Requiescant: Music for a Massacre
Riz Ortolani offers a standard score for a great neglected Spaghetti Western.
Carlo Lizzani’s 1967 Requiescant is perhaps an overlooked classic. Ironic considering the Latin title translates to mean ‘Rest in Peace’. Alex Cox, who for a generation of film fans, defined the notion of cult and weird movies via his 80s Moviedrome, named it the ‘one film to prove that the Italian Western was not solely Sergio Leone’s’.
The music on Requiescant is by early 50s Italian jazz musician turned composer Riz Ortolani. He passed away in January 2014, aged 87, leaving a legacy that stretches to more than 200 movie music credits, including a Grammy win and an Oscar nomination for the main theme to pseudo-documentary Mondo Cane (1962). He is probably best known for the haunting music on perennial video nasty Cannibal Holocaust (1980). More recently moments of his work were reprised when Quentin Tarantino (Kill Bill, 2003, and Django Unchained, 2012) and Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive, 2011) rummaged through his extensive back catalogue.
The Requiescant soundtrack is not nearly as intense or ambitious as, say, the title track from his other 1967 score Day of Anger, but there’s lots to enjoy. The opening moments leading up to a massacre are coloured by a heavily plucked, detuned guitar whose sparseness is warmed by light touches of brass. It’s a signature refrain that is repeated later in the film during an absurd, drunk game of William Tell. Correspondingly the theme tune for the credits that follow the blood-soaked beginning is a much more traditional, orchestral arrangement that flirts with the bright tones of a mariachi band in-between sumptuous, melodramatic string sections.
Overall, it’s a fairly typical soundtrack for a Spaghetti Western. However, unlike the more abstract notions conveyed by Ennio Morricone’s music against the burnt and arid vistas of a Leone production, Ortolani’s musical additions to Requiescant are almost always used to directly inform the mood and action on screen.