Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Need for drama: part 8

Title: La lupa (She-wolf)
Year: 1996
Composer: Ennio Morricone

The last title I reviewed was for Maesto Morricone’s 90s score for Wolf. Based on the title I assumed that She-wolf would be similar to that film but instead of a werewolf flick it is a psychological drama about a woman who seduces younger men, based on a short story written in the 1800s. The two scores are very similar in tone and the score for La lupa would easily pass as the sequel score to Wolf.

One thing I have to warn first is that the score is mostly monothematic and if you don’t like the main theme, you’re not going to enjoy this album. That theme is also very slow-moving so the tracks involving it tend to be quite long. I happen to like the theme. It reminds me of the main theme of Wolf because it too has some darkly tragic qualities while oozing with underlying sexual tension. La lupa adds a classical guitar into the orchestration which brings some rural feel to it. The theme is first heard on staccato high strings and later moves to another instrument associated with the film’s 19th century setting: a recorder. At the end of the cue there is also a short waltz variation, later developed further in the macabre Triste notte featuring church bell tolls. The great thing is that the melody has great variation in the orchestration. Al fiume reprises the theme with the recorder, judgmental distant drum hits and slowly building pace whereas Cartezza di amare has some sort of swirling figures. Track 10 is the most romantic version thus far but later has a sinister bassline that twists the harmonies around into more suspenseful territory. The final version in La lupa doesn’t deliver a romantic conclusion but ends in some annoying suspense material which is just a disappointingly weak end to the album.

Besides the main theme statements there are cues that break the mold. Jarufalu pumpusu is performed in Italian by the film’s main actress Monica Guerritore in a powerful folk music like vocal performance. The backing orchestral music by Morricone is disturbing suspense material which really gives the cue an unsettling feel. The delivery of both the vocals and the backing also has some Middle Eastern qualities which is an odd choice but works brilliantly. The following La fine continues with the disturbing orchestral material in a short burst of screeching atonality but soon moves back to the main theme with a rather uninteresting version of the melody. The Middle Eastern aspect continues in La mietitura, a weird melody for woodwinds and a keyboard bouncing between a more hopeful horn theme that’s one of the score’s highlight moments. Like track 2 it’s a unique listen and pleasant to hear because of its surprising manner. The great major key theme is reprised in Notturno e alba but instead of balancing with the Middle Eastern melody it features a keyboard version of the main theme. The last odd yet charming moment arrives in La masseria, a medieval or gypsy -inspired dance for ethnic flutes and a tambourine and even an unexpected variation of the main theme.

Very high atonal strings start Notte oscura, notte chiara like a wind moving through a dark forest before a sinister lower string line appears underneath along with some lonely brass. Though a challenging listen it is actually better than the horror music in an real horror film, Wolf. More of that straight-up horror starts Disperazione that also bares some similarities with the main theme but then moves to complex atonal chords with bubbly pizzicato strings on top of which horns play snippets of the main theme. That moment is just ugly because of how shocking it is, but unfortunately the ending with an added drumset and the eventual main theme reprise flatten the mood. Nel profondo is another suspense cue that’s rooted in the main theme but unfortunately it just doesn’t get under your skin like some of the other tracks. Luckily at the end there is some genuine action music to be heard with screeching woodwinds and primal rhythms provided by the pounding percussion. Infatuazione, Diabolica passione and Veglia are the most tedious suspense moments on the album in which almost nothing of interest happens. Luckily Veglia reprises the shocking suspense of Disperazione in a decent final showdown.

Though there are some stellar cues at the first part of the album, the disappointingly dull last third ruins the listening experience for me. The sense of dread is palpable throughout and luckily some of the suspense material is just thrilling. La lupa isn’t one of the classics and the depressive nature of the constant onslaught of minor chord after another won’t make you want to return to this very often.

