Visit the Movie Wave Store | Movie Wave Home | Reviews by Title | Reviews by Composer | Contact me
THE 5-MAN ARMY
Vintage western scoring from Morricone
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
* * * *
Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 2009 Turner Entertainment Co.; review copyright (c) 2009 James Southall.
Financed by MGM, The 5-Man Army was Hollywood's attempt to jump on the spaghetti western bandwagon. It was directed by tv veteran Don Taylor and starred Peter Graves from Mission: Impossible but otherwise had a largely Italian cast and crew. And - of course - there was only one man to turn to for the score; and so Ennio Morricone came on board. It was only eight years since Morricone's career as a film composer had begun - yet (according to IMDB, so the true total is probably higher) this was his 110th score!
His music for spaghetti westerns was of course already well-known, and he trod a familiar path for the spectacular main title theme - a driving theme, accompanied by bizarre choral outbursts and acoustic sound effects, it's a Morricone classic. It forms the basis of several cues on the hour-long album - and never outstays its welcome. I'd rank it amongst the very finest of Morricone's western themes (at least for non-Leone pictures); simply brilliant.
As is common for the composer, much of the album is drawn from a small core of themes - FSM's album gives two tracklistings, one with scene-specific descriptions (reproduced below) and one with the name of the theme the track is drawn from, the typical way of doing things for expanded Morricone albums produced in Europe. Perhaps the pick of the other themes is "Cinque Amici, Cinque Eroi" (heard first in "Introductions"), a terrific piece for horns and choir which conveys such sadness and yet such beauty.
"Muerte Donde Vas?" is a darker piece, especially in its first appearance ("The Execution"), when it is heard in choral form. "Contro il Tempo" is a suspenseful theme, at times dissonant, hugely effective - especially in its most extended presentation, "Out of Time". There are a couple of great set-pieces too; first is "Flowers and Food", a gorgeous guitar piece. And most importantly, the score's highlight (apart from its main theme), the spectacular "Samurai Runs" (aka "Una Corsa Disperata"). It's a particularly intense piece of action music which John Bender describes in the liner notes as "one of the all-time great meldings of orchestral music to action cinema."
Speaking of which, Bender's essay is a fascinating account of film and score; and there's also a track-by-track analysis from Alexander Kaplan. The sound is crisp mono. This is an impressive release of an impressive score, containing many of the ingredients which make Morricone's western scores so beloved; FSM's typically impressive package is the perfect presentation.