Frizzi, Fulci And The Fever Dream Of Italian Horror
Cinema Junkie / October 5, 2016
I'm in the mood for Italian horror thanks to composer Fabio Frizzi coming to San Diego to perform scores from his films. So let's talk about Frizzi, Fulci and the fever dream of Italian horror.
Beth: Welcome back to another edition of the KPBS cinema junkie podcast. I'm Beth Accomando.
Beth: And I'm in the mood for Italian horror [screaming].
“The dead, I see the dead, city of the dead [screaming].”
Beth: That's right, films like Lucio Fulci’s The Beyond, Dario Argento’s Espiria and Mario Bava’s Black Sunday. And the reason I'm in the mood for Italian horror is we just had Fabio Frizzi perform here in San Diego at Brick by Brick courtesy of Horrible Imaginings Film Festival in Dread Central. Frizzi composed scores for many of Lucio Fulci’s known horror films. He performs some of the scores here in San Diego for his concert Frizzi to Fulci.
Frizzi helped define Italian horror in the 1970s and ‘80s with scores for films such as Zombie, City of the Living Dead known as Power in Italian, The Beyond and Cat on the Brain. I had the opportunity to meet him at Abertoir, The Horror Festival of Wales in 2013. Then to interview him when he did a concert there in 2015. Check out podcast 47 to hear my first overseas episode.
This past week he came to San Diego where I not only got to see him in concert but I also got to cook a big dinner for him and his band. Then I got to see him perform again in Los Angeles for Beyond Fest at the Egyptian Theater where he played the score to The Beyond live.
Beth: Hearing that score played live was a transcendent experience, all films should be experienced like that. From the opening percussion you could feel the music rise up from the floor and enter your body through your feet making the horror feel even more visceral.
Beth: But Frizzi scores are not only about the horror, his ethereal themes tend to challenge expectations. They're about elevating a genre film to tragedy and even to an existential realm, helping to achieve this at the composer's cut screening of The Beyond at the Egyptian Theatre with singer Julieta Zenatti whose haunting voice seemed to channel spirits from another world.
Beth: Frizzi, Zenatti and the entire band provided a breathtaking concert both in Los Angeles and San Diego. And all that got me thinking about an Italian cinema and spaghetti horror in particular.
Beth: My introduction to Italian horror came when I was a teenager and I went to see Suspiria in the 1970s.
“It’s useless to try and explain it to you, you wouldn’t understand. It all seems so absurd, so fantastic, all I can do is get away from here as soon as possible.”
“Suspiria [screaming], you’re only seeing more terrifying than the last 12 minutes of Suspiria for the first 92”.
Beth: That was the perfect come on for the Dario Argento's film which is the one that got me hooked on Italian horror cinema. I went to see it with a friend when I was in high school. If memory serves me right, it was the second feature on a double bill at the Jerry Lewis cinemas in Televista although by that time it might have been renamed the Fiesta Twin Cinemas but it was the first multiplex in my neighborhood.
From the moment Suspiria started I was riveted, the bold imagery, the lurid colors, the pulsing rock score by Goblin, it provided a window to an audacious and seductive new world. And imagine my frustration when my friend who had driven bolted out of her seat after the opening murders and insisted we leave. It would take a couple of years before I actually got to see the end of that film. This was before VHS was booming and it wasn't the type of film to play on television.
But perhaps that taste of Italian horror without the satisfaction of a full meal is what provoked my obsession. I could only imagine what followed and I hungered to see more and when I did I was enthralled. Every frame of Suspiria is a work of art and Argento was my first love an Italian horror but Lucio Fulci and Fabio Frizzi soon followed with Zombie. So let's talk about Frizzi, Fulci, and the fevered dream of Italian horror.
Beth: For this podcast, I speak again with Frizzi as well as with musician Ryan Nestor who came to the San Diego concert and who earlier this year had performed a live score for a screening of Suspiria at University of California San Diego. And I am the podcast with an interview with Miguel Rodriguez of horrible imaginings and John Condit of Dread Central who put on the concert at considerable personal expense. As an introduction to the waking nightmares of Lucio Fulci I went back into the archives and pulled a story out that I did for Public Radio Internationals, The World. And if I sound different remember I was decades younger.
Beth: “If your idea of a scary film is The Rocky Horror Picture Show well this one might not be for you. Its Italian filmmaker Lucio Fulci’s 1981 cult classic The Beyond and tonight is the premiere of the film special rerelease in the United States. The world's Beth Accomando has this profile of the Italian horror master and his gruesome film.”
