Friday, September 29, 2006

From Innocence - To Fear - To Rage!

"Two Academy Award Winning Stars," Tatum O'Neal and Irene Cara, teamed up in 1985 for Certain Fury, a trashy female take on The Defiant Ones (or, if you prefer, a thinly-disguised remake of Black Mama, White Mama), directed by Stephen Gyllenhaal (Jake and Maggie's dad). As with several other '80s action scores (see Raw Deal), the music is the handiwork of three composers -- in this case, Bill Payne, George Massenburg, and Russ Kunkel, who all returned again for Smooth Talk and not much else. The main theme ("Fire in Her Eyes") is the most memorable feature, though the rest is also a bit more layered and interesting than the usual synth-action stuff you might expect.

Certain Fury
1. Theme From Certain Fury / Scarlet And Tracy's Song
2. Tracy Into Tears / Scarlet's Theme / Crystal's Hit
3. The Cab Ride
4. The Drowning
5. Escape To Nowhere
6. Final Donfrontation / Fire In Her Eyes
7. Lost And In Trouble
8. Tracy's Childhood
9. Going Down For Air

10. Scarlet Saves Tracy From Fire
11. Spire-Freeman Theme
12. They Think We're Dead
13. Sniffer's World
14. Scarlet And Loverboy Talk / How Do You Erase All Of This
15. Sniffer You're A Freak / Take One Step And I'll Kill You

16. Welcome To The City / Fire In Her Eyes


Thursday, September 28, 2006

Funky Sonny

<Don't let the Sonny and Cher connection fool you; this is a prime 1969 AIP freak-out soundtrack similar to Billy Strange's De Sade and Les Baxter's The Dunwich Horror. (Not surprisingly, all three films also feature wild, very similar "trippy" animated opening sequences.) After starring together in Good Times, Sonny and Cher took on this unorthodox mixture of juvenile delinquent sleaze and arty pretension, with Cher starring as a young runaway who hops from one bad relationship to another while hitching her way across the country. Sonny produced the film and wrote the score, whose "Band of Thieves" theme song (sung by Cher) is the only normal pop concession on the album. And yes, their gay-rights-activist daughter was named after this movie. Composer Ken Thorne did the arranging and conducting hot off his work on the amazing The Touchables, and the psychedelic influence definitely shows.

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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Cipriani in '78

One of the busiest Italian composers in the '70s, Stelvio Cipriani wound up on the map thanks to his catchy work on Mario Bava's Twitch of the Death Nerve and the above-average Love Story rip-off, The Anonymous Venetian. This LP I dug up at a little record shop in Rome compiles three standout scores from the busy year of 1978, none of which have seen the light of CD to date. Enfantasme is a rarely-seen Italian/French ghost story with a beautiful, haunting main theme that gets a solid workout through the whole score (and nope, before anyone asks, there is no "Enfantasme Two" on the soundtrack -- I have no idea why). Papaya dei Carabai is a particularly perverse Joe D'Amato sex/horror film (sometimes shown with hardcore-ish inserts) with a wonderfully ghoulish climax; it's the first part of his tropical-sex "Papaya" series that continued for the next year or two. Finally, Sono stato un agente C.I.A. (known to U.S. viewers as Covert Action) features a wild cast including Maurizio Merli, David Janssen, Arthur Kennedy, and Corinne Clery. The delirious funk-and-dance score is not to be missed.

New FLAC lossless Download:
1. Enfantasme
2. Painful Memories
3. Nino
4. Mountain Cottage
5. Enfantasme Three
6. Enfantasme Four
7. Concluding
Papaya Dei Carabai
8. Papaya Island
9. Papaya Dream
10. Papaya Dream 2
11. Papaya Song
Sono Stato Un Agente CIA
12. Relax
13. Relax 2
14. Un Uomo Programmato
15. Agente CIA

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Monday, September 25, 2006

Music for Muffy

Okay, it's not even close to April right now, but to get folks into the Halloween spirit a little early, here's Charles Bernstein's excellent, diverse little score for one of the most underrated '80s horror films, April Fools' Day (which is usually classified as a slasher film, even though it's not at all). Nice direction by the much-missed Fred Walton (When a Stranger Calls), a dream '80s cast including Amy Steel and Deborah Foreman, and that cool twist ending make this highly recommended. Later ripped off shamelessly in 2005 by the painfully stupid Cry_Wolf; stick with the original.

