Oh hey, big surprise, I’m talking about another horror soundtrack. Yet another colorful vinyl filled with music that scored gory, misogynistic, and over(and under)-acted Italian horror films in the 70s. I know what you’re thinking, “Enough is enough, pal. What’s wrong with you? Is your brain scrambled or something? Enough with the gore scores, already!” Sure, I do post these things a lot. But you know what? I LIKE them. In fact, I LOVE these scores. The films themselves really aren’t the point here. The films were the reason for these composers to create these lush, dramatic, and melancholy pieces of music. Now don’t let me undermine my adoration for these shock flicks. I do love them. Very much. There’s a lot of artistry put into these films. Suspiria is one of the most beautifully shot films of the 70s. Stylistic, dark, sensual, and oh so very gory. It really is like a Brian DePalma film, in my opinion. Argento put real filmmaking chops into his films. And scored them with some of the best music, too. Goblin? Really? Who can argue with that? If you can, you can leave right now. But you damn well better leave that bag of chips you brought.
Okay, I’m meandering here. But these films and their scores are embedded into my subconscious. I can remember very clearly the first time I watched House By The Cemetery, The Gates of Hell(also known as City of the Living Dead), The Beyond, Zombi 2, and The New York Ripper. All Lucio Fulci films, and all to a degree a bit more graphic and, well, not so well made as Argento’s flicks. But what he lacked in filmmaking chops he made up for in gore and some excellent musical scores.
Lucio Fulci’s Horror & Thriller is a recent Mondo release that I just couldn’t pass up. It’s a double album filled with various musical pieces from six of Fulci’s films. I own the Death Waltz Recording Company releases of House By The Cemetery and City of the Living Dead, but only HBTC is included on this collection. The rest of the pieces included I don’t own so I felt good about spending my hard-earned cash. The films included are Una Lucertola Con La Pelle Di Donna(A Lizard In A Woman’s Skin), Lo Squartatore Di New York(The New York Ripper),Manhatten Baby, L’Aldila(The Beyond), Demonia, Quella Villa Accanto Al Cimitero(The House By The Cemetery), and Door To Silence. Of the films listed here, I’ve seen three of them. I really have no desire to rush out and check out Lizard Woman, Demonia, or Door To Silence. Sorry Lucio, but I got bigger fish to fry. But the films I have seen of Mr. Fulci, four were masterpieces in Italian horror and one was a piece of garbage I’d offer to a friend with a cat so they could line their litter box with it. The New York Ripper took those hints of misogyny and absolute stupidity that was hinted at in earlier films and pretty much turned it up full blast. The Shit-O-Meter was turned up to 11 in that piece of junk. But House By The Cemetery, The Beyond, and City of the Living Dead, as well as Zombi 2, are films that defined what I would look for in the horror genre for years to come. And what stayed with me more than anything was the scores that soundtracked these films.
Okay, so having said all of that, this isn’t a record I’ll be spinning all the time. Unlike the Rizatti and Frizzi scores that were heavily layered with synths and 70s dance vibes, several of these scores are more orchestrated and avante garde even. First track “La Lucertola” has a very late 60s French pop vibe. Imagine Serge Gainsbourg and Burt Bachrach composing for some lurid X-rated art film and you might have an idea of what’s happening here. “Stinge” sounds like Lalo Schifrin composing for Enter The Dragon on LSD. It’s pretty wild stuff, and guess who composed these, as well as the rest of A Lizard In A Woman’s Skin? None other than Ennio Morricone. BAM! Take that, Sergio Leone.
The New York Ripper, composed by Francesco De Masi is a different beast. “Fay” sounds like the theme to Midnight Cowboy, if it had taken place in Prague and not New York City. There’s a mix of mushy sentiment and sweaty, greasy late 70s disco funk. But not the good kind. The bad kind that greasy-haired mustached men would record 10 hours a day in a dank recording studio somewhere in Brooklyn for soft-core porn films. The music is as queasy as the film. If you don’t know where it came from it might be easier to stomach. Maybe. The Beyond is gothic, like a more rock-oriented The Omen. Lots of choruses of voices, strings, funky bass, and crackling snare. I do really quite like this one, as it’s very cinematic. Fabio Frizzi proves he’s not just a one-trick pony with this score. Very intense, creepy, and does the trick. Of course, Walter Rizzati’s The House By The Cemetery is a classic in the genre. Melancholy, creepy, dramatic, and sticks in your head long after you’ve finished the film. I love the mix of synths, harpsichord, piano, and funkier electronic sounds. It really does put you in a crypt with the demonic undead rising.
I won’t go into detail regarding the rest. All in all, everything is listenable, and some are downright great. I think what I love most about these scores are the attention to detail and the love these composers put into the music of otherwise b-rated films. It didn’t matter to them whether they were scoring a gory zombie flick or Once Upon A Time In The West, what they made was as equally good. I don’t see that kind of attention to detail and the craft in composing nowadays. There’s a few folks out there still putting in the honest work; folks like Clint Mansell, Cliff Martinez, Thomas Newman, Mica Levi, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, and Philip Glass are a few that go about the film scoring in exciting and compelling ways. There are others I’m sure, but I’m getting tired.
I’ll always have a soft spot for these Italian horror film scores. While I won’t spin this one as much as something like The House By The Cemetery, I’m still glad I bought it. Mondo, in my eyes(and ears), can do no wrong. Their packaging and artwork is impeccable. Even if I hated the music on this one I’d still be glad to own it. It’s a piece of art in my eyes.
And I’ll continue to tell my wife that every time a thin cardboard box arrives on our front porch. “It’s a piece of art, honey! It’s an investment. It’s Italian history being documented on beautiful colored vinyl. I NEED this.”
She’ll abide. She’ll humor me. That’s amore.