The 70’s and 80’s were the golden era of Italian exploitation cinema. From the stylish gialli of Sergio Martino and Dario Argento to the infamously brutal cannibal films of Ruggero Deodato and splatter of Lucio Fulci, Italy was a hotbed for innovative, low budget and often extreme cinema. The same can be said for the soundtracks that accompanied these films as Italy produced some of the finest and most prolific film composers in contemporary music throughout that period. You can almost guarantee that even a poor Italian genre movie will still have a killer score.
Here are my Five Favourite Lost Italian Film Scores that have never seen the light of day (officially):
Fabio Frizzi – Blastfighter (1984)
First up on my list is Fabio Frizzi’s (credited as Andrew Barrymore) stomping synth/electro score for Lamberto Bava’s ridiculously over the top and extremely fun 1984 action film, Blastfighter.
We all know Frizzi’s classic scores for the likes of Zombie Flesh Eaters, The Beyond and City of the Living Dead but his music for Blastfighter is every bit as memorable and it’s a crime against humanity that it has never been released in any format. The most obvious standout piece from the score is the main theme, a banging upbeat 80’s electro track that would get any dancefloor bouncing. Frizzi’s signature synth sounds are heard throughout the film but it leaves a bit of a sour taste as it leaves you wanting a more extensive listen, with the film being the only medium we can feast our ears on.
We can only hope that one of our favourite soundtrack labels will pick this up and release it soon (cough cough…Death Waltz), because we need this in our lives.
Berto Pisano & Elsio Mancuso – Burial Ground (1981)
Love it or hate it, Andrea Bianchi’s Burial Ground is one of the most bizarre zombie movies ever made. The plot is fairly standard: a group of people go on vacation to an old mansion in the country and end up being munched by a bunch of rotten and pretty poor looking zombies. Throw in some sleaze, gore and an extremely odd incestuous relationship between what looks like a mini Dario Argento and his mother and that’s about the gist of things.
Meanwhile, while all this is going on you have Berto Pisano & Elsio Mancuso’s wonky psychedelic synth score that is totally mind-blowing. The dreamy atmospheric synths and reverb guitars of the intro music are instantly hypnotic and give me a similar feeling to that of Frizzi’s main theme for Zombie Flesh Eaters…..Yes, it’s that good!
It’s not just the main theme that grabs you by the nuts; there are some intense orchestral cues and a whole host of swirling psychedelic moog sounds that do a great job in adding to the atmosphere of the film.
A vinyl bootleg was released in 2007 by Saxon Gregory Productions which consisted of audio directly ripped from the film, but this Italian oddity deserves an official release to compliment one of horror’s most underrated b-movie soundtracks.
Marcello Giombini – Anthropophagus (1980)
Up next is another Italian zombie score for one of the most infamous video nasties in Joe D’Amato’s Anthropophagus. Composed by synth pioneer Marcello Giombini, who also scored D’Amato’s Erotic Nights of the Living Dead, the Italian composer gives an exercise in skin-crawling synthesizers, in what is one of my favourite Italian horror scores.
Set on a Greek island, Giombini’s score starts with an oddly cheerful traditional Greek style track, which is composed entirely using his trusty old moog. But that’s as upbeat as it’s going to get as the tone becomes increasingly grim and edgy, as does the film.
This score is riddled with horrific organ stabs and brain squelching arpeggios that are really quite nauseating… but perhaps the hidden gems on here are the little short Geogaddi-style ambient cues, whose bendy, detuned sounds could easily blend into an early Boards of Canada release.
An Anthropophagus/ Erotic Nights of the Living Dead bootleg cd was released back in 2003 but unfortunately that’s it in terms of any proper release we’ll ever see, as the original master tapes were destroyed after the sound editing process of the film. If you can get a hold of it, or find the digital files, the quality isn’t the worst you’ll ever hear and you’ll still be able to appreciate this ingenious feast of nastiness.
Demons III: The Ogre – Simon Boswell (1988)
Simon Boswell’s score for Demons III: The Ogre is the first entry on this list by a non-Italian composer… but that’s not to say that it isn’t every bit as good as the rest. Marketed as a sequel to Lamberto Bava’s Demons series, this made for TV movie has pretty much no relation to the previous two films.
Boswell, who had previously scored Michele Soavi’s Stagefright and contributed music for Dario Argento’s Phenomena, continued his collaboration with Italian directors, this time teaming up with Lamberto Bava.
The core of The Ogre’s score is centered around an extremely eerie and seductive piano piece that gets under your skin as the English composer’s instantly recognizable emotive synthesizer sounds are very much apparent throughout. Whilst The Ogre isn’t a particularly bad movie, Boswell’s score very much outshines it in every way.
This is one of Simon Boswell’s most under-appreciated scores and it would be great to finally hear it in its entirety.
Nicola Piovani – Footprints on the Moon aka Le Orme (1975)
Last but not least is Nicola Piovani’s dazzling score for Luigi Bazzoni’s Footprints on the Moon. The film, a dreamlike and disorientating psychological giallo, which blurs the line between dreams and reality, is a real hidden gem of Italian cinema.
Piovani, who had previously scored Francesco Barilli’s The Perfume of the Lady in Black, compliments Vittorio Storaro’s eye-catching cinematography perfectly. From the hypnotic organs of the opening credits, to the tender Morricone-esque guitars and strings of the central theme, it’s hard to understand why this score has never been released.
Peter Strickland cited this score as a major influence for his giallo homage Berberian Sound Studio and who knows, with so many Italian scores being reissued over the past few years, there’s every chance that this could be spinning on our turntables in the near future.
Jack Eric Williams – Nightmares in a Damaged Brain,
Nico Catanese – Satan’s Baby Doll