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Il Giorno Prima
  • Composed by Ennio Morricone
  • ScreenTrax / 37m

Released internationally as Control, 1987’s Il Giorno Prima stars Burt Lancaster (Burt Lancaster!) as a scientist conducting an experiment by locking people inside a nuclear bunker and seeing how long they last before they start falling apart. (At the time it would have probably seemed unlikely that this would basically be the story of popular television a decade later.)

Ennio Morricone had a longstanding collaboration with director Giuliano Montaldo which ultimately lasted for 40 years. Either side of this one came Marco Polo and Gli Occhiali d’Oro – two scores which (obviously) have little in common with this tense, claustrophobic affair.

Ennio Morricone

What it does have is one truly remarkable piece of music, a requiem which opens the album, “La scelta”. Massed forces of a choir, the orchestra and an organ give it its distinctly religious feel and it really is a magnificent creation – powerful, stirring, a joy to hear.

The rest of the score, save for a brief reprise in “Dopo la scelta”, is very different. There is a warm melody in “Sogno di Hollywood” and later just a hint of warmth in “Al libero sole” but that too is atypical – the bulk of the score is resolutely taut and psychological, the composer exerting his own mind control on the audience.

“Sensi e nonsensi” is tense but remains melodic, with striking little violin solos; the real grip begins to take hold in “Pressione prima”, absolutely typical for Morricone suspense music of this period, with long lines for the higher strings accompanied by these jagged little moments of discord from the lower registers. The centrepiece of all this is the 11-minute “Il Bunker”, a masterpiece of claustrophobia. “La decisione” (which opens the film) is a striking piece, with brass playing a larger role – it’s so doom-laden, an effective portent for what’s to come in the film.

There was no album release at the time of the film – Morricone prepared one but it got shelved. This 1999 release from ScreenTrax is the only one so far (it’s slightly longer than Morricone’s original programme) and is now rather rare – but worth it, particularly for the exceptional opening cue. The rest is challenging at times but very effective.

Rating: *** 1/2 | |

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