Rating: ***1/2

1. La lupa (04:05) ****
2. Jarufalu pumpusu (03:07) *****
3. La fine (04:15) ***
4. Notte oscura, notte chiara (02:58) ****
5. Al fiume (02:52) ****
6. La mietitura (03:02) *****
7. La masseria (02:21) *****
8. Sui campi dolorosi (01:49) ****
9. Certezza di amare (02:24) ****
10. La lupa (03:44) ****
11. Notturno e alba (04:41) ****
12. Disperazione (06:25) ****
13. Nel profondo (05:07) ***
14. Infatuazione (04:18) **
15. Diabolica passione (03:56) **
16. Triste notte (03:34) ***
17. Veglia (04:29) ***
18. La lupa (02:12) **

Monday, 30 October 2017

Oh, the horror: part 12

Title: Wolf
Year: 1994
Composer: Ennio Morricone

Wolf is a modern retelling of the classic werewolf story and stars Jack Nicholson as the protagonist. The score was made by Ennio Morricone at the time when he was attached to many American projects as well as European ones. The score juxtaposes two different musical styles: the  tragic love story with nostalgic, lyrical romance writing, and the animalistic side with urban noir elements and primal percussion.

The opening presents the film’s dramatic main theme that has some tragic romanticism to it. It’s played by the horns over beautifully lush string harmonies and tinkling electronic effects. However in a Morriconean fashion there is also a frantic electric harpsichord ostinato appearing every now and then in a completely different tempo and key that I remember many film music fans hating at the time of the soundtrack’s release. They’re distracting for sure but for me they do depict the animalistic nature of the beast within, waiting to get unleashed. The barn is a more traditionally romantic, beautiful love theme for saxophone and warm strings. The same melody is heard along with crashing percussion and the harpsichord in Laura and Wolf united in a unique track that could only come from the pen of Maestro Morricone.

The first sings of distraught come through in The dream and the deer which begins with the main theme and then starts its developmental section for suspenseful wandering high strings followed by several mournful reprises of the main theme. The harpsichord ostinato also rushes through the nostalgia warning the listener of what is to come. Around 5-minute mark a descending suspense motif appears along with some noirish trumpet playing that comes to play a bit later. From 6-minute mark we’re introduced to fast percussion grooves, woodwinds resembling the forest birds and the mad ostinato running on top of everything. It all builds towards a victorious set of chords but comes crashing down with the suspense motif and final howling brass. An absolutely sublime, descriptive cue! The moon continues where we left off with quieter suspense motif variation along with some main theme that unfortunately then moves to low-key suspense that isn’t as interesting as its predecessor. Luckily at the end some bubbly madness is heard once again. Laura goes to join Wolf includes sparse individual chords which don’t form a coherent narrative.

From track 7 onwards the suspense rises to the main element. The three Transition cues and Laura transformed are all pretty slow-moving, at times tedious experiments in atonal suspense, familiar to the usual style of Maestro Morricone but done better in other projects.  The howl and the city begins with weird trumpet manipulation heard first in track 3 that sounds like some sort of animal howl. It harks back to the 60s with Maestro’s past in avant-garde group Nuova consonanza. Low-speed action follows then with the pounding percussion combined to staccato chords and sleazy saxophone bringing that urban atmosphere. A reprise of the love theme arrives in Animals and encounters that then turns sour with some excellent action writing covering many sections of the orchestra, even some rhythmic harp ostinatos, not a usual instrument for momentum. Wolf on the other hand returns to the main theme riddled with sadness after a horrific orchestral shocker.

Chase is sure to make you wake up in case you found the preceding slow horror boring. It has all kinds of screeching brass and woodwinds and combines them to low piano and percussion that really keep the pace going. Occasionally even the jazzy saxophone comes through the overall chaos. It’s one of the most exciting and brutal Morricone action cues I can think of and really makes your heart race. The abstract main theme variation at the end is just the icing on the cake for me. Unfortunately more slow music follows in Confirmed doubts that tries to bring out the horror but I find it rather tensionless to be honest. The talisman has some fascinating swirling textures that have almost ethnic qualities with effects resembling the Indian sitar and then closing with a twisted major key variation of the main theme. The last two cues return to the darkly romantic material first with the most romantic version of the main theme in Laura and Will which can’t stay away from the suspense and just has to have some of it at the end ruining a perfectly fine moment. Luckily Laura fixes that problem and ends the score with a powerful main theme statement that offers no hope for our main characters and closes the album on a somber note.

Wolf is best at its romantic material and especially in the brutal action cues that aren’t heard that often in Maestro’s overall repertoire nowadays. However where it falls is the middle section and the slow-moving suspense that can’t make the listener feel the desperately needed chills. Hence I recommend approaching this one with caution. However Maestro has cleverly assembled the album to an order that best presents the music and offers a fine listening experience.

