Sound SHOCK: Carlo Rustichelli’s Music for Umberto Lenzi’s MILANO ROVENTE

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Sound SHOCK looks at Carlo Rustichelli’s score for Umberto Lenzi’s MILANO ROVENTE.

As every student of cult film history knows, no matter what genre the Italians dabbled in during the fertile golden period spanning from about 1962 to 1985, music was always a central force in creating an almost subconscious, physical connection to image. Whether it be the GOBLIN-driven black-glove-choking shockers of Dario Argento, the Morricone fueled nihilistic twang of a Sergio Corbucci or Sergio Leone western, or the Fabio Frizzi steered psyche rock that bleeds over the films of Lucio Fulci , Italian exploitation cinema was universally strong, violent, sleazy and operatic; culturally unique pulp filmmaking that took the germs of commercially popular American movies and twisted them, standing tall and sounding just as tough.

Some of the strongest scores stemmed from a glorious offshoot of Italian cult cinema known as the Polizioteschi – graphic, urban Italian thrillers that usually delved deep into organized crime, police corruption and vigilantism. Case in point, the soundtrack for exploitation guru Umberto Lenzi’s greasy 1973 shoot-em-up MILANO ROVENTE (aka GANG WAR IN MILAN), music that is brash, funky, melancholy and far more beautiful than the gritty and grimy picture it supports.

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Lenzi was of course a veteran hack, whose output veered wildly between brutal Polizioteschi’s like the brutal ALMOST HUMAN, sexually charged soft-core thrillers like ORGASMO and notorious gorefests like CANNIBAL FEROX  and MILANO ROVENTE is sort of an amalgam of THE GODFATHER and DIRTY HARRY, two blockbuster American films that did even better overseas. The music is composed by the prolific Maestro Carlo Rustichelli, he of such legendary Mario Bava masterpieces as THE WHIP AND THE BODY, BLOOD AND BLACK LACE and KILL, BABY KILL as well as Antonio Margheriti’s underrated THE LONG HAIR OF DEATH. And while MILANO ROVENTE is not a horror film, it certainly sounds like one, with Rustichelli sonically matching the leering, nihilistic sensibilities Lenzi was famous for.

Careening wildly between sax soaked, sleazy, lounge jazz (reminiscent of the title theme from BLOOD AND BLACK LACE) , bouncy, spaghetti-sucking, tarantella- twisted love themes and dark, tension filled string-savaged suspense cues, this is a great, full-blooded soundscape that works just as well alone, without the film it was designed to support. I actually drove around some of the dodgier East end areas of downtown Toronto after midnight recently while blaring this and was stunned at how eerie and cinematic the whole outing was. I literally felt like I was a mustache-sporting Tomas Milian cruising for rough trade…

Italian soundtrack label BEAT RECORDS’ still in print deluxe CD release features full color digi-packed reproductions of the various original promotional art plus a fold out booklet giving an entire history (in both Italian and English) of both the production and a lengthy Rustichelli biography. As an added bonus, you can slip this sucker into your computer and watch an exclusive interview with Lenzi where he discusses the genre at large and relates his beliefs as to why his picture doesn’t quite fit the traditional Polizioteschi mold as the protagonist (Antonio Sabato) is just as despicable as the film’s antagonist. It’s a great release of a truly magnificent collection of music.

Here’s a sample:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i6v8B5sgfss