his credited film debut in 1961. These first reviews look at sixteen scores Morricone that wrote between 1961 and 1965, including one of his most groundbreaking spaghetti western scores.

 

IL FEDERALE [THE FASCIST] (1961)

Il Federale was the first film for which Ennio Morricone, then aged 32, received a screen credit as a composer. It’s an Italian comedy, directed by Luciano Salce, set during World War II about a Mussolini-worshipping but somewhat impressionable and naïve fascist played by Udo Tognazzi, who is sent on an assignment to the Italian countryside, where he has to arrest a prominent liberal professor (played by Georges Wilson) and bring him back to Rome for interrogation. Of course, hi-jinks ensure on the road back to Il Duce’s capital, as the older teacher slowly educates the young soldier about life, politics, and the way of the world. It’s also interesting to note that Morricone would work frequently with Udo’s son Ricky Tognazzi, who is a director – Morricone scored the films La Scorta (1993), Vite Strozzati (1996) and Canone Inverso (2000) for him.

Truthfully, the film would likely be forgotten today were it not for the fact that Morricone scored it; as far as the music is concerned, it’s a competent blend of militaristic riffs for woodwinds and snare drums, offset by a more pompous-sounding march for tubas and weighty horns, and a lively string-based scherzo. It’s perfectly acceptable for a somewhat lightweight 1960s Italian comedy, but it certainly gives no indication as to the astonishing career that lie ahead of the young and relatively inexperienced composer that wrote it.

The soundtrack album is available on the Italian Digitmovies label, having been released for the first time on CD. A single cue, “Titoli,” can be found on the comprehensive 15-CD compilation Ennio Morricone: The Complete Edition, released by GDM Music in 2008.

Track Listing: 1. Titoli (2:02), 2. Combattimento (2:37), 3. Manovre Grottesche (1:51), 4. Tema di Bonafé (1:37), 5. Deportazione (1:53), 6. Colloquio Delle Fragole (1:50), 7. Marcia del Viaggio (1:59), 8. Equilibrismo di Arcovazzi e Fuga dai Partigiani (1:27), 9. Arcovazzi e Bonafé in Viaggio (2:20), 10. Tema dell’Auto Anfibia (0:45), 11. Ritrovamento (1:47), 12. Marcia del Viaggio (Ripresa) (3:00), 13. Desiderio di Matilde (1:53), 14. Fuga di Bonafé (1:35), 15. Pullman in Avaria (1:31), 16. Inseguimento (1:38), 17. Campo Minato (1:13), 18. Tema di Bonafé (Ripresa) (1:24), 19. Arcangelo Bardacci (1:07), 20. Bonafé Al Convento (1:42), 21. La Fine del Viaggio (2:29), 22. Finale (1:07). Digitmovies CDDM-048, 38 minutes 47 seconds.

 

LA VOGLIA MATTA [CRAZY DESIRE] (1962)

La Vogilia Matta, also known as Crazy Desire, is another Italian comedy, also directed by Lucio Salce and again starring Udo Tognazzi. In this film Tognazzi plays Antonio Berlinghieri, a middle-aged and rather stuffy businessmen, who is newly divorced, and on a road trip to ‘clear his head’ and ‘put his life back together’. During the journey he encounters a gang of cool teenagers on their summer vacation, and unexpectedly finds himself falling for Francesca (played by director Salce’s regular muse Catherine Spaak), a flirtatious girl who would appear to be his exact opposite.

The main theme, “Sole e Sogni,” is a warm, inviting, summery jazz piece for solo harp, stand-up bass, and brushed cymbals. There’s a gently beguiling and lyrical flute solo that speaks of innocent love, and a dreamy wordless vocal that hints at something slightly more erotic.

Unfortunately only ten minutes of score music from this soundtrack have ever been released, on a vinyl EP back in 1964, making it one of the most little-known works of Morricone’s early career, although the film did feature two pop singles which Morricone co-wrote: “La Tua Stagione” by Tony del Monaco, and “Viva Il Jump Up” by I Flippers. Morricone’s main theme spawned at least four popular instrumental hits in Italy – “Sassi,” “Maschere,” “un Filo,” and “Polvere di Niente,” which were re-recorded by popular bandleaders Giampiero Riverberi and Piero Gosio. “Sole e Sogni” can be found on the comprehensive 15-CD compilation Ennio Morricone: The Complete Edition, released by GDM Music in 2008.

Track Listing: 1. Sole e Sogni (2:30), 2. Desiderio di Te (2:32), 3. Agosto Jazz (2:14), 4. Miraggio Africano (2:42). CAM Records CEP-4520, 9 minutes 58 seconds.