Rating: ****

1. Wolf and love (03:32) *****
2. The barn (01:59) *****
3. The dream and the deer (09:15) *****
4. The moon (05:28) ****
5. Laura goes to join Wolf (02:20) **
6. Laura and Wolf united (01:24) *****
7. First transition (01:28) **
8. The howl and the city (03:21) ****
9. Animals and encounters (04:37) *****
10. Laura transformed (03:36) **
11. Wolf (02:48) ****
12. Second transition (01:17) ***
13. Will's final goodbye (01:31) ****
14. Chase (05:43) *****
15. Confirmed doubts (03:41) ***
16. The talisman (03:27) ****
17. Third transition (00:57) ***
18. A shock for Laura (02:43) ***
19. Laura and Will (02:26) ****
20. Laura (02:36) *****

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Oh, the horror: part 11

Title: Suor omicidi (Killer nun)
Year: 1979
Composer: Alessandro Alessandroni

Alessandro Alessandroni was most well-known as the whistler and guitarist on many spaghetti western scores and the founder of the choir I cantori moderni, also a frequent addition to the Italian film music scene. However he wrote over 20 film scores many of which haven’t had a release. A 1999 Beat records release included 3 horror scores by him which cover a number of different styles and moods. The first film, Suor omicidi seems to be just your average euro-shlock exploitation film and the score is as over-the-top cheesy as the film’s premise of a killer-junkie-lesbian nun would suggest.

I cantori moderni begins the score with the complete Dies irae melody with deep descending keyboard lines that are joined by a beating drumset. It’s clichéd for sure but it works, however it won’t cause any chills in the audience. The reprise in Seq. 8 doesn’t variate the material in any way. Fortunately Seq. 2 has more interesting textures for recorders and flutes over sparse piano chords, further explored in Seq. 7. It sounds like music that would fit for instance to an opium den. Later some cheesy synth chords appear with thunder-like rattles. Then out of nowhere appears a waltz melody that couldn’t be farther from the preceding material.  It’s probably the most unique cue on the album along with Seq. 4 that has some really interesting guitar textures similar to Morricone’s Two mules for Sister Sarah and a highly groovy bassline with some wind-like sound effects and eventual cool electric organ chords. It captures that folky hippie vibe and combines it with straight-up horror brilliantly. The additional church organ at the end just sends shivers down my spine. A less successful electric organ moment tries to convey a sense of dread in Seq. 6 but fails to find a proper direction.

There is a romantic theme as well heard in Seq. 3 with echoing electric guitar effects probably played by the composer. It’s an inoffensive melody, just a bit of that late 70s fluff. In another weird twist that same melody is turned into a cringy end title love song for the choir singing in English. It does feel quite dated and for some reason it seems like the singers aren’t even in tune. Similar cheesy fluff in a more orchestral manner with pop-music like percussion appears in both Seq. 5 and Seq. 9, latter in particular is just lovely in its melodic galore complete with a key change in the middle.

I almost don’t know what else to say, but it certainly is the product of its time. There is no suspense, no real horror here. Apart from the absolutely sublime Seq. 4, the rest of the score is rather bland but passable effort that seems to have some tongue-in-cheek attitude to it, which the project probably needed badly.

Rating: ***1/2

Title: Lo strangolatore di Vienna (The mad butcher)
Year: 1971
Composer: Alessandro Alessandroni

For a tale about a butcher who accidently kills his wife and gets rid off the body by making sausages Alessandroni provided another score that was more cheesily comical than scary. The film takes place in Vienna and this must have served as the inspiration because the melodies have been influenced by the classical waltzes and galops etc. A clear example of this is Seq. 1, a dance-like main theme that’s weirdly written for a saloon piano which does remind me more of westerns. However after a few key changes a small string orchestra also brings it that classical flavour. A charming yet uninspired waltz tune written for similar instrumentation is heard in Seq. 2 later presenting material familiar to Morricone’s scores like the Investigation of a citizen above suspicion or Il gatto. There’s also a comical tango of Seq. 3 that turns pure jazz at the end.

