Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Italian Comic Book Movie Jazz

Italians love their fumetti neri or Italian crime, mystery or spy comic book anti-heroes. Diabolik, Satanik and Kriminal are among the most famous, and each was translated to film during the 1960s.

Roberto Pregadio and Romano Mussolini’s Kriminal (’66) features a swinging beat jazz theme — heard in two instrumental versions. There are other similarly styled tracks, featuring chugging rhythm guitar and bass with organ or horns and crisp drumming. Other jazzy tracks offer intrigue, sex appeal and action, occasionally taking a lush lounge approach. The intrigue numbers sound like Barry’s music for Thunderball, which was released a year earlier, but overall the music can be described as noir crime jazz.

Pregadio and Mussolini also provided a jazz score for Satanik (’68), Piero Vivarelli's flick about an old hag who drinks a youth potion that turns her into a hot chick (Magda Konopka) known as "Satanik." Unlike the movie, the Satanik score does not disappoint. By turns jazzy, loungy, psychedelic, suspenseful, bluesy and Latinesque, Pregadio and Mussolini keep the listener guessing what's next.

Better than both is Ennio Morricone’s psycho beat score for Danger Diabolik (’67), orchestrated by the composer’s frequent collaborator Bruno Nicolai. It features wild electronic abstractions, avant-garde trumpet solos, mystical sitar-laden intrigue cues and surf rock guitar-driven action cues that rival Neal Hefti’s “Batman” theme. The music electrifyingly complements the comic book dynamism of Mario Bava’s wildly colorful film, making Diabolik one of the essential crime soundtracks of the period.

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