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Friday, September 22, 2006

Ma Barker's Killer Tunes

By 1970, American-International Pictures was veering away from the drug-oriented and horror films that had become its major drive-in staples. One of their wildest inaugural films for the new decade was Roger Corman's Bloody Mama, a violent saga adapted from the real-life Ma Barker and her bank-robbing sons. Shelley Winters devours the scenery as usual, along with a colorful supporting cast including Bruce Dern, Robert De Niro, Don Stroud, and Pat Hingle, among many others. First-time composer Don Randi (who went on to do Stacey and Up in the Cellar) alternates a traditional score with some amusing bits of source music, but the obvious highlight here is the all-too-catchy theme song, performed by "Bigfoot."

Bloody Mama
1. Bloody Mama
2. M-M-Mona (Part 1)
3. Mama Marches On
4. Rembrandt
5. Robbery Rag
6. Ma Barker & The Boys
7. Interlude
8. Vacation For Fiddles
9. M-M-Mona (Part 2)
10. Mother's Fudge
11. Drowning
12. Poor Lloyd
13. Miami Bound
14. There's No One Like A Mother
15. Ma's Boys In Prison
16. Bloody Mama Reprise

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Thursday, September 21, 2006

Tiki Terror

Now here's a weird one for exotica fans; one of the shadier budget LP lables, Viking, gained a reputation for repackaging their titles in countless different permutations over the years. This release by "Ugella and the Viking Pops Orchestra," Theme from Mondo Cane and Other Horror Music, features a strange marching-band version of Riz Ortolani's Oscar-winning theme ("More") and lots of tropical tunes passed off with ghoulish titles, all of which appeared earlier in a different sequence (with different names) on another LP, Chaino's Jungle Echoes. Capitalism at its finest! Calling this "horror music" is pretty dubious (unless hearing the name "Martin Denny" makes you run shrieking in terror), but it's one heckuva bizarre Halloween record-- and check out that cover!

Theme from Mondo Cane and Other Horror Music
1. Theme From Mondo Cane

2. Mau Mau Call
3. Scalping Ceremony
4. Sacrifice Of The Virgin
5. Burning At The Stake
6. Lament Of The Vestal
7. Exodus From Suffering
8. Theme Of The Torture Chamber
9. Murder To The Rock

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Leopardskin Fassbinder

At the height of Tangerine Dream's popularity in the early 1980s, founding member Edgar Froese went off in '82 for a rare solo film score, Kamikaze 1989. This bizarre sci-fi crime thriller is most famous for starring legendary director Rainer Werner Fassbinder (who died later the same year from a drug overdose) as the outrageously-clad Inspector Jansen, who's investigating a series of brutal bombings across Germany. Froese's score could easily fit with the rest of his group's discography, as it's packed with hypnotic, catchy, electronic waves of sound, especially the standout "Blue Panther."

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Soap Gets in Your Ears: Part 3

Sidney Sheldon was never anyone's idea of a great novelist, but his lurid, heavy-breathing potboilers used to sell by the ton back in the '70s. One of his most popular titles was The Other Side of Midnight, which Fox mounted as their big prestige film for 1977. Of course, the fact that they had no major stars and were using the director (Charles Jarrott) from the disastrous Lost Horizon musical should have been big warning signs, but execs were still shocked when the film landed on screens nationwide with a resounding thud and was quickly eclipsed by another little Fox movie they had completely ignored... Star Wars. It's still incredibly entertaining on a camp level, though, thanks to its improper use of erotic ice cubes, self-administered abortions, gauzy romantic walks in the rain, and, uh, a young Susan Sarandon. That master of romantic melodies, Michel Legrand, does his best to save the film by going crazy with the pianos and strings; it's one of his lushest efforts on its own terms and certainly more successful than the film it accompanies.