A bit of horror is heard in Seq. 4 with dooming piano notes balancing with the laid-back electric guitar version of the main theme. A surprising, fun action track Seq. 5 follows with a fast piano ostinato, martial drums and electric guitar and organ which turn the cue into cacophony of sounds eventually. A twisted version of the previous waltz appears in Seq. 6 before some beautiful nightclub jazz for solo sax breaks the mood. Seq. 7 is a full cue written in that comical Investigation… style which also has some suspenseful tremolo strings intensifying the atmosphere before the last midnight version of the main theme performed by the piano at the corner.

The score is pretty descriptive in bringing mental images of the city streets and pubs to mind. However there is quite a little of substance to the music and nothing special to grasp on. It probably fits the film like a glove but on its own it just doesn’t hold up.

Rating: ***

Title: Lady Frankenstein
Year: 1971
Composer: Alessandro Alessandroni

For the last score Alessandroni took a complete turn compared to the two others. The music is serious, suspenseful yet beautiful where it needs to be. The film continues the story of Dr. Frankenstein where his daughter carries on his work and creates a new monster.

Right from the get-go a bleak tone is established with atonal harmonies and dramatic high string melodies with condemning low-key piano. After a while it cools down and leaves room for flutes, glockenspiel and a fastening piano-ostinato which leads the cue into a horrific conclusion. Seq. 2 includes the similar wind sound effects heard in Suor omicidi and combines them to faint electronic organ, flutes and the same piano melody from the last cue which rolls on with movement. Seq. 5 returns to the horror with crackling electric guitar and string chords, later presenting electronic manipulation perfectly suitable for a 70s mad scientist set. The last powerful horror statement comes in Seq. 7 which includes an array of orchestral devices to create a dooming atmosphere, however unlike the other cues it doesn’t really go anywhere.

Luckily there are also moments of beauty on the album. Seq. 3 begins with another chilling horror cue though but middleway turns into a fragile lament for just the strings including a rising longlined minor key melody that is sure to make your eyes water especially at the end with tremolo string backing. Seq. 4 is the film’s romantic main theme in major key with similar old-fashioned string section, added wonderful piano flourishes and jazzy chord progressions. It’s more hopeful than the preceding cue and not as overblown like the romantic material for instance in Suor omicidi. In Seq. 6 the melody is reprised but then flute continues it over a backing track which gets more and more suspenseful as the cue progresses ending with another dramatic string moment. The final strings only version is heard in Seq. 8 with some flute at the end and a proper conclusion to the melody. The last cue is probably for the running credits. It has a very pop-music like descending chord progression later with added light percussion which reminds me of Morricone’s main theme for Il clan dei Siciliani. It’s nothing special but a suitable end to the album for sure.

Luckily they saved the best for last. Lady Frankenstein has a lot of variety, genuinely chilling suspense that is intersected with romantic interludes. The composer passed away this year so hopefully his memory will be respected with new releases of his unreleased scores (here’s hoping for La spacconata in particular).

Rating: ****

1. Suor omicidi - seq. 1 (04:00) ***
2. Suor omicidi - seq. 2 (05:02) ****
3. Suor omicidi - seq. 3 (01:41) ****
4. Suor omicidi - seq. 4 (04:49) *****
5. Suor omicidi - seq. 5 (01:29) ****
6. Suor omicidi - seq. 6 (01:57) ***
7. Suor omicidi - seq. 7 (03:37) ***
8. Suor omicidi - seq. 8 (03:56) ***
9. Suor omicidi - seq. 9 (02:09) *****
10. Suor omicidi - seq. 10 (03:10) ***

11. Lo strangolatore... - seq. 1 (01:53) ****
12. Lo strangolatore... - seq. 2 (01:31) ***
13. Lo strangolatore... - seq. 3 (01:49) ***
14. Lo strangolatore... - seq. 4 (01:36) ***
15. Lo strangolatore... - seq. 5 (02:42) ****
16. Lo strangolatore... - seq. 6 (02:07) ***
17. Lo strangolatore... - seq. 7 (03:02) ****

18. Lady Frankenstein - seq. 1 (02:58) *****
19. Lady Frankenstein - seq. 2 (02:47) *****
20. Lady Frankenstein - seq. 3 (03:00) *****
21. Lady Frankenstein - seq. 4 (02:01) *****
22. Lady Frankenstein - seq. 5 (03:15) ***
23. Lady Frankenstein - seq. 6 (03:17) ****
24. Lady Frankenstein - seq. 7 (03:21) ***
25. Lady Frankenstein - seq. 8 (01:53) *****
26. Lady Frankenstein - seq. 9 (03:50) ****

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Giallo fever: part 10

Title: …e poi, non ne rimase nessuno (Ten little Indians aka And then there were none)
Year: 1974
Composer: Bruno Nicolai

An adaptation of Agatha Christie’s classic novel moves the events from an island to a secluded hotel in the Iranian desert. Ten strangers who have committed crimes for which they haven’t been punished, are gathered there and then killed off one after another. The film included an international production team and cast and the score was written by Bruno Nicolai. No score release was available though and it was one of the most requested works from the composer before finally receiving a limited release in 2009 which quickly sold out.

