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ENNIO MORRICONE REVIEWS, Part V

August 2, 2020 Leave a comment

In this fifth installment of my series looking at the early careers of iconic composers, we take a look at nine of the scores written by the legendary Ennio Morricone in 1968, one of the most prolific years of any composer in cinema history. This group of reviews looks at the music for a couple of great spaghetti westerns, several influential pop-psychedelia scores, and a dark science fiction drama score which allowed Morricone to channel his more serious avant-garde side, and his first collaboration with the great Italian director Dario Argento. Read more…

ENNIO MORRICONE REVIEWS, Part IV

July 18, 2020 Leave a comment

In this fourth installment of my series looking at the early career of some iconic composers, we take a look at ten more scores written by the legendary Ennio Morricone between 1962 and 1967, most of which are among the most obscure of his early years. This group of reviews includes a couple of great spaghetti westerns, several influential pop-psychedelia scores, several lounge music scores accompanying movies bolstering the acting careers of singers, his final score for director Marco Bellocchio, and his first score for horror director Lucio Fulce! Read more…

ENNIO MORRICONE REVIEWS, Part III

July 9, 2020 Leave a comment

In this third installment of my irregular series looking at the early careers of iconic composers, we take a look at an additional eight scores written by the legendary Ennio Morricone between 1961 and 1967 which were not included in the first two articles. This group of reviews includes the first ever western that Morricone scored, several other spaghetti westerns from the Fistful of Dollars era, and several comedic and dramatic romance scores – one of which was for an early film by one of Europe’s most esteemed directors. Read more…

Ennio Morricone, 1928-2020

July 6, 2020 1 comment

Composer Ennio Morricone died on July 6, 2020, in hospital in Rome, Italy, after suffering complications following a fall at his home, in which he broke his leg. He was 91.

Ennio Morricone was born in Rome, Italy, in November 1928. He studied at the Conservatory of the National Academy of Santa Cecilia, where he specialized in trumpet performance and composition. During the 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, eventually going on to form Gruppo di Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanzsa, an avant-garde musical improvisation group considered to be one of the first experimental composers collectives.

Morricone began ghostwriting for composers such as Armando Trovajoli and Mario Nascimbene in the late 1950s, before making his credited film debut in 1961 for director Luciano Salce’s Il Federale (The Fascist). He worked almost exclusively in Italian cinema in the 1960s, but started to gain some international prominence for his work with director Sergio Leone, a former classmate, whose ‘spaghetti westerns’ starring a young American actor named Clint Eastwood became unexpected hits. A Fistful of Dollars (1964), For a Few Dollars More (1965), The Good the Bad and the Ugly (1966) and Once Upon a Time in the West (1968), as well as the Burt Reynolds vehicle Navajo Joe (1966), introduced the world to his idiosyncratic personal style, mixing a traditional orchestra with unusual percussion effects, gruff chanting voices, unusual whistles courtesy of Alessandro Alessandroni, and the soaring beauty of the voice of his friend, soprano Edda dell’Orso. These scores became hugely influential and massively popular, quickly cementing his reputation as one of Europe’s leading film composers. Read more…

CINEMA PARADISO – Ennio Morricone

November 26, 2018 1 comment

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

As a young small town Sicilian boy, director Giuseppe Tornatore fell in love with the cinema where he would spend hours every day insatiably viewing films. With the advent of television and the VCR, many believed that the days of the town cinema were numbered. This film abounds with nostalgia as Tornatore explores his movie going memories and how they affected his life. Drawing from his own life experiences, he crafted a screenplay, which secured the financial backing of the French production company Les Films Ariane. A fine cast was assembled, which included; Philippe Noiret as Alfredo, Salvatore Cascio as Salvatore Di Vita (child), Marco Leonardo as Salvatore Di Vita (adolescent), Jacques Perrin as Salvatore Di Vita (adult), Agnese Nano as Elena Mendola (young), Leopoldo Trieste as Father Adelfio, Antonella Attili as Maria (young), Pupella Maggio as Maria (adult) and Isa Danieli as Ana. Salvatore Di Vita, aka Toto, is a precocious kid who falls in love with movies shown at his town’s theater, Cinema Paradiso. It comes to pass that he worms his way into the heart of projectionist Alfredo, who befriends him and takes him on as his apprentice. Over time Salvatore masters the projector and often runs it himself. So great is his love of movies that he buys a movie camera and begins making his own home movies. Tragedy strikes one night when the Cinema Paradiso catches fire and burns down, with Salvatore saving Alfredo’s life, but not before he is badly burned and blinded. Read more…

