Tuesday, June 02, 2009


The series needs an entry from the realms of movie soundtracks. Since nowadays most every major contemporary film OST is used as a shoddy marketing tool for a bunch of desperate indie/metal bands; or else an exercise in recycled featureless orchestral wallpaper; or worse still, laptop jockeys doodling around with midi keyboards and echo/reverb plug-ins for a couple of hours.

But it wasn't always like this - fantastic commissioned works by Bernard Herrmann, John Barry, Ennio Morricone, Philip Glass, Goblin, Popol Vuh, Francis Lai, and Angelo Badalamenti spring to mind. Even so, it's hard to disassociate to the extent where the music can be judged purely on its own merits beyond that of the effect of a film.

Rather than those more obvious candidates however, I intend to passionately argue the case for the much underrated genius of Riz Ortolani, who also composed music for several mondo flicks and Deodato's other notorious nasty The House On The Edge Of The Park.

Riz Ortolani : Cannibal Holcaust (1980)

Its opening track begins with gently plucked acoustic guitar thus lulling you to a place of leafy beauty serving to disguise the unsettling horror of the musical drama to unfold, thus expertly mirroring the narrative development of this most shocking of films. The baroque melody of the main theme of Cannibal Holocaust is reminiscent of many of the erotic Italian and French films of the 70s, and initially, seems an unusual choice for the visceral subject matter. Its leitmotif, nevertheless, returns with devastating impact in later scenes of almost operatic horror - and serves to deepen the underlying pathos.

In contrast,
Adulteress' Punishment, Massacre Of The Troupe, and Savage Rite are tenebrous dirges brilliantly combine electronic percussion noises, moog synths, and heartwrenching savagely powerful string-led harmonies that will rip your soul apart - just as the Amazonian tree-people cannibals will your bare flesh with bloodied merciless hands. The kind of shatteringly meaningful emotional response that so few composers, bands, or artists are ever able to attain.

The other tracks on the album exhibit a notable change of pace - the dynamics
soften between returns of the main theme and the more sombre introspective tracks (that often accompanies appalling animal torture scenes in the movie) to give us breezy jazzy disco numbers so idiosyncratic of many other lesser video nasties of the era.

The remastered version of the
Cannibal Holocaust OST is particularly recommended, even though some of the other sparser incidental film music is not included: the audio production is of exceptional quality and this remarkable soundtrack (to what was in actual fact a uniquely remarkable film) is really something very very special.



Wrongly Wired said...

That soundtrack really is a wonder. I use the opening titles piece to get me in the mood on my ipod before any public speaking. Last week I gave a lecture to a couple of hundred people in Victoria and the soothing, soaring strings are a balm for any nerves.

I also love Hermann Kopp's soundtrack to Der Todesking (although have not really enjoyed much of his other work.)

_Black_Acrylic said...

Fully agree on this post. Another great track of his is 'Il Corpo Di Linda' from 1977, a kind of proto-techno production that is a good decade ahead of its time.

WXXX said...

Yes, the segues in the film are masterful (...it's been a while since screening it, but if memory serves...) the abrupt cuts from the synth immolation score to that glorious theme, with airs of the Mondo aesthetic: Here is the world in all its splendor, beauty and terror blossom as one!

Another good Ortolani score is Addio zio Tom (Farewell Uncle Tom) -it took the Italian cinema to concoct the most scathing indictment of American slavery ever!

LJP said...

I've got Goodbye Uncle Tom on a videocassette but I don't remember what the soundtrack was like...

I'd say interesting soundtracks are the one on Last House on Dead End Street and the one on Invocation of my Demon Brother, the latter is just Mick Jagger twiddling around with an early Moog synth...