I was prompted to write a review of this soundtrack because I noticed that it has been released on a download on I Tunes. Although I am not a great fan of downloads I suppose it is a way of getting the score to fans who use this service and like to store their music on PC,s, I pods and I pads etc.
Originally released in 1968 A PROFESSIONAL GUN or IL MERCENARIO was directed by renowned Italian film maker Sergio Corbucci with actors Franco Nero, Tony Mustante and Jack Palance taking the principle roles. Set at the time of the revolution of 1915 in Mexico it was an entertaining and explosive story which although filmed as a spaghetti western was in fact somewhat controversial and contained various political undertones. It belongs firmly within the category or sub genre of the ZAPATA WESTERN that became an essential and also an important part of the wider spaghetti western genre, there were a number of examples of these politically slanted tales, DUCK YOU SUCKER, A BULLET FOR THE GENERAL, TEPEPA, THE FIVE MAN ARMY,THEY CALL HIM HOLY GHOST and COMPANEROS among them. Like so many Italian produced westerns A PROFESSIONAL GUN contained a musical score that was not only a background to the films storyline but also is the work of two of the spaghetti westerns most prolific Maestro’s, Ennio Morricone
and Bruno Nicolai
, both composers were tutored during the early stages of their careers by Godfreddo Petrassi and it is thought that this is why their composing styles and also their experimentation with musical sounds was so similar.
When the soundtrack to IL MECENARIO was first released on a French United Artists long playing record, both Morricone and Nicolai were given joint composing credits and this was also the case on the German LP release, however the two albums were different in content each recording having a slightly different opening cue and having totally different art work, with the German release having inferior sound quality. When the score was released on CD for the first time it was a fusion of both the French and the German releases, but still the sound quality was rather lacking, plus the composing credit was altered to read music composed by Ennio Morricone
, no mention of Nicolai as co-composer(which is something that has happened on numerous CD editions of older Morricone scores in recent years). This sadly is the case on this latest edition on the GDM club label, Nicolai given a conducting credit on the back cover of the CD, a plus on this release is a credit to the talent and input of Alessandro Alessandroni
who made such a great contribution to this and many other works within the spaghetti western genre via his guitar playing his haunting whistling and his distinct sounding choir, Il Cantori Moderni. The score opens with a pulsating and highly infectious samba infused composition that is introduced by slightly discordant sounding brass flourishes that are supported and enhanced by shouts and shrill whistles and punctuated by percussion and harshly strummed guitar, this introduction builds to a crescendo of sorts and gains momentum as it segues into full on and fast paced samba beats which act as a background to flyaway strings that purvey a sound that is full of patriotic atmosphere with Mexican sounding choir embellishing and carrying the composition along. BAMBA VIAVACE is an energetic and highly charged piece that is a perfect opener for the score and sets the scene for what is to follow. The score for IL MERCENARIO is basically a collection of themes, which relate to the main characters within the movie, it is a clear and effective use of the motif style of scoring which Morricone utilized within many of his soundtracks for Italian made westerns, the opening cue being the theme that accompanies PACO the poor peon who is elevated to a Simon Bolivar status with the help of a foreign Mercenary. Morricone and Nicolai taking it to a greater and more prominent degree within this particular assignment.
Track number two, ESTASI is the first time that we are introduced to the theme that accompanies Franco Nero’s character the Polish mercenary the Polack, which is heard almost every time he is on screen or is about to enter the scene, Alessandroni’s distinct and descending whistle is introduced by a single strum from a guitar and then is interrupted by an upbeat organ solo that is accompanied by guitar, this combination plays out a section of what will become the theme for Curly the villainous and sadistic character portrayed wonderfully by Jack Palance, this theme soon evaporates and we return to a whistling solo which on this occasion ascends the musical scale and then further establishes the Mercenary theme punctuated by echoing percussion and sporadic castanets with underlying strings adding depth and further substance to the composition. Track number three, is the first of the Mexican vocal tracks that appear on the soundtrack which are in effect source music IL MECENARIO (sueno Mejicano 1) is a very laid back almost lazy sounding vocal, there are two other vocals on the disc. Track number six, IL CANTO A MIA TIERRA (song to my land) and track number 9, IL MERCENARIO (sueno Mejicano 2). The theme for Franco Nero is more or less the foundation of the score and Morricone and Nicolai fashion the remainder of the work around this, creating what is now regarded as a veritable masterpiece from the genre of the Italian made western.
As well as the central thematic material for the main characters the score contains a sprinkling of fiesta or Mexican mariachi flavoured cues with a Vienesse style waltz making an appearance in track number 10, FIESTA (Valzer) which was used for the wedding of Paco and Columba (Giovanna Ralli). The score ends with a crescendo of a composition IL MERCANRIO (L’ARENA) which is heard during the final showdown between Curly and Paco in a bull ring, with the Polack acting as a referee of sorts. Alessandroni’s distinctive whistle, Soaring trumpet, strident and infectious sounding strings combine with choir and punctuation from electric guitar to make this a classic and powerful piece that enhances the scene and creates tension and drama. IL MERCENARIO is indeed an outstanding and entertaining work and a soundtrack that stands head and shoulders above the many other examples from this collection of original but at times quirky motion pictures. I cannot recommend this soundtrack enough, if this is a score that is not in your collection, why not?
Read other recent reviews by John Mansell: Addio, Fratello Crudele
, The Dark Side of Light