THE MISSION – Ennio Morricone

November 19, 2018 Leave a comment

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Producer David Putnam and director Roland Joffe were seeking to sustain the acclaim of their last collaboration, The Killing Fields (1984), and so recruited renowned screenwriter Robert Bolt to compose a compelling historical drama. The independent British production company Goldcrest Films financed the project, providing a generous budget, and a fine cast was assembled, which included Robert De Niro as Captain Rodrigo Mendoza, Jeremy Irons as Father Gabriel, Ray McAnally as Cardinal Altamirano, Aidan Quinn as Felipe Mendoza, Cherie Lunghi as Carlotta, Ronald Pickup as Don Hatar, Chuck Low as Don Cabeza and Liam Neeson as Father John Fielding. The film offers a classic morality play, which explores the tragic events surrounding the 1750 Treaty of Madrid. The Spanish and Portuguese are warring along the Brazil and Paraguayan border and the treaty ended the conflict by requiring Spain to cede territory south and east of the Rio Uruguay to Portugal. This would require the seven Jesuit missionaries to leave and place the Guarani inhabitants in peril as Portugal, unlike Spain, used slavery to man their plantations. The film opens in 1740 with Jesuit missionary Father Gabriel seeking to convert the Guarani to Catholicism. The opening scene of a Jesuit cast over the waterfall tied to a cross reveals the Guarani’s hostility to outsiders. He is joined by slaver Rodrigo Mendoza who seeks repentance following the murder of his brother, who he caught sleeping with his fiancée. Father Gabriel gains the trust of the Guarani through his oboe playing and they over time convert. Rodrigo finds new meaning to his life, abandons weapons, and commits to joining the priesthood. Read more…

THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY – Ennio Morricone

November 27, 2017 1 comment

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

The commercial success of the Spaghetti Westerns A Fistful of Dollars and For A Few More Dollars caught the eyes of studio executives at United Artists. They contacted Italian screenwriter Luciano Vincenzoni, offered him a contract, and expressed a desire to purchase film rights for the next installment. The Italian creative team of producer Alberto Grimaldi, director Sergio Leone and Vincenzoni met and agreed to collaborate. They proposed a story set during the American Civil War, where three rogues join in an uneasy alliance in search of buried treasure. United Artists agreed to the storyline and provided a generous budget of $1.2 million. Vincenzoni joined with Leone, Agenore Incrocci, and Furio Scarpelli to create the screenplay that was not without controversy, in that it eschewed the traditional Americana romanticism. It instead offered a potent social commentary on capitalism, greed, as well as the destructiveness and absurdity of war. Its heroes are less pure, less righteous and more morally ambiguous, where the clear lines between hero and villain are blurred. Read more…

ENNIO MORRICONE REVIEWS, Part II

August 20, 2017 Leave a comment

In this second installment of my irregular new series looking at the early career of some iconic composers, we take a look at some more of the more obscure works written by the legendary Ennio Morricone. This group of reviews look at fifteen scores Morricone wrote in 1966 and 1967, including several outstanding jazz and pop pieces, war moves and historical drama, and more of his groundbreaking spaghetti western scores, one of which features one of the most iconic musical primal screams in cinema history! Read more…

ENNIO MORRICONE REVIEWS, Part I

August 13, 2017 1 comment

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. Read more…

THE UNTOUCHABLES – Ennio Morricone

June 15, 2017 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The colorful life of gangster Al Capone has captured the imagination of the American public for decades. He was the notorious crime boss of Chicago during the prohibition era in the late 1920s and early 1930s, and was beloved, despised, and feared in equal measure – many in Chicago’s working class neighborhoods saw him as a Robin Hood figure, helping the downtrodden of the city. Attitudes towards him changed in the aftermath of the brutal St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in 1929, after which law enforcement officials became more intent on bringing him to justice. Brian De Palma’s 1987 film The Untouchables tells a dramatic version of this largely true story, as dogged federal agent Elliot Ness forms a team of equally determined investigators in an attempt to end Capone’s criminal activity once and for all. The film starred Kevin Costner as Ness, Robert De Niro as Capone, and Sean Connery as Ness’s world-weary ex-cop partner Jimmy Malone, a role which won him an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Read more…

THE MISSION – Ennio Morricone

October 27, 2016 1 comment

themissionTHROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

There are moments in film music history where you can listen to a score, and upon its conclusion sit back and be content in the knowledge that you have just experienced a genuine masterpiece. It doesn’t happen very often, because it has to be a perfect combination of everything that can possibly make a film score great. It has to fit the film, of course, carrying the story and enhancing the drama and elevating it to a point where the two seem inseparable, and where the film would be immeasurably diminished by it not being there. But then it also has to have all those things that make it excellent as pure music – everything from recurring themes that develop through the score, to orchestration, technique, and those intangibles of “beauty” and “memorability,” which of course are purely subjective, but nevertheless often affect a wide range of people in similar emotional ways. Ennio Morricone’s 1986 score for The Mission is, undoubtedly, one of those scores which ticks every box, a masterpiece on every conceivable level. Read more…

