Ennio Morricone – Svolta Definitiva (Città Violenta)
RCA SS 1985 Japan Released 1970
Track A – Città Violenta
Track B – Svolta Definitiva
Legendary master composer Ennio Morricone, is behind the soundtrack for the 1970 film Città Violenta, and this Japanese single release gifts us with two outstanding tracks from Sergio Sollim’s film. Italian soundtrack collectors…you need this!
Morricone was the unquestionable leader for scoring Italian cinema, and although he achieved wide recognition with Sergio Leone’s series of Westerns, we all are aware of his diverse range of colour, style, methods and moods. He was always exciting and knew how to create atmosphere, even if it was a totally new angle, and opposing the predictable. I get this feeling, when Ennio was composing scores for these kind of action thrillers of the 60’s and 70’s, it’s like he’s at the wheel of a Ferrari Dino 246, steering us in and out of dangerous and intense situations, speeding up, slowing down, then flooring it even more. And when things are calm, you’re still anticipating the unexpected. Morricone knows how to create atmosphere. He invented it for this era of cinema, and today we still love it, because it just belongs…it’s the right time and place for his mastery. Yes, we all are aware of Morricone’s talent, but what we have to keep reminding ourselves, is the amount of work he was producing and the variety of projects he was taking on. In 1970, the year Città Violenta was released, I count Morricone’s soundtrack tally to 15 films just for that year alone!
Directer Sergio Sollim’s crime thriller is released as Città Violenta in Italy, but it also had two additional releases in the US, the first as Violent City, then a later and wider release as The Family. This was an intentional name change for the 1973 release, to try and jump on the success of The Godfather that had been released the year earlier in 1972. The marketing department were even influenced by the famous Godfather font, with some blatant borrowing. This would be Sollima’s 7th (I think) feature film and would call on Morricone again, for his talents to score his new film as he had done with 3 of his earlier films, The Big Gun Down, Face to Face and Run, Man, Run, featuring Christy. I can assume their working relationship together was reverent and successful, however all Sollima’s three previous films they collaborated on, were westerns. I’m not sure how Sollima discussed or briefed sound concepts with Morricone for Città Violenta, but with hindsight, it would definitely become a new sound for his film catalogue.
Città Violenta carries some good acting talent as well, with Telly Savalas, Charles Bronson and his fairly new recent wife, Jill Ireland (Ireland’s former husband-actor David Mc Callum, first introduced them on the set of The Great Escape in 1963). Bronson was just becoming a major star in Europe after the success of recent and broad films such as London Affair, Adieu l’ami, and Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West, and for a good period of the seventies, he would rival Clint Eastwood as the biggest movie star in the world.* So it’s great to see Bronson here at this important part of his acting career, and working alongside his wife. That same year and Bronson would also star in Cold Sweat, directed by Terence Young, and again co staring Ireland.
Synopsis – Jim Heston (Bronson) a professional hit man, is left for dead after a double cross murder attempt by a his wife Vanessa Shelton (Ireland) and another hit man. The set up costs him four years in jail, but when he gets out, he sets out to take revenge on his wife and the mob who put her up to it. He finds himself blackmailed by a powerful crime boss (Savalas), who wants the fiercely independent gunman to join his organization. Jeff who wants to leave that line of work, refuses, and is hunted by killers for the effort. Vengeance and love drives him through detrimental roads of uncertainty and it’s consequences.
The opening title sequence is beautifully stylised and features the main theme Città Violenta, straight up creating a mood of excitement, intrigue and suspense. And what soon follows, is a exceptional and insane thrilling car chase in the small streets of a tight Italian country town, where Sollim decides to take away the music for impact, and unusual but very effective decision for action sequences. I know when I’m discovering a new soundtrack track list, I usually go straight to the “car chase” theme, as it’s usually the one with the big beats and drive. So audiences are right in from the get go, and you already can tell this is no novice in the directors chair. Sollim knows about the film making and how music can be used to paint, just as much as visuals. And he wouldn’t be afraid to NOT use it, if he felt it may deter from story or action, or if it felt too predictable or typical to do so. The track Città Violenta gets a good run through the film as does a few nicely composed variations on the theme, but it is all for a reason. Svolta Definitiva is the perfect background music to a bar sequence where the patrons are the in-crowd… a bit hippy trippy, but an exclusive scene. Models, dancers and gangsters. It’s perfect! I have loved this track for many years before I knew this movie, and I was so please to discover that it belonged in such a great sequence! Later in the film we get some memorable hard hitting and surprising moments, and again Sollim creates such an impact with his music direction, and how effectively he uses it, and again, not uses it. Together the movie and music direction entwine effortlessly and results with a strong action film of it’s time, that both hold proudly in their catalogue of successes.
And this is also why Morricone’s music is so revered today. The impact it leaves on the audiences. His scores are often considered as much as part of the experience, as the story or cast of the film. A lot of the times, his scores are more remembered than the films itself. But in this case Città Violenta is a perfect score to a great crafted Sollim film. – Piero Sgro
Here is a link where you can watch Sollim’s Violent City, which is a nice print, but note that it will only on the occasion, revert to Italian dialogue every now and then. But it’s a good source.
Other Ennio Morricone scores for Sergio Sollima…
- The Big Gun Down 1967 (La resa dei conti) lit. ’The Settling of Scores
- Face to Face 1967 (Faccia a faccia)
- Run Man Run 1967 featuring Christy (Corri uomo corri)
- Devil in the Brain 1972 (Il Diavolo Nel Cervello)
Piero Umiliani scores for Sergio Sollima…
- Agent 3S3: Passport to Hell 1965 (Agente 3S3: Passaporto per l’inferno)
- Agent 3S3: Massacre in the Sun 1966 (Agente 3S3, massacro al sole)
* Sergio Leone once called Bronson “the greatest actor I ever worked with”, and had wanted to cast Bronson for the lead in 1964’s A Fistful Of Dollars. Bronson turned him down and the role launched Clint Eastwood to film stardom. The film was the biggest hit of 1969 in France.
Image 1 – Ennio Morricone (photo credit unknown)
Image 2 – Charles Bronson and fellow actress wife Jill Ireland (photo credit unknown)
Kay Bell and The Spacemen – Scream Along With The Monster
Buena Vista Records – F-428 Released 1964
Track B – Scream Along (With The Monster)
Well it’s HALLOWEEN again, and that means it’s time to pull out some of my dearly beloved spooky records from under the bed! This year I’ve chosen to feature this incredible Kay Bell and the Spacemen track, because in my eyes it’s one of the absolute best if you’re up for spooks and frightful delights! EVERYBODY SCREAM!!!
Kay Bell was at one point, one half of the youthful and famous pop duo, The Bell Sisters, the other half being her big sister Cynthia Strother. Born in Kentucky, they have four sisters and one brother, and as performers the duo would adopted their mother’s maiden name of Bell. Cynthia 16, and Kay, being only 11, were discovered on October 31, 1951, singing “Bermuda” on a Los Angeles television program called “Peter Potter’s Search for a Song.” The song was released in 1952, it reached #7 on the Billboard charts and sold in the millions, and The Bell Sisters pretty much became a household name, particularly in the US.
They enjoyed a roller coaster ride of success, eventually releasing eleven records (22 songs) for RCA and hitting the charts again with “Wheel of Fortune” (#10). They appeared on many popular radio and television programs, including The Johnny Carson Show, The Frank Sinatra Show, The Perry Como Show and The Dinah Shore Show. They appeared some 14 times with Bing Crosby and Bob Hope and opened for Nat King Cole in Los Angeles and also worked with greats Kay Starr, Rosemary Clooney, Lucille Ball, Tony Curtis, Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, Mel Torme. They took their act on the road (during school breaks) and performed in big cities including New York, Dallas, and Las Vegas.
They also made it onto the big screens, working on the movies Cruisin’ Down the River (Columbia, 1953), Those Redheads from Seattle (Paramount, 1953) and Les Brown Goes to Town (Universal).
Kay Bell would start venturing into solo projects around 1959, singing in ballrooms and performing and broadcasting on radio. In the early sixties, Kay worked with the Space Men (Johnny Schmidt and Sonny Anderson) and scored a residency at the Disneyland Space Bar (now known as Tomorrowland Terrace). She performed with them as many as 6 nights a week, even while attending Long Beach State College for her Bachelor of Arts degree in English. She recorded a single as Kay Bell & The Tuffs called Surfers’ Stomp in 1961, written by Schmidt and Anderson and released on Dot.
Kay performed on a couple of live television broadcasts from Disneyland in 1962, on what was a regularly Saturday night screening “Meet Me at Disneyland”, on the Tomorrowland theme episodes Swingin’ Through Space and Talent On Parade. In September 1963, Kay Bell and the Spacemen recorded live two tracks, Surfer’s Blues and Scream Along With The Monster, written by Kay Bell herself (and W. Anderson).
Scream Along With The Monster starts with a VERY familiar “Comin’ Home Baby” groove, which is fantastic, as many innocent listeners would believe they know what they are expecting, when I play this track. But the twist is quick, and Kay Bell is superb in her delivery, preparing you for with what you need to do when you hear green eyed monster’s horn! The energy becomes more frantic as the song progresses, and after two short versus, you can’t help but feel an obsessive need to join in with the screams! I love that this was recorded live! Surely they must have prepared the audience to give them their all, before they pressed record! It’s so much fun but just too quick, but then again, like a fast roller coaster ride, it can leave you out of breath! Surfer’s Blues starts as a bit of a Jazzy stroller but quickly unleashes into a bit of a grinding savage beast with raunchy chaos and beats! Kay really enjoys showing off her vocal skills on this one and it’s such a bonus to have it on this single!
Unfortunately this was the only release from Kay and her Spacemen, and it makes me wonder about all the fun that would be had, listening and dancing to all those live performances they all played together, in those years of the sixties.
Now it’s important I mention, everything I found about about Kay and Cynthia, and the Spacemen, is attributed to the Bell Sisters official website put together by their nephew, who has nicely packaged and categorize a great amount of articles, photos and timelines, he’s been able to unravel about his aunties. So please jump over and dig in, and find out so much more about these incredible talented ladies. There’s also a great FaceBook page with a heap of great images, memories and dedications (links below for both).
Scream Along With The Monster is the ultimate Halloween party track to have, but I really believe it’s just too good to play once a year, so if you are lucky enough to have a copy, people always need a good scream, so spread it out there!
Top Photo from Bell Sisters FaceBook page – Cynthia and Kay 1956.
Middle Photo from Bell Sisters FaceBook page – Kay Bell performing at The Space Bar (Tomorrowland Terrace) at Disneyland January 1965.
Lower Photo from Bell Sisters FaceBook page – Kay Bell and The Spacemen – performing at The Space Bar (Tomorrowland Terrace) at Disneyland.