Theme From Pulp

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Much as I like the Sheffield band, for me the musical highlight of the documentary Pulp: a Film About Life, Death & Supermarkets was when Jarvis and his bandmates throw toilet rolls into an audience, accompanied not by Mis-Shapes or Disco 2000 but by Ennio Morricone’s Giu La Testa (A Fistful of Dynamite).

In his score for the 1972 movie Pulp, George Martin channels his inner Ennio Morricone to good effect. The film starred Michael Caine and Jarvis must surely be a big fan. Its title provided his band with their name (after the original Arabicus part was wisely dropped) and he certainly must have been influenced by the wardrobe and choice of glasses worn by Caine’s character Mickey King (supplied by the actor). I rather like his white corduroy jacket myself.

A few weeks ago, I watched the first episode of Peter Jackson’s Get Back, a series that became the subject of a giant brouhaha when it was first streamed last November. I haven’t really felt any inclination to, erm, get back to it and assume I’ll be in a tiny minority in that I’d rather listen to this largely forgotten theme song composed and conducted by the man nicknamed the fifth Beatle than many of the tracks featured in the documentary.

Pulp was a lightweight comedy set in Italy which reunited the producer/director/actor team of Michael Klinger, Mike Hodges and Michael Caine. It was conceived as an antidote to the brutishness and pessimism of their recent hit Get Carter.

A breezy slice of jazz tinged easy listening, the theme song reflects the movie’s mood well and came out as a 45 in August 1972, to accompany Pulp‘s run in British cinemas. It was a great month for British singles. For starters, there was Starman, All The Young Dudes, Virginia Plain and Metal Guru and even Rock and Rock Part 2 by the now disgraced Gary Glitter (absolutely incredible production by Mike Leander it would still have to be said). During these glammy times, the young record buying public were unlikely to embrace a breezy slice of jazz tinged easy listening. Unsurprisingly, it wasn’t a hit and while no classic it is worth a listen and should be better known. As I type, a mere 55 views have been recorded on YouTube (with a single like), as opposed to one of the Get Back trailers which has had almost 5 million hits.

‘If You Ride Like Lightning, You’re Gonna Crash Like Thunder’ (Soundtrack Sundays)

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This week, a couple of tracks from The Place Beyond The Pines, the second of which is something really special, one of the most mesmerising pieces of music you could ever hope to hear.

Directed by Derek Cianfrance in 2012, The Place Beyond The Pines is a recommended watch, even though I never quite believed in some of the events that take place. On first seeing it, I stepped out of the cinema not even knowing if I was supposed to or not. It’s a film consisting of a triptych of stories and might have worked better with just two. There’s a massive coincidence and some far too obvious foreshadowing.

On the plus side, the direction was often striking and the acting was very strong across the board, with Ryan Gosling the standout in one of those man of few words roles that he specialises in. He plays Luke, a fairground motorcycle stunt performer who zigzags around a circular metal cage at great speed with two other daredevil riders. On discovering he has fathered a son while in Schenectady, he decides to quit his travelling job, win back Romina (Eva Mendes), the mother of his baby son, and become part of a family.

He also decides that, in order to make enough money to help achieve these goals, he should begin robbing banks. His actions will have wide ranging ramifications, even down through to the next generation.

Eva Mendes is superb too, and Ben Mendelsohn displays why when Gosling directed his own movie – Lost River in 2014 – he was so keen to get the Australian involved.

But the best thing about the film is its use of music.

Composed by Mike Patton, one time singer of Faith No More (a band that failed to ever remotely interest me), the score is surprisingly impressive with The Snow Angel and Schenectady particularly effective – the latter with its brooding, twanging guitar wouldn’t have felt out of place in something by David Lynch.

There’s also Fratres For Violin, String Orchestra And Percussion by Arvo Pärt, the Estonian minimalist adored by Hollywood, while Suicide’s Che injects an instant jittery intensity to a scene where Luke prepares to commit his first raid. Another highlight is Please Stay by The Cryin’ Shames, a ballad I’ve previously judged to be borderline saccharine, but which works beautifully in its context here.