 

I BASILISCHI [THE BASILISKS] (1963)

An Italian neo-realist drama written and directed by Lina Wertmüller, I Basilischi is a story about disaffected youths in post-WWII Italy, trying to come to terms with life, love, death, sex, boredom and the realities of becoming an adult. The film, which has been described as an Italian version of American Graffiti, stars Antonio Petruzzi, Stefano Satta Flores, and Sergio Ferranino; the title refers to the habit the main characters have of simply lounging around in the sun all day – like basilisks – with literally nothing else do to: no jobs, no money, no future. It’s one of the first ‘serious’ films Morricone scored, and can almost be seen as a companion piece to the music composers like Georges Delerue were writing for similarly-themed New Wave films in France around the same time.

Morricone frames the dead-end lives of these young men and women with an almost satirical edge, writing music which is beautiful and haunting, juxtaposing against the hopelessness of their realities. The main theme, “Canzone,” is an elegant, slightly introverted sounding piece for solo guitar, framed by swooning strings, and a repetitive light chime effect.

The best release of the soundtrack is the version which came out in 2014 on the GDM Music label, which pairs around 22 minutes of score from I Basilischi with selections of music from the score for the 1964 film Prima Della Revoluzione. Again, “Canzone” can be found on the comprehensive 15-CD compilation Ennio Morricone: The Complete Edition, released by GDM Music in 2008.

Track Listing: 1. Cantata Basilisca (2:39), 2. Pomeriggio in Paese (3:21), 3. Sminfa Paesana (2:58), 4. Canzone (5:11), 5. Ora Incantata (3:01), 6. Il Tangone (4:39). GDM Music 4333, 21 minutes 49 seconds.

 

IL SUCCESSO (1963)

Il Successo is an Italian comedy-drama starring Vittorio Gassman, Anouk Aimée, and Jean-Louis Trintignant, directed by Mauro Morassi, and produced by legendary Italian filmmaker Mario Cecchi Gori. Gassman plays Giulio, a middle-aged man dissatisfied with his life, who hatches a plan to find away out of his dull white-collar job – a property scam involving some land in rural Sardinia. However, as Giorgio desperately tries to come up with the 10 million liras he needs to start his investment to buy that land, his increasingly hare-brained schemes begin to make him more and more estranged from his wife and his best friend.

Morricone’s score for Il Successo is fun and lively, with a strong emphasis on jazz, big band, and swing music typical of the era. The main theme, “Il Successo,” is a virtuoso piece for finger-snapping brasses and hip, toe-tapping percussion, highlighted by a vivid and impressionistic trumpet solo half way through the piece. The soundtrack also spawned a handful of Italian pop songs performed by canto artists Rita Pavona, Enrico Polito, Gino Paoli, and Rosy.

The best release of the soundtrack is the version which came out in 2007 on the GDM Music label, which pairs around 23 minutes of score from Il Successo with selections of music from the score for the 1966 film Agent 505 – Todesfalle Beirut. Again, “Il Successo” can be found on the comprehensive 15-CD compilation Ennio Morricone: The Complete Edition, released by GDM Music in 2008.

Track Listing: 1. Il Successo (Titoli) (2:02), 2. Per Vittoria (Bossa) (4:02), 3. Con Eleganza (3:14), 4. Malinconico (1:58), 5. Il Successo Twist (2:42), 6. Sarabanda Triste (2:05), 7. Allegra Sambina (2:29), 8. Per Vittorio (2:02), 9. Il Successo (Finale) (2:10). GDM Music 4012, 22 minutes 44 seconds.

 

E LA DONNA CREÒ L’UOMO [FULL HEARTS AND EMPTY POCKETS] (1964)

E la Donna Creò l’Uomo, known in English as Full Hearts and Empty Pockets, is an Italian comedy-drama directed by Camillo Mastrocinque, starring Thomas Fritsch and Alexandra Stewart. The film is incredibly obscure these days; the limited information available online appears to indicate that it’s a film about a man who is blackmailed into taking a promotion at work, and who then becomes corrupted by his own success prior to his eventual downfall. The film’s poster, on the other hand, appears to indicate that it’s about a 6-inch tall man who terrorizes women biting their noses, so what do I know?

Morricone’s score is playful and tune-filled, with a solo violin melody underpinned by lively plucked strings and a whimsical-sounding harpsichord; it eventually gives way to something a little more wistful and introspective, playing the same melody on an electric guitar, but at a slower tempo and with a moody string wash. The soundrack feautres several variations on this main theme done in multiple styles ranging from bossa nova to modern jazz, and one especially interesting one with the intriguing title “Exoticoerotico”!

The best release of the soundtrack is the version which came out in 2005 on the GDM Music label, which pairs around 30 minutes of score from E la Donna Creò l’Uomo with selections of music from the score for the 1965 film Idole Controluce. As you might expect, the main theme from “E la Donna Creò l’Uomo” can also be found on the comprehensive 15-CD compilation Ennio Morricone: The Complete Edition, released by GDM Music in 2008.