For the film Nicolai composed two nostalgic, lyrical themes while the rest of the cues are devoted to mostly atonal mystery writing. Seq. 1 presents the main theme, the more melodic of the two with a flute solo that is then joined by the orchestra. The backing drumset and bass bring it that laid-back giallo flavour while the harpsichord is more suitable establishing the film’s aristocratic aspects. A reprise of the theme is heard in Seq. 10 where it transforms into a sweet elegy for the dead, however there is some added uneasiness with the fighting harpsicord notes that fall out of the familiar chord pattern. Beautiful stuff nevertheless. The final version in Seq. 18 starts with the slow version and then moves to the more mobile performance for the end credits.

Seq. 4 is the introduction to the second melody which has similar feeling to the other one but it’s performed by a solo trumpet and it has a hint of darkness and mischievous intrigue to it. The B section, aka a descending harpsichord line is heard in Seq. 7 bringing it more of that nostalgic flavour of the main theme. In Seq. 13 the melody seems like it has been beaten down by the killing spree but a final reprise in Seq. 16 brings that lounge instrumentation back again providing a more energetic sendoff to the melody.

The first suspense cue Seq. 2 includes the drumset and bass beating in a more sinister fashion, later changing into the main suspense motif for jazzy bass, abstract strings and harpsichord. There is a certain feeling of claustrophobia and unease with the music that’s just perfect for the subject matter. Seq. 3 is actually the same suspense melody heard in Ennio Morricone’s Il gatto a nove code, yet there is no acknowledgement in the liner notes for this. Nevertheless the cue is as weirdly suspenseful as it was in that score so I don’t mind the direct copy. The 8-minute showcase Seq. 5 includes elements from both of the previously mentioned suspense cues with emphasis on the percussion and bass again before the solo flute enters along with dark organ chords. This cue serves as an inspiration to moods heard later in the score, for instance in Seq. 11 and 12. After a hair-rising development section for strings, high organ notes and banjo (?) the pace thickens again offering some brilliant, spooky chase music. Seq. 6 continues directly where it leaves off with more of that chase style music before quieting once again to strings and floating plucks in the darkness that are also present in Seq. 8. Interesting flute textures filled with cluster chords and steadily beating rhythms are heard in Seq. 9 that lead to a devastating horror stinger. The weirdly comical suspense motif returns in Seq. 14 and 17 ending both times with chilling horror material. That same motif starts Seq. 15 but slowed down so that it’s almost unnoticeable then developing into another long-lined, slowly intensifying suspense moment.

The score brings nothing new to the world of giallo music but it’s a highly attractive piece of music nevertheless. In mood it’s very similar to Maestro Morricone’s Il gatto a nove code which is one of my favourite giallo scores by him. The two main themes are stellar, the suspense music, though mostly atmospheric and slow-moving, is interesting, oddly charming and never unlistenable. A little more punch would be needed for it to rise among the very best but it’s still a pleasant experience in its entirety.

Rating: ****1/2

1. ...e poi, non ne rimase nessuno - seq.1 (03:04) *****
2. ...e poi, non ne rimase nessuno - seq.2 (03:58) *****
3. ...e poi, non ne rimase nessuno - seq.3 (03:47) *****
4. ...e poi, non ne rimase nessuno - seq.4 (01:52) *****
5. ...e poi, non ne rimase nessuno - seq.5 (08:15) *****
6. ...e poi, non ne rimase nessuno - seq.6 (03:01) ****
7. ...e poi, non ne rimase nessuno - seq.7 (02:36) *****
8. ...e poi, non ne rimase nessuno - seq.8 (01:22) ***
9. ...e poi, non ne rimase nessuno - seq.9 (01:55) *****
10. ...e poi, non ne rimase nessuno - seq.10 (03:17) *****
11. ...e poi, non ne rimase nessuno - seq.11 (02:27) ****
12. ...e poi, non ne rimase nessuno - seq.12 (01:33) ****
13. ...e poi, non ne rimase nessuno - seq.13 (02:06) ****
14. ...e poi, non ne rimase nessuno - seq.14 (02:07) *****
15. ...e poi, non ne rimase nessuno - seq.15 (03:49) ****
16. ...e poi, non ne rimase nessuno - seq.16 (02:00) *****
17. ...e poi, non ne rimase nessuno - seq.17 (02:31) ****
18. ...e poi, non ne rimase nessuno - seq.18 (03:56) *****

