moments in film music history would include Max
Steiner's King Kong, Alex North's A Streetcar Named
Desire and then Ennio Morricone's A Fistful of Dollars,
the score for a film which would launch him - along
with Sergio Leone and Clint Eastwood - towards fame
and fortune. It's a great film - more modest than
Leone's explosive work to come, but hugely satisfying;
and Eastwood is perfection itself. It's a dark film,
very cold, but stylistically it's so colourful -
and Morricone's music is, of course, as much a part
of it as any other element.
know whether it was Leone or Morricone who came
up with the musical template - presumably it was
some combination of the two - but there was a flash
of lightning, of genius about it. There are few
film scores where one could say that the music wasn't
just innovative for film, it was actually a whole
new type of music - but here's the prime example.
The brilliance of the opening title theme, with
Alessandro Alessandrini's whistling, his vocal group's
grunting, the electric guitar, whip and drums; it's
three minutes of sheer brilliance. A flash of genius,
Dead" brings in the next indelible theme -
a low-end piano riff alternating with harmonica
and gypsy-like violin solos - the man with no name
being brilliantly accompanied by a mixture of American
and European folk music. "Square Dance"
is exactly what it says, a delightful (very catchy)
piece of Western dance music. "The Chase"
is a wonderful piece of action music, a frenzied
combination of trumpets, percussion and choir -
once again, nobody had ever heard music like this
anywhere before, let alone in a film score.
action follows in "The Result", another
great piece (the folk music influence shining through
more obviously this time); "Without Pity"
focuses more on (melodic) suspense before exploding
into an exciting action finale; and then comes what
is called "Theme From A Fistful of Dollars",
a breathtaking trumpet theme which I guess could
be considered this score's equivalent of "Ecstasy
of Gold". On most albums (including the one
I'm reviewing), this 15-minute set from the score
is followed by a suite which essentially reprises
all the same music, re-edited into a very good arrangement
which is great to listen to; there has been a slightly
expanded Italian CD release featuring more of the
score, but essentially all the important stuff's
here. Legendary stuff, a genius classic.