Beth: You are now entering hell courtesy of Italian filmmaker Lucio Fulci. Fulci’s 1981 film The Beyond is about a young woman who inherits a hotel that was built over one of the seven gates of hell along with films such as Mario Bava’s Black Sunday and Dario Argento's Phenomena. The Beyond defines Italy's unique brand of horror and fantasy. Lucio Fulci’s films in particular have a striking visual style, a penchant for unrestrained gore and the terror of an awaking nightmare.
Although the genre by such famous fans as Clive Barker's, John Carpenter and Quentin Tarantino has humble roots says Antonella Fulci, daughter of the late director.”
Antonella: “I don’t think that here in Italy they have had the big impact when they came out because they were considered like not B movies, sad movies. So they didn't consider them so important to write about it.”
Beth: Relegated to second rate summer releases in their native Italy these films were initially dismissed as schlock entertainment. For example The Beyond was so gruesome that even its star Catriona McCall admits to having a hard time watching the entire film.
Catriona: “I still find today various of the shots like the Joe the plumber coming out of the bottle that I find that absolutely horrendous. There are various things I think that's one of them that I actually can’t watch, I have to sort of put my hand over my face and hide and wait till it's all over which is kind of pathetic but it still affects me in that way.”
Beth: What makes Luccio Fulci so-called Spaghetti horror film so effective is their blend of visceral violence and subtle chills. In The Beyond, the tarantula attack turns into a gore fest. Fulci gives the film an uncomfortable edge by offering a shot from the point of view of the helpless victim’s eye just before it's gouged out by a nasty spider. But Fulci also employed more subtle horror effects says Antonella who frequently joined her father on the set.
Antonella: “He was a dictator with the sounds and he said that even the sound is very scary sometimes and it’s true.” [screaming]. “He wanted that from the start to the end of the movie, all the people in the movie must seem dead somehow. So if you see the light is very cold in the movie.”
Beth: Italian horror films such as The Beyond are now being rediscovered on video and the festival circuit. Jerry Martina’s vice president of Rolling Thunder pictures is dedicated to distributing films which may have been overlooked when they first came out.
Jerry: “There's really not the discovery there used to be of like going to the night shows and revival houses that used to be able to open up those doors for you. So to some degree that's what we're trying to do. We're just trying to expose people to different genres.”
Beth: Catriona McCall the lead in The Beyond already knows about Italian horror firsthand and believes that the midnight venue is perfect for the film.
Catriona: “On the stroke of midnight the ghoulies and the ghosts come out maybe I don’t know. It's slightly kit showing at midnight but I think that's nice. As long as not too many people have nightmares afterwards when they go to sleep that it might become absolutely perfectly peacefully just like Lucero I hope so.
Beth: Fulci claims never to have had a nightmare in his life. He does films have caused others to have more than a few nightmares says his daughter.
Antonella: I have shown them my tapes to some friends fairly recently and they are very young. They are younger than me and I thought that the. So young people couldn't be frightened from anything and they got scared and they called me after they went home late at night I’m scared of this movie.
Beth: Actress Catriona McCall things Luci Fulci’s awful she's obsession with horror and fear reflects the extreme emotions and passions of the Italian character.
Catriona: The Italians are renowned for being terrific designers. So the artwork in those movies especially considering they didn't have the technology that we have today or the money in actual fact it's pretty incredible because. And when I when I describe to people, the zombies I remember being amazed when I saw Johnny making them up and he finished off by just picking up a pot of Orange jam and just pouring it at the top of their heads. So it all kind of drips down and of course it's very effective.
Beth: Although not much seemed to scare Luci Fulci, he seemed acutely tuned in to what could scare his audiences. Soon you too can get a chill as the quintessential spaghetti returns to the screen and Fulci returns in his own way from beyond the grave. For The World, this is Beth Accomando reporting.
Beth: That was 1998 story for The World when the Beyond was rereleased. I recorded my new interview with Fabio Frizzi on September 29th. As we waited for the band's equipment to arrive at Brick by Brick. I have been or cut some of the music from the San Diego concert into the interview were Frizzi talks about certain films.
Beth: So I'm here with Fabio Frizzi before the concert that's going on tonight at Brick by Brick. So tell me how do you feel coming to San Diego.