Track Listing: 1. E la Donna Creò l’Uomo Titoli (3:02), 2. Exoticoerotiko (2:14), 3. Dawn in the Park (3:15), 4. Donnabossa (3:02), 5. E la Donna Creò l’Uomo (1:54), 6. Inseguendo Lei (2:01), 7. Dolcemente Donna (1:55), 8. Sexydonna (2:44), 9. Aspettando Lei (2:25), 10. Correndo Verso Lei (2:34), 11. Donnajazz (2:48), 12. E la Donna Creò l’Uomo (1:48). GDM Music 2058, 29 minutes 42 seconds.

 

I MALAMONDO (1964)

I Malamondo is a sensationalist Italian documentary directed by Paolo Cavara with the outlandish tagline “bizarre activities of European youth,” which probably tells you all you need to know. It takes a scandalous and sordid look at young people doing all sorts of unusual things, ranging from nude skiing in Switzerland, to hog-butchering in Italy, and even taking part in an orgy in a graveyard. The film was quite notorious when it was first released in 1964, as it brought the recklessness and sexual liberation of kids across Europe firmly into the public eye

The film’s main theme, “Penso a Te,” actually starts out sounding much more like John Barry than Morricone, with a lazy, languid main theme performed on an electric guitar and accompanied by light strings and tapped snare drums . However, once the melody switches to a solo trumpet, and once the softly cooing choir comes in to back it, this becomes a prototypical Morricone piece, and in many ways can be seen as the origin of the style that graced so many spaghetti westerns over the years. Much of the rest of the score is similarly jazz-inflected, with numerous bossa nova and pop twist dance instrumentals.

The best release of the soundtrack is the version which came out in 1992 on CAM Records, which pairs around 45 minutes of score from I Malamondo with selections of music from the score for the 1971 film La Tarantola dal Ventre Nero. Once again, the main theme from “Penso a Te” can also be found on the comprehensive 15-CD compilation Ennio Morricone: The Complete Edition, released by GDM Music in 2008.

Track Listing: 1. Le Facce (Titoli di Testa) (1:00), 2. Penso a Te (2:11), 3. L’Ultima Volta (2:33), 4. Questi Vent’Anni Miei (2:33), 5. La Prima Volta (2:51), 6. Stanchezza (1:29), 7. Nulla da Fare (2:20), 8. Bianco e Nero (2:39), 9. Muscoli di Velluto (2:37), 10. Senza Freno (2:38), 11. Party Proibito (2:47), 12. Walzer Bossa Nova (2:13), 13. Dachau (0:56), 14. S.O.S. (2:53), 15. Twist Delle Zitelle (2:29), 16. I Dispari (2:55), 17. La City (1:44), 18. Matricole (2:30), 19. Sospesi Nel Cielo (2:15). CAM 493451-2, 43 minutes 44 seconds.

 

PER UN PUGNO DI DOLLARI [A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS] (1964)

A Fistful of Dollars – Per Un Pugno di Dollari – is arguably one of the most influential films ever made. Although ‘spaghetti westerns’ – gritty action films set in the American west but largely filmed in places like Italy and Spain by European filmmakers – had been made before, it wasn’t until 1964 that they really became recognized as a major entertainment medium. Written and directed by the great Sergio Leone, the film is basically an unofficial remake of Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo; it starred a little known American actor named Clint Eastwood as a tough-talking amoral drifter who arrives in a small town on the Mexican border and, through a combination of manipulation and his skill as a gunfighter, successfully pits two rival families against for his own benefit.

The legacy of the film is almost incalculable; so many contemporary clichés of the Western genre were invented by Leone for this film, while the visual style and camera work Leone employed would influence filmmakers for decades. So too Ennio Morricone’s score for A Fistful of Dollars reinvented the sound of the Western genre, moving away it from the Americana sound of people like Aaron Copland and Jerome Moross towards something much more gritty and idiosyncratic. The two most famous pieces of the score are the main title, “Titoli,” and the eponymous theme, “Per Un Pugno di Dollari”

“Titoli” is an aggressive, punchy march initially anchored by a florid acoustic guitar, but eventually transitions to feature an iconic whistled melody, performed by the great Alessandro Alessandroni. As the pieces progresses it gradually picks a trilling flute, the sampled sounds of cracking whips and tolling bells, and a gruff male voice choir chanting the words ‘we can fight’. On paper, it sounds like a mess, but the execution is sensational, a truly original sound that had never been heard in cinema before, and which quickly came to define an entire genre.

The second theme, “Per Un Pugno di Dollari,” is more subdued, but no less iconic, with a strident virtuoso solo trumpet offset by a strumming acoustic guitar and choir. It pays homage to the musical heritage of Mexico, and perfectly encapsulates Eastwood’s character. It’s impossible to listen to this music without thinking of him, riding on horseback, chewing on a cigarillo, squinting in the sun. This is, truly, music which changed cinema forever.

