Film scores

Soundtrack review: Col ferro e col fuoco (Giovanni Fusco & Francesco de Masi – 1962, 2015)

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I am very happy that I get to review releases from Kronos records because they are probably the only ones who constantly bring out rare Italian scores. I am a huge fan of Italian composers and Italian film music so every new release is a chance to listen and write about another gem. The “Gold collection” is especially interesting and one of the latest releases from it is “Col ferro e col fuoco”. Also known as “Invasion 1700” this was a movie based on the famous “With fire and sword” novel by Henry Sienkiewicz. It’s the usual story of love and war that never fails and it stars Pierce Brice who I grew up watching in the Winnetou movies.

The music was written by Giovanni Fusco and Francesco de Masi, two composers who have written more than 200 scores amongst themselves. It was a strange occurrence for those times to have two composers score a movie. I wonder what the story behind this decision is. I am a fan of De Masi’s western compositions. “Lone wolf Mc Quade” is a constant presence in my playlists and he is one of the few composers who started writing western music before Ennio Morricone, so his style is different and less influenced by the maestro. Not familiar with Fusco but it’s never too late for discovery.

First I have to mention that the cues don’t have titles. I saw this often with Italian compositions, they are simply titled “Sequence” and the number. In a strange way this helps a review done without having seen the movie. It will be all about the anonymous music and what it tells me. “Sequence 2” lets me know that this is a heroic movie. The horns and the enthusiastic sound of this cue inspire me. In “Sequence 4” I recognize de Masi. This is his distinctive western style, a mix of unforgiving atmosphere and determined music. The western background of the composers is also obvious in the Mexican sounding instrumentation of cues like “Sequence 5” or “Sequence 10”. A lot of westerns centered on the Mexican revolution and even if this movie is far from that, the music still keeps the stamp.

The cues are short (rarely longer than 2 minutes) which takes a little bit from the epic nature of the score. You won’t find cues that will make you want to pledge allegiance and defend the fort but all this is compensated by how good the actual music is. I said I wouldn’t even think about the movie and there I go making this remark.

Pieces like “Sequence 11” or “Sequence 24” or “Sequence 29” remind me why I love Italian music so much. They are exercises in melody and emotion where a divine violin just soars and shows us the sensitivity native to Italian composers. I welcome this tenderness and the sweet claw that grips my heart as old friends who always has a room inside me. The recurring motif must be the love theme of the movie. “Sequence 13” and “Sequence 15” are the kind of orchestral tempests that you can’t forget. The composers went all in and the result is brilliant. You get triumphant horns, loud percussion and everything screams “Charge!!!”. There’s an infectious passion in the music “15” is one of those rare 6 star cues that I mark for my very best of lists. If you aren’t sure about getting this score, just listen to “Sequence 15” and you’ll rush to get one of the 500 copies.

I feel “Col ferro e col fuoco” as if it was a time capsule or a perfectly preserved place that the passing of time can’t touch. It’s a snow globe, if snow globes had dust and rocks in it. The music is eternal and it will never fade away. Why do these scores have to be rare? I wish more people knew them or listened to them because they are treasures of great music. The fiery action sequences alternate with romantic cues and there’s something for everyone. You will rarely find such a beautiful score these days and for the film music lovers who haven’t been exposed to this romantic period “Col ferro e col fuoco” should be a wonderful discovery.

Cue rating: 90 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 34 / 58

Album excellence: 60%

Highlights:

Sequences 2, 4, 10 – 20, 24-27, 29, 33 – 36, 39, 40, 45

About the author

Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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