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)
Zeudi Araya (Piero Umiliani) – Oltre L’Acqua Del Fiume
La Ragazza Fuoristrada OST Piero Umiliani – Bla Bla – BBR 1338 Italy 1973
Track A: Oltre L’Acqua Del Fiume
This is a pretty special one, among my beloved mountain of 7″ soundtracks, and these tracks are in fact the only recordings by Eritrean-born Italian actress Zeudi Araya. The A track is fascinating and quite a hypnotizing piece, that pulls you right down into the beautiful deep dark water of sensuality. Composer Piero Umiliani recorded the soundtrack for La Ragazza Fuoristrada in 1973, which starred Zeudi in the lead role as Maryam, but for some reason the two vocal recordings for the film, did not end up on the soundtrack LP. But instead, and thankfully, they did end up on this Italian released single!
Piero was much more than a talented piano player and composer. He truly was one of the top master and pioneer composers of cult Italian films of the 60’s and 70’s. Providing soundtracks to films such a Il Marchio Di Kriminal 1968, Paranoia (Orgasmo) 1969, Five Dolls For An August Moon (5 Bambole Per La Luna D’Agosto) 1971, My Darling Slave (La Schiava Io Ce L’Ho E Tu No) 1973 and of course Sweden Heaven and Hell (Svezia, Inferno e Paradiso) 1968 in which Umiliani composes his famous Mah Nà Mah Nà, made famous by The Muppets.
Umiliani also founded his own label Omicron in 1964, where many more of his soundtrack works would be released. As he would also compose a lot of way out compositions that would not appeal to the Italian producers, this became the perfect outlet for him to release some of his incredible abstract, experimental and library albums such as Preistoria, Atmospheres, L’Uomo Nello Spazio and Psichedelica (Umiliani was also a great collector of music instruments from all over the world, and was one of the first in Italy to experiment with the Moog and other electronic keyboards). Some of his releases were under the alias Moggi, including my favorite Tra Scienza E Fantascienza from 1980, and also Omaggio a Einstein, Tensione and News! News! News!. By the end of his career he had written more than 150 soundtracks, without considering the music composed for documentaries, theatre and television.
While there’s so much to know and discover about the great Umiliani, unfortunately there’s not a lot out there regarding Zeudi. No official website and all the general film and music go to sites are very brief and unhelpful. Which is a real shame of course. Thankfully there’s one or two Italian websites that share a few details, that I’ve hopefully translated correctly.
Zeudi Araya was born on the 10th of February, 1951, in Asmara, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and is a former actress, singer, model and currently a film producer. Zeudi was the daughter of a politician and granddaughter of an Ethiopian ambassador to Rome. She graduated in 1969, and the same year she was elected Miss Eritrea. She is one of the best-known actresses of the Italian erotic cinema of the seventies, thanks to films such as La Ragazza Dalla Pelle Di Luna, La Ragazza Fuoristrada, and Il Corpo, and was second only to Laura Gemser, another icon of that particular Italian genre of cinema.
A trip to Italy opened the doors of Cinecittà to her almost by chance. In 1972 Araya starred in a commercial for a coffee, where director Luigi Scattini noticed her, and would cast her along with Beba Lončar, in his film La Ragazza Dalla Pelle Di Luna, shot in the Seychelles. The film is noted as being quite successful with the Italian audiences. The role was that of a girl from the Tropics who screwed up the marriage of a middle-class couple, with her overwhelming eroticism. Alberto, an engineer, and Helen, a magazine photographer, had been married for a few years, but their marriage was in crisis and they would betray one another. This debut film launched Araya as an up and coming actress. Mass media interest followed, as did other erotic films roles, mostly directed by Scattini from 1973 to 1975.
So the plot in her follow up film, that includes this feature track, La Ragazza Fuoristrada, again really circles deeply around Zeudi and her stunning model looks. Giorgio Martini, an advertising journalist who went for a shoot in Egypt, falls in love with the beautiful Maryam. He takes her with him to Ferrara, Italy, introduces her to his perplexed (perhaps disapproving) parents and marries her. Maryam’s ingenuity, spontaneity and sincerity burst into this provincial town and collide with a hypocritical, mean and racist environment. He will then be the victim of the cruel game of a former mistress of the journalist and of a joke combined by two rejected friends. Giorgio, thinking that Maryam has betrayed him, begins to neglect her. After having an abortion, she abandons him and returns to her people. Umiliani’s score throughout this film is wonderfully suited and at times just breathe taking (I’m basing this from the clips I have seen and knowing the official soundtrack). Zeudi sings two songs in the movie, Oltre l’acqua del fiume in Italian and Maryam, in Amharic. If you spend most of your life tracking down this rare record, and you do happen to get your hands on it, you’ll likely not be disappointed that it doesn’t contain the two vocal tracks, although you will then need to track done this featured single.
After Araya’s marriage with the film producer Franco Cristaldi, she would go on to star in the films Mr. Robinson in 1976, Atrocious Tales of Love and Death in 1979, and staring Marcello Mastroianni and Ornella Muti, Tesoro Mio also in 1979, than a fantasy film called Hearts and Armour in 1983, and starring the late Tanya Roberts as Isabella, and finally in Control in 1987.
In the early 1990s, Araya withdrew from the film scene. After the death of her husband, Araya became an active part of film production work, and still today produces several films for cinema and television, always remaining behind the scenes (she returned to television only in 2001, interviewed by Daniele Luttazzi, for the program Satyricon), with her new partner, the director Massimo Spano, with whom she had a son.
As is the case with a lot of these obscure Italian films, they are difficult to source, and therefore I have not had the privilege to enjoy many of them, including the film that has this featured track. But for me, that doesn’t really matter so much as I love the music enough and that’s where it holds that special place. I will continue to try and find these obscure films ofcourse but it is a challenge, trust me.
Zeudi Araya also also appeared in the Italian version of Playboy magazine in March 1974, which I may have to track down, to you know, maybe find out more information about her.
Araya’s starring films…
1972 La ragazza dalla pelle di luna – Also known as The Girl With The Moon Skin, Sex of Their Bodies, Moon Skin and The Sinner
1973 La ragazza fuoristrada
1974 La Preda – Also known as The Prey
1974 Il Corpo – Also known as The Body
1975 La peccatrice – Also known as The Sinner
1976 Il signor Robinson, mostruosa storia d’amore e d’avventure – Also known as Mr. Robinson
1979 Giallo Napoletano – Also known as Atrocious Tales of Love and Death
1979 Tesoro Mio
1983 Hearts and Armour – Also known as I Paladini: Storia d’armi e d’amori
1987 Il giorno prima – Also known as Control and Mind Control
Websites and referencing…
Piero Umiliani official web site
Mitiche attrici anni 70 – ZEUDI ARAYA
Top photo taken from Umiliani’s official site (link above). Director Luigi Scattini, Zeudi Araya and Piero Umiliani in the studio for the La Ragazza Fuoristrada sessions.
If you’re interested in more Italian 7″ soundtrack singles, see links below…