This would be enough for most composers, but not Ennio Morricone, who fleshes out the rest of the score with several more iconic moments. “Quasi Morto” is a beautiful piece of folk-like music that further expands on the mythic status of Eastwood’s character with low-end pianos and harmonica. The action music is frenzied and chaotic, with especially notable trumpet performances which have to be heard to be believed. It’s all quite magnificent.

As one would expect given its legendary status the score for A Fistful of Dollars has been released dozens of times over the years. My choice for the best is the 2-CD set released by GDM Music/Intermezzo Media in 2014, which presents a digitally re-mastered version of the complete score on one disc, and the complete re-mastered score for Once Upon a Time in the West from 1968 on the second disc.

Track Listing: 1. Titoli (2:58), 2. Quasi Morto (1:40), 3. Musica Sospesa (1:02), 4. Square Dance (1:36), 5. Ramon (1:05), 6. Consuelo Baxter (1:18), 7. Doppi Giochi (1:41), 8. Per Un Pugno di Dollari #1 (1:26), 9. Scambio di Prigionieri (0:55), 10. Cavalcata (3:29), 11. L’Inseguimento (2:25), 12. Tortura (9:31), 13. Alla Ricerca Dell’Evaso (1:22), 14. Senza Pietà (2:08), 15. La Reazione (2:36), 16. Per Un Pugno di Dollari # 2 (1:49), 17. Per Un Pugno di Dollari Finale (1:09). GDM Music/Intermezzo Media Records GDM-00804, 38 minutes 10 seconds.

 

LE MONACHINE [THE LITTLE NUNS] (1964)

Le Monachine is an Italian comedy, directed by Luciano Salce, and once again starring Catherine Spaak. She plays Sister Celeste, the leader of a group of three young and innocent nuns who come to Rome to mount a protest against an airline which has been flying jet planes over their convent school. Once in Rome the naïve and innocent sisters find themselves somewhat overawed by the world, and they are chaperoned around the city by the airline’s CEO Livio Bertana (Amedeo Nazzari). Of course, as is the way of things in movies like this, the sophisticated Bertana and the virginal Sister Celeste begin to have decidedly sacrilegious feelings for each other.

Morricone’s score – the third one he wrote for director Salce in four years – is lively and whimsical Bach-inspired piece which is used to accompany the gently comic misadventures of the nuns, let loose in the big city for the first time. The main theme, “Fughetta nell’Orto,” is a playful tune for harpsichord accompanied by rapped snare drums and flighty flutes, where the melody is often doubled by xylophone. It has a cheeky, cheerful feeling, with pseudo-religious overtones undermined by a more carefree joie de vivre.

An extended vinyl EP of the music was released around the time the film came out, featuring around 12 minutes of music. CAM Records released a slightly expanded the score for the first time on CD in 1992, paired with the scoress for the 1979 film Professione Figlio and the 1972 film Sonny & Jed, also known as La Banda J.S.: Cronaca Criminale del Far West. Once again, the main theme from “Fughetta nell’Orto” can also be found on the comprehensive 15-CD compilation Ennio Morricone: The Complete Edition, released by GDM Music in 2008.

Track Listing: 1. Al Convento (2:10), 2. Monachine Can Can (0:46), 3. Fughetta nell’Orto (0:45), 4. Preludietto, Fughetta e Finalino (0:56), 5. Pavana Per le Suorine (0:55), 6. Piccolo Interludio (1:30), 7. Intermezzo Aleatorio (1:33), 8. In Preghiera (1:01), 9. Giochetti Infantili (0:39), 10. Come Una Ninna Nanna (2:48), 11. Confronto Spirituale (0:54). CAM Records CAM- 74321130752, 13 minutes 57 seconds

 

MENAGE ALL’ITALIANA [MENAGE ITALIAN STYLE] (1965)

Menage all’Italiana is a 1960s Italian sex and relationship comedy, directed by Franco Indovina and produced by the great Dino De Laurentiis, one of the first films he made in his long career. It stars Udo Tognazzi and, really, could only have been made in Europe in that era – Tognazzi plays lothario and man-about-town Carlo Valdesi, and all the comedy derives from the fact that he is a cheerful bigamist, struggling to keep his numerous wives and girlfriends happy and unaware of each other’s existence. The women, by the way, range from a famous opera singer (Anna Moffo) to an under-age girl (Romina Power), who is so young that Carlo must lie to her parents and pretend to be her doctor so he doesn’t get arrested!

Morricone’s score for the film is typical of Euro-comedies of the period, and anchored by a series of light pop and jazz instrumentals that get the toes tapping and fingers snapping. “La Moglie Assassina” is a groovy piece for especially rambunctious pianos, “Fermateli!” is a groovy Beach Boys-esque rock instrumental for electric guitars, and so on. The main title track “Menage all’Italiana” uses swirling, twisty cello chords and plucked pizzicato violins in what sounds like a dry run for the theme he would write for Investigation of a Citizen Under Suspicion in 1970.

