Soundtrack Spotlight #4: Viaggio Con Anita (Ennio Morricone)

Viaggio Con Anita (Travels With Anita, also known under its American title Lovers and Liars) is yet another strange and unlikely film that I saw when I was very young, maybe too young. Even at a young age, I was mystified by the fact that Goldie Hawn, at the very height of her popularity in the United States, following a string of soaring late 70's hits, would agree to star lead opposite Giancarlo Giannini in a highly unusual dubbed Italian sex comedy. It donned on me years later with an obvious answer: a paycheck and a free trip to Italy. Why not, right? The film did not score well at all with critics, at least in the American and British press, and the movie soon vanished into obscurity.

I still today find the film to be something of a pleasure to view, perhaps a guilty pleasure, with more than a few great moments. Its dazed, desperate tonal confusion is endearing and, amazingly, works in the film's favor. And look at the names in the credits! Claudine Auger and Laura Betti co-star, Mario Monicelli directs (Big Deal on Madonna Street and Casanova 70 were both respected films, folks), Tonino Delli Colli shoots and Ennio Morricone scores. The latter is one of the most fascinating aspects of the film. You can often tell very easily that it's a Morricone score (it has the earmarks), but it often feels antithetical to much of his work around the time he scored this film. I mean, hey, Ennio must have been scoring like 400 other films the weekend he scored this one, but this particular score, even though it may seem dated to most these days, is one of his most intriguing and original, not to mention underrated. When I sent the film's main theme via e-mail for a friend to listen to, he told me that he hated it because it sounded like the theme song from a warped, failed children's TV show from the 70's. I wouldn't say that, personally. I then sent him another piece from the soundtrack, entitled "Sull'amaca," which uses a cello like one strums a guitar, which he loved. I might add that I believe "Sull'amaca" to be one of the sexiest love themes from that period of cinema, punctuating a passionate hammock love scene between the two leads.

Other aspects of the score are intriguing as well. Morricone uses a spry harpsichord in many of his cues and he also takes the score into surprisingly mournful directions. The film's last act deals with Giannini covering up the death of his father to Hawn, stowing her away unknowing to rot in a hotel while he deals with the repercussions of his father's sudden passing. Morricone accents these sequences with a treatment of one of the main themes except with melancholic trumpet offset by strings in responsa (and, in "La Ragazza del Padre," a slightly distorted guitar sound). The album as a whole makes excellent travel music, if you ask me. I mean, the movie it scores is a road movie.

As a bonus, Morricone's score from La Cugina, which I have not seen, is included as well. The scores have connecting tissues, but La Cugina, to me, isn't nearly as intriguing as Viaggio con Anita. Also, savor the so-bad-they're-good funk songs "Move," "Good News" and "Sorridimi, Sorridimi". Close your eyes and make your believe you're in some disco in Idaho. Yep, it's that good.

Download the score here. This, again, is not my link. Thanks to Brainiac's Sleazy Listening blog for this upload!

Soundtrack Spotlight #3: Busting (Billy Goldenberg)

Okay, for this Soundtrack Spotlight, I'm givin' you even more Goldenberg. I feel, for at least these two posts, it is my duty to institute a Goldenberg revival because I really feel he is one of the finest film composers ever, and one of his finest scores is from the 1973 police buddy action/comedy/drama Busting, starring Elliott Gould and Robert Blake, and directed by Peter Hyams (in his directorial debut).

Last month, the Busting soundtrack was released for the first time on an official, legitimate disc. This soundtrack is extraordinary. I saw the film last year at Anthology Film Archives on an edited-for-TV print that had seen its better days (the film actually broke midway through). Hearing Goldenberg's score in a theater, no matter the quality of the print, was exhilarating in and of itself. There has never been a score for a film like this that is quite like this. It is, with every bit of honesty I can muster, totally and utterly original, but still manages to integrate the staples of 70's action-film musical composition. In my previous Night Gallery soundtrack post, I said that, with this particular score, Goldenberg achieves something that Elmer Bernstein tried to achieve throughout the entire decade of the 70's but never managed to really pull off (the closest he ever came was his Report to the Commissioner score). The liner notes make note of the fact that Goldenberg's orchestrations were extremely unorthodox, particularly for the time. Like how soundtrack-heads know there is the Mancini Sound and the Goldsmith Sound and the Williams Sound and the Barry Sound and on and on and on, there is most certainly a Goldenberg sound, and, for me, it's irresistible, and no better evidence could be given than his score for Busting.

Tracks I want to particularly call your attention to: "The Chase" and "Nailing Rizzo" open the same way, but go in different directions with a pulsating action-scene theme. I can't recall better chase music in a film from the time. Savor the jarring bongo sound and miscellaneous "noises" in tracks like "The Search" and "Home Alone". Alternate compositions of "The Chase" theme can be heard in "Busting the Club" and "The Electra". Enjoy!

Download here. Note: This is not my link, but another score-head's link. Thanks to Vagos.FM.

Soundtrack Spotlight #2: Night Gallery (Billy Goldenberg)

I have recently decided not to limit my soundtrack reviews to a weekly feature. There are just too many great soundtracks out there, and so little listening time to limit this to just one per week. I am thus renaming this feature to The Soundtrack Spotlight. Today's spotlight score is another old favorite: Billy Goldenberg's score to the 1969 Night Gallery pilot film. When I say old favorite, I mean that I remember telling the three stories of this film around a fire when I went off to camp as a kid.

Billy Goldenberg is easily on the list of my Top 5 favorite soundtrack composers, and he is also easily the most obscure on that Top 5. Working primarily in the 60's and 70's as a Universal contract composer, composing initially for television (most famously for Columbo, Kojak and Spielberg's debut feature TV film Duel), he was soon elevated to scoring feature films in a variety of genres and styles. Even in his malleable nature, there is a definite style that, to me, is irresistible and stirs something deep within me. His score for Peter Hyams' Busting (1973), for example, which is seeing a CD release via Kritzerland this month (hooray!), achieves something that an artist like Elmer Bernstein tried to achieve in the 70's but sadly never really did, i.e. a fusion of funk, jazz and rock sensibilities to score a thriller in a successful, effective and amazingly unaffected way.

Goldenberg combines the best elements of Bernard Herrmann, Ennio Morricone, Nora Orlandi and Krzystof Penderecki while still managing to create a wholly new musical idiom, experimenting with instrumentation in a way entirely apropos to what he is scoring. I find, often times, that many composers force this kind of musical conceit onto films that cannot properly frame or digest it. There is no better example of this than his score for the 1969 Night Gallery film.

The downloadable soundtrack file is self-compiled from the actual movie because unfortunately no soundtrack was ever released. This is one to savor. It is comprised of a Main Title and Closing Title, along with suites from the three omnibus-style segments. Savor the surreal, antithetical-seeming but brilliant computerized keyboard sounds in "Suite from The Cemetery". In that piece, there is also a bone shivering "ghost noise" (there is no way else for me to describe it because there is no way I can really identify the instruments) that creeps up twice. Look out for more difficult-to-identify but effective experimental instrumentation in "Suite from Eyes," which is the score from Spielberg's first ever studio gig (directed Joan Crawford at 21). And...the piece de resistance: "Suite from Escape Route". My iTunes play-count for this piece totals 18 on just one of the two computers I use. There are so many things about this score that I hold in such high regard. This is all without mentioning the oh-so-original Main Theme heard in the Opening and Closing Title.

Download the score here.

BONUS: For Billy Goldenberg's Duel score, go here.