Home > Reviews > ENNIO MORRICONE REVIEWS, Part XI

ENNIO MORRICONE REVIEWS, Part XI

In this eleventh installment of my series looking at the early careers of iconic composers, we take a look at seven of the dozens of scores written by the legendary Ennio Morricone in 1971. The titles covered here include a trio of historical films – one romance, one comedy, one serious drama – plus an action comedy about aerobatics, a left wing sociopolitical drama, a challenging giallo thriller score, and one last great Sergio Leone western.

 

ADDIO FRATELLO CRUDELI (1971)

Addio Fratello Crudeli is an Italian romantic drama directed by Giuseppe Patroni Griffi, based on the controversial 1629 play ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore by the renaissance-era English author John Ford. The film stars Olivier Tobias as Giovanni, the son of a wealthy Italian nobleman, who is sent away to study overseas. When he returns many years later he meets and falls in love with a beautiful young woman named Annabella (Charlotte Rampling) – only to discover that she is his younger sister, who was only a small child when he left. Despite everything the pair embark on an incestuous relationship, the shame of which is only compounded when Annabella becomes pregnant.

Morricone’s score for the film offers no judgement on the central characters, and treats the relationship as a traditional romance; as such, his main theme for the pair in “Giovanni e Annabella” is one of his loveliest, a hauntingly beautiful melody for strings and woodwinds accompanied by a classic Morricone harpsichord to give it a historical renaissance sound. It is twinged with a little melancholy – as if foreshadowing the doomed fate of the lovers – but is one of the composer’s most traditionally appealing love themes of the period. The theme appears frequently throughout the score, notably in “In Fondo al Pozzo” where it is rendered as a trio for church organ, guitar, and voices, the lush and dramatic “Amami o Uccidimi,” the bucolic “Soranzo,” and the sublime “La Gioia,” which picks up a dramatic rhythmic undercurrent in its second half.

Other cues of note include the two “Frate Boneventura” cues, a pair of peacefully spiritual sequences for soft voices, flutes, gently lilting strings, and renaissance era dulcimers, the former of which features a lovely passage of hypnotic overlapping layered strings that foreshadows some of the writing in The Mission. “Il Mio Mondo Con Lei Era Perfetto” is a gorgeous duet for recorder and guitar, perfectly redolent of the time period. “Le Prime Ombre,” “Sospensione Prima,” and “Sospensione Seconda” are starker and more dissonant, both featuring sharp stinging string figures, nervous stabs from the harpsichord, and unsettling percussive ideas; “Sveglia Nel Castello” is their exact opposite, a jovial period dance.

Of course, stories such as these never end well for star-crossed lovers, and the conclusive cues are underpinned with romantic tragedy and the kiss of death. Both “Rivedendola” and “La Morte di Annabella” reprise the main theme with an appropriate sense of elegiac beauty, while “Inter Mortuous Liber (Dies Irae)” uses deep and resonant male voiced Latin chanting to end the score on a funereal note.

Addio Fratello Crudeli, while still containing its fair share of dissonance and period orchestration, is nevertheless one of Morricone’s loveliest scores of the period, being anchored by one of his most tragically beautiful main themes. The score has been released multiple times over the years; the one reviewed here is the one released by Italian label Digitmovies in 2006.

Track Listing: 1. Giovanni E Annabella (2:25), 2. Frate Bonaventura (9:25), 3. Il Mio Mondo Con Lei Era Perfetto (3:26), 4. Le Prime Ombre (1:42), 5. In Fondo al Pozzo (2:36), 6. Amami o Uccidimi (4:58), 7. Sospensione Prima (7:45), 8. Soranzo (3:50), 9. La Gioia (2:35), 10. Sveglia Nel Castello (4:11), 11. Frate Bonaventura (6:45), 12. Non Chiamarmi Piu Fratello, Chiamami Amore (3:59), 13. Sospensione Seconda (9:09), 14. Rivedendola (0:56), 15. La Morte di Annabella (1:10), 16. Inter Mortuous Liber (Dies Irae) (2:14). Digitmovies CDDM-065, 67 minutes 06 seconds.

 

CORREVA L’ANNO DI GRAZIA 1870 (1971)

Correva l’Anno di Grazia 1870 is an Italian historical drama film written and directed by Alfredo Giannetti, starring Anna Magnani and Marcello Mastroianni. The film looks at the relationship between the church and its subjects, and specifically follows a group of people who begin to form a rebellious opposition against the church’s power. When one of the rebels, Augusto Parenti, is arrested and imprisoned on orders of the Pope, his wife Teresa begs for his freedom, to no avail. While Augusto remains in prison, suffering the barbaric conditions within, Teresa starts to make plans for how to raise their son without him.