Fabio: It’s like a virus that enters into your blood. You know it's a place where after a couple of hours you feel at home, you arrive, do just a little tour and you say I didn't come till today here.
Beth: You guys checked out the ocean first thing when you came here.
Fabio: Yes because it was some of the leading. Things seen I can see today Newman C. and I in the north of Europe. I went to Oslo so north of the city. I never put my feet in the Pacific Ocean. So I took no I have to do that. It's very very cold. It's very good but for some minutes I had the chance to and but it's so beautiful cold but so beautiful incredible.
Beth: And now you're here by Brick By Brick and you were just telling me that you found out something about Taylor guitars here.
Fabio: Yeah. Many people know that I am I was born like a player and also if it's quite strange to find a composer. As first instrument that you talk about that. I know I am like this. I have every kind of guitar because I'm a collector and so my fan and everything but I have no Taylor and I love Taylor guitars. So we were waiting for four people who were bringing. Once. And there I was a big guy. It seems a little guitar because in his hands. And it was our twelve strings and the guys here it's ten thousand tells me he is a from a Taylor he works. What. What I used and he come to keep out of from the rate the incredible guitar what string so well. Well done and he said I did this one. I know so and so I tried and I asked him. Maybe this is the first time I could to have the chance to buy a Taylor guitar because Taylor is from here and I didn't know it's far from San Diego.
Beth: Tell me about the concert you're performing tonight. This is the Frizzi to Fulci. [phonetic] [00:14:46] So tell me what it's about and why you put this together.
Fabio: Let's say that Frizzi to Fulci she was born three years ago a little more than three years ago but I would call this one fifty two food she to zero in the sense that every project that grows goes ahead and so and we started from my from little show from these old friend this great director. And now I try to do easy to other moments of my life in that moment. For example there is a new suite. From here.
Fabio: That was called the David Fish, but it's about a Baba movie and I did this go over to a to have the multi-track and I decided to promote. To create a new you suite twelve minutes all the things.
Fabio: Also other things are new I mean so many new things. The project goes on as I did the reserve The is a new project called Beyond the composer's got a joker that I wanted to play that they wanted to do rewriting. Something of the older the score also because if you haven't to do a live score live your mouse to play a little bit. We do show it. We had to cut a lot of music then so I can’t stay on stage for twenty five minutes now. So that's what we decided we had to you know the first the first time. Eric Cantona release. And people was very, very happy standing and a blue uploading it. So I'm very happy and I think those two projects are going well.
Beth: I had last night, I we all had a dinner and my Rodwell Rodriguez from Horrible Imaginings and John Condit from Drug Central was there and we were talking about horror films and about Luccio Fulci in particular. So what do you think about the way Luccio Fulci made horror films that inspired you to create music that seems like so very different from other horror themes I mean you seemed to kind of defy conventions and expectations. Was there something in what he was doing that kind of inspired you.
Fabio: The magic was that when Luccio told me the first time to do Zombie Two [music] was for me the very first time I was thinking about horror. I was quite young. I was twenty, twenty nine. But my life of composing room. I was about ten year so I had to return everything but the horror of no because it's must have been so the first problem for me was to find a way and it wasn't an easy choice not because of it. You have to find some ideas out of you obviously you'll be some good music but in the end the you must to find an idea into yourself because your music must be also you. Not only ideas from out of you so I think the show was very clear and I am. Like you know times we made the pictures the real pictures you took a white piece of paper then you can press and they may just remain there on the on the on the newspaper and I more or less like this if somebody is clear and let me understand what he wants so what kind of a sensation he wants. I can try to do and I think that. Yeah it's my music but we can ask ourselves why work with me is maybe the most important and the so I think it was also came from him to me something very important for him to create this means.
Beth: You mentioned zombies.
Beth: This is one of Luccio Fulci films and there is a scene in that where there is a zombie versus shark and when he came to you and said you need to compose music for a zombie fighting a shark what went through your head.
Fabio: That's what really a big problem because it was the demeanor seen there is also the eye but that was a climax scene no in the in the movie. I had to return many of the some years before I had written a very similar theme which was for which you could a C movie. So when asked me something very something when I get back to these into this the theme and I can create something so the melody is was a family is very similar to the melodies. It's better. We created something similar to the other one. But totally new and true that the bass drum was there with this and that. We'll be atop a little bit and then and with a man look around I did the voices were better.
