Soundtrack review: Peur sur la ville (Ennio Morricone – 1975)
“Peur sur la ville” (or “Fear over the city”) is a 1975 French crime film directed by Henri Verneuil and staring Jean Paul Belmondo. These are familiar names to me from my childhood. Another familiar name is Verneuil’s favorite composer, maestro Ennio Morricone who marks here his fifth collaboration with the director. The plot involves a cop, a gangster and a serial killer who targets women. This release is a hefty 74 minutes long album and it’s great to get such expanded versions of Morricone scores.
The main theme, ominous and for sure dedicated to the gangster, has a lot of elements I love about Ennio Morricone’s music: the aggressive piano that he uses for suspenseful moments and also the harmonica and the whistles that made his Western scores famous. The theme is repetitive and persistent and he adds layer above layer as the cue progresses, until it all ends with a heartbeat in the background. Thank you, drive through. Consider this theme a lesson in film music composition.
I have to admit I am biased when I write about Morricone. Somehow he is the composer who brings me the most nostalgia. His sound, his music has become etched inside me since my earliest memories of music and film. The second one of his scores begins I slip into a different world, a warm cocoon of sun and honey where I feel the most relaxed and at home. And when said score also includes one of his trademark, impossible to replicate and gorgeous in their simplicity romantic themes, you won’t get me out of there soon. “Dolcemente ambingua” is quintessential 70s vacation cues and has the same appeal of an afternoon spent eating gelato in Italy somewhere in a small city by the sea.
I don’t think I have enough words to praise this sound… when “Minaccia telefonata no 1” plays there’s no threat or suspense, just a harmonica and piano theme which makes me think even more of a perfect vacation. Morricone invented this sound, Morricone is this sound and he could build an entire world around it. Don’t mind me; I am lazily drifting on a boat somewhere along the Amalfi coast or the Riviera… the second part of the cue is just as entertaining and leisurely.
This doesn’t mean that the suspenseful or action cues of “Peur sur la ville” aren’t interesting. They make this score as compelling as watching the movie. But for me the highlights are the romantic or even sensual moments (I’m sure Edda del’Orso is the one moaning on “Une boufee de radio”). I would say this score would be the perfect opportunity for someone to be introduced to Ennio Morricone’s music (if there’s anyone in the world who hasn’t been yet): it has everything I could wish for: a great theme, romantic music, the unforgettable harmonica and the police action / suspense. I didn’t expect this to be such an amazing score and I don’t know how I’ve missed it until now. But this is Ennio… Any of his more than 400 scores can be a hidden gem…
Cue rating: 91 / 100
Total minutes of excellence: 46 / 74
Album excellence: 62%
Peur sur la ville
Minaccia telefonata n.1
Essere preso dal panico
Une bouffée de radio
Le Tellier e Helene
Minaccia telefonata n.2
Défense de stationer
Peur sur la ville (final)
Peur sur la ville (suite)