Category Archives: Film Music



Tickets are still available for see Ennio Morricone and his orchestra and choir in concert at Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire this week. This is part of his 60 Years of Music tour. Spaghetti western fans should know that Morricone has added a selection of themes from The Hateful Eight and the 1970s Sean Connery film The Red Tent to his live programme.

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The concerts he has played so far (before shows were cancelled due to his on-going back ailment) includes themes from The Best Offer, The Legend of 1900, Baaria, Maddalena, Metti, Una Sera a Cena, A Fistful of Dynamite, Cinema Paradiso, Once Upon a Time in America, The Mission and Burn!

There’s more information at the Nocturne site here:

Announcement from Ennio Morricone’s Facebook page:

One of the world’s greatest film composers, the Maestro Ennio Morricone and his 200+ orchestra will perform live in the beautiful surroundings of Blenheim Palace on 23rd June this summer.

Tickets begin from £25, and are available here:





I’ve not posted any articles or news up here for a while, mainly due to work, business and general busyness, as 2014 has turned into a rather hectic year. The new issue of ‘Cinema Retro’ (Issue #29) continues my ongoing series looking at Oakmont Productions’ World War II movies, with the rarity ‘The Last Escape’, starring Stuart Whitman and Pinkas Braun. The next issue will feature the sixth and final part of the series, with an in-depth look at my favourite of the ‘Oakmonts’, the Mediterranean-set ‘Hell Boats’, starring James Franciscus and Elizabeth Shepherd.

Issue #29 is on sale now via the usual outlets, including Ebay and Amazon, and also includes my reviews of the new Lee Van Cleef Blu-ray/DVD combos from Explosive Media, ‘Sabata’ and ‘Death Rides a Horse’.

There’s a full description and ordering details here

I’ve also been working on a project for Taschen, which will be published in the fall, and on ongoing projects including a new spaghetti western film guide. I travelled to Paris in February to see Ennio Morricone’s live concert in Bercy, the second night of his ‘My Life in Music’ tour (more of which in a future post, it was a great concert) and attended Sir Christopher Frayling’s presentation of the spaghetti western classic ‘For a Few Dollars More’ as part of the Bradford International Film Festival 2014 in April, which was superb to see on the big screen at Pictureville, with a large crowd in attendance.

Here’s Ennio Morricone conducting Jill’s theme from ‘Once Upon a Time in the West’ in the Palais Omnisports, Bercy, 4 February, 2014, with Susanna Rigacci (soprano) and the Budapest Modern Art Orchestra.

This month sees the publication of my new Filmgoers Guide, ‘Outer Limits’, the fifth in the series after ‘Crime Wave’, ‘Once Upon a Time in the Italian West’, ‘Stagecoach to Tombstone’ and ‘When Eagles Dared’.




Outer Limits explores science-fiction cinema through 26 great films, from the silent classic Metropolis to today. It reviews the galaxy of stars and directors who have created some of the most popular films of all time, including George Lucas’s ‘Star Wars’ films, Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Minority Report, James Cameron’s ‘Terminator’ films and Ridley Scott’s milestones Alien and Blade Runner. It also discusses everything from A-listers 2001: A Space Odyssey and Planet of the Apes, to Japanese monster movies, 1950s B-movies, creature features and cult favourites, depicting time travel, distant planets or alien invasions. Films featured include The War of the Worlds, Independence Day, Tarantula, Godzilla, The Thing, Forbidden Planet, Barbarella, Galaxy Quest, Mad Max 2, Back to the Future, The Man Who Fell to Earth, Star Trek, Apollo 13, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Matrix and many more.

As well as covering acknowledged science-fiction classics, Outer Limits takes diversions into B-movies, looking at everything from Fiend without a Face and IT! The Terror from beyond Space, to Roger Corman’s Not of This Earth and It Conquered the World. There’s colourful, vibrant sci-fi movies from Japan (Invasion of the Astro-Monsters, Matango: Attack of the Mushroom People and Destroy All Monsters) and Italy (Planet of the Vampires and The Wild, Wild Planet), and the bleak, corrosive, monochrome British sci-fi of These Are the Damned and Quatermass 2. Other cult delights covered include I Married a Monster from Outer Space, Android, Trancers, Alien Contamination, Westworld, Goke – Bodysnatcher from Hell, The Creeping Terror, invasion of the Saucer Men, Teenagers from Outer Space, The Giant Claw and The Green Slime. Illustrated with original posters, Outer Limits is an informative, entertaining tour of the sci-fi universe.


For my Top Five underrated sci-fi films that may have passed under your radar, click here to read the I.B. Tauris blog:

‘Outer Limits: The Filmgoers Guide to the Great Science-Fiction Films’ published by I.B. Tauris is available from Waterstones, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Guardian Bookshop and many other outlets. It is out now in the UK and is published on 24 June 2014 in the US.