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Monday, September 18, 2006

Norman, Is That You?

A lot of people were surprised when 1982's dreaded "who asked for it?" sequel, Psycho II, turned out to be pretty decent and a modest box-office success. Naturally, Universal sensed the potential for a new franchise (a term they still slap on almost every DVD they release) and allowed star Anthony Perkins to hop into the director's chair for the next installment, 1986's Psycho III. The result was a beautiful, perverse study of dangerous psychology (despite some studio-imposed slasher additions), with an emotionally-scarred nun (Diana Scarwid) winding up at the Bates Motel and turning Norman's homicidal tendencies upside down. Closer to the Italian gothics than Hitchcock, it's a twisted treat worthy of rediscovery. The equally haunting music comes from Carter Burwell (his second score after Blood Simple), who hit the big time as the Cohen Brothers' regular composer (Fargo, Miller's Crossing, etc.) along with other excellent work like Being John Malkovich, Fear, and Rob Roy. The main theme here ("Maureen in the Desert") is powerful stuff and will stick in your head for days; it's been sampled a surprising number of times in electronica and chill-out pieces the past few years, though the soundtrack itself never hit CD and remains strangely obscure.

Psycho III
1. Maureen in the Desert
2. Before And After Shower
3. Warm As A Cry For Help
4. Sisters / Catherine Mary
5. Mother?
6. Bad Boys And Body Bags
7. Revenge Of A Thankless Child
8. Electroshock Waiting Room
9. Dirty Street
10. Scream of Love

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Thursday, September 14, 2006


If you ever wondered what a mash-up between Wild in the Streets and Two Thousand Maniacs might sound like, look no further than this 1970 "issues" movie from director Ralph Nelson (Once a Thief) about a small Southern town ripped apart when it gets a black sheriff. (Insert your favorite Blazing Saddles quip here.) The cast is a great slice of early '70s personalities including Jim Brown, George Kennedy, Fredric March, Lynn Carlin, Don Stroud, Bernie Casey, Clifton James, Dub Taylor and much more; keep your eyes open for occasional TV screenings. Songwriter Jerry Styner (The Cycle Savages, Mitchell) chipped on on the unique soundtrack, which is credted to "Tompall and the Glaser Brothers," or to give their full names, "outlaw singer" Tompall Glaser and his brothers, Chuck and Jim. A mixture of new material and some established Glaser standards (i.e., the often-played "Woman, Woman"), this album came near the end of their contract with MGM, which was headed at the time by composer/songwriter Mike Curb (wow, his name pops up around here a lot), who also penned the liner notes. A catchy mixture of folk, country and rock, this is usually overlooked in the discographies of everyone involved but is definitely worth a spin.

1. Theme from Tick...Tick...Tick... (Set Yourself Free)
2. California Girl (And The Tennessee Square)
3. Why Do You Do Me Like You Do
4. All That Keeps Ya Going
5. Where Has All The Love Gone?
6. Woman, Woman
7. What Does It Take
8. Home's Where The Hurt Is
9. Walk Unashamed
10. Gentle On My Mind

Also, here are two excellent reader submissions courtesy of "Joe." First up is Ryuichi Sakamoto's great, Ravel-inspired score for Brian De Palma's Femme Fatale. Then there's the excellent alt-music soundtrack for the modern cult favorite demonlover, a fascinating, mostly improvished work by Sonic Youth. Strangely enough, neither of these were ever released on CD in the U.S.; click on the covers below to hear 'em.

