Luciano Michaelini's music for this vintage police thriller has some striking stylistic similarities to Ennio Morricone's thematic writing, notably in the title cue which kicks starts with a pervasive ostinato on drums & electric bass, pulsing strings, and a short piano riff that precedes each chord change. It's a short cue that lacks the length and increasing thickness of a typical Morricone title track, but Michelini manages to compact a few dominant score motifs in the short running time that form the basis for subsequent cues.
“Seq. 2” (there are no formal track titles) is a gentle lounge expansion of the aforementioned riff. The first part has flute, oboe, and lush strings trading the developed love theme statements, whereas the second half focuses on a piano solo.
The album does have some meaty dramatic cues that offset the sometimes monotonous repetition of the first two themes. In “Seq. 5,” Michelini has subtle, low strings playing retarded piano ostinato from the title track, and pinched electronic sounds and percussion closing out the short cue; a slightly longer version, “Seq. 7,” adds more dissonant percussion.
In the meatier “Seq. 6,” the composer sets up a chilling little nocturne with low bass pulses and thin waves of dissonant strings, while a solo flute gently plays a threadbare version of the piano ostinato. The cue's second half shifts to an urban drum beat and bass groove, and Michelini increases tension by flipping between a funky groove line and a classical fugue.
Also memorable is a rather witty march, “Seq. 8,” which evokes a slightly comedic troupe of rebels staking their ground in defiance of a large bureaucratic body, and Michelini closes the cue with a lighter variation, with plenty of fluttering flutes.
The album and generous chunk of bonus outtake cues also contain some excellent orchestral jazz fusion cuts, like the impassioned “Seq. 10,” with its full percussion, fat bass, and strained ostinato. The cue's midsection divergence recalls George Martin's funky action cuts from Live and Let Die, where Martin applied an orchestral rock style to a lengthy boat and bus chase. Michelini emphasizes brass, and ends the cue with a rock finale using heavy drums. (The cue ends rather abruptly, though, as if the master mix contained a quick fadeout.)
“Seq. 14” is a harder, more percussion-heavy version of “Seq. 10,” with deeper rippling timpani, and some nice subtle use of keyboards, woodwinds, and synths for piquant accents when most of the orchestra is playing low and midrange frequencies.
Among the outtakes, No. 2 is a great orchestral funk source cue/multipurpose action cue with electric guitar, congas, juicy bass, and a steady drum beat. It's repetitive groove and shifting guitar solos are divinely trippy, and like all great source cuts, it's tragic the damn thing runs a smidge over 2 mins. Outtake No. 8 is just as wonderful, with Michelini using brass, wacka-wacka guitar, and smooth strings for a strangely formal orchestral funk source with some nice piano improv near the end. Outtake No. 9 is reinterpreted with close-miked electric bass, heavy drums, and electric guitar strums that flip between prog rock, with an intro strum that pays sly homage to spaghetti western scoring.
It never fails to amaze, however, why composers didn't let the musicians groove for another 2-3 mins. to create a more complete cue. The recording expenses were undoubtedly part of the problem, but often it's these vintage source cues that shine amid repetitive theme statements, and are of particular interest to genre fans.
The most oft-repeated theme on the expanded album is the nocturne, whereas the weirdest arrangement is outtake No. 4 that takes the gentle love theme (“Seq. 2”), doubles the tempo, and gives it a classic Morricone lounge spin with prominent chordal shifts on piano.
DigitMovies' album is a must-have for Italian crime fans, and helps rescue another rare Michelini score from oblivion. Fans wanting more of the composer's more formal orchestral writing should also check out L'Isola Degli Uomini Pesce / Screamers (1979), released by Fin de Siecle Media.
© 2008 Mark R. Hasan