It is available in-store across the UK at all branches of Waterstones.

‘Outer Limits’ is also available as an e-book.






Today is designated ‘Global James Bond Day’ and sees a host of events worldwide to celebrate to 50th birthday of 007, the screen’s most famous, enduring and alluring secret agent. It coincides with the release of the first official James Bond film, ‘Dr No’, in 1962.

Adele’s much anticipated title song, written by Adele and producer Paul Epworth, has been released and can be heard here:

It’s a fitting James Bond theme (in the Shirley Bassey tradition) and features a monumental orchestration (which includes references to Monty Norman’s ‘James Bond Theme’) and a smoky-then-powerful vocal from the most popular singer in the world at the moment. It’s Adele’s first new release in over a year and is guaranteed to be a number one hit.   

In the UK Sky launch a devoted James Bond Channel, ‘Sky 007’ (actually their Sky Showcase channel under an alias). For the next four and half weeks the channel will show the Bond back catalogue, along with documentaries, including ‘Bond Girls are Forever’ and behind the scenes Previews from ‘Skyfall’. In the UK, ITV have always had the broadcasting rights to the James Bond films, so Sky must have bought them. Highlights today include ‘Dr No’, ‘Casino Royale’, ‘Thunderball’, ‘Goldfinger’, ‘Live and Let Die’ and ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’, but all the official films will get an airing over the coming month.

There’s also an auction at Christies, online from September 28 to October 8:

There are 40 Lots and 11 of the most interesting are covered at this website:

Among the lots on offer, there’s a programme for the ‘Octopussy Circus’, suction pads from ‘You Only Live Twice’, the Aston Martin Coupe from ‘Quantum of Solace’, and Daniel Craig’s Tom Ford two-piece dinner suit worn in ‘Skyfall’.

One of the lots is a new book called ‘007: The James Bond Archives’ published by Taschen. It’s the official book of the 50th anniversary celebrations and I was one of the team of writers who worked on this earlier in the year. It will be published in the UK on October 26 (to coincide with the release of ‘Skyfall’) and on November 9 in the US. The 600-page full-colour volume is the result of two-and-half-year’s research by the book’s editor Paul Duncan and is the definitive story of the James Bond films, from ‘Dr No’ to the present day. It includes a closely-guarded chapter on ‘Skyfall’ and initial copies also feature a film cell from ‘Dr No’. With the complete cooperation of film production company EON (Everything or Nothing), the Bond guardians, and co-producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, the archives have been opened and the book is a treasure trove of rare documents, stories, interviews, on-set photographs, and other Bonderania, which provide insights into how, where, when and why the films were made over the last half-century.

There’s a link with some page previews here:

There’s quite a bit of interesting info on the book here, including details of  limited special edition print runs (2x 250) with signatures from Ken Adam and Daniel Craig:

You can pre-order the book from Amazon UK here:

And from Amazon US:


Intermezzo Media Records have recently released the ‘colonna sonora originale’ (that the original soundtrack to you and me) from Sergio Sollima’s 1970 crime flick ‘Violent City’ (GDM4218).

The score is one of Ennio Morricone’s finest albums and this expanded edition, with 21 tracks, is limited to 500 units. Previously tracks from this film appeared on a very good RCA ‘Cinematre’ album that paired the soundtrack with another classic continental crime film, ‘The Sicilian Clan’ (1969). This original release only included seven tracks from ‘Violent City’: Citta violenta (titoli), Rito finale, Momento estremo, Con estremo dolcezza, Norme con ironie, Sospensione sovrapposta and Riassunto. All these are included in this new release (as tracks 1, 2, 5, 6, 8, 17, 21), but there are 14 new tracks too, taking the total running time to over 60 minutes of the Maestro’s music. The orchestrations are excellent, from the pulsating, scything theme tune (and its many reworkings) to the oppressive moods of the incidental cues, from groovy nightclub psychedelics to delicate love themes. The CD is accompanied by a collector’s booklet featuring liner notes, a selection of great colour stills from the movie and original CD and poster artwork.

