Don’t ever become a Morricone collector. I know one… and his life is ruled by the addiction. Ennio Morricone is an amazingly prolific film composer, and while most know him best for his spaghetti western soundtracks for director Sergio Leone (starring Clint Eastwood as The Man With No Name), Morricone has scored hundreds of films throughout the 60s & 70s (continuing to this day) – including a slew of Hollywood blockbusters, from The Thing to The Untouchables. What makes Morricone’s 60s material so fascinating (though, typical of his Italian film scores), is just how weird they are. Listening, it’s neigh impossible to understand the basis for his unique juxtaposition of styles, sounds and effects – incorporating ultra-tremolo guitars, epic chorales, grunts and chants, swirling unidentifiable instrumentation, unhinged percussive attacks and nightmare-like psychedelia. Not to mention… the sheer beauty of some of his quieter melodies. Posted here is just one aspect of his work, the legendary Leone/Morricone/Eastwood “Dollars Trilogy” (A Fistful Of Dollars, A Few Dollars More and The Good, The Bad & The Ugly), along with the masterpiece of all Italian westerns, Leone’s Once Upon A Time In The West. We’ve got a cool Morricone collection in the archives (Crimes And Dissonance, HERE) that deserves special attention, too. The only bad thing about appreciating Leone & Morricone? I’ve never met a female who could stand any of it. The movies or the music. So… make the basement comfortable, because you’re on your own with this stuff. Track listings in comments. Click HERE for more strange Morricone music in the archives.
Per Un Pugno Di Dollari (1964)
(A Fistful Of Dollars)
The first entry into the Leone/Morricone/Eastwood trilogy is not the beginning of Ennio’s madness. He’d been shaking up Italian film scores on his own for a few years already. It took director Sergio Leone to recognize the composer’s relationship to his own vision and meld those sounds with his strikingly original cinematic approach (relentless violence… and the jarring mix of extreme close ups and vast, wide-screen expanse).
Per Qualche Dollaro In Piu (1965)
(For A Few Dollars More)
It’s hard to believe that Eastwood couldn’t even get hired for film work after being typecast in low-budget TV westerns (at a time when movie audiences deemed the genre tired and passe). Which is why he went to work in Italy. After Fistful‘s modest success, a new market had opened and the sequels came forth. With budgets being tight, A Few Dollars More borrowed cues from its predecessor and, as with Fistful, the music was written independent of the visuals. Morricone had no idea what would accompany his music.
The Good, The Bad & The Ugly (1967)
(Il Buono, Il Brutto, Il Cattivo)
The climax to the Leone/Morricone/Eastwood trilogy is the best of the bunch, both cinematically and musically. With an actual budget to work with, 1967’s The Good, The Bad & The Ugly raised the bar, and the album (and surreal theme music) was so successful it hit Billboard‘s Top Ten. The sounds of marauding gangs and that distinctive banshee wail was some of the strangest stuff ever to gain mass acceptance in the 60s. And, it’s still bizarre to this day.
C’era Una Volta Il West (1969)
(Once Upon A Time In The West)
Sergio Leone’s masterpiece. A film that crawls so deliberately slow that most modern film goers simply don’t have the patience for it. The visual rewards, however, are awesome. You’ll never view wholesome everyman Henry Fonda in the same light again, that’s for sure. The soundtrack boasts a wide variety of themes for numerous characters and includes some of Morricone’s most memorable cues. Since there’s so little dialog (a Leone trademark), it’s the music that drives the narrative. I crack this out at least once a year for both the visuals and the music, though, as mentioned in the intro… it’s a solitary endeavor.