While the majority of the tracks on this collection of music from various Italian horror and genre films have been made available via their own separate releases, Vault of Horror represents a fantastic cross-section of what was has become a pivotal time in cinematic scoring.
Some of the biggest names in film composing are including in the selection of music on this beautiful double album. Opening up the set, rather appropriately, is Carlo Rustichelli’s Atelier (totoli) from Mario Bava’s seminal giallo Blood and Black Lace. Sultry and swinging, it belies the slasher nature of the film, but is in keeping with the style and flamboyance of Bava’s visuals. Franco Micalizzi’s entry from Antonio Margheriti’s The Last Hunter, however, puts us in pure kitschy disco heaven. One almost expects a silky-smooth tenor vocal a la Isaac Hayes to kick in at any time.
Nico Fidenco’s Seq 6 from Joe D’Amato’s Porno Holocaust features some nicely overdriven guitar amongst the disco funk keys and driving bass. If you didn’t know what film it was from, you’d be forgiven for believing it to be a lost Euro-hit outtake. The pace changes once more for Roberto Donati’s Main Theme from Umberto Lenzi’s cannibal shocker Eaten Alive!, which evokes more images of ‘70s US TV cop shows than it does of jungle-dwelling flesh eaters. That tone continues with New York One More Day by Francesco De Masi, the theme from Lucio Fulci’s controversial The New York Ripper. It’s a brilliant horn-driven track that benefits from being distanced from its film.
Side Two opens with an actual song - Bargain with the Devil from The Exorcist rip-off Beyond the Door. Composed once more by Micalizzi, it’s a slinky sleazy funk number with some catchy gospel backing singers boosting Warren Wilson’s vocals while the groovy bassline leads us to the surprisingly chipper Small Town Pleasures from Jaws knock-off Tentacles (emulating Hollywood hits was something that the Italians were able to do well). Disparate musical styles are another thing they did well; Roberto Donati’s theme from Cannibal Ferox and Carlo Maria Cordio’s prog-infused title theme from D’Amato’s Absurd couldn’t be further away from their cinematic atrocities.
A welcome trio of pieces by Fabio Frizzi open the third side, which is dedicated to music from the films of the king of ocular trauma, Lucio Fulci. Zombie Flesh Eaters is missing the usual line of dialogue that the music has become synonymous with (“The boat can leave now - tell the crew.”), but its voodoo-flavoured beat is always a pleasure. It’s a beat that’s continued with Mystery’s Apotheosis from City of the Living Dead, so much so that it could almost be considered self-plagiarism. Choosing an entry from the sublime score to The Beyond must have been hard, and we’re not altogether sure Voci Dal Nula would be our choice, but it fits in well and bridges the flow of music to Walter Rizatti’s I Remember (from House by the Cemetery) and Stefano Mainetti’s Zombi 3 theme. Side Four takes us to the future dystopian movies such as Bronx Warriors and The New Barbarians but keeps the groove going, albeit with synth-laden style such as in Claudio Simonetti’s Nuke is Over from the latter film. Almost out of place (and very short) is Maestro Ennio Morricone’s End Theme from Holocaust 2000, but it’s a welcome addition as his work for exploitation and genre is often overlooked for the spaghetti westerns and blockbusters. Closing the collection is an emotive song Celebrate Myself by Nico Fidenco from Emanuelle in America (the series that had nothing whatsoever to do with Sylvia Kristel’s soft-focus lightweight porn franchise).
As mentioned, fans of Italian genre soundtracks may have all the music included here before, so it might suit a newcomer looking to dip their ears into the wonderful goodness that there is out there, but there are other reasons to pick this release up. Not only is there the double vinyl album, but there’s also a CD version included (complete with replica card wallet), not to mention the brilliant artwork by Graham Humphreys (known for his poster work on Basket Case and A Nightmare on Elm Street amongst others), which is also reproduced on a 12” square collector’s print.
Aficionados may have selected some different tracks, but there’s no denying that the collection we’re presented with is mighty fine anyway. Highly recommended.
VAULT OF HORROR: THE ITALIAN CONNECTION / COMPOSER: VARIOUS / LABEL: DEMON RECORDS / RELEASE DATE: DECEMBER 8TH