Perhaps the sight of beauty makes him lose control of himself, so he kills.” – Inspector Silvester (BLOOD AND BLACK LACE)
To create the perfect Giallo there has to be the right blend of mystery, Hitchcockian twists, overly sexually tense situations, murder, atmosphere and original music. Each of these key elements are essential ingredients for the Giallo recipe. Interestingly the scores for each film play such an intricate part in the storytelling and are often as highly regarded as pivotal death scenes. Terror, shock and bloodshed blend somewhat perfectly into jazz, bossa nova, psych and orchestral cues. It sounds bizarre, and it is, but in genre cinema, the Giallo score has no rival.
As with most, if not all of my recommendations, these are titles that are still readily available and won’t cost the earth. In this article to mix things up a little and to give you some idea of how deep you can go, Giallo expert and TIGER LAB VINYL co-owner Jon Dobyns will be sharing some of his collection of rare Giallo scores.
Here is a short selection to kick-off your Giallo soundtrack starter pack. Each score is as important as its title so, don your favorite pair of black leather gloves, pour yourself three fingers of J&B and kick back with my intro to Giallo.
THE CASE OF THE BLOODY IRIS – BRUNO NICOLAI (FINDERS KEEPERS)
A case could be made for only picking Bruno Nicolai scores for this article, a very strong case indeed. Since beginning my own Giallo journey many years ago it has been Nicolai’s work that has had the most appeal. Fortunately we are in an age where various labels are showing Nicolai the attention he so rightly deserves. Released in 2014 through the Finders Keepers label – THE CASE OF THE BLOODY IRIS is, in my humble opinion, Nicolai’s crowning achievement. Recorded in 1972 over the course of a couple of days, Nicolai and his orchestra have crafted a rhythmic bass driven score that drifts in and out of very late 60s/early 70s pop sensibility, all the while still retaining an underscore filled with hidden motives. Over the course of the 10 tracks included on this never before released vinyl score, Nicolai will take you on a musical journey. From the unforgettable ‘Main Title’ to the wonderful combo ‘Fashion Photographer/Night Club Show’, it is this score that made me fall in love with the music of the Giallo genre. If you’re looking to dip your toes into the musical world of these often idiosyncratic films, this would 100% be my first recommendation.
THE BLACK BELLY OF THE TARANTULA – ENNIO MORRICONE (CERBERUS RECORDS/DEATH WALTZ)
Of all of Morricone’s scores, it is this alongside LIZARD IN A WOMAN’S SKIN that easily gets the most play from my Morricone collection. This is a score that actually works on two levels; you have some of Morricone’s most inviting and easy listening compositions alongside a track like ‘Psicosi Ossessiva’ (obsessive psychosis in English), which can truly put you on edge within a moment’s notice. The track ‘Warm Belly Of The Tarantula’ works in the completely opposite way and is enough to win over any skeptical OST fan. The hushed breathing laid over a beautiful orchestral arrangement is sublime. Morricone, a man that so rightly deserves the moniker of ‘Legend’ has composed many scores in his tenure as the most prolific composer alive. And as far as Giallo scores go, THE BLACK BELLY OF THE TARANTULA is widely considered one of the greatest. Originally released in the early 80s as a double feature LP with THE BLACK BELLY OF THE TARANTULA on one side and MY DEAR ASSASSIN on the other, this is now available through Death Waltz on a 2 disc expanded edition.
PROFONDO ROSSO – GOBLIN (AMS)
Chances are, if you’re on the Blumhouse site you’re something of a horror fan. If that’s the case, I’m sure you would have heard of a certain Dario Argento and his film PROFONDO ROSSO aka DEEP RED. Released in 1975, the film was a great success as was its score composed by the band Goblin. In the same way you may have heard of Argento you may also have heard of Goblin. Over the years Argento and Goblin would work together a number of times. In this instance we go back to their first collaboration and the masterpiece that is PROFONDO ROSSO. Whilst serving as the score for a film and doing a great job of it, PROFONDO ROSSO is, at it’s core, one incredibly kick-ass prog rock album. Heavy bass, heavy synth and wigged out solos coupled with melodies that will haunt your days and nights, all make for the perfect accompaniment to Argento’s unforgettable murder mystery thriller.
LO STRANO VIZIO DELLA SIGNORA WARDH – NORA ORLANDI (CINEDELIC)
Of all of the Giallo scores in my collection, this is probably the one I’m most happy about. Thankfully released in the early 2000s, Nora Orlandi’s score for LO STRANO VIZIO DELLA SIGNORA WARDH AKA THE STRANGE VICE OF MRS WARDH is, simply put, breathtaking. Often with a lot of European horror/thriller films released in the 60s and 70s the score on occasion would completely dwarf the film it accompanied (see 90% of cannibal movies). With LO STRANO VIZIO DELLA SIGNORA WARDH you have what I believe to be one of the best examples of a perfect marriage. Edwige Fenech teamed with the compositions of Nora Orlandi are what dreams are made of. The orchestral score carries itself with a finesse that is hard to rival and in my opinion has yet to be done. The opening theme, a simple piano melody gives way to a sweeping string arrangement filled with so much emotion it is hard not to just listen to the opener on repeat. From there Orlandi doesn’t play it safe though and we’re taken through some lounge jazz that wouldn’t have been out of place in an episode of ‘MAD MEN’, plus a brief version of everyone’s favorite ‘Dies Irae’. Over the course of the album we are treated to variations on the main theme, a staple of Giallo scores as each variation had a specific job to do when used within the film. Rather than come across as boring, Orlandi uses her expertise to make each sound different and as listenable as the preceding version. LO STRANO VIZIO DELLA SIGNORA WARDH is a powerful and yet delicate score that even after 45 years still makes an impact. Four different scores that in turn each add an air of sophistication to the films they accompany. And as I mentioned up top, four that won’t have you selling off vital organs just to have in your collection. The following four however are a completely different story. When I decided to write an introductory piece on Giallo scores I thought including some of the higher end titles might also be quite fun. For this I needed the assistance of my good friend and expert, Jon Dobyns. What follows are four of the rarest and most sought after Giallo scores around.
LA MORTE HA FATTO L’UOVO AKA DEATH LAID AN EGG – BRUNO MADERNA (CINEVOX)
A Holy Grail Giallo film and score. This is a stone cold classic among Italian collectors and soundtrack aficionados. It’s filled with Italian pop vocal cues, avant-garde jazz breaks and orchestral moments. If you find this record, it will break the bank and your significant other will yell at you for buying it. My advice, if you find it for under $300 USD and you are a Giallo collector, do not hesitate.
IL DOLCE CORPO DI DEBORAH AKA THE SWEET BODY OF DEBORAH – NORA ORLANDI (CAM)
This LP is a rare bird to find. So rare in fact that I had to jump on it even with the mild crease you can see in the upper left corner. I’m a huge fan of Nora Orlandi and this score predates her milestone work on THE STRANGE VICE OF MRS WARDH. Expect lots of seductive 60s vibes with organs and jazz rhythms that go hand-in-hand with Carroll Baker’s undeniable sexual magnetism.
UN BIANCO VESTITO PER MARIALÉ AKA A WHITE DRESS FOR MARIALÉ – FLORENZO CARPI (GEMELLII)
More of a lesser-known title, this Giallo is a serious gem. Hard to find on DVD in the United States without a R2 DVD player and harder to find the LP out in the wild. Starring genre fan favourites Ivan Rassimov and Luigi Pistilli, the score was actually conducted by Bruno Nicolai. It’s a melodic score filled sombre tones and it will haunt you. Psych drumbeats lay in the background driving the orchestra and its infectious plucked melodies.
LA LAMA NEL CORPO AKA THE MURDER CLINIC – FRANCESCO DE MASI (CAM)
Every time I have a chance to speak about Giallo scores I tend to bring up THE MURDER CLINIC (LA LAMA NEL CORPO) by the truly amazing Francesco De Masi. An unusual Giallo in itself due to its period setting. But the score is what will tickle your fancy and suck you into this unique title. Dreamy, whimsical and fully orchestrated, soundtrack collectors would immediately think the score belongs to the likes of a Hammer Film or even a darker Disney classic. Hunt it down and play it loud as the sun sets in a remote location.
Owning any of the titles featured in this article is a sure fire way to add some class to any soundtrack/score collection. The musical world of the Giallo genre makes for an incredibly deep and vast listening experience. What we’ve done here is barely scratch the surface so be on the look out for an intro to Giallo part two, sometime in the future.
Many thanks to Jon for sharing some of his outstanding collection. -TG
You can hear me talk all things soundtrack on a weekly basis on The Damn Fine Cast, available on iTunes & Soundcloud or stop by shippingrecords.co.uk to pick up some vinyl.