Film scores

Soundtrack review: Sahara (Ennio Morricone – 1983)

Sahara [front]

The first time I and my sister ever looked up a movie star in a magazine happened almost 30 years ago. Yes, we were ahead of the time I guess. That memory is etched forever inside me. Me, my sister and my mother looking flipping those pages eager to read about our new favorite stars. The magazine in question was “Paris Match”, the only one we had access too, and we were hungry for any information about the beautiful Brooke Shields (whom we both thought was the most beautiful girl in the world back then) and the guy who was hiding underneath the mysterious appearance of the sheik who conquers her heart and saves her in the desert. That figure dressed in dark blue seemed like a vision in our very your eyes. My earliest memories of our family liking a movie and watching it over and over again are related to “Sahara”. This was one of the first video tapes we got and we used to watch it time and time again. It was a great adventure movie, mysterious and fantasy like with the desert and the prince and the race and it also had enough comedy to be very appealing even for kids. I haven’t seen the movie in almost 30 years but I vividly remember it. I remember how Brooke Shields (whose life story we learned back then) dressed as a guy to fool the other race participants (she took her dead father’s place in the race in the last minute). I remember her troubles, I remember how the sheik saved her and I remember a particular scene where two crooks were being tortured in a very ingenious way: the Berbers buried them to their necks and then dropped buckets of bugs on their heads. I also remember scorpions, lots of them and a scary panther.

Imagine my joy when I read that Quarter records were going to release a complete version of the score and, even more, that it was written by Ennio Morricone. I had no idea and memories just overflowed once I saw that announcement. I always felt that my love for Morricone came from some of my earliest memories but I never knew it also came from “Sahara”.

Hearing this score now with more mature eyes and without seeing the movie again is a different experience. This is not your usual Morricone score. I’ve always adored his romantic or sweeping themes but there’s little of that here. I shiver a little at a cue like “Wounded man” and the love theme is vintage, classic and wonderful Morricone. “Ride to oasis” includes everything I love about this composer. It makes me dream; it echoes the vastness and beauty of the desert and has the romantic effect of the loveliest vacation night on the beach. These parts are still my favorite from this score and I can’t get enough of them.

But this is a score mainly about comedy and adventure and it sounds as fresh today as it probably did back when it first came out. The suspense moments are painted with the same brush as the sweeter ones and they don’t feel forced or like fillers. Every piece of music from this score has and knows its own place and the listening experience is a breeze. Ennio Morricone bridges two eras of film music with this score and offers a very nice variety of feelings. I can hear in a cue like “Armour car battle” the sound that dominated the epic Roman empire movies from the 50s and 60s while tracks like the “Car trouble” series echo the loveliest silly European comedies of that time.

I was sure this score was going to win most of its points because of the nostalgia factor, but the music convinced me otherwise. Had I not had this special connection with “Sahara” I still would have enjoyed the score tremendously. It’s amazing how Morricone can turn everything he writes into a classic. This score, expanded as it is, is filled to the brim with great, fresh and exciting music and even 30 years after it was written it can go toe to toe with any modern composition of this kind. It’s adventure music at its best seasoned with a magical romantic section and the most relaxing comedic inserts you’ll hear. But above all, “Sahara” is warm and cuddly and you’ll instantly care for it and congratulate yourself that you have it as part of your film music collection. Me? I’ll spend a little more time with some my earliest and most vivid memories. After all, this movie starred the first actress I ever heard of and wanted to know things about…

Cue rating: 91 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 50 / 78

Album excellence: 65%

Highlights:

Father’s Death

Repressed Emotions

On Your Marks

Get Set… Go

Memories Of Father

Scorpions

Wounded Men

Love Theme / The Boy And The Powder Case

Ride To Oasis (Love Theme)

Waterfall Kiss

You Are To Be Wed

Armour Car Battle

Rasoul Joins The Battle / The Batlle Begins

Panther Pit / Escape From The Pit

Battle

Love Theme

Alarm And Victory

Racing

Sahara (End Credits)

On Your Marks

Sahara (End Credits) [Alternate Version]

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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