Fabio: [music] And I loved it oh so much, every time we're doing in the concert the thirty something magic that comes through it's always like when you tell
Beth: [music] Did he tell you specifically things he wanted and did you react to that or did you come to him with some music and then he gave you feedback and like which came first.
Fabio: Now he was very, very let me very always very free but he didn't have decision I mean it was or yes or no when you meet the person you are quite afraid you are I must to do what he wants. After a while when you become more friend and then things in the IOS you think. Now he knows me you knows me very well he would like sure no Lucia was not so necessary so logical. I mean also in the last the word too except maybe in the Cat In The Brain because he told me just write what you want and so and I write and I wrote something or good night. Now I love that. That's the score. [music]
Fabio: But when we did the Bow down. We were we knew each other very well I knew what Luccio could want but one thing he didn't like and he told me it's it wasn't shit. So it was like this is when you when you are talking about out of that there are no friends after ten minutes you go you could go and into together a laughing for life things.
Beth: One of the things we talked about when we were discussing your music was that you bring this element of sadness to these horror themes. Where does this come from?
Fabio: People who know me maybe they know me very well for example maybe you can say that I'm laughing but that I'm not real the real Fabio I mean when I'm with friends. I'm always very happy and so but so I think that inside me. The reason always some not better consideration about life but I know that life as the white and the black and I have known this. So maybe when I when I'm around thinking about it comes naturally. I mean the knife was a logical idea but every time I write for a love theme for example the reason according to me at. Beautiful love theme in living fish. But there is always something yeah. Joy love is joy but there is always something back and now that is not the same flower little a little sad little maniconical maybe this was a my chance to find a way. Also on the horror movies to command to say something like this not only when you talk about dead the other words you talk about the Beyond that it's real horror. But beyond the beyond or there is always a man or woman. And they suffer or they live in this in another way. Not so spectacular, much more intimate and this is a maybe is the thing I could find.
Beth: I'm wondering a lot of the Italian horror films that were coming up and not just the ones the films you're composing for but also ones Goblin did music for. The Italian films had such a very different musical sound than anything in America. So did you feel you were having influences from Italy or from some place completely different?
Fabio: This by what some great composers like for example Morricone did going to one interview many years ago he said I don't listen to music of other people because I don't want to be in France and I don't believe so. I think I am I always loved every kind of music every kind of good music. I told you other times that I love many musicians don't read them for example John Williams says he's a genius. He writes extremely well for orchestra and I love that you must consider that in Italy we did we couldn't have those kind of budgets consider that one typical American score can as I have. Cost which is the same cost for our entire movie in Italy. So imagine the cost to survive for something that would be room in London where we choose the name of the studio of the Beatles Abbey Road. It was a little less than one million so you couldn't spend this. So somebody asked me why I use the keyboards us so much in the beginning and I say in the beginning we couldn't spend for orchestra or we could spend a little bit for some strings not eighty strings. So no you had you had I mean and other things that moved and so and the other thing is that many groups which were our love the music we loved the uses those keyboards of those synthesizer so. So we thought in that way but coming back to your question. You can find some of the following it's cetacean so I don't see if I can say like this but I think it's a melting pot of it. Many things you know you can lose yourself in front of a piano and everything and there is you have to let that idea become something you.
Beth: You also composed for the City of a Living Dead which has some amazing scenes very extreme example and again when he came to you and said all right. There's a scene in a car where this girl's going to I don't even know how to describe what happens to her she's trying to disembowel herself I don't know but again like when you get these kind of scenes to usually tell you. About the scene or do you see the footage first and then how do you proceed from there?
Fabio: You know every time was more or less the same thing the most important thing for me in that moment and then that in those years was not to have the happy to because the first time I've ever seen zombie. Obviously I was shocked at the because no one but we were in my we all are so we could go had back I had and you could the see the cocked. So you could see that it wasn't a real person and hahaha. And you could laugh if you go on like this and you lose the magic of the scene you risked not to write the good music because you say okay, okay this is a no it's not a man it's not a woman. So you're you must always force yourself to remain in the situation for a horror movie. If I escaped from that way of doing. I failed I told you then how would I have I felt so free that for the beginning of that beautiful scene in the symmetry. But the beginning is so sweet and so sad. You know what for me it was the flute it was the strings towards the end of the bottle when we heard this. It's not to go to the song and also I wasn't I disagree with him but you need. So you don't like okay keep it away then in the end. Why when everything goes it's a joy for everybody.