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Oh, the horror: part 10

Title: Patrick
Year: 2013
Composer: Pino Donaggio

Pino Donaggio is an Italian composer who has had surprisingly plenty international success and is still writing film music in his 70s. A remake of an Australian supernatural horror film of the same name also received a score by him. The original Patrick had a score by the band Goblin in its Italian release but Donaggio’s score bares no resembles to their style. It’s dark, orchestral music reminiscent of works by Bernard Herrmann with some added modern electronics. Unfortunately is a bit too anonymous to leave a lasting mark.

Deadly needle opens the score with ominous strings that lead the way to musical knife stabs with electronic effects. After a pause, the main theme is introduced with a 4-note horn-call. A more longlined version is then heard on the piano supported by a solo cello and later moving to the string section. That peaceful mood doesn’t last long though because Car scene offers the first signs of fast-paced action music once again with underlying electronic additions. The main theme is used as an action-motif here in a fashion similar to Jerry Goldsmith’s thematic writing.

Most of the album’s duration is devoted to horror/suspense music with occasional bursts of action. The lift begins with ticking mystery writing once again reminiscent of Goldsmith. After a few brassy main theme statements it cools down to uninteresting territory. Kathy enters opens with some powerful action music but unfortunately it once again flops before reaching full satisfaction. Similar jagged, string-heavy action writing is the basis of both Cassidy dies and You decide. The mystery aspect of the score is exploited in Patrick computer with twisted harmonies bordering tonal and atonal writing and Telepathy beach which includes lengthy main theme statements disturbed by weird electronic effects and cluster harmonies. Telekinesis is one of the score’s most effective suspense cues with the emphasis on strings once again with repeating lines growing in intensity with varying electronics and changes in pace finally resolving into a more straightforward action cue.

Fortunately the saving grace for the score is the melodramatic romantic material that gets its first go in First day that wanders a while before releasing the main theme with a more attractive style. The strings in this score in particular have a very classic film music feel and heighten the listening experience. Kathy meets Patrick includes an absolutely lovely flute melody that is disappointingly interrupted by a sudden horror movie sting. That melody is reprised in Patrick spits museum that turns into the most romantic theme of the album after a moment of rugged action. Though it’s over-the-top writing, it’s just so nice to hear some proper orchestration and romantic chord changes in a modern film score. Lighthouse offers more of that lovely flute and harp work before reprising some of the chord progressions of the romantic theme that lead to a mysterious conclusion. Another frustrating cue is Kathy’s imagination which begins with beautiful main theme moments that are ruined by either lame melodrama or mediocre suspense. After a disappointing second half, the score redeems itself during the last two tracks. Kathy back to work changes from full action unnoticeably into more romantic music with movement and ends with the final horn-call stinger. The last cue includes a full orchestra version of the main theme and finally a lovely reprise of the romantic material of track 6.

The album is way too long to sustain the large quantity of music and hence can be a quite tedious experience at times. The suspense scoring is the stumbling block of it all but luckily the romantic undertones offer at least some enjoyment. Overall Donaggio did an average job that really offered nothing new but just enough to work within the picture.

