THE SKY ABOVE THE MUD BELOW, was a real documentary about a trek across New Guinea that observed various tribes of natives (including cannibals) in various rituals, that made more money than any non-Disney documentary in 1961, and won the documentary Oscar. In 1962 filmmaker Paolo Cavara, with two other filmmakers, decided to take the low road and patched together a series of vignettes about extreme cultural rituals around the world. They added some straight-faced voiceovers to give an appearance of a serious documentary, and called it MONDO CANE (dog’s world). This first shockumentary, with real and staged scenes, was so internationally successful it became a cottage industry. The Academy documentary section was unimpressed, but the music by 2 unknown Italian composers, Riz Ortolani and Nino Oliviero, made the music branch sit up and listen and they gave it a best song nomination for “More.” Indeed the soundtrack to MONDO CANE hit the charts like no documentary score ever did. Director Cavara used the two again for his second shockumentary WOMEN OF THE WORLD but by the time his third was made, MALAMONDO, they were “Hollywood” composers and were too expensive. So he decided to go back to the same well, an unknown Italian composer he could get cheap, Ennio Morricone.
For a young composer this was an opportunity of a lifetime (remember A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS hadn’t happened yet). Not an opportunity for a hit movie, the freak success of MONDO CANE was long past and each successive MONDO did less and less business. But each one of those had a soundtrack release in hopes lightning would strike twice. Indeed, Epic, Columbia Records’s label for orphan projects, made MALAMONDO Morricone’s first LP soundtrack release. This opened up the second opportunity. These MONDO movies were a hodgepodge of sequences that could be scored a number of ways. How do you score nude skiing? Do you go with the absurd comedy of it all? Do you go with the nubile eroticism of the young girls? Do you go with the skiing!!! Perhaps you might take the Ortolani approach with lush music to give it a poetic veneer? All the scenes in this film can go a number of ways so Morricone ( a smart nerdy composer) decides to turn the whole thing into the best show reel ever made with the music distributed by Epic Records. I could see Ennio being approached by producers and just handing the MALAMONDO LP over when inquiries like these came around:
We need a sublime composer for a delicate subject matter:
We need something like Percy Faith:
We hear you have a penchant for westerns?
We have this suspense film where the tension builds…
How about cool jazz arrangements?
We’re thinking of Bacharach?
We need a catchy tune for this character!
This movie takes place in a tiki lounge…
Sambas are popular now…
We have this slapstick comedy….
There’s this monk in a monastery who dreams of being a jazz drummer…
...AND the one demand the producers probably made about MALAMONDO was to write a pretty ballad like "More" they could cash in on:
I think this song might have gotten somewhere if it wasn't for a last minute addition to MALAMONDO. Extremely popular singer Adriano Celentano & Clan improvise a song in the streets of Rome, which took the spotlight and all the publicity away from Ennio's song.
I never thought of all this when I saw the MALAMONDO score in the 99 cents bin back in the day. But after looking at Morricone’s long career, when he did some brilliant stuff, and seeing where he was when he did this, I cannot help but look at this music any other way. And there is even more on that LP, like the main title that sounds like the gangster music he would soon do. AND when they did a CD expansion there was a perfect horror film cue there too.
I know A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS sparked his career but I also noticed it went in 10 different directions at this point, not just westerns. So that is why I nominate MALAMONDO the most ingenious debut soundtrack in the history of whatever.
Superb score. Thanks for the write up and links, Henry!
Thanks, again, the more I look and listen to this score from the showreel point of view the more I am convinced that is what he had in mind. There is plenty of variety in the other MONDO movie scores (ECCO, MONDO CANDIDO, MONDO NUDO) but nothing compared to the way he pushes this one in so many very different directions.
By spooky coincidence I played this in the car on the way home last night, only to discover your posting when I fired up the laptop later on. Not a favourite Morricone score but one that means a lot to me anyway. Knowing that it was an early and rare LP (from what little information was available in the late 70s) I hunted down a rough old copy of it on mail order. I was very happy to own it even though it was all but unplayable, being more scuff and scratch than LP.
A superbly inventive score, highlighting Morricone's arranging talent.