THE HATEFUL EIGHT – Ennio Morricone

January 2, 2016 3 comments

hatefuleightOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

Ennio Morricone has been providing music for Quentin Tarantino’s films for a long time, but it is only recently that he has done so intentionally. Tarantino’s first six films – Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, Kill Bill, Death Proof, and Inglourious Basterds – featured an eclectic, hand-picked selection of music comprising classic rock songs and score cuts from Tarantino’s favorite movies. Kill Bill and Inglourious Basterds most notably made use of music from several classic Morricone scores, including tracks from films such as Navajo Joe, The Good the Bad and the Ugly, The Big Gundown, Revolver, and Allonsanfàn, among others. Tarantino has been both praised and criticized for this approach; some love his idiosyncratic re-purposing of this music in a new and vital setting, while others say that their familiarity with some of the pieces causes a disconnect, diminishing their impact in their new context. Years ago, when questioned about his musical ideology, Tarantino said that he didn’t trust any composer enough to understand, and then musically reinterpret, his cinematic visions – the “soul of his movie”. Tarantino’s stance on this matter began to soften somewhat prior to his seventh film, Django Unchained, and at one point the rumor was that Ennio Morricone had agreed to score it – if anyone could get Tarantino to change his mind about the impact and importance of an original score, it would be Morricone. However, circumstances led to this not happening, and the final soundtrack featured an original Morricone song, “Ancora Qui,” but no original score. Read more…

EN MAI FAIS CE QU’IL TE PLAÎT – Ennio Morricone

November 10, 2015 Leave a comment

enmaifaiscequilteplaitOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

If the information on the Internet Movie Database is correct, En Mai Fais Ce Qu’il te Plaît is the 521st score of Ennio Morricone’s career, which stretches back to his first score, Il Federale, in 1961. In the intervening 54 years the Italian has written some of the most iconic music in the history of cinema; En Mai Fais Ce Qu’il te Plaît will likely not be remembered as one of his standout works but, considering the fact that he is now aged 86, that he is writing film music at all is a minor miracle. That it’s still this good is nothing short of astonishing. The film – the title of which translates to Darling Buds of May in English – is a French drama written and directed by Christian Carion, who previously directed the well regarded films Une Hirondelle a Fait le Printemps and Joyeux Noël. Set during the early days of World War II, the story follows a group of people from a small village in Pas-de-Calais in northern France, who flee from the advancing German troops, and essentially become homeless, traversing the French countryside trying to avoid the Nazis, while trying to retain some semblance of a normal life under new, terrible circumstances. Read more…

RED SONJA – Ennio Morricone

May 7, 2015 1 comment

redsonjaTHROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Cashing in on the popular success of Conan the Barbarian and the various other sword-and-sorcery epics of the early 1980s was Red Sonja, the tale of a barbarian warrior princess, based on the original story by Robert Howard, the creator of Conan, and directed by Richard Fleischer. The film starred Brigitte Nielsen, the Danish supermodel and future wife of Sylvester Stallone in her first acting job, in the title role as a woman seeking vengeance upon those who murdered her parents, while simultaneously embarking on a quest to find a magical talisman whose power could destroy the world. Despite the presence of Arnold Schwarzenegger in a supporting role as the legendary swordsman Lord Kalidor, the film was critically decimated, receiving brickbats for its acting, writing, direction, and wooden action sequences. In fact, possibly the only member of the cast and crew of Red Sonja to escape unscathed was the legendary composer Ennio Morricone, who unexpectedly found himself scoring the movie. Read more…

BAARÌA – Ennio Morricone

September 25, 2009 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Baarìa may well be the first instance of a director – in this case Giuseppe Tornatore – making a film about what is effectively his own life story. The film is a reflection and love letter to the island of Sicily, and depicts two childhood friends, Peppino and Mannina, who grow up to be lovers. The story spans three generations, from the 1920s to the present day, and is set in the town of Bagheria (known as Baarìa in Sicilian dialect), where Tornatore grew up. The film stars Francesco Scianna and Margareth Madè, and has an original score by the legendary Ennio Morricone, who has been Tornatore’s musical muse for over 25 years, through films such as Cinema Paradiso, Stanno Tutti Bene, The Starmaker, The Legend of 1900 and the Oscar-nominated Malèna. Read more…