There’s also a really quite beautiful song, “In Fondo Ai Miei Occhi,” written by Morricone and lyricist Sergio Bardotti and performed by the aforementioned Italian chanteuse Anna Moffo, which receives several gorgeous instrumental renditions later in score, including one for solo violin, piano, guitar, and swooning romantic strings that it simply stunning. Another swingin’ song, “Ho Messo Gli Occhi Su Di Te,” is performed by the gravel-throated one-named Dino, and also gets an instrumental statement featuring a sultry bass flute melody accompanied Hammond organ.

Other cues of note include “1+1+1=4” which arranges Mendelssohn’s famous Wedding March for a pipe organ; “Funerale Stronato,” which arranges Chopin’s famous Funeral March for off-kilter brass, snares, and the same swirling, twisty cello chords from the main title; “La Moglie Calabrese” and “La Bionda Svedese,” both of which engage in some pseudo-Godfather tones for mandolin; and the surprisingly modernistic jazzy suspense music for bass flute, organ, and shimmering chimes in “Giallo è Arrancione”.

The soundtrack for Menage all’Italia has been released numerous times over the years; I personally own the 1999 RCA Records CD release which pairs the score with music from the 1967 film Ad Ogni Costo, but the most complete edition appears to be the 2016 GDM Music release, which features a re-mastered version of the score and a couple of bonus tracks.

Track Listing: 1. In Fondo Ai Miei Occhi (written by Ennio Morricone and Sergio Bardotti, performed by Anna Moffo) (3:23), 2. Ho Messo Gli Occhi Su Di Te (1:43), 3. 1+1+1=4 (1:38), 4. La Moglie Assassina (3:17), 5. Menage All’Italiana – In Fondo Ai Miei Occhi (1:38), 6. Fermateli! (2:44), 7. Ho Messo Gli Occhi Su Di Te (written by Ennio Morricone and Sergio Bardotti, performed by Dino) (2:54), 8. In Fondo Ai Miei Occhi (2:23), 9. Un Fiore è Nato (written by Gino Paoli, performed by Anna Moffo) (3:52), 10. La Moglie Calabrese (1:42), 11. La Moglie Bambina (2:09), 12. Giallo è Arrancione (3:00), 13. La Moglie Tardona (2:09), 14. Funerale Stonato (2:28), 15. Matrimonio Felice (2:00), 16. La Bionda Svedese (2:13). GDM Music 4405, 39 minutes 07 seconds.

 

UNA PISTOLA PER RINGO [A PISTOL FOR RINGO] (1965)

Una Pistola per Ringo was the second significant spaghetti western scored by Ennio Morricone, and was intended to capitalize on the success of A Fistful of Dollars the previous year. Directed by Duccio Tessari, it stars Giuliano Gemma (using the Anglicized name Montgomery Wood) as Angel Face Ringo, an ex-convict gunfighter who is hired to infiltrate a ranch overrun by Mexican bandits led by the ruthless Sancho (Fernando Sancho), who have holed up there after a bank robbery gone wrong. Not only that, Sancho has hostages, one of whom is the fiancée of the local sheriff, and Ringo’s mission is to save their lives while dealing with the banditos. Although not as iconic and pioneering as Leone’s original masterpiece, A Pistol for Ringo nevertheless was a successful film in its own right, inspiring several sequels.

Morricone’s score is very much rooted in his iconic ‘spaghetti western’ style, deviating from it only slightly in terms of melody and arrangement. The main title theme, “A Pistol for Ringo,” is a quite dreamy-sounding piece for acoustic guitar, lilting strings, percussion, and a vocal performance by Maurizio Graf and angelic choir singing the name ‘angel face’. Another significant piece is “The Slaughter,” wherein Morricone breaks out his solo trumpet once more, performing a darkly melancholic, subversively heroic theme underpinned by strings, guitar, and an increasingly prominent choir.

Again, considering its status as a classic spaghetti western, the score for Una Pistola per Ringo has been released numerous times over the years. The best is the 2010 release from GDM Music which pairs 20 minutes of digitally re-mastered music from Una Pistola per Ringo with music from its sequel Il Ritorno di Ringo, which was released later that same year.

Track Listing: 1. Angel Face (performed by Maurizio Graf) (2:18), 2. Honky Tonky (0:41), 3. Grotesque Suspense (1:40), 4. Hesitating Rag (1:23), 5. Heroic Mexico (1:32), 6. Bamba Bambina (1:31), 7. The Wait (2:35), 8. The Clash (1:23), 9. The Slaughter (1:58), 10. A Pistol For Ringo (2:17), 11. Una Pistola per Ringo Suite (3:03). GDM Music 4134, 20 minutes 21 seconds.