Rating: ***1/2

1. Deadly needle (03:45) ****
2. Car scene (01:54) ****
3. First day (04:02) ****
4. Kathy meets Patrick (02:20) ****
5. The lift (03:58) ***
6. Patrick spits museum (03:15) *****
7. Kathy enters (02:37) ***
8. Cassidy dies (02:54) ***
9. Patrick computer (02:38) ****
10. Telepathy beach (02:18) ****
11. Telekinesis (04:52) ****
12. Cassidy visits Kathy (02:38) **
13. Waveform Crazy (01:52) **
14. Lighthouse (03:48) ***
15. Kathy’s imagination (03:57) ***
16. Nurse Williams dies (04:12) ***
17. You decide (03:59) ***
18. Kathy back to work (02:15) ****
19. Dream or reality (04:21) ****

Monday, 23 October 2017

Oh, the horror: part 9

Title: The legend of blood castle (aka Le vergini cavalcano la morte)
Year: 1973
Composer: Carlo Savina

Erzsébet Báthory was rumoured to be one of the most notorious serial killers who was responsible for hundreds of deaths at the turn of the 17th century. Whether or not the myth is that accurate, her case has been an inspiration of many literary and film works, also for The legend of blood castle. The music by Carlo Savina plays homage to modern classical composers and the whole work plays out a bit like a suspenseful tone poem better appreciated as a whole than a series of single cues.

Main titles start the score with eerie drum beats that are then joined by a foreboding choir, electric organ, harpsichord and a buzzing string section that offer a moment of rising tension. It’s a perfect opening to the score which is followed by Dark presences, a passionate viola solo still shrouded in darkness with its abstract harmonies. That same instrumentation carries over to Into Hell which also has a surprising addition of sassy saxophone and brass instruments in the middle of the cue before the suspenseful viola ends the cue with ominous murmurs. Harpsichord concert is a short piece of Baroque source music that is still very much in tune with the other cues. It has an original beginning that then turns into a direct quote from J.S. Bach’s Well-tempered clavier and then goes its own way with similar rising chords Savina utilized in the suspense cues.  Reprises of the previous moments of horror with the viola are heard once more in Bloody ceremony and at the beginning of Devil’s hunt. The latter also introduces a ghostly vocal theme that resembles a children’s tune I used to sing as a kid. That melody has atonal harmonies though, so that’s where the similarities to that tune end pretty much.

Forceful electric guitar and piano chords start the score’s loudest cue Night terror along with powerful choral voices. Finally it lands to a more stable base with tinkling and swirling orchestration while the choir lurks in the background. Hungry ghosts is a reprise of the main titles which results in screaming chorus and eventual march-like percussion which ends the cue quietly. What follows is an 8-minute suite full of slowly wandering strings, the only attempts at major key compositions around the 2- and 8-minute marks, barely audible percussive beats with sparse harpsichord, piano and musicbox tinkles which finally make way to a powerful closing string coda. It’s a letdown compared to the preceding, more effective suspense material but luckily the childlike vocal theme returns in The haunting bringing together several quotations from the preceding material. Finale is similar in a way beginning with the choral judgment of track 7, then reprising the vocal theme and finally concluding to a quiet coda consisting of electric guitar notes, piano and harpsichord harmonies and a solitary female voice singing in the darkness and slowly fading away.

As mentioned in the opening paragraph, there’s a certain flow in the music that brings great cohesion to the overall experience. It’s not a cheerful score, but an intriguing one nevertheless. Most importantly it’s never unpleasant to listen to and there is even something eerily beautiful with the delicate chamber-sized orchestrations.

Rating: ****

1. Le vergini cavalcano la morte (Main titles) (01:55) ****
2. Le vergini cavalcano la morte (Dark presences) (02:09) ****
3. Le vergini cavalcano la morte (Into Hell) (05:10) ****
4. Le vergini cavalcano la morte (Harpsichord concert) (03:56) *****
5. Le vergini cavalcano la morte (Bloody ceremony) (02:24) ***
6. Le vergini cavalcano la morte (Devil’s hunt) (02:50) ****
7. Le vergini cavalcano la morte (Night terror) (03:31) *****
8. Le vergini cavalcano la morte (Hungry ghosts) (03:14) ****
9. Le vergini cavalcano la morte (Maidens ride death) (08:39) ***
10. Le vergini cavalcano la morte (The haunting) (02:06) ****
11. Le vergini cavalcano la morte (Finale) (03:19) ****

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Oh, the horror: part 8

Title: La cripta e l’incubo (Crypt of the vampire)
Year: 1964
Composer: Carlo Savina

A black-and-white horror film starring Christopher Lee as a count who lives in a gloomy gothic castle. Though that might sound like a recipe for a horror classic, this time that wasn’t the case. The score for the film was provided by Carlo Savina whose mainly quiet music borders on sound effects but luckily has some romantic interludes to break up the dark atmosphere.

