In 1978, Ennio Morricone scored a number of diverse genres, including Les cages au folles, Days of Heaven, The Humanoid / L’umanoide, and The Prisoner / Il prigioniero – the latter two for director Aldo Lado.
Lado and Morricone had previously collaborated on the giallo The Child / Who Saw Her Die? / Chi l'ha vista morir in 1972, and while The Prisoner was made for TV, its roots in classical literature – based on the novel The Duel by Anton Chekov – gave the composer a chance to write a rich orchestral score. With the exception of the folk vocal “Si l’ammuri,” the score is entirely based around three strictly drawn themes.
The first is the gentle, overtly melodic “L’estate e’ finite,” where solo flute and violin are supported by a thick veneer of strings, and a semi-tragic harpsichord passage that seems to punctuate the end of a once-romantic era.
Morricone takes the first few notes from “L’estate e’ finite” to create the score’s secondary theme (“I due prigionieri,”), which is basically a short phrase comprised of repeated notes performed by a duet of flutes, The cue’s tension stems from the shifting textural densities from lower strings, and thick, slightly gnarled vibrato.
A second version (“Versione 2”) is more intriguing because the roles are flipped: the two flutes play whole (bass) notes, whereas dual pianos strike notes around the actual phrase, creating a kind of ghost theme; the result is a sense of something thematically familiar, yet slightly off to the listener, because the musical markers have been blurred through a fog of abstractly rendered notes.
The score’s third theme, “Dove sei amore,” is a lovely waltz that’s initially performed in a duet with piano and violin. Its melodic centre is filled with romantic passion, as well as warm tones that seem to celebrate the beauty to which “L’estate e’ finite” bids a formal, regretful adieu. A vocal version adds a male voice which affectionately conveys a man’s devotion towards his beloved without any edge of desperation.
Collectively, any combination of the trio of themes form a simple, engaging suite, since they specifically address three moods - joy, menace, and lament. Among the album’s 16 tracks, the primary theme has 5 variations, the secondary has 7, and the third just 2, which means the CD’s midsection consists of alternates of alternates. The plus side is every cue is preserved on this meticulously engineered CD, but one may need to program a smaller selection of tracks to compact the score’s narrative, and lesson the heavy repetition.
DigitMovies’ CD includes a booklet with some details on this little-seen teleplay, and production stills, as well as art from the original CAM 45 rpm release which featured the score’s two main themes.
© 2010 Mark R. Hasan