 

AMANTI D’OLTRETOMBA [NIGHTMARE CASTLE] (1965)

Amanti d’Oltretomba, also known as Nightmare Castle, is one of the first of the many Italian giallo horror movies Morricone scored during his long and distinguished career. Directed by Mario Caiano using the pseudonym Allen Grünewald, it’s a sort of ‘serious’ version of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, in which a pair of young lovers (Barbara Steele and Giuseppe Addobbati) are tortured murdered by the woman’s vengeful mad scientist ex-husband (Paul Muller). The twist comes when the scientist, in order to secure the inheritance from his wife’s family, has to marry her lunatic sister (also plated by Barbara Steele), and who is now cursed with the spirit of his dead wife!

Morricone’s main theme for the film comes across as something of a twisted lullaby, a superficially beautiful piece for solo piano and lush, gently lilting strings, which masks a grotesque core of pain, blood, and death. In fact, many of the films more horrific scenes are scored with organ music, placing a pseudo-religious slant to the proceedings, and a level of creepy, moody uneasiness. There are also several sequences of quite challenging orchestral dissonance, with long period of brooding, unnerving string writing.

The score for Amanti d’Oltretomba has been released several times – firstly as a vinyl LP in the 1960s, paired with the score for 1978 sci-fi film L’Umanoide in 1992, then as a standalone solo CD from GDM Records in 2006, and most recently in a digitally re-mastered version from GDM/Intermezzo Media in 2015, paired with the score for the 1974 film Milano Odia: La Polizia Non Può Sparare. Once again, the main theme can also be found on the comprehensive 15-CD compilation Ennio Morricone: The Complete Edition, released by GDM Music in 2008.

Track Listing: 1. Amanti d’Oltretomba (5:34), 2. Contrappunto Tragico (8:06), 3. Distesi (8:16), 4. Spettri (2:10), 5. Per Organo e Ottoni (6:59), 6. Dall’Oltretomba (5:56), 7. Amanti d’Oltretomba (2:18). GDM Music/Intermezzo Media Records 03015, 39 minutes 19 seconds.

 

SLALOM (1965)

Slalom is a adventure-comedy directed by regular Morricone collaborator Luciano Salce, starring Vittorio Gassman and Adolfo Celi. They play Lucio and Riccardo, two friends who, take a skiing holiday in the Italian Alps with their wives. After some comedy hi-jinks where Lucio falls down in the snow a lot, and then ditches his wife to try to seduce a beautiful woman he spies off-piste, he unwittingly becomes involved in an unexpectedly serious international espionage plot involving counterfeit American dollars and sexy female assassins. The film will be of interest to fans of Bond franchise as it features the aforementioned Celi (the lead villain from Thunderball), as well as Daniela Bianchi (the Bond girl from From Russia With Love) as Nadia, a mysterious and sultry secret agent with a hidden talent for firing machine guns!

Morricone’s score is one of those unusual Euro-thriller scores which features an array of jazz and pop-inflected orchestral action music sequences, has a lush and sexy romance piece, and is anchored by a wholly bizarre main theme. That main theme, “Slalom,” is a wildly upbeat and infectious melody kept in time with a battery of snare drums. The main melody is carried mainly by an electric guitar accompanied by tubular bells and brass, but is frequently enlivened by the sound of a man whistling, as well as a small choir making ‘doo doo’ and ‘la la’ noises or chanting the name of the film!

Slalom is one of the most popular non-western scores Morricone wrote during the period; the Dagored label released both a vinyl EP and a CD in 2000, but this was superseded by a 58-minute release of the full score by GDM Music in 2013, and this recent edition is the recommended one for anyone wanting to experience Morricone’s brand of quirky adventure music at its fullest potential.

Track Listing 1. Slalom – Titoli (1:55), 2. Sestriere (2:23), 3. Un Cafè Sulla Banchina (2:52), 4. Un Agente in Egitto (2:46), 5. Incontro Magico I (3:05), 6. Assassinio Nella Sciovia (4:29), 7. Una Sera in Albergo (2:33), 8. Marcette Grottesche (0:47), 9. Un Omicidio Misterioso (1:11), 10. Slalom – Titoli [Versione Film] (1:31), 11. In Pericolo (0:45), 12. Sul Treno (2:40), 13. Corsa Nel Deserto (2:14), 14. Incontro Magico II (3:12), 15. Sperduto a El Cairo I (8:11), 16. Sestriere [Versione Alternativa] (2:23), 17. Slalom [Versione] Alternativa (1:56), 18. Passeggiata Nella Neve (1:17), 19. Rapimento Grottesco (1:02), 20. Sperduto a El Cairo II (4:21), 21. Incontro Magico III (2:10), 22. Slalom [Single Version] (2:25), 23. Sestriere – Finale (2:28). GDM Music 4304, 58 minutes 36 seconds.

