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  • Composed by Ennio Morricone
  • Varese Sarabande / 2016 / 48m

Part of that wonderful genre of film that existed primarily in the 1970s, the “international thriller”, Bloodline – based on Sidney Sheldon’s novel – featured a typically diverse cast, led by Audrey Hepburn who inherits her father’s pharmaceutical company after he is killed and then finds herself targeted, inevitably while travelling around Europe.  The cast also inevitably includes Ben Gazzara, more inevitably still James Mason and most inevitably of all Omar Sharif.  It is fair to say that Dr No director Terence Young was not in one of the more successful periods of his career at the time – after this flopped, his next film (which he edited and according to some sources directed) was The Long Days, a six hour Iraqi film written by and about Saddam Hussein (you may have heard of him) and perhaps in an attempt to show that yes indeed, a once-glorious career trajectory could take you even lower than that, he followed it up by making one of the most colossal turkeys of all time, Inchon.

Bloodline came just as the great Ennio Morricone started throwing in slightly more American movies amongst his European projects and featured an LP release at the time (1979) by Varèse Sarabande who later released just under half an hour of the music on a CD Club release which bizarrely paired the score with Red Sonja.  The 2016 Club release is of the full LP programme, for the first time on CD.

Ennio Morricone

Ennio Morricone

The score can be divided into roughly three different aspects.  The first is the raft of cues based around the love theme, a typically lyrical Morricone melody (it’s like a song without words), often featuring piano, swooning strings and the voice of (presumably, though she’s not credited) Edda dell’Orso.  It’s heard straight away in the main title and then many more times later on the album, perhaps most impressively in the gorgeous “Out of the Past”.  It’s enough to melt the coldest of hearts.

Morricone alternates this with very dark, very gritty suspense music, indeed “Mountain Murder” which follows the lilting opening title without pause is a jolting, jarring experience.  As ever it’s extremely effective, and actually perhaps one of those times that it’s so effective at creating tension it becomes a little bit unpleasant.  Even when it’s doing that, it’s hard to be anything but astonished at the technique demonstrated, the mastery of the orchestra.  There’s one standalone action cue, “Pills on Parade”, which is closer to the great Euro-thriller sound of scores like Le Professionnel, and I love it, though it was dropped from the film (Jeff Bond reports in the liner notes that it seemed to be completely at odds with the scene it was written to accompany, though I haven’t seen it).  Late in the score, “No Accident!” is a terrific piece of action with a sound truly unique to the creative genius that is this composer, string ostinatos accompanied by electric guitar flourishes and an insane fluttering flute – it’s just sensational.

Finally there are some standalone lighter pieces.  There’s a bit of Morricone disco, “Bobsled”, which is quite good fun, but not nearly as much as the light pop instrumental “An Almost Perfect Indiscretion”, a comic piece written for Sharif’s character.  An absolutely lovely piece of source music comes later, “Dinner at Maxim’s” (it will forever be a mystery how Morricone has so often managed to make something so slight feel so full of feeling).  There’s also the film version of “Pills on Parade” which was written not by Morricone but by Craig Huxley, he of blaster beam fame (though he’s credited on both the LP and this CD’s back cover as “Craig Hundley”) – and all I can say about it is avoid at all costs.

With a body of work as vast and as good as Morricone’s, it takes something a bit special to really stand out from the crowd and Bloodline isn’t that, but it’s got a strong main theme, some impressive if very challenging suspense music and a handful of great set pieces.  If you have and enjoy the old CD release then it’s probably worth upgrading to get the extra music (which is essentially more of the same, but that’s no bad thing); if you’re a more casual Morricone fan then there are probably a hundred (or two, or three) others that I’d recommend first, but that’s not because there’s anything wrong with this, just a reflection of the extraordinary number of stellar works this remarkable man has given us over the past six (!) decades.

Rating: *** | |

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  1. Juan Carlos (Reply) on Thursday 31 March, 2016 at 10:28

    Excellent review James. Couldn’t agree more with your words.

    I finished listening Varese new cd and the main theme is terrific. Absolutely awesome and I would say one of the most beautiful one ever written by Morricone (and that’s a record!).

    The rest of the score is extremely average but renditions of the main theme gives it a higher rating. I would recommend it to Ennio Morricone fans but it is not this best entry to start.

  2. Marco (Reply) on Thursday 14 December, 2017 at 17:06

    Thank you for your review. I’ve recently bought this score and I love it.