Although Nico Fidenco did the rounds scoring whatever was in vogue during his early years – spaghetti western, spy films, and thrillers – the Italian composer more or settled (and got stuck) in the sexploitation genre. Generous bonking and boobery notwithstanding, he often wrote some memorable themes - delicate, and sometimes quite haunting - for films which weren't always nice to women.
His theme for Emanuelle in America is among his best, and was one of the few tonally consistent elements in Joe D'Amato's otherwise schizophrenic softcore/sadism hybrid, which swerved into snuff terrain and then flipped to a ridiculous happy finale.
Few of Fidenco's complete scores have actually been released, and part of the problem may be that, like La Ragazzina, most of Fidenco's brief scores consists of singular theme variations, and occasional source cues with barely any straightforward dramatic underscore.
It's a unique frustration for fans used to scores bearing an intro melody and formal underscore (a kind of familiar formalism that even exists in Zalman King's feature and TV derivations), because the music written for sexploitation and straight erotica was often designed to fit credit sequences, montages, and sex scenes; written as kinetic music modules, they were pretty much the only compelling elements in these films, and it made sense, using the old convention of maniacal thematic repetition, to keep reusing a theme in case an LP or 45 single could be spun off.
Ragazzina's main theme is a delicious, Mediterranean flavoured piece for acoustic guitar and mandolin, augmented by a thumping bass line, and Alessandro Alessandroni's beautiful whistling that carries Fidenco's whistful tune.
The theme crops up in a number of variations, including the somewhat bleak and abruptly terminated “The Past,” done in a prog rock style with a brooding bass line; “Monica's Love,” a main title variation with a brief set of sustained pauses using rather tense strings and short xylophone taps; and “Sandra's Dream,” which exploits Fidenco's rhythm parts, with sultry melodic improvs from alto sax, piano, and trumpet.
The super-brief “Monica's Flight,” the album's final cue, is the only track with any dramatic formalism, carried by sustained piano keys, fluttering woodwinds, and a subtle Moog synthesizer adding an unsettling mood; it's a curious end to an album that begins on such a highly optimistic plain.
Fidenco uses the Moog in a number of source cues, such as “The Graft,” where the primordial synth assumes the melody and improv from flutes before the two elements unite for the melody's final third; and in “Speed,” with a rock brass combo.
Alessandroni's whistling also returns in the partly improvised “Monica's Mirror,” and the ubiquitous Edda Dell'Orso contributes her own vocal theme rendition in the perky “Sanda,” accompanied by harp, strings, and a more discretely melodic Moog. Fidenco also wrote a galloping waltz, “Duello in ¾,” for small chamber orchestra, which offers some rustic colour to the score's orchestral rock score design.
DigitMovies' CD (illustrated with gorgeous original stills and campaign art) is derived from the original tape masters (previously used for a rare non-commercial CAM LP), and while the two pop songs that appeared on a 45 RPM disc couldn't be included, this presentation of Fidenco's complete score is more satisfying than the recent Black Emanuelle compilations, which lack a dramatic thrust (so to speak), and demonstrate the derivative nature of the Black Emanuelle franchise that gave the composer few moments of inspiration in the latter half of the seventies.
In 1974, Fidenco scored both Blue Jeans, the sequel to La Ragazzina, and the first Black Emanuelle. Other soundtracks for films starring Gloria Guida available from DigitMovies include Blue Jeans, and La Liceale / The Teasers (1975) and La Liceale nella classe dei ripetenti (1978).
© 2007 Mark R. Hasan