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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Decadent De Masi

In 1977, Italian exploitation cinema was in the grip of numerous peculiar obsessions -- namely, nunsploitation and Nazisploitation, among others. One of the classier entries in the latter category was Mario Caiano's La Svastica nel ventre ("The Swastika in the Stomach"), the story of a Jewish girl (Sirpa Lane) and Aryan boy (Giancarlo Sisti) whose love affair is torn apart at the beginning of World War II. In some English-speaking markets it was called Living Nightmare, but of course more people know it under the more commerical but utterly ridiculous retitling of Nazi Love Camp 27. The melodic score is by the prolific Francesco De Masi, best known at the time for a number of spaghetti westerns; he later went on to groove his way into the hearts of horror fans everywhere with the immortal New York Ripper. The score was briefly released on vinyl in Italy paired up with De Masi's score for La battaglia d'Inghilterra (Eagles over London), which was later issued as an expanded CD while its less reputable album-mate fell by the wayside. The poster art (seen on the cover) was later reused many, many times for other Nazi-sex titles well into the 1980s.

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Monday, September 11, 2006

You'll Dig Dagger

Another would-be spy franchise made in the wake of James Bond and The Man from U.N.C.L.E., this surprisingly sick espionage tale from 1967 was the third film for wonderfully insane director Richard Rush, who went on to Psych-Out, Freebie and the Bean, The Stunt Man, and of course, Color of Night. The story follows a wheelchair-bound megalomaniac's plans to revive the Third Reich, funded by his human-meat-packing business. The score is the only one ever credited to songwriter/TV personality Steve Allen, complete with a shameless faux-007 theme song crooned by Maureen Arthur; however, judging from the sound of the music, it's likely the credited "arranger," the great and underrated Ronald Stein (The Haunted Palace, Demenia-13), had more than the usual hand in the final product.


Friday, September 08, 2006

The Power of Chris Compels You

One of the best and busiest current American score composers, Christopher Young has churned out an amazing body of work for films such as Hellraiser, The Grudge, Species, and Flowers in the Attic. However, he got his start with two low-budget genre films for Stephen Carpenter and Jeffrey Obrow, 1982's The Dorm that Dripped Blood (a.k.a. Pranks) and 1984's The Power; while the former has subsequently appeared on CD, The Power has remained out of reach for most listeners. It's very strong for a second score, from the melodic opening water music theme to the driving suspense cues at the end. Note that Track 16 also offers an early example of Young's fondness for goofy puns in his track titles. The film itself, basically a more violent remake of that Brady Bunch Hawaiian episode, follows the mayhem caused by an evil Aztec doll that controls its owners. Tough to find on video now, it's an interesting artifact from the days of homegrown theatrical horror films.

The Power
1. Theme From The Power
2. Main Title
3. Desert Twilight
4. Transformation
5. A Secret Revealed
6. Quest For The Idol
7. Innocent Obsession
8. Evil Passage
9. The Possessed
10. Destacatyl
11. Desperate Search
12. Julie's Magic
13. Night Magic
14. Midnight Excursion
15. Tombstones And Talismans
16. Jerry's Gold Myth
17. The Power

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Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Italian Blend

Here's a little project I've been tinkering with for a while, and it's a bit different than past posts. Given the huge amount of great film music never commerically released in any format, I decided to cut together a series of suites of some outstanding titles that deserved some notice; here the spotlight turns on some of the great (well, in most cases) Italian composers whose work has often never gotten the credit it deserves. Taken from a variety of sources (video, M&E tracks, or whatever's handy), these have been tweaked to sound as good as I can make 'em; hopefully you'll discover a few new gems in this three-part collection, entitled Italian Blend. Running times have also been included to give you an idea of how much music to expect. Any comments on this one would be especially welcome -- thoughts on any particular likes (or dislikes), composers you'd like to hear more, etc.


