Dressed to Kill

My Italian soundtrack composer kick is ongoing. Over the past few nights I’ve been listening to Pino Donaggio, whose soundtrack career started with his haunting score for Don’t Look Now, before he forged a close collaboration with Brian De Palma. Over the years he’s supplied the music for many of that director’s films including Carrie, Body Double and Blow Out.

Before all that, though, Pino Donaggio penned a tune that became one of the great pop classics of the 1960s, Io Che Non Vivo (Senza Te).

This song reached the top of the Italian charts in the Spring of 1965 and was also featured in Luchino Visconti’s award winning film Vaghe stelle dell’Orsa, which is sometimes known as Sandra, or in Britain, Of These Thousand Pleasures.

You might not think you know the tune from its Italian title, but you do and you most likely adore it, believe me, believe me! You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me, as it was renamed with newly coined English language lyrics, becoming a British number one in Britain for Dusty Springfield in the Spring of 1966.

Italians Do It Better? Not on this particular occasion, this being one of the relatively few tracks where a cover version far surpasses the original. Here is Pino Donaggio anyway, performing the song on Italian TV.

Brian De Palma’s Dressed to Kill proved one of the most critically divisive movies of the 1980s. The movie is heavily influenced by Hitchcock’s Psycho and Italian Gialli movies – for starters, there’s a razor wielding killer in disguise, brutal murders and a pair of amateur sleuths, in this case the unlikely pairing of a nerdy and inventive Harry Potter lookalike and a high-end hooker.

The film is far from perfect – even when it was first released I found the whodunnit element easy to solve and Nancy Allen’s acting veers towards the flat but Dressed to Kill certainly grips you and, as always with De Palma, there are many virtuoso touches to enjoy. The long and wordless sequence in the museum is extraordinary, unpredictable and utterly dreamlike and brilliantly complemented by Pino Donaggio’s wonderful score.

The movie’s main theme accompanies the famous opening shower scene (where we see parts of Angie Dickinson’s body that I don’t remember ever seeing on Police Woman). Okay, it was actually a body double.

Donaggio’s music here is sumptuous and might come over as sentimental and even a little sickly but together with the visuals, it provides the ideal suspenseful counterpoint to a scene that makes for increasingly uneasy viewing.

Finally, some more music by another Italian maestro of scoring, Signore Berto Pisano.

From the soundtrack of a Italian/German/Spanish co-production from 1971, Kill! Kill! Kill! Kill! that starred James Mason and Jean Seberg, this is a superb slice of bossa nova grooviness featuring that sometimes soaring, otherworldly soprano of Edda Dell’orso.

Another track that Stereolab would love, this is Kill (to Jean):