Sometime between the 1960s and 1990s the so-called “death of vinyl” was supposed to have occurred. With the 8-track, Compact-Cassette, and the CD all being introduced as cheaper and more accessible alternatives to the large and expensive vinyl record, sales were suspected to halt; factories to shut down. But, here we are post-2000s and vinyl sales are still strong (relatively speaking). In fact, new plants specializing in vinyl production are opening and sales are up 900%. Record Store Day, an annual event used to promote the production and sale of vinyl, is stronger than ever. And, now with the introduction of numerous labels focusing on vinyl soundtrack releases (both reissuing classics and releases modern scores), vinyl soundtrack records seem to be as popular as ever. As horror fans, genre fans, film fans we have an affinity for nostalgia, for the “good old days” of analog, and that is what this column is about. This column is a dedication to those days; it’s a celebration of the vinyl soundtrack (both old and new) and the companies that keep putting them out; and, if for nothing else, this column exists because artwork just looks better bigger.
Eurocrime, aka poliziotteschi, remains one of the most overlooked genres of Italian genre cinema. Though it shared many creative similarities as well as producing figures with both gialli and Spaghetti Westerns, it receives only a fraction of critical and commercial attention today (although this is continually changing and we are starting to see a greater focus towards restoring and re-releasing some of these titles). But, if the films are critically overlooked, the music emerging from them is treated even worse. With the exception of Dagored (whose work will surely be featured in upcoming editions), most of the current labels focusing on Soundtrack reissues have ignored the genre.
Despite having a strong focus on Italian composers — featuring work by Fabio Frizzi, Enio Morricone, Goblin and more —, Death Waltz/Mondo have only recently dipped their toes in the Eurocrime world with the 2XLP release of Franco Micalizzi’s scores for Umberto Lenzi’s Rome Armed to the Teeth and The Cynic, The Rat, and the Fist. As an introductory release for the genre, DW/Mondo’s choice has definite positives and negatives, which we’ll get into, but the resulting effort is stunning and hopefully will mean that the company will move into more key works from Eurocrime.
Featured on the first LP is Rome Armed to the Teeth. Although Lenzi is best known for his schlockiest efforts, his work in Eurocrime is notable and honestly impressive — while still featuring the over-the-top violence that we expect of him. Rome was the director’s fifth effort in the subgenre, and remains of his best films. A violent and (par for the genre’s course) politically confused cop thriller, Rome is also guided by the massive soundtrack by Franco Micalizzi. Franco Micalizzi is perhaps best known for his work on They Call Me Trinity — of which the title track was subject to a renewed success when Tarintino rejiggered it for his 2012 western Django Unchained — and while that score is one my personal favorites, his work in Eurocrime sees the composer at his most vital. Both Rome and Cynic are dynamic, loud compositions fueled by the Big Band sensibilities that inspired much of the decades work.
One of the aspects of soundtrack releases are they aren’t always catered towards typical listening practices and this score in particular really tests that characteristic. Featuring Micalizzi’s 17 sequences, the score is incredibly repetitious, with the main cues repeating in somewhat altered manifestations throughout the various sequences. There are a few sequences that offer entirely different compositions, however, and these do serve to break up the monotony. It’s safe to say that if you fall in love with the theme track that you’ll easily find yourself flipping the record to hear further reconstitutions, but those on the periphery may find that a listening of just side A or B will be enough before moving on to the second LP.
While Cynic — the follow up to Rome Armed to the Teeth and released just one year later — is a trifle repetitious, it is far more dynamic than the former. The score sounds seamlessly connected to Rome, almost as if they were recorded during the same session. For Cynic, Micallizi crafts a tenser, darker score. To put it bluntly, Rome feels a little closer to the Eurospy side of things, while Cynic starts feeling closer to the grittier post-Death Wish crime thrillers that the country was producing in full swing; and Cynic is one of the best scores to emerge from this movement. Intense brass, thick bass lines, and violent strings pack a mean aural punch while also pave the way for a surprisingly listenable experience.
Combinging both scores together, DW/Mondo have aptly dubbed this release The Poliziotteschi Files and hopefully that effort may continue down the line with other Eurocrime pairings or standalone releases because their work here is fantastic. Both records are presented for the first time ever on vinyl and they sound and look great too. The design by Jay Shaw features a much of the beautiful original artwork and stills, compressing the best elements of the original poster for a beautiful gatefold design, and offering a nice, classic looking back cover. Sadly there is no insert/liner notes included, which could have done a lot to help spread awareness of these lesser-discussed works. The Poliziotteschi Files is another Italian release from Mondo/DW that is limited to 500 copies worldwide, but there are still copies available direct from Mondo Tees website. I’d recommend acting fast unless you want to fall prey to flippers’ prices.
Also out from the DW/Mondo camp is the score for Antonio Bido’s late era giallo The Bloodstained Shadow (Solamente Nero). While the film itself is a lesser giallo, the score is quite impressive for a few reasons. Principle among them all, The Bloodstained Shadow sees the collaboration between two of the biggest, best composing forces in Italian cinema: Stelvio Cipriani and Goblin — and (although they do not include a credits for Goblin members, may very well have been one of the last appearances of Claudio Simonetti with the group before he disbanded on his solo career).
After a cursory listen, any person can tell you that one of the things that jumps out about this score in particular is just how jumbled it can be. Going through track by track you get a feel of the pieces wholly of Cipriani and those that seemed more driven by Goblin’s predilection towards improvisation in studio. This score appears just around the time of their second studio album, Il Fantastico Viaggio Del “Bagarozzo” Mark — a psychedelic, prog masterwork that sadly receives far too little recognition — and The Bloodstained Shadow has moments that seem to fit directly in line with that psychedelic experimentation. On the other side of things, Cipriani known characteristic for returning to the same familiar beats in many of his compositions can be heard within this score, which is far from a criticism because Cipriani crafted some of Italy’s finest scores. In the end, the result sounds like a strange concoction of Eurocrime, classical horror, and prog rock; a (as Mondo call it) “dysfunctional” pairing of styles that shouldn’t work together but manages to quite well. The Bloodstained Shadow suffers a bit of listenability to this eccentric mixing but still emerges as a unique whole. If for nothing else, the combining forces of Cipriani and Goblin (two extremely different composing forces) is enough of a curiosity to make this a required listening for fans of Italian genre soundtracks.
To be honest, Eric Adrian Lee’s cover design is not one of my favorites from DW/Mondo but it does do a lot to capture the classical-mixed-psychedelic essence of the film and score. However, while the cover leaves a little to be desired — including the strange choice not to include Goblin on the cover credits — both the gatefold and the back cover are stunning and more than make up for any lacking aspects otherwise. The record was originally pressed on 180-gram vinyl in two color choices, but the limited Dual Stripe variant is now sold out, leaving only the Tri-Color version available.
Both of these releases see the DW/Mondo camp moving further into lesser discussed Italian soundtracks, which is a great thing to see. Hopefully, labels will continue this effort and maybe it will create an even bigger momentum behind treasuring this fantastic time in Italian cinema…after all, neither Rome Armed to the Teeth nor The Cynic, the Rat, and the Fist are available on Blu-ray, so there is a lot of work to go. Now, someone needs to get on releasing Milano Calibro 9!