Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Two Evil Cats

Meow! Here's a strange anomaly in film score history -- an Italian composer who scored the same horror story twice within a decade. It all started when Pino Donaggio (taking a break from his stampede of Brian De Palma films) was hired by the very busy Lucio Fulci in 1981 to score his "freely adapted" version of Edgar Allan Poe's short story, "The Black Cat." Patrick Magee stars as a grizzled old coot who records ambient noises in graveyards and owns a malicious pussycat capable of instigating gory deaths in a small Scottish village. Enter nosy reporter Mimsy Farmer and detective David Warbeck, who try to put a stop to all the feline antics before they're next. It all ends with some impromptu masonry and a yowling kitty, of course. The string-heavy score is highlighted by a terrific main title theme that nicely evokes the Scottish setting and features some of Donaggio's strongest suspense work. Though it was never released, the complete score is presented here from the original recording sessions; sound quality is a bit erratic here and there, but hey, where else are you gonna hear it?

Fast forward to 1990, as Dawn of the Dead producer Dario Argento decided to reunite with George Romero for a two-part Poe anthology film, Two Evil Eyes. While most viewers agree that Romero's "The Facts in the Cast of M. Valdemar" is a sluggish mess, Argento's version of "The Black Cat" succeeds thanks to an avalanche of wild Poe references and a solid performance by Harvey Keitel. Not surprisingly, Donaggio's score is divided into two halves with the much stronger Argento segment coming first. Highlights include the main kid's choir theme ("Dreaming Dreams"), a spooky medieval piece ("Adust Sponsus"), and even a swirling cue inspired by Philip Glass ("The Gothic Town"). Argento must have been pleased with the results, as he used Donaggio again for Trauma and Do You Like Hitchcock? Incidentally, at least one other Italian composer has performed the same twice-in-a-decade feat with one horror story; can you name him?

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Blogger Tim Lucas said...

>>Incidentally, at least one other Italian composer has performed the same twice-in-a-decade feat with one horror story; can you name him?<<

My guess is you're thinking ofRiz Ortolani, who scored Antonio Margheriti's DANSE MACABRE (aka CASTLE OF BLOOD, 1964) and its color remake WEB OF THE SPIDER (1971) within the same ten year span. Edgar Allan Poe plays an important role in these two films, as well.

1:17 PM  
Blogger Tim Lucas said...

PS: Your wonderful postings continue to be much appreciated!

1:19 PM  
Blogger 7 Black Notes said...

Bingo! Thanks, Tim; glad you're enjoying the music (and apologies for being such a deadbeat writer lately). Let me know if there's any particular music you'd like to see posted!

5:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

your site is very good. thank you so much.

ps. please more post!!!

2:30 AM  
Blogger attax said...

Hey thank you for these two great posts :) I was looking for them.

4:56 AM  
Anonymous Andrew Monroe said...

Spooky! I was just rereading your review of the Fulci BLACK CAT dvd from Dvd Delirium (love both volumes, btw, 3 will soon arrive) this morning, and wondered if the score was still mia! Your timing is fantastic, thanks so much.

9:42 AM  
Anonymous meddle said...

Pino Donaggio is so underrated as a composer I love all of his work with Brian De Palma and especially his score for Don’t Look Now. Thanks for posting Black Cat.

7:30 PM  
Blogger Kamyar said...

Thank you soo much for posting the "Two-Evil Eyes"-Soundtrack, "Dreaming Dreams" is hauntingly beautiful.
Also, I just ordered Fulci's "Black Cat", so after watching the movie I'm definitely going to check out the Soundtrack.

12:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Many thanks! This is the only soundtrack to an Argento movie I didn't have!

10:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Adest sponsus" is actually not a Donaggio composition (though it is featured on the vinyl soundtrack). It was a medieval piece performed by the Boston Camerata.

10:33 PM  

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