Released: June 24, 2016
Format: Digital (146 min)
Review: Guns for San Sebastian
4 / 5 Stars
For Film Score Monthly\'s first release of an Ennio Morricone score, a well-loved classic was selected for restoration and expansion. 1968\'s Guns for San Sebastian stars Anthony Quinn and Charles Bronson, as an outlaw turned priest and aggressive Yaqui Indian respectively, and while its 18th Century Mexico setting does not quite match up with what is usually found in both American and Italian Western genres, the score can be said to cut from the same cloth. This was post-Dollars for Morricone and his unusual approach found in those genre-bending, trend-settting Sergio Leone films is developed in San Sebastianas well, but with a more emotive core. This new edition from FSM has been remastered from the stereo tapes and for the first time includes the full score.
The album opens with "The Overture", starting with full orchestra and choir essaying a glorious 7-note theme, representing the spiritual aspect of the film, the track then moves into new melancholy material for acoustic guitar and oboe, which develops into the love theme, with wordless vocal by Edda Dell\'Orso. The following track, "Prologue/The Chase", starts unassumingly with guitar and strings drawing out a humble theme which represents the villagers of the film. With an arid blast of Native American pipes, chorus and strumming guitar, the cue shifts into rhythmic action mode as the brass are also allowed to charge forth. "The Long Trek" is the lengthiest cue on the album, shifting from pensive moments to more tense, ominous tonalities, where a repeating, rising 3-note motif demonstrates this. The love theme finishes out the piece, as it heard in further variations in "The Bandits/Leon Tied/Bleeding Statue" and the beautifully rendered "Love Theme from Guns for San Sebastian (Kinita\'s Plea)", the latter again featuring Edda Dell\'Orso.
Suspense builds through "The Assault" while the somewhat downtrodden villagers\' theme appears in both "Restoring the Vilage" and "Teco Shamed/Surveying the Fields", on guitar and strings. The optimistic religious theme from "The Overture" makes a welcome return to open "Building the Dam/Hymn to San Sebastian". Meanwhile, a bout of unsteady, slicing action features in "Leon Fights Tecto". "Love Theme from Guns For San Sebastian (Leon Tells His Love)" shifts from heartbreaking piety back to Edda Dell\'Orso and brief rendition of the love theme, which again receives a full treatment in the next track, "Leon Leaves Kinita". Acoustic guitar and recorder are the performers in "Music at the Governor\'s Dinner while strident strings, brass and drums lead "Army March/Yaqui Camp", followed by hollow, mysterious Indian flutes and percussion.
"The White Stallion" is a brief but triumphant piece for orchestra and solo vocalist. The suspense material from "Yaqui Camp" is developed again in "The Gift", as driving action propels "Gift Returned/Leon\'s Mass/The Attack", interrupted briefly for a statement of both the religious and villagers\' themes. Tension mounts through "The Villagers Prepare to Blow Up the Dam" and finally breaks in the pounding, brutal "Tecto\'s Death/Victory". The score proper closes with the four minute "End Title", which begins with reverential choir, harpsichord and brass before a bit of angry muted brass, tremolo strings and low end piano lead into the final rendition of the love theme. Lastly, this album edition ends with bonus tracks in the form of an alternate version of "The Chase" and the original album version of "Leon Tells His Love", in which the guitar has a more prominent role.
During my years as a fan and collector of film music, there was never an "entry point" into Morricone\'s work for me. I was always aware of his legendary status, voluminous roster of credits and legion of admirers, but there did not appear on my radar a Star Wars or Wrath of Khan or The Final Conflict through which I could be pulled inexorably into his distinct canon of music. Even when it comes to the Western genre, I tend to gravitate to the bright, bustling scores of Elmer Bernstein and the kinetic, percussive Jerry Goldsmith contributions, but after giving more time in recent weeks to Morricone\'s substantial efforts I have found much to enjoy. Guns for San Sebastian is a wonderfully melodic, tragic and compelling window into this side of the multi-faceted master and promises to lead to further aural rewards.
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