Vol. 1 of DigitMovies' Mario Bava Soundtrack Anthology series assembles two scores by Roberto Nicolosi, a composer who had the misfortune of having his score for Bava's breakthrough film, Black Sunday, junked from the English release version when AIP bought the rights, and engaged staff composer Les Baxter to rescore the film.
Like many of the older mono sources for Bava's early films, the audio shows signs of age, but the music still resonates with bleakness and portents of Barbara Steele's inevitable facial trauma. Some of the Sunday cues are in better shape than others: there's a marked jump in fidelity when we hit "Macabra sepoltura e apparizione di Katia," although the hiss and background noise also jumps up a few notches - a necessary tradeoff when one encounters specific sections wherein finer details were obfuscated by potent imperfections.
The first half of "Resurrezione di Asa" consists of super-low frequencies that struggle amid the hiss to reach our ears, and the hiss is very apparent on later tracks, like the haunting organ cue "Kruvajan, morto vivente." As Tim Lucas' also elaborates in the liner notes, what remains of the score in teh CAM archives, while substantive, is still missing some major cues.
(It's somewhat ironic that Baxter's own score for Sunday - one of his best - has survived in excellent shape, and has appeared in several hi-fi US releases, while Nicolosi's original compositions haven't fared so well. That imbalance is arguably offset by the virtual disappearance of the AIP version from DVD, which has also eradicated Baxter's link to the film.)
Nicolosi's score does alternate in tone, as the slow, elegiac passages for woodwinds and sharp brass sometimes glide into gentle melodic sections, written in a fairly contemporary style, particularly the film's short love theme. The composer's gift for writing tightly-suited music for medieval and contemporary periods was well-used by Bava in the CD's second score, La ragazza che sapeva troppo / The Girl Who Knew Too Much, which Baxter also rescored for the English language version, dumbly retitled The Evil Eye.
For obvious reasons, the CD doesn't include "Furore," the Italian pop song by Adriano Celentano that plays over the main titles, and is twice repeated on a phonograph, and reel-to-reel source (all a blatant attempt to sell a single if there ever was one), but the cues form an excellent, if not natural, B-side to the Sunday music.
A more contemporary score, Nicolosi chose to embrace the pop-jazz style of the era while sticking close to the slow developing orchestral writing that made Sunday's music so chilling. Danger is accented by low meandering strings, bass pulses, woodwind figurations, and light use of harpsichord in "Omicidio a trinita'dei monti," while "Risveglio in ospedale" demonstrates Nicolosi's effective use of contrasting movements: sustained chords rubbing against unraveling patterns and repeated notes.
A gilded melodic theme is used for Nora's Rome excursion ("Questa e'Roma!") and the film's end credits, and there's some nice jazz cuts that smoothly move from source to dramatic underscore, including "Un caldo bacio dopo l'incubo." Written for small jazz combo, the cue's first two thirds consist of muted trumpet, electric guitar, and discreet organ, while the final section slides in a small orchestra, with the sax that started the cue returning for some dramatic bits.
It's a slickly orchestrated cue that smoothens a time transition between scenes: the sax functions as an echo of a past scene, yet it encompasses the good-vibe/unsure feelings the handsome couple have for each other as they near the end of their walk through Rome.
Most of the CDs in DigitMovies' Bava anthology are produced in limited quantities but are well worth seeking out, because they showcase the music of composers that's finally being heard for the first time by English language film fans, largely due to the 'integrale' DVD releases of Bava's wonderful, crazy work. These albums affectionately reaffirm the worth of these scores after decades of commercial ignorance.
DigitMovies' Mario Bava anthology includes Vol.1 (La Mashera del demonio / Black Sunday + La ragazza che sapeva tropp / The Evil Eye), Vol. 2 (La Frusta Ell Corpo / Whip and the Body + Sei Donne per l'assassino / Blood and Black Lace), Vol. 3 (Ecologia del Delitto / Bay of Blood + Gli orrori del castello di norimberga / Baron Blood + Cani arrabbiati / Rabid Dogs), Vol. 4 (I Vampiri + Caltiki + Lisa e il Diavolo / Lisa and the Devil "To Mirna" theme), and Vol. 5 (Hercules in the Haunted World / Ercole al centro della terra).
© 2006 Mark R. Hasan