Italian Blend: Vol. 1
1. The Witches (Piero Piccioni) (10:41)
2. Images In A Convent (Nico Fidenco) (9:04)
3. Baba Yaga (Piero Umiliani) (2:16)
4. A Virgin Among The Living Dead (Bruno Nicolai) (12:42)
5. Queens Of Evil (Angelo Francesco Lavagnino) (9:34)
6. Knife Of Ice (Marcello Giombini) (2:56)
7. Burial Ground (Elsio Macuso & Burt Rexon) (3:00)
8. Death Smiles At Murder (Berto Pisano) (7:02)
9. A Blade In The Dark (Guido & Maurizio De Angelis) (5:26)
10. Beast With A Gun (Umberto Saila) (4:15)
11. Plot Of Fear (Daniele Patucchi) (2:59)
12. The Great Alligator (Stelvio Cipriani) (4:11)
13. Do You Like Hitchcock? (Pino Donaggio) (3:26)

Italian Blend: Volume Two
1. Eugenie De Sade (Bruno Nicolai) (8:27)
2. Footprints (Nicola Piovani) (8:51)
3. 2019: After The Fall Of New York (Guido & Maurizio De Angelis) (3:55)
4. A Whisper In The Dark (Pino Donaggio) (13:41)
5. Yellow Emanuelle (Nico Fidenco) (8:30)
6. Waves Of Lust (Marcello Giombini) (2:05)
7. Orgasmo Nero (Stelvio Cipriani) (15:42)
8. Caligula: The Untold Story (Claudio Maria Cordio) (2:08)
9. Patrick Still Lives (Berto Pisano) (2:37)
10. The Man From Deep River (Daniele Patucchi) (5:35)
11. Zeder (Riz Ortolani) (1:30)
12. Body Count (Claudio Simonetti) (1:57)

Italian Blend: Volume Three
1. Suspected Death Of A Minor (Luciano Michellini) (8:30)
2. House On The Edge Of The Park (Riz Ortolani) (4:06)
3. Strip Nude For Your Killer (Berto Pisano) (6:04)
4. The Pyjama Girl Case (Riz Ortolani) (7:18)
5. Nightmares Come At Night (Bruno Nicolai) (9:35)
6. The Lickerish Quartet (Stelvio Cipriani) (11:45)
7. Porno Holocaust (Nico Fidenco) (22:13)
8. Porno Shop On 7th Street (Bruno Biriaco) (9:27)

9. The Big Racket (Guido & Maurizio De Angelis) (6:11)

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Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Pass the Waffles

Two years before they unleashed one of the greatest "family" films ever with Willy Wonkia and the Chocolate Factory, director Mel Stuart and composer Walter Scharf teamed up for If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium, a slight and sunny comedy about the havoc caused by a boorish busload of American tourists across Europe with an oddball cast of character actors including Suzanne Pleshette, Ian McShane (decades before Deadwood), Norman Fell, Murray Hamilton, Michael Constantine, and much more. The soundtrack ranges from the memorable theme song penned by Donovan and sung by J.P. Rags (doing his best Donovan impression) to a fun psych-out piece ("Rockhouse") and lots of pleasant, romantic instrumentals depicting the various locales.


Saturday, September 02, 2006

Get Out Your Handkerchiefs

It's safe to say Hollywood will never again make a movie like Cruising, the infamous 1980 William Friedkin thriller that kicked off a storm of controversy and nearly killed off the career of Al Pacino, who plays a New York cop posing as a leather bar regular to catch a vicious serial killer. Seen today it's a bizarre, fascinating, incredibly skewed depiction of a subculture soon to be threatened with extinction, and the pulsating soundtrack is an equally compelling mixture of early punk, funk, and flat-out weirdness. Included here is the full original song soundtrack (including the immortal "Lump"), plus additional tracks by the Germs recorded for the film but not used in the final cut and a suite of Jack Nitzsche's nerve-jangling score. For extra fun, a few choice dialogue samples (some of them a little raunchy, so be warned) have been added to recapture the distinctive, er, flavor of the film. Friedkin's original cut of this often-mangled curio supposedly runs nearly three hours and now languishes somewhere in the Warner vaults; somebody save it, please!

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