Beth: You mentioned that you didn't have the budgets early on to do these big orchestral sounds for scores with today's technology when you have computers that can kind of create almost anything. How has that changed the way you compose. And the kind of things you can do I can again declare technology had a lot also writing for orchestra because I remember that I had little medium orchestras sometimes so for The Beyond for example we had the orchestra but one of the problems that I can tell you that maybe a lot of people doesn't think about when you wrote on paper for a let's say fifty person you had I caught a copy or another. I don't know if there's a real name for a person who keeps the score the total score and wrote and wrote used to write the single parts for your guitar for the first violin second day and then the day after where you are recording he horizon gave each part to each musician. Maybe he wrote during the night and they he arrived with you it was a time when you arrived you through the day after and we thought but how many mistakes you could find because the poor man copying with the little light couldn't make it so before recording we read them. We corrected the mistakes and after we started recording we read. You can imagine the technology now with a sim you can bring to your home in your studio everything you know your tester with your ears. Before telling it's okay and you. You know that your printer doesn't make mistakes. So you get in the studio. You say let's record and you can record immediately. You can imagine how I can through a much of money unless you spend today. Concerning sounds, I disagree. We have a wonderful sounds but the real orchestra is the real orchestra. So you can substitute you can do something else or as a Will composer do and I try to do it every time you can mix and you can have a for example percussion sound so beautiful to the full percussion. But so the strings you must have an orchestra. So you have to pull together things and things. It's another way or composing it you're must have the. The real ideas to get that together and in the new can then the great the results. I love it.
Beth: Thank you very much for taking some time before your show.
Fabio: Thank you too, and I hope you like it.
Beth: I had to let Fabio go to do a sound check. And then perform after the concert. I grabbed Brian Nestor a musician who attended the concert as if it were religious service in a church.
Beth: I'm outside brick by brick where Fabio Frizzi just finished his concert. It's hard to find a quiet spot right now because there are still people milling around trying to meet and greet the maestro. I am speaking with Ryan Nestor who is a musician who just watched the concert and I wanted to find out what he thought about it. So Ryan what did you just experience.
Ryan: Oh well what I just experienced a was a combination of music that is unique in that it captures what the film shows and sort of this guilty pleasure of the viewer we watch these for horror films and yet the music is baby is able to simultaneously capture the energy of the film and sort of please our viewing pleasure and so I just saw this music. For the first time live. It's music I've heard for so long and yet it just felt like seeing an old friend or something. It's it was it was so mazing to hear it live.
Beth: So this was Fabio Frizzi doing a lot of the scores from the Luccio Fulci Italian horror films of the seventy's and eighty's. What about this music is different from what most horror music does.
Ryan: Well I think at a time when poor film The horror the horror film genre in general they use music so much so differently than almost all other films in the horror genre in that the music comes from almost a rock band or prog rock a static in that it's it can almost seem simplistic and yet it captures such a wide range of feelings both on the screen and what the viewer I think is it's kind of experiencing and I think that's very different than the traditional orchestral model which might be more based in a well traditional model where they're giving a sort of a sense of dissonance or jagged rhythm to kind of portray the scene here you have much more of a just a US. I don't want to use the word simplistic too often but a rock idiom. But they use that just in fell of the enveloping volume in the intensity of this growing intensity of volume frame by frame it it's just it's an amazing, amazing way to capture the scenes of the horror films.
Beth: A lot of music that's kind of conventional is kind of punctuating jump scares and essentially kind of telling you what to feel rather than like and a lot of this music. Tonight that we heard there's this kind of sadness to it and it's kind of an otherworldly quality that. It is not necessarily what you would expect in these kind of and these are like gore fests horror films. These are not subtle in any means they're very over the top so what do you think led to that. Why do you think these Italian films were so different?
Ryan: Honestly I don't know why it was the Italian directors and musicians who came up with this sort of group. I mean both Argento and Fulci both sort of used in a lot of their films this this kind of ensemble and more or less similar aesthetic. I'm not sure who did it first or this was a sort of thing that just happened but I think people quickly respond positively and it's so powerful and effective to see these films and to hear this this sort of musical accompaniment.
Beth: I mean you're a musician and I was just curious if maybe you had any insight into why that kind of music might have worked so well
Ryan: I think that this music takes relatively basic musical structures and it lets the listener kind of become attached to them and they amplify the there's a sense of rhythm, rhythm that just builds and builds and builds and it's very easy to attach it to what's going on