The first 4 cues introduce the palette of sounds which Savina builds the score on: harp, small string section, buzzing organ, musical saw, solo woodwinds, harpsichord and a varied percussion section that sometimes sounds like someone creeping around in the dark and sometimes like a thunderstorm. There are no clear motifs or thematic development rather the score seems just to underscore the actions happening on screen whether it is a crescendo for a horrific discovery or quiet murmurs for exploring the dark corridors.

Though most of the score is built this way, there are some exceptions to the rule. For instance, there is some twisted, mischievous or even humorous material. This is introduced first in Cena al castello which includes the clichéd solo harpsichord, which isn’t used in a Baroque manner but in a more playful and bouncy fashion. Attesa grottesca has similar effect this time introducing almost a childlike tune with a hint of Dies irae to it, simultaneously having suspenseful strings playing underneath.

Surprisingly there is also some expressive romantic material introduced in Tema d’amore. Another melodic, though more introspective theme is heard in Il ritratto di Sheena by a solo violin. Both of these themes are performed in Estasi e tormento starting with the love theme and then moving to a more sinister string variation of the second theme which eventually resolves into an orchestral stringer. Non-thematic though lovely flute work on top of bed of harps starts Calma interrotta which once again turns sour at the end. Attimo romantico is another full version of the love theme that is just achingly beautiful. The two themes are combined cleverly in Il mistero del ritratto where a flute starts with the love theme’s rising intervals that then comes down as the second theme. The rest of the track does a good job combining the themes with mild suspense writing and eventually with the comedic music of track 9. A victorious final version of the love theme also ends the whole score into a glorious major chord.

As for the numerous other suspense and horror cues, there isn’t much to describe. It’s more about mood than melodies. Tetra prigione has percussion that sounds like someone being escorted to the gallows whereas Mente folle is another death march with a steady organ pulse that’s just slowed down so that it’s completely unrecognizable. L’incubo della cripta has some of the most effective horror stringers with added faster harpsichord notation bouncing among the strings. However after the two themes are introduced, some snippets of them start to appear within the suspenseful cues, which is a clever move by the composer. For instance a faster version of the second theme turned into a classic horror stinger ends both Laura è Sheena? and Il presagio in a dramatic fashion. The final moments of suspense are packed into two 6-minute cues first of which builds quietly during its whole duration towards a horrific conclusion that unfortunately never arrives. It’s unnerving and effective scoring nevertheless. Psichedelico macabro on the other hand is mostly organ variations of the secondary theme with pretty abstract harmonies that are interrupted with percussion hits and stringers from time to time.

The album is a pretty uneven experience. Though there are moments of sheer brilliance both in the romantic and the suspenseful material, there is also way too much dull space where it feels that barely anything happens. Therefore it’s a quite hard to give it a higher rating. If you’re familiar with Savina’s suspense writing you might get something more out of it than the casual listener. For them I recommend checking out some better ones by him before this one.

Rating: ***

1. La maledizione di Karlstein (Titoli) (01:49) ****
2. La cripta e l'incubo (Ombre nel buio) (01:09) ***
3. Angoscia (01:45) **
4. Presenze maligne (02:09) **
5. Cena al castello (00:46) ****
6. La cripta e l'incubo (Perversione) (03:02) **
7. La cripta e l'incubo (Tetra prigione) (01:55) *
8. Tema d'amore (01:29) *****
9. La cripta e l'incubo (Attesa grottesca) (00:58) ****
10. Il ritratto di Sheena (01:01) ****
11. Estasi e tormento (02:48) ****
12. La cripta e l'incubo (Atmosfera di morte) (01:07) **
13. Calma interrotta (01:12) ****
14. La cripta e l'incubo (Attimo romantico) (01:23) *****
15. La cripta e l'incubo (Mente folle) (04:05) ***
16. L'incubo della cripta (01:38) ****
17. Il mistero del ritratto (01:49) ****
18. Laura è Sheena? (01:40) ****
19. La cripta e l'incubo (Corridoio oscuro) (05:58) ***
20. Laura posseduta (01:30) ***
21. Il presagio (01:23) ****
22. La cripta e l'incubo (Psichedelico macabro) (06:27) **
23. Finale (01:16) *****