The score for Correva l’Anno di Grazia 1870 is another one of Morricone’s beautifully liturgical scores, and is anchored by a lovely main theme for soft woodwinds, gently rhytmic strings, and a cooing choir, in the opening cue “Muratori e Carbonari”. These orchestrations persist through much of the rest of the score, but often with different dramatic intent. In “Inconscio Senza Fine,” for example, they feel much more religioso, and are accompanied by tolling bells and a brief interlude for a dancing church organ. Later, in the reprise of “Muratori e Carbonari” the melody initially feels a little more hesitant and restrained, underpinned with tremolo strings and with melody switched to piano, before returning to its familiar arrangement. It’s final statement, in the conclusive “Canzone Senza Parole,” is initially quiet and a little morose, but becomes quite uplifting as it develops.

Other cues worth noting include the brief “Roma Antica” is a swooning, lilting piece for flute; “Passeggiata Sulla Via Del Mare,” which features a deeply romantic trilling guitar melody; “Sulla Via del Campidoglio,” which has a warm, noble string theme, and which becomes quite stirring as it develops, especially when the melody switches to heraldic brass with an accompanying choir; and the dream-like “Come Un Sogno” which blends guitars harp, chimes, and bells, in a hypnotic and beguiling fashion.

The score for Correva l’Anno di Grazia 1870 is a comparatively short one – just under 20 minutes – and so it is usually released as a 2-for-1 soundtrack compilation paired with another score. CAM Records released in 1992 paired with the 1980 score Il Bandito Dagli Occhi Azzuri, but the one I’m reviewing here is the 2005 Digitmovies release which pairs it with the scores for the 1970 film La Sciantosa and the 1971 TV movie Tre Donne – 1943: Un Incontro, as part of an impromptu Anna Magnani Movies collection.

Track Listing: 1. Muratori e Carbonari (2:32), 2. Inconscio Senza Fine (1:09), 3. Roma Antica (1:00), 4. Passeggiata Sulla Via Del Mare (1:51), 5. Muratori e Carbonari (3:48), 6. Sulla Via del Campidoglio (2:42), 7. Come Un Sogno (1:19), 8. Canzone Senza Parole (3:58). Digitmovies CDDM-038, 18 minutes 40 seconds.

 

FORZA G (1971)

Forza G – released as Winged Devils in English – is an Italian action comedy directed by Duccio Tessari, starring Riccardo Salvino and Pino Colizzi. Salvino plays Gianni Orlando, the son of a rich family, who dreams of being an aerobatic pilot in the Italian Air Force. He eventually convinces the military commanders to let him join, but his reckless ways result in him being relegated to a reserve. However, he begins to prove himself when the Frecce Tricolori is challenged to an aerobatic competition by members of the Red Arrows – the elite squadron from the British Royal Air Force.

The score for Forza G is essentially based around two main themes. The first, called “Forza G – Per Gioco-Presentazione Della Pattuglia,” is a playful and mischievous march for pizzicato strings and processed keyboards, and tinkling harpsichords, which captures the playboy image and carefree attitude of the protagonist. Subsequent performances in “La Festa,” “L’Aliante,” and “Burlsceo,” are similarly jovial, and then in “Quella Donna” Edda dell’Orso comes back with her orgasm noises from L’Uccello Dalle Piume di Cristallo, alongside some groovy guitars and jazz orchestrations. Later, “Prova d’Acrobazia” features theme being whistled, while “Le Frecce Tricolori” is a straightforward reprise of the opening cue.

The second, called “Sospesi Fra Le Nuvole” – ‘Suspended in the Clouds,’ is a little more wistful and dreamily romantic, a combination of lovely lilting strings, warm and inviting woodwinds, with a contemporary light rock percussion backing. As the theme develops it gains some soft voices intoning wordlessly, and becomes a lovely, intimate pseudo-lounge piece that expresses the effortless love of soaring through the clouds. The theme reappears in four subsequent cues (“Ripresa Prima,” “Ripresa Seconda,” and so on), all of which are really lovely.

When these two themes are not present there are a couple of standout standalone pieces; “Come Un Western” features the unusual circumstance whereby Morricone is pasticheing his own theme from A Fistful of Dollars, “Psichedelico Jazzistico” sounds exactly like you think it does. Interestingly, considering that the film features several spectacular scenes of aerobatics, there is nothing in the score that could be described as heroic or sweeping or in any redolent of the exhilaration of flight; a shame, as I was eager to hear Morricone go down that road.