 

I PUGNI IN TASCA [FISTS IN THE POCKET] (1965)

I Pugni in Tasca, known in English as Fists in the Pocket, is an intense family psycho-drama that marks the debut of influential filmmaker Marco Bellocchio. Lou Castel, Mariano Mase, and Paola Pitagora star as siblings, all but one of whom are epileptics, who look after the elderly blind mother, and who are supported financially by the only non-epileptic brother, Augusto. Tension and drama boils to the surface when one of the other brothers, Alessandro, decides that Augusto would be better off is he did not have to look after them all, and decides to murder his mother, his sister, and then kill himself, so that Augusto can be free.

Morricone’s score for the film speaks to the broken psyches of these disturbed family members, and underscores the drama with music based around a chillingly beautiful central theme for a solo boy soprano vocal, accompanied byimpressionistic accents for piano, chimes and harp which become fractured and dissonant as the piece progresses. To accompany this central idea, Morricone also composed several pieces of lounge jazz source music, which offer a slightly surreal edge to the film, juxtaposing 1960s instrumental pop against the increasingly desperate acts.

The score for I Pugni in Tasca has been released a couple of times on CD, the best of which is the 2009 release by GDM Music. The main theme can also be found on the comprehensive 15-CD compilation Ennio Morricone: The Complete Edition, released by GDM Music in 2008.

Track Listing: 1. I Pugni in Tasca #1 (3:30), 2. Chiuso Nel Bagno (2:19), 3. Stranissimi Giochi #1 (3:07), 4. Subdolo #1 (2:11), 5. Non È Un Dramma (3:28), 6. I Pugni in Tasca #2 (2:07), 7. Lounge Music #1 (4:00), 8. Subdolo #2 (1:52), 9. Lounge Music #2 (2:07), 10. Stranissimi Giochi #2 (1:48), 11. Twist (2:25), 12. Lounge Music #3 (1:49), 13. Finale (1:55). GDM Music 7064, 36 minutes 58 seconds.

 

IDOLI CONTROLUCE (1965)

Idole Controluce is an unusual fictional film about Ugo Sanfelice, a journalist who is assigned to write a biography of the real-life Argentine soccer star Omar Sivori, who played for Italian team Juventus from 1957 onwards, and won the coveted European Footballer of the Year award in 1961. Being unable to secure an interview with the reclusive star, the journalist instead meets a different player, Nanni Moretti, who slowly reveals the details of his own life – his early career in a small provincial team, his debut alongside Sivori, and how the excesses fame eventually cost him his fiancée and his once-promising career. The film stars Massimo Girotti as Sanfelice, Gaspare Zola as Moretti, and Sivori as himself, and was directed by Enzo Battaglia.

Morricone’s score for Idole Controluce is quite lovely; it’s anchored by main theme, “Le Meno Importante,” for lilting strings, softly cooing voices, trilling pianos and a prominent plucked bass, which is somehow nostalgic and optimistic, but has a bittersweet quality of regret and missed opportunities. The score also produced at least three popular hit songs, “Il Simitero è Meravigliosa” and “Si Può Morire” performed by I Gufi, and “Le Cose Piú Importanti,” which Morricone co-wrote and which was performed by Pierfilippi.

The score for Idole Controluce has only been released once on CD, by GDM Music in 2005, paired with the score for the 1964 film E la Donna Creò l’Uomo. The main theme can also be found on the comprehensive 15-CD compilation Ennio Morricone: The Complete Edition, released by GDM Music in 2008.

Track Listing: 1. Le Cose Piú Importanti (performed by Pierfilippi) (2:09), 2. Sophisticated Boy (2:06), 3. Le Meno Importanti (4:10), 4. Relax in Solitudine (2:28), 5. Rendez-Vous (2:32), 6. Le Meno Importanti – Version with Guitar (2:23), 7. Le Meno Importanti – Version with Choir (2:03). GDM Music 2058, 17 minutes 51 seconds.

 

IL RITORNO DI RINGO [THE RETURN OF RINGO] (1965)

Il Ritorno di Ringo – The Return of Ringo – was an insta-sequel to the successful original Una Pistola per Ringo, which had released to general acclaim several months previously. Again directed by Duccio Tessari, it sees the travelling gunslinger Angel Face Ringo (Giuliano Gemma aka Montgomery Wood) involved in another adventure. After fighting for the Union Army in the American Civil War, Ringo returns home to find that his property has been taken over by a family of Mexican bandits, and his fiancée is being forced to marry Fuentes (Fernando Sancho, playing a different role) the leader of the bandit gang. Vowing revenge, Ringo goes undercover disguised as a Mexican to infiltrate the gang, bring it down from within, and reclaim his woman.

