This series is inspired by a controversy thread where someone posited the idea that besides THE MISSION and some Sergio Leone westerns Ennio Morricone hasn't written anything great. Rather than making my usual comment that most of Morricone's great scores are from Italy and trying to get Americans to listen to them is like getting them to see movies with subtitles, I decided to take another tact. Since I am at an age where I will only be able to make my case a finite number of times I decided to turn this into a series presenting each great score one at a time, sort of like recordman.
As I am rounding the corner of 50 Morricone scores I started asking myself is there an outre niche of Morricone I have not explored? Well I have not scraped the bottom of the barrel. Scraping the bottom might be different for various composers. Does Elmer Bernstein's ROBOT MONSTER or John William's DADDY-O apply? If so then we are not dealing with the worst scores they've done, just the worst movies. But what goes through your mind when you are scoring a truly bad film? Well we must start with the bad film. So would Morricone's worst be the giallos? No, most of those benefit from the modern writing techniques he brings to the genre. How about some of those soft core pieces of erotica? No Morricone porno scores are bubbly and fun. But this STAR WARS rip-off is something else again. Morricone used to say it was the most expensive Italian production up to that time. I also heard the same thing about STARCRASH for Canada, but THE HUMANOID makes STARCRASH look like a masterwork. I do have to give Brownie points to Morricone. Ever since Kubrick used Johann Strauss in 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY a traditional approach to all kinds of sci-fi films became the norm, including the Korngoldish pirate music of STAR WARS. Now, because of the extreme emulation of STAR WARS in THE HUMANOID you would think Morricone would follow suit. No, he kind of went retro and emphasized electronics. It is different. But as Thor likes to say “is that always good?” No, in this case, with the film, it is awful. It sounds more like the new age stuff you would hear in a “Hearts of Space” radio program. Some sonic layering, a few beeps and clicks, to sum up a score by R2-D2. So why bring up this score? Well, for one thing the listen on the CD is much better than in the film. But secondly, as usual with Morricone, there is something else going on here. Morricone had had an encounter about one other major science fiction piece in his career. There are conflicting reports on how this went down but way back in 1972 Morricone, who was working in the studio in Rome on DUCK, YOU SUCKER got a call from Stanley Kubrick. Kubrick said he had just seen INVESTIGATION OF A CITIZEN ABOVE SUSPICION and thought the paranoia and style of that score might make him an excellent candidate for his new project A CLOCKWORK ORANGE. Ennio said he was very interested and proceeded to read the book. According to Morricone he had already begun formulating the score in his head..However a return call to the soundstage by Kubrick was answered by Sergio Leone and he explained how intensive the mix was for his film and how there would be no time for Kubrick’s. I think Morricone believed he could have handled both but he was unaware of the conversation until much later when Kubrick had moved on to Walter Carlos. Jump to 7 years later and here is the unusual main title to THE HUMANOID:
Now what Ludwig Van Beethoven’s “Ode To Joy” is doing stuck in the middle of the main title of THE HUMANOID is anybody’s guess. But I do know why it might be in CLOCKWORK ORANGE. I am surprised no one has called Morricone on that or at least posed the question. Anyway there are a few cues that I could imagine on CLOCKWORK ORANGE like “Incontri a Sei” or the first “Trasmissione Difettosa, Rotazione e Rivoluzione” In fact imagining them in it helps listening to the album. And then there are a couple cuts that work all by themselves like “Estasi Stellare” and “Robodog”.
This was number six of seven collaborations with director Aldo Lado for Morricone which included LAST STOP ON THE NIGHT TRAIN, LA COSA BUFFA, SEPOLTA VIVA, WHO SAW HER DIE? and LA CORTA NOTTE DELLE BAMBOLE DI VETRO. And this was the last teaming of Richard Kiel and Barbara Bach who for some reason ended up on three films quite close together, this , FORCE 10 FROM NAVARONE and THE SPY WHO LOVED ME.
I love this score. I shall say it again. I love this score.
Morricone uses electronics the way they should be: to form sounds that can't be formed in any other way. Never mind this wussy padding out of thin sounds caused by too little budget! If he's influenced by anything here, I always figure it's Tomita's electronic rendering of Prokofiev's Fifth Symphony on "Bermuda Triangle" from the year before, because this is classical-style music (properly, baroque for the most part) with some abstract (the "informale" tracks), the fun Robodog, and the magnificent, nay MAGNIFICENT Estasi Stellare. This last piece simply soars.
I love this score too, it's gotta be the most synth-heavy of all Morricone's scores. I bet Giorgio Carnini did the synth work.
As for the fugal first part of Incontri A Sei; Morricone also used it in the scores for COME IMPARAI AD AMARE LE DONNE (Alta Moda) and DER RICTHER UND SEIN HENKER (Fuga in Svizzera). Afaik it's a variation on a Bach Fugue.
Another score from the Maestro which I initially came across via its Main theme (the 5'50" Marcia) on a vinyl compilation ... the score (on the RCA label) came as a bit of a shock!
I recently started a thread re: the film which I watched a few weeks ago - yes, truly awful and I'm not convinced the music fits but it was probably better to turn the visuals off and just listen.
I know that Tall Guy has good (musical) taste and I do like the cue Estasi Stellare but could not rate it so highly: the first part is excellent but the theme tails off when the organ starts in the second minute.
The score raises a few comments in my home but it is one which has had more than its fair share of plays. So, for me, not in the top half of favourites but perhaps towards the top of the bottom half. I've yet to hear the GDM extended version - maybe one day.
In my opinion Morricone's fuga is even closer to Mozart's "version".
What do you think?
I agree that the Mozart is nearer to Morricone than the Bach, but I'd say it was a very superficial similarity with no reason to think that it was used as the basis for the Humanoid score. They use a similar musical language, but you'd expect that in a somewhat baroque fugue of any kind.
I quite liked the Mozart, actually, which is unusual for me, so thanks for pointing it out.
I'd be interested if anyone else can see more of a similarity than I can.
I think for me the 'comeback and see' factor is the overall simplicity of the various pieces. On paper, The Humanoid should repel as two 'like' poles on a couple of magnets, yet the divining force is one of attraction. It's not really a film score to this listener, but supremely melodic easy listening candy. You can't really go wrong with it. It would be interesting to see how the music influences neurone firing in the , uh, susceptible.
Thanks, M, but I'm intrigued by the connotations of the brackets...
So as not to confuse with your bad taste in ties mayhap?
Just playing it safe ... I could have typed "... has good taste in music, inter alia, ..." but that seemed a little long-winded. Of course, if it means you - and others - have to think there could be something else implied ...