Click here to order ‘Violent City’ (billed as ‘City of Violence’) from Italian film soundtrack specialist Hillside CD Productions: 

After Sollima’s spaghetti westerns with Tomas Milian – ‘The Big Gundown’, ‘Face to Face’ and ‘Run Man Run’ – ‘Violent City’ is the director’s most famous work. Also known in the wake of ‘The Godfather’ as ‘The Family’, it’s a tale of betrayal and revenge. Professional hitman Jeff Heston (Bronson) finds himself duped into knocking off key members of crime syndicate The Organisation by crooked attorney Steve (Umberto Orsini) and Jeff’s one-time girlfriend Vanessa Sheldon (Bronson’s wife, Jill Ireland). Violent City sees Bronson at the peak of his Euro-stardom. It was conceived with the working title Final Shot and was to have starred Tony Musante and Florinda Bolkan in the leads. Sollima shot the movie’s interiors at Cinecittà and exteriors in the US Virgin Islands, in New Orleans and at the Michigan International Speedway track at Irish Hills, for a memorable scene when Jeff makes one of his assassinations appear to be a tyre blow-out.
The film opens with a great car chase, staged by stunt driver Remy Julienne, from The Italian Job (1969) and the James Bond films.

The first version of this film I saw (on video) was considerably cut – as was all Sollima’s work for international release – to 92 minutes. The full uncut version of the film at 109 minutes is now available in various editions:

‘Violent City’ and Sollima’s other great crime thriller ‘Revolver’ (starring Oliver Reed and Fabio Testi) are discussed in detail in my book ‘Cinema Italiano: the Complete Guide from Classics to Cult’. This volume has received another positive review, this time from Scott Eyman of the Palm Beach Post, who hopes I write companion editions on French and German cinema:


At last the uncut version of Sergio Sollima’s spaghetti western ‘The Big Gundown’ is to be screened in the UK. Sony’s restoration of this 1967 classic is to appear as part of the 56th BFI London Film Festival on 21 October 2012. See here for more details

Director Sollima made two politically-flavoured westerns detailing the adventures of Manuel ‘Cuchillo’ Sanchez, a persecuted peon – the manhunt western ‘The Big Gundown’ (1967) and its treasure hunt sequel, ‘Run Man Run’ (1968). In ‘The Big Gundown’, Cuchillo is accused of raping and stabbing to death a 12-year-old girl. Wealthy Texan tycoon Brokston (Walter Barnes), a railroader in more ways than one, employs ex-lawman Jonathan ‘Colorado’ Corbett to track the Mexican down. But Cuchillo isn’t the varmint responsible and Brokston is protecting a land deal that will enable him to construct a lucrative railway line and aims to install Corbett in the Senate as his puppet.

Cuchillo can’t outdistance the law. ‘You can’t run fast enough or far enough’, Corbett tells him in the course of their lengthy chase, as Cuchillo tries to do just that. Corbett is played by Lee Van Cleef, in his best starring role outside his two Sergio Leone westerns (‘For a Few Dollars More’ and ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’), while Cuban actor Tomas Milian is excellent in a star-making performance as ragged, crafty knife thrower ‘Sanchez the Knife’, who once believed in the ideals of Juarez, but who feels betrayed by the revolution and those who rose to power in its wake. Most of the film is a manhunt through the desert (filmed in Almeria and around Madrid), a deadly game of cat and rat, as sidewinder Cuchillo repeatedly outwits his pursuer. Gerard Herter is memorable as Brokston’s Austrian bodyguard Baron Von Schulemberg and Antonio Casas is an ex-gunfighter, now a monk christened ‘Brother Smith and Wesson’. Nieves Navarro played sadistic cattle rancher, the Widow, with her gang of toughs memorably portrayed by spaghetti stuntmen Frank Braña, Benito Stefanelli, Luis Barboo, Antonio Molino Rojo and Van Cleef’s stunt double Romano Puppo. The finale is a triple duel, with Cuchillo versus Brokston’s son-in-law Shep, then Corbett against the Baron and finally Corbett against Brokston. The score by Ennio Morricone includes the rousing title song ‘Run Man Run’, sung by Christy, and features the percussion-driven stampede ‘La caccia’ (‘The Chase’), for a breathless manhunt though cane fields, as Brokston and his hunting party deploy beaters and dogs to flush Cuchillo into the open. In fact, as with so many Italian and Spanish films, for a long time the soundtrack, one of Morricone’s finest and most popular, was much more freely available than the film itself. ‘The Big Gundown’ was a great success in the US, taking $2 million when it was released in 1968 by Columbia Pictures, but the uncut version of the lesser-known ‘Run Man Run’ has been available on DVD for many years  

There have been various different TV showings and DVD releases of ‘The Big Gundown’, at several lengths, ranging from 84 minutes and 95 minutes to its full length of 105 minutes. This new restoration is the complete version with all the scenes previously missing from shorter versions intact, which means we should get the complete opening scene, where bounty hunter Corbett waits patiently in woodland to ambush three escaping bank robbers.

The full story behind the film, its influences, casting, shooting locations and making of, is covered in detail in the chapter ‘The Dogs of Juarez’ in my book ‘Once Upon a Time in the Italian West: The Filmgoers’ Guide to Spaghetti Westerns’ (IB Tauris, 2004), which is available in hardback, paperback and on Kindle.