Soundtrack Spotlight #6: Nunzio (Lalo Schifrin)

Nunzio is a rather special Soundtrack Spotlight case to me because I am very close friends with David Proval, the actor who played Nunzio in the 1978 Universal production (filmed, by all the accounts I have heard, during one of the hottest New York summers on record, with both the 1977 black-out and the Son of Sam playing a role, albeit minor, in the film's production). Every time I have seen even short clips of the film, it gives me a profoundly privileged feeling in knowing that the Nunzio character speaks to aspects of David Proval's persona that I have seen emerge endlessly from him in reality, and I am grateful to have known him and to have been one of the beneficiaries of his warmth and trust. David is one of the biggest mensches I have encountered; he truly went out of his way to help give me a start in film world and has encouraged me every step of the way since I have known him. It was through him that I also have met the film's writer, Jimmy Andronica, who also plays Nunzio's brother in the film and is a native to the part of Brooklyn in which the film is shot, and I have spoken with the film's director, Paul Williams, on the phone. It actually doesn't end there, either. I just finished shooting a fundraising trailer for the little boy (now grown man) who played Nunzio's 5-year-old nephew. So, I am not exactly going into this with an air of impartiality. I think highly of the film because, in it, someone I have grown to love and admire as a friend plays a character you grow to love and admire as the creation of a gifted actor whose greatest part this is...and that is including his performance in Scorsese's Mean Streets (third billed after De Niro and Keitel). He plays Nunzio with bold humor, fascinating nuance and gravitas--three ingredients that rarely function so well in confluence. Watching this performance made David one of my favorite actors and I sometimes have gotten a little emotional just watching choices he is making as an actor in this film. So, okay, this is not a review of the film or the actor in the film, or at least it shouldn't be. My prejudices are out in the open about the score, but I nonetheless think an average listener would get a great deal out of Schifrin's usual mastery.

Lalo Schifrin's music complements the film in spades. Funny story: I was simultaneously disturbed and delighted at one point to pass a stand on West 34th Street in New York City playing a badly dubbed kung-fu flick featuring Nunzio's theme on the soundtrack. I was flabbergasted, considering that Nunzio is not exactly a movie known by many. Schifrin scores the film with tracks and cues of great bravado and piano-based strains heavy on pathos (yes, versus bathos). One often cannot help but think that Bill Conti's score from Rocky had at least some influence in Schifrin's approach to scoring Nunzio, but I think it stands perfectly well on its own and is certainly one of my favorite scores of the composer's long, prolific and distinguished career (along with his unreleased score from The Christian Licorice Store, which could very well be the next Soundtrack Spotlight). The film tells the story of a "mentally slow" Brooklyn grocery delivery boy/man who thinks he is Superman, who enjoys a puppy-love attraction to a bakery cashier, played by Tovah Feldshuh. My favorite lines in the film: "Superman don't take tips" and "You break those eggs and I'm gonna break your head, Nunzio!" I am not going to break down technicalities of the score for this, like I usually do. This score is pure whimsy and emotion, nothing much else to really say. Just enjoy it, really. And for the retrophile, you've got the occasional disco elements which are especially present in "Theme from Nunzio" and "Candy Store Frenzy".

Download the score here. Thanks to the boys at Isbum's Place and Vintage Vinyl for the upload. My favorite track is perhaps "Nunzio in Love," with "Main Title" coming in a close second.

2 comments:

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  2. How can I purchase this movie? I grew up in Boro park Brooklyn and can't find this movie anyware smh. My email is laro55@aol.com

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