The score for Forza G is quite popular in its home country, and has been released several times over the years, by several labels. The one I’m reviewing here is the 2002 CD release from Cinevox, which runs for just over half an hour.

Track Listing: 1. Sospesi Fra Le Nuvole (3:42), 2. Forza G – Per Gioco-Presentazione Della Pattuglia (4:07), 3. Come Un Western (2:35), 4. Ripresa Prima (2:44), 5. Psichedelico Jazzistico (1:42), 6. La Festa (1:33), 7. Ripresa Seconda (2:56), 8. L’Aliante (1:33), 9. Burlesco (1:34), 10. Ripresa Terza (2:43), 11. Quella Donna (2:30), 12. Un Pilota e Il Suo Aereo (3:02), 13. Ripresa Quarta (2:51), 14. Prova d’Acrobazia (1:34), 15. Le Frecce Tricolori (2:05), 16. Come Un Miracolo (2:13). Cinevox CDMDF-351, 39 minutes 24 seconds.

 

GIÙ LA TESTA (1971)

Giù La Testa – known various in English as Duck, You Sucker! or A Fistful of Dynamite – is the last great spaghetti western directed by Sergio Leone. The film stars Rod Steiger as Miranda, an amoral Mexican outlaw who leads a criminal bandit gang made up of members of his family; his life changes when he meets John Mallory (James Coburn), an Irish republican who has fled to Mexico to escape from British forces and is now working as a silver prospector. Eventually the unlikely pair gets caught up in the Mexican revolution when a plot to blow up a bank and steal money from the vault goes wrong, and leads to them being hailed as heroes to the cause.

Morricone’s score for Giù La Testa is probably the least well-known score he wrote for a Leone movie, but is still steeped in the beauty, creativity, and occasional deep weirdness that he always brought to films like this. It’s anchored by a main theme, obviously called “Giù La Testa,” which features earnest strings underneath a playful, almost lounge-like melody, Alessandro Alessandrini whistling, Edda dell’Orso’s haunting wordless soprano, and a peculiar touch wherein a vocalist sings the name ‘Sean’ over and over again – this being an important plot point in the film related to Mallory. “Scherzi a Parte” reprises the main theme for a plethora of different instrumental textures, each more cheerful and carefree than the last, while the 9-minute “Invenzione Per John” offers extended takes on all the core ideas, including more vocal performances of ‘Sean Sean Sean’.

“Marcia degli Accattoni” is a sequence which somehow incorporates the croaking vocals from Quando le Donne Avevano la Coda, a statement of Mozart’s ‘Eine Kleine Nachtmusik,’ and all manner of unusual instrumental touches into a quirky march theme; as odd as it is, it actually becomes quite insistent and serious as it develops, and turns into a terrifically effective piece of action and suspense. Later, the underlying melody of this theme receives an emotional oboe arrangement in the brief “Addio Messico”,

Other cues of note include “Mesa Verde,” a haunting piece for evocative woodwinds and strings; the warmly nostalgic “Messico e Irlanda”, which features some lovely writing for strings and guitar; and the tensely dissonant suspense of “Rivoluzione Contro,” a Morricone hallmark. The final vocal version of the main theme is a perfect coda.

When you compare this with the likes of A Fistful of Dollars or The Good the Bad and the Ugly it pales in comparison – let’s face it, anything would – but there is a great deal to admire about Giù La Testa. The laid-back attitude of the main theme is a little deceptive, because there is actually a lot going on, in the way it captures the devil-may-care attitude of the main character, but also surreptitiously reveals his motivations. The idiosyncratic orchestrations and offbeat rhytms are pure Morricone, and the whole thing will appeal to anyone who is drawn to his spaghetti western style. The score has been released numerous times over the years; this version of the album is the one released by Cinevox in the year 2000 and runs for a touch under an hour, but there are several others which features more score, various bonus tracks, all of which are worthy of exploration.

Track Listing: 1. Giù La Testa (4:16), 2. Amore (1:41), 3. Mesa Verde (1:40), 4. Marcia Degli Accattoni (5:54), 5. I Figli Morti (6:05), 6. Addio Messico (0:53), 7. Scherzi a Parte (2:24), 8. Messico e Irlanda (4:57), 9. Invenzione Per John (9:05), 10. Rivoluzione Contro (6:45), 11. Dopo l’Esplosione (3:22), 12. Giù La Testa (3:00). Cinevox CDMDF-212, 50 minutes 2 seconds.