Morricone’s score for Il Ritorno di Ringo is very similar to the score for the original Ringo film, making use of the familiar strumming guitars, trumpet refrains, and suspenseful strings in the action sequences; there’s even a new original main title song performed once more by Maurizio Graf. The most interesting new idea is the conclusive piece, “La Pace Torna a Mimbres” or “Peace Comes Back to Mimbres,” in which Morricone offers a contemplative coda to the violence and revenge with a lovely, soothing piece for beautifully bittersweet strings, lilting woodwinds, warm horns, and an intimate solo guitar.

The best release of this music is the 2010 edition from GDM Music which pairs 15 minutes of digitally re-mastered music from Il Ritorno di Ringo with a substantial amount of music from the original film.

Track Listing: 1. The Return of Ringo (performed by Maurizio Graf) (2:15), 2. The Disguise (2:24), 3. Sheriff Carson (1:19), 4. The Fuentes (1:08), 5. The Funeral (2:03), 6 Barnaba’s Bamba (2:34), 7. The Wedding and The Revenge (1:27), 8. Peace Comes Back to Mimbres (2:21). GDM Music 4134, 15 minutes 31 seconds.

 

PER QUALCHE DOLLARO IN PIÚ [FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE] (1965)

Per Qualche Dollaro in Piú – For a Few Dollars More – is the second instaliment of director Sergio Leone’s Dollars Trilogy, released in November 1965, a year after the original A Fistful of Dollars. Clint Eastwood returns to play the iconic Man With No Name, this time teaming up with fellow bounty hunter, Colonel Douglas Mortimer (Lee Van Cleef), to stop the reign of terror of a deranged bandito named El Indio (Gianmaria Volonte). It’s desperately violent film about greed and revenge, but was an enormously popular success, and again proved influential in terms of the progression of Leone, Eastwood, and composer Ennio Morricone.

Truthfully, Morricone’s music is a direct continuation of the spaghetti western sound established A Fistful of Dollars, with similar orchestrations and similar thematic application; nevertheless, several individual pieces stand out as being worthy of special note. The main title theme, “Per Qualche Dollaro in Più,” is one those pieces Morricone wrote which sounds awful on paper, yet somehow works perfectly in context – a raw, aggressive, rhythmic piece for strings and percussion featuring several spaghetti western staples: the twangy sound of a Jew’s harp, Alessandro Alessandroni’s whistling, gruff male voice chanting, solo recorder, electric and acoustic guitars. It’s still astonishing to me how Morricone came up with these disparate sounds and made them define an entire genre.

Elsewhere, the “La Resa dei Conti” theme has some unexpected conflicting tonal qualities that come to light through the use of different instruments under a variation on the main theme from the first film, including a church organ which gives it a definite ecclesiastical overtone. “Il Vizio d’Uccidere” is a pretty romantic theme for solo electric guitar, solo oboe, strings, and choir, which has a soothing, almost tragic quality, before becoming more lively in its second half. “Addio Colonnello” overflows with emotion, a gorgeous combination of reflective woodwinds, sighing strings, noble brass, and an increasingly prominent choir. “Poker d’Assi” is a piece of raucous honky tonk saloon piano music. “Carillon,” which reprises and expands upon the lullabyish glockenspiel motif also heard in “La Resa dei Conti,” speaks directly to the plot point in the film regarding Indio’s musical pocket watch, which he plays before engaging in gun duels, only firing when the chimes have ended.

As is the case with all Morricone spaghetti western soundtracks, For a Few Dollars More has been released dozens of times on vinyl LP, cassette, and CD over the years. I personally have the 2004 CD edition released by BMG Ricordi, and I am satisfied with the music included, but there is an expanded version released by GDM Music which features bonus cues rendered in mono, and several original songs.

Track Listing: 1. La Resa dei Conti (3:06), 2. Osservatori Osservati (2:02), 3. Il Vizio d’Uccidere (2:24), 4. Il Colpo (2:21), 5. Addio Colonnello (1:44), 6. Per Qualche Dollaro in Più (2:50), 7. Poker d’Assi (1:16), 8. La Resa dei Conti – Duello Finale (2:33), 9. Carillon (1:10). BMG Ricordi LC00316 , 19 minutes 25 seconds.

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  1. Costas Chrysanthakopoulos
    August 14, 2017 at 8:49 am

    Apart from the releases mentioned in your reviews Jon, there have been certain re-recordings around of the first two (plus the GOOD/BAD/UGLY score) DOLLARS TRILOGY scores by a rather obscure orchestra, which are complete and faithful imitations of the original recordings regarding tempos and durations but sound a bit timid and colourless in parts…any knowledge/opininons on these?
    https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dollars-Trilogy-Complete-Original-Scores/dp/B00TJ0GCD6/ref=sr_1_1?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1502725724&sr=1-1&keywords=the+dollars+trilogy+soundtrack

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