Giallo Film Scores

I think it was Royal S. Brown who wrote in his anthology of soundtrack reviews, Film Musings, that the ideal way to assess a score isn’t just by listening to the soundtrack album, but also to watch the film and get a feel for how the score works or doesn’t, and then assess the album as both a standalone work and how it functions in the film.

Of course, all kinds of factors determine not only a score’s direction during the scoring stage, but also when it’s being edited into the film, and how it’s treated in the final soundtrack mix.

Sweden’s Fin de Siecle Media released a pair of giallo soundtracks back in 2007, and although I covered the scores for Rue Morgue magazine a while back, I felt it was worth not only revisiting each score, but to track down the films and get a feel for how the music was applied in each.

In the case of Bruno Maderna’s Death Laid an Egg / La morte ha fatto l'uovo (1968), as an album, it’s probably one of the most bizarre listening experiences one can have. Part Brazilian samba, part avant-garde, at times it sounds like a headless chicken running all over the piano keys, which is actually fine for the film, given director Giulio Questi chose to transcend the giallo format by seemingly shoving it into a blender with crack cocaine, and after a good mulch, reconstituting the elements into something quite different.

As an editing exercise, Death Laid an Egg is brilliant; as a giallo, it’s a head trip that may well become more accessible as we continue to be exposed to wild editing and narrative styles that no longer follow the blah master shot-medium shot-close up filmmaking style of longtimeago.

So in addition to reviewing the CD, we’ve also got a DVD review, after tracking down a rare Japanese release that featured a lovely widescreen transfer of the film. Of course, the damned thing is out of print, and one hopes the film will not only find a home with a caring DVD label, but will be given the deluxe treatment, since Questi is still alive and I’m sure would love to explain what the hell he was trying to do. (I sure would.)

Fin de Siecle’s other giallo is Rivelazioni di un maniaco sessuale al capo della squadra mobile / aka So Sweet, So Dead (1972), composed by Giorgio Gaslini. The CD’s in gorgeous stereo with several alternate and previously unreleased cues, and features one of Gaslini’s most exquisite title themes (naturally sung by Edda Dell-Orso). It’s not one of his best scores, but like Poland’s Christopher Komeda, Gaslini was a seriously gifted pianist and composer who’s in need for a major rediscovery. His modern jazz writing is sublime, and although his scores aren’t inherently jazzy, they do sparkle with the finesse of a musician who knows his craft to a T.

Rivelazioni the film, unfortunately, is not so sublime. It’s a mean, morally repulsive giallo made by a hack with a finale that doesn’t really condemn the killer’s actions, nor the demise of an unexpected character. The acting is poor, the direction is master shot-medium shot-close up blah, and director Roberto Bianchi Montero has no idea how to craft a good scare, let alone get visuals that transcend the material.

Alongside our CD review, we have a film review of Rivelazioni, which does deserve a proper DVD for two reasons: it’s a valid giallo that mandates further scrutiny, and the basic story could be remade into a more thought provoking thriller if the writer and filmmaker attack the misogyny with intelligence. Maybe it’s a no-win situation, but one wonders if Giulio Questi would’ve turned the script into an assault on contemptible male behaviour.

Or maybe he too would’ve played it safe, and just focused on lots of boobies.

Coming next is our interview with David Schecter on Ralph Carmichael’s The Blob, and new soundtracks from MovieScore Media and Aleph Records.


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