 

GLI OCCHI FREDDI DELLA PAURA (1971)

Gli Occhi Freddi Della Paura, released in English as Cold Eyes Of Fear, is an Italian thriller directed by Enzo Girolami Castellari. The film stars Gianni Garko as Peter, a handsome young playboy who picks up a pretty girl named Anna (Giovanna Ralli), and takes her to the house of his father Juez, a prominent local judge (Fernando Rey). However, instead of enjoying a night of passion, Peter and Anna arrive and are immediately kidnapped by two dangerous ex-convicts who are bent on revenge against Juez, who is the man who sent them to prison.

Morricone’s score is another one of his Gruppo d’Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza scores, abstract and dissonant, a collision of psychotic wailing jazz textures, musique concrète, and long sequences of instrumental impressionism that test the patience. The opening cue, “Seguita,” is a vivid explosion of free jazz featuring especially frenetic passages featuring electric guitars, stand up bass, and soprano saxophones, as well as electronic manipulations and yowling voices that sound like cats in heat. I’m serious. The title cue, “Gli Occhi Freddi Delia Paura,” is an extended exercise in scraping things against each other, bizarre metallic sound effects and seemingly random outbursts of noise that certainly unsettle the listener, but force the listener to examine the limits of their endurance.

And so the score goes… virtually the entire rest of the score is based on these ideas, with very little of anything that could be described as thematic consonance. There isn’t a single cue where Morricone breaks out into anything resembling a melody. People who really dig Morricone’s super-experimental super-avant garde scores, as well as people who appreciate atonal free jazz, may find Gli Occhi Freddi Delia Paura to their liking; I’m glad I’ve heard it, but once is enough for me.

Amazingly, Gli Occhi Freddi Delia Paura has been released on CD multiple times over the years, apparently because some people actually wanted to hear MORE of this cacophonous noise than was on the original release. This review is of the Dagored release that came out in the year 2000.

Track Listing: 1. Seguita (3:18), 2. Gli Occhi Freddi Delia Paura (3:32), 3. Evaporazione (2:23), 4. Notte E Misteri (1:47), 5. Urla Nel Nulla (3:19), 6. Folle Folle (3:42), 7. Evanescente (4:13), 8. Dal Sogno E Ritorno (2:38), 9. Ritorno All ‘Inizio (3:23), 10. Gli Occhi Freddi Delia Paura I (2:45), 11. Gli Occhi Freddi Delia Paura II (2:09), 12. Gli Occhi Freddi Delia Paura III (1:43), 13. Gli Occhi Freddi Delia Paura IV (2:23), 14. Gli Occhi Freddi Delia Paura V (1:27), 15. Gli Occhi Freddi Delia Paura VI (4:33), 16. Gli Occhi Freddi Delia Paura VII (1:48). Dagored 119-2, 45 minutes 03 seconds.

 

LA CLASSE OPERAIA VA IN PARADISO (1971)

La Classe Operaia Va In Paradiso – known variously in English as The Working Class Goes To Heaven and Lulu the Tool – is a political drama directed by Elio Petri. The film stars Gian Maria Volonté as Lulù Massa, a worker at a factory whose extreme efficiency is used as an excuse by his bosses to pay his colleagues less and expect higher productivity from them. When Lulù loses a finger in an accident at work, and suddenly finds himself subject to the same uncaring work conditions as his colleagues, he begins to realize that he has been used as a ‘tool’ by the capitalist system, and begins to work with unionists and students to demand better treatment.

Morricone scored several of these left-wing pro-union dramas, and many of them feel similar. La Classe Operaia Va In Paradiso may be the best of them, combining a full orchestra with the I Cantori Moderni Di Alessandroni choir and the usual array of offbeat sound design for which he was so famous. The main title, “La Classe Operaia Va In Paradiso,” is an unusual staccato march that incorporates bizarre sound effects – duck quacks, highly processed gunfire that often morphs into a fluttering effect – against a vaguely comedic trumpet line and rapped snares, that becomes robust and rhythmic as it progresses; the repetitive nature of the theme is clearly commenting on Lulù’s place as a cog in a highly mechanized industrial machine, while the highly classical violin phrases that come in from time to time offer a lyrical counterpoint to the idea, romanticizing the freedom from the capitalist system for which the unionists fight.

Many of these ideas are expanded upon in the 8-minute “Sinfonia dell’Ottimista,” which is if anything even more abstract and challenging than the main title with it’s extended periods of texture and dissonance, although Morricone does return to the main theme regularly. “Metamorfosi,” “Tempi di Lavorazione” amd “Alienazione” are similarly bizarre, repeating the main title rhythms against an aggressive, brutal-sounding electric guitar throb and more unsettling orchestral textures that move in and out of the piece. “Il Sogno” is a challenging piece that mostly pairs stark woodwind effects with the fluttering gunfire idea, but then morphs into a disquieting textural piece for piano, low strings, and low brass. Really, only “Pazzia da Lavoro” offers any real diversity from this core sound, initially juxtaposing a dance-like mandolin motif against threatening brass chords, before eventually offering a large scale statement of the rhythmic part of the main title theme for percussion, piano, and sly strings.

La Classe Operaia Va In Paradiso is a tough score to love, although Morricone clearly did as it features regularly in his concert repertoire, confounding those who only turned up to hear The Mission and Cinema Paradiso. However, if this sort of aggressive Morricone experimentalism has always been fascinating to you, the score has been released numerous times over the years; the version I’m writing about here is the 2009 limited edition from the Italian label GDM, which takes the original 8-track LP album presentation and expands it to more than an hour, with several variations on the core material.

Track Listing: 1. La Classe Operaia Va In Paradiso (5:20), 2. Metamorfosi (2:10), 3. Sinfonia dell’Ottimista (8:16), 4. Inventario (2:58), 5. Tempi di Lavorazione (4:06), 6. Il Sogno (4:36), 7. Pazzia da Lavoro (2:23), 8. Alienazione (3:45), 9. La Classe Operaia Va In Paradiso #2 (3:46), 10. Metamorfosi #2 (1:55), 11. Sinfonia dell’Ottimista #2 (10:30), 12. Alienazione #2 (5:45), 13. Inventario #2 (2:24), 14. La Classe Operaia Va In Paradiso #3 (6:24). GDM Club 7062, 64 minutes 18 seconds.

 

TRE NEL MILLE (1971)

Tre Nel Mille is a historical adventure comedy directed by Franco Indovina, set in the year 999. Two lowly Roman soldiers, Pannocchia and Carestia, and their legionnaire commander Fortunato are traveling through Italy, and are worried about the impending turn of the millennium, which is supposed to result in a terrible prophecy coming true, and bad luck befalling all those who witness the year. As the three of them have numerous adventures across the land, the prophecy appears to come true for Fortunato, when he discovers that his wife has been unfaithful to him while he has been away. The film stars Carmelo Bene, Giancarlo Dettori, and Franco Parenti.

Despite the comedic elements in the film, large parts of the score for Tre Nel Mille is surprisingly lovely. The main theme, “Ballata Trovatorica,” is a soft ballad for strings and guitar that is lonely, perhaps even a little sad, capturing the generally solitary existence the three central characters lead as they travel from town to town on behalf of the Roman army. Cues like “Elegia Con Interruzione” builds more on these ideas, as does the pretty “Le Voci dal Liuto,” which blends a light lute melody with low, slightly menacing woodwinds and cooed vocals.

Perhaps more indicative of their characters is the infectious “Saltrello Dei Tre Pupazzi,” a medieval-sounding dance for lutes and percussion that just stays the right side of playfully catchy, but cues like these are the exception rather than the rule. “La Vallata di Firenze” is an unusual piece for oddly-metered rhythmic ideas, competing male and female wordless vocals, and a cacophony of period instruments. “Responsori Per Liuto e Voci,” “La Piccola Zampogna,” and “La Grande Zampogna” are similarly challenging and unsettlingly dissonant, with latter using woodwinds in a very unusual timbre. Most unusual of all is “Maiali Ed Altri Animali,” a bizarre cacophony of human croaks, oinks, whistles, and other assorted animal sounds that have to be heard to be believed.

Tre Nel Mille is another one of those Morricone scores which blends the endlessly lovely with the utterly insane, as only Morricone could. Most people will find the main theme appealing, but some of it may be way too out in left field to be tolerable. The only full release of the score came out in 2010 on the Italian Cometa label, and this is it.

Track Listing: 1. Ballata Trovatorica (4:57), 2. Saltarello Dei Tre Pupazzi (2:09), 3. La Vallata di Firenze (1:52), 4. Elegia Con Interruzione (4:07), 5. Le Voci dal Liuto (2:14), 6. Arrivo al Castello (1:39), 7. Responsori Per Liuto e Voci (2:41), 8. La Piccola Zampogna (1:42), 9. Maiali e Altri Animali (1:17), 10. La Voce del Liuto (1:37), 11. La Grande Zampogna (3:25), 12. Canto Per Liuto (2:00), 13. Ballata Trovatorica (4:11). Cometa CMT-10008, 33 minutes 14 seconds.

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