A tail-end of Merseybeat combo, they hooked up with Joe Meek and scored a hit early in 1966 with this Burt Bacharach and Bob Hilliard song, which had originally been recorded by The Drifters – featuring backing vocals by Doris Troy and Dionne Warwick’s sister Dee Dee Warwick, no less.

Arranged by Ivor Raymonde, the father of Cocteau Twin Simon Raymonde, this would be the final chart hit produced by Meek before he shot and killed his landlady, before turning the gun on his own head and committing suicide.

It’s been claimed over the years that Meek also pointed a gun at the head of Cryin’ Shames’ singer Charlie Crane in order to achieve the vocal take that he craved but really, does this sound like a man singing while under extreme duress?

Time now for Ennio Morricone’s Ninna Nanna Per Adulteri – not to be confused with Ninna Nanna Per Adulti, which I previously featured here.

Originally written for Cuore di mamma, a 1969 Italian movie directed by Salvatore Samperi, A Mother’s Heart, to give it its English title, was very much of its time, inspired by Jean-Luc Godard and politically confusing. Or maybe I only found it confusing as I watched it on YouTube with auto generated English subtitles. These resembled reading a William Burroughs cut-up novel.

In The Place Beyond The Pines, its first appearance accompanies Luke spending an idyllic day with Romina and his son Jason, imagining all three living together happily ever after.

Morricone’s simple but sublime lullaby acts as a clear counterpoint, conveying an overwhelming sense that these good times are never going to last. It’s used again later with similar results, introducing the same almost unbearably poignant sense that as hope blossoms, bad things surely loom ahead.

This is Morricone at his brilliant best.

A Suzy Kendall Double Bill: Torso & Spasmo

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Suzy Kendall Double Bill

It’s Giallo time again. So pour yourself a J&B with ice and enjoy.

First up is Torso, also occasionally known as The Bodies Bear Traces of Carnal Violence, or just plain Carnal Violence.

This is my favourite film by Sergio Martino, a director who worked in many fields, from sex comedies to spaghetti westerns, Euro crime to the cannibal genre and even a not terribly good creature-feature Island of the Fishmen.

Martino, though, is today best remembered for his 1970s gialli output such as The Case of the Scorpion’s Tail, Your Vice is a Locked Door and Only I Have the Key, and The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh. Yes, like many other Italian directors in this field he did favour baroque titles.

Martino’s older brother Luciano had produced Mario Bava’s The Whip and The Body, and this film proved inspirational to Sergio, as did Dario Argento’s The Bird with the Crystal Plumage. The former starred John Richardson, the latter provided a prominent part for Suzy Kendall.

Both these English actors star in Torso, Richardson as Franz, an urbane art history professor in a Perugia university; one of his students being Jane, an American exchange student, played by Kendall.

Suzy Kendall - Torso

The one time wife of Dudley Moore, Kendall is an actress whose early career saw her appear in a number of successes, most notably To Sir With Love and Up the Junction.

By the 1970s, she was also much sought after by big budget British TV series such as The Persuaders, where she was guaranteed to inject some instant glamour. Around this time she also established herself as a big name in the world of giallo after appearing in the aforementioned Bird with the Crystal Plumage.

After Torso’s opening credits sequence, which resembles something from a dodgy softcore movie of the era, we cut to a university hall, where Franz is giving a lecture to a large number of students on the subject of Pietro Perugino, an Italian Renaissance painter who he doesn’t rate very highly.

Afterwards, Jane, accompanied by her friends, chooses to discuss the artist further with him, arguing the case for Perugino. It’s easy to imagine a mutual attraction between the pair, even though Franz refuses to back down on his opinion.

Soon the murders begin. A balaclava wearing psycho brutally kills one of the females seen in the opening credits, after spying on her and her boyfriend canoodling in a car. He kills him too, but off-screen.

The murder of her friend, affects Jane’s pal Carol (Conchita Airoldi) badly. She troops off to what looks like a deserted warehouse with two motorbike riding students, where a gathering of hippy types smoke dope, relax, dance and play music.

Carol puffs on a joint and lets the two boys fondle her until one goes too far. She storms off, followed by them. This scene, as they chase her through a swampy forest, is particularly effective and the score works well, hinting at prog and helping to induce a real sense of dread. And the dread only increases when she glimpses a man through the mist.

Torso Psycho Killer

This won’t be the last murder in Torso, and most of the victims will be in Jane’s circle of friends.

The suspects are many and varied. Chief among them is intense student Stefano (Roberto Bisacco), who has been obsessed by Daniela (Tina Aumont) for years. He’s shown being abusive to a local prostitute, throttling her throat for some moments before managing to calm down.

Then there’s the chisel-chinned man in a smart suit, spotted earlier by Carol buying a black and red neckerchief – which becomes a major clue in the manhunt. He later boards the same train as Jane and co., and chooses to sit in the same carriage as them.

Gianni Tomasso is an incredibly creepy looking man and has a sleazy manner to match. He runs a little clothes stall in a piazza in the centre of the city, near to the university and obviously knows more than he lets on to the police when questioned.

As the carnage continues, Dani’s wealthy Uncle Nino arranges for his daughter and her friends (including Jane) to leave their homes in Perugia and stay temporarily at a cliffside villa in the country, where they’ll be safe.

Torso - Students

Is this a good idea? I think you can guess. And could Nino be involved in the slayings? After all, who doesn’t know how this kind of thing works?

Much as Torso is highly enjoyable, it must have been an even more remarkable watch in 1973. As many commentators have mentioned before, Torso is like a slasher before that cinematic term had even been coined.

The movie’s first half does start off in classic giallo fashion but as it progresses you can tick off a number of tropes and trappings of the slasher.

There’s the masked killer on the loose, the group of attractive young females, an isolated location, and the final girl – the sole survivor, resilient and resourceful and who just happens to be the most moral and pure member of the group.

Torso - Suzy Kendall

I’m not much of a fan of slashers but I’m a big fan of Torso, although I only saw it for the first time years after the likes of Halloween and Friday the 13th had already begun spawning sequels.

Expect gratuitous gore, a shoal of red herrings, and a final third that is packed with suspense and features a fantastic performance from Kendall.


Spasmo is another giallo from a master of Italian genre cinema, Umberto Lenzi. This is a strange one and comes over like a particularly disturbing dream, especially with the running motif of female mannequins dressed only in lingerie, that are either mutilated or hanging on nooses.

The two leads here are Robert Hoffmann, an Austrian actor best known for TV’s The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, and a badly dubbed Suzy Kendall, who plays Barbara. I do tend to love Italian genre cinema but just occasionally sloppy post-synching can annoy, and I committed the cardinal sin here of choosing the English language version. My wrists have been slapped.

Christian Bauman (Hoffmann) is a Bee Gee lookalike with a small medallion, who shows his girlfriend Xenia a patch of land where he and his older brother Fritz (Ivan Rassimov) once discovered a dead dog that had been strangled when they were kids. And don’t ask how two young boys managed to identify that cause of death. maybe they carried out a psot-mortem.

Xenia spots what she looks like a female corpse on a stretch of nearby sand and she and Chrstian run over to investigate. This is Barbara, who of course isn’t dead, and is surprised that anybody could have made the assumption, even though she admits to fainting from sunstroke.

‘What you need is a double Scotch,’ Christian advises her. ‘That’ll pick you up.’

As he and Xenia go to his car to locate the whisky, Barbara mysteriously disappears, leaving behind a clue as to her identity, a flask bearing the name Tucania on it.

Christian and Xenia soon track down a yacht of that name harboured locally, and join a party on-board the vessel that is populated by Euro jet-set types and owned by Barbara’s possessive friend Alex, who is in love with her.

By nightfall, though, Xenia has been forgotten and Barbara won over by his chat-up lines like him calling her a ‘sweet, sweet whore.’ They head to the motel where Barbara’s staying, although she demands that Christian shaves his beard off before they get down to action. She has a razor in her room that is ‘big, sharp and sexy.’

Spasmo Suzy Kendall

While he’s removing his facial hair – with an electric shaver rather than any razor – a gun-toting intruder who looks like Dario Argento attacks him. Christian fights him off and grabs the gun. Then shoots him dead.

‘What’re you doing?’ Barbara asks a dazed Christian, as he walks into the living room. ‘Destroying my bathroom?’

He explains what happened. She suggests running away. He agrees. Luckily, she knows a property owned by a Brazilian artist friend currently in Rio. Here they can hide and plan their next move.

They break into the seaside home and soon discover that a couple are already renting it out, an older man Malcolm and a much younger female Clorinda, a redhead with the most piercing blue eyes imaginable, who Christian appears to vaguely recognise. I think I would personally remember that face forever more.

He confesses to Malcolm that he has murdered a man but Malcolm fails to believe him. This is like a decidedly disturbing dream and it is only going to get even stranger.

Spasmo Mannequin

Spasmo is a decent watch but nowhere near as effective as Torso. The dialogue is often abysmal and the plot too labyrinthine to easily follow, with a number of coincidences that are difficult to believe.

A revelation near the very end is clever enough and does make some sense of the batshit craziness that we have been watching but this comes just too late to entirely rescue the movie.

On the plus side, the mannequin motif is creepy and memorable, Ennio Morricone does provide a sometimes soothing, sometimes disorienting score, while in one great action sequence, Christian displays some driving skills that I don’t remember Jackie Stewart ever demonstrating back in the ’70s. And finally, Suzy Kendall is again in good form. A true giallo icon.

Suzy, incidentally, has now retired from acting but was persuaded to help out on 2012’s giallo influenced Berberian Sound Studio – another film with a disturbing and dreamy quality – where she is credited as ‘Special Guest Screamer’.

To see the trailer for Torso, click here.

To see the trailer for Spasmo, click here.

Dirty Angels


Vergogna Schifosi

Tonight, the perfect accompaniment to relaxing in your deckchair on a sunny early evening and sipping a chilled glass of Buckardi (that’s equal measures of Buckfast and Bacardi with slightly less ginger ale).

If you don’t already know this obscure little gem then you’re in for a real treat. Honestly, don’t even think about leaving this page without reading on!

Ennio Morricone is the maestro behind the music of such films as A Fistful of Dollars and Once Upon a Time in the West through to The Untouchables and The Hateful Eight. His work has been sampled by a long list of acts from Big Audio Dynamite, Goldfrapp to The Prodigy and, of course, Stereolab.

He is also one of the rare musicians that I would firmly class in the category of genius.

Even so, I’ve still seen less than half the 500 plus films that he’s supplied the scores to and I can’t claim to have seen Vergogna Schifosi (or Dirty Angels, to give it its English translation) apart from some poor quality clips on YouTube.

It doesn’t seem to be available to buy from eBay or to download anywhere so Mauro Severino’s 1969 movie might be an underappreciated masterpiece or, alternatively, utterly awful, but even if it is a dud there’s still an exquisite Morricone soundtrack to enjoy.

According to someone commenting on YouTube, the opening track Matto, Caldo, Soldi, Morto… Girotondo sounds like a ‘satanic erotic mantra’ and I can see where they’re coming from but from the little I can glean from the internet, the song has some kind of connection to Giro Giro Tondo, an Italian nursery rhyme that is the equivalent to something like Ring Around the Rosie.

Featuring the honey-saturated soprano of Edda Dell’orso, whose voice here conjures up visions of earthly paradises, I’ll go for a Capri beach with golden sands, inhabited by Monica Vitti lookalikes in bikinis and the most intensely coloured rainbow you’ve ever seen in the sky.


More Morricone in the near future, folks.