Berto Pisano featuring Doris Troy – Kill! Them All!
CineDisc – M-5 Released 1972
Track A – Kill! Them All!
Italian composer, conductor, arranger and bassist Berto Pisano is behind this wild score for Romain Gary’s 1971 film Kill! Kill! Kill! Kill! This Japan release of the single includes the explosive main track with Doris Troy providing some beautifully brutal vocals, and also includes the lovely instrumental main title theme on the flip! Stand back! This is explosive!
As brilliant as Pisano’s work is, I can’t help feeling his musical accomplishments are still very overlooked, and when I went searching for anything on this incredible musician and important composer, I really couldn’t come up with much at all, which may sound familiar… and it’s unforgivable! I do know Umberto Pisano (real name) was born in Cagliari,on October 13, 1928 and passed on January 29, 2002, and was the younger brother of Franco Piano who would also in time, become a composer and conductor. Berto began his career as a jazz musician playing the bass, first in Quintetto Aster (this was during WWII, then working for the allied radio and Radio Sardinia) and later in Orchestra Gli Asternovas along with his brother on guitar. This group would release around ten singles, more in the style of Latin pop jazz, between 1960 to 1961. Really quite a lot of records in a short time span.
When I look through Berto’s discography, his first soundtrack release is in 1966, a single release, the track is called Ma Se Tu Vorrai featuring Ella Gaby, for the film La Spia Che Viene Dal Mare (directed by Lamberto Benvenuti and starred the statuesque model Janine Reynaud). I’m not sure how Berto made this transition into Italian film scores, but already you can hear something pretty strong developing here, that would be a trade mark staple sound. Big band Bond-esque like orchestration with big dramatic Italian vocals by Gaby, would become a popular style for Italian cinema in the sixties. I also wish I could find out more about Ella Gaby, who only had one other single release that same year in 1966.
1967 draws the release of Pisano’s western soundtrack to the film Bill Il Taciturno, also titled Django Kills Softly and one of many films that were given a “Django” title in order to cash in on the success of Sergio Crobucci’s 1966 masterpiece “Django”. Directed by Massimo Pupillo, a film from what I read from quite a few reviews, follows a lot of typical western formulas of that time, and I feel I have to say the same about the score. Both tracks on the single release are great, but yes, sounding very “borrowed” from the Morricone path that was already heavily cemented. This really isn’t a bad thing as it really ties in well with the genre, with big iconic horn instrumentation and chorale. I did find the whole film on line so I am keen to have a good watch, although I will have to brush up on my Italian.
Interrabang was Pisano’s followup single in 1969 and this one is a delight and more towards my erotic kitsch tastes! So this is the storyline… A photographer is sailing with his wife, her sister and his nympho-maniacal model. He leaves the three women alone to get a part for his boat. A mysterious man shows up, who might just be an escaped criminal the police are searching for. This doesn’t alarm the three women too much, and he rapidly seduces all three of them. Directed by Giuliano Biagetti and starring the radiant actresses Beba Loncar, Haydée Politoff and Shoshana Cohen, this is again another film I have yet to see in it’s entirety, but what I have seen, is pure 60’s kitsch Italian film making with it’s adult vibrancy, Pucci paint strokes and it’s stunning water locations. Pisano has managed to bring in the great Edda Dell’Orso for this soundtrack, which is always the exact right thing to do, and takes things up to the next level. You can hear her beautiful distinctive voice on the single release of Il Colore Degli Angeli. This film would also give Pisano his first LP soundtrack release in 1970. *
KILL! So here we are, 1971, and Berto Pisano presents the soundtrack to Romain Gary’s second film after Birds In Peru (1968). Where do I start? This film was also released as Kill! Kill! Kill! Kill, and starred Romain’s wife Jean Seburg, Stephen Boyd (Fantastic Voyage) and also one James Mason who starred in one of my favourite childhood movies Journey to the Center of the Earth. If you have the opportunity to watch this movie, you will need to hang on with both hands as it’s a bizarre roller coaster ride which will go off the rails! When the story begins, a big-time drug kingpin is inexplicably released by a judge, and as a result, most of the drug detective agents resign in protest. Hamilton, a Federal Narcotics Bureau Chief Inspector (Mason) remains on the job and is sent by his boss to Pakistan with $5 million worth of heroin, in hopes of unmasking a global narcotics kingpin. At the same time, heroin dealers around the world are being assassinated. Hamilton’s bored wife Emily (Seberg), secretly follows her husband in hopes of joining him on this insanely dangerous mission. Emily is soon lost and alone in a foreign land, is stalked by hitmen, but is also aided by rugged, ex-cop, potentially unhinged American Brad Killian, who by the way, has a personal mission to slaughter everyone involved with the heroin biz – transporters, processors, corrupt cops, scumbag lawyers…everyone! Brad also takes home movies of his executions and enjoys watching them afterward, with an equally-drug-loathing 12 year old Arab boy (yeah…pretty weird right?). Emily quickly falls for Brad, although she tells him she hates him and he’s insane…possibly because she craves the excitement of his murderous ambitions?
Pisano’s Kill! Them all! is the perfect savage and explosive introduction to this film, which embraces the high powered voice of R&B singer Doris Troy! Immediately your punched in the face 4 times with the impact of the opening horns. The driving bass, background fuzz, and the spine chilling grit of Troy’s voice, to Romain Gary’s lyrics, is absolute! The whole structure of this composition is pure accomplishment, with it’s build ups and it’s quiet junctures, and I will say this has to be one of the top of all time, title themes for any thriller action film, period! The film would also have an LP release is with original copies of course being incredibly difficult to get your hands on. Again Pisano brings in Edda Dell’Orso for the beautiful track To Jean, which alone makes this LP a must have. But there’s also beautiful instrumentals including the dizzying Allucinazion, the transcending Indian inspired Khanpur, and further hypnotic tracks Il Deserto and Souk Tawil. As a side note, Tennessee blues artist Memphis Slim performs in a surreal nightclub sequence filled with trippy sensual naked women, which does not appear on the LP release.
I couldn’t imagine anyone else fronting this killer big beat track other than Doris Troy, and when I first heard this, I had to check it was the same Doris that gave us Just One Look and What’cha Gonna Do About It? The daughter of a Barbadian Pentecostal minister, that cut her teeth singing in her fathers choir, with parents that both disapproved of “subversive” forms of music like rhythm & blues. A hard and more gutsy song perhaps for Doris, but it shows us a side of her diversity, which would bet proven more and more times in her future recording career. She would go on and contribute her voice to The Rolling Stones, Carly Simon (You’re So Vain), Pink Floyd (Dark Side Of The Moon), and also Nick Drake, Dusty Springfield and a heap more.
This Japanese release featured here, has an exciting flip, an instrumental less abrasive version of Kill Them All! It has beautiful cover art with striking font, and the production quality on this is super clean and loud (as most of these Japan pressings are). There’s also an Italian release on General Music which includes a surprising Jean Seberg track Hiasmina, also composed by Pisano. Her only recording that I could find and although she’s not really “singing”, it is a lovely treasure that exists.
Pisano would further more, work on jazz instrumental albums and soundtracks and would continuing recording with Edda Dell’Orso, including on the soundtrack La Novizia (recorded in 1975 but just properly released by Four Flies) and La Svergognata (1977). While his recording legacy isn’t as accomplished and extensive as some his other colleagues, I highly recommend if you haven’t already, to take a dive into his works! And like I said, I would place Kill Them All! extremely high up and as one of the best and sublime film theme tracks of all time!
Shock Cinema – Great stuff here!
* An interrabang (more commonly interrobang) is a non-standard punctuation mark combining through superimposition a question mark and an exclamation point. It was invented in 1962 by an American advertising executive Martin K. Speckter.
If you find this genre interesting you may also like these…
Christy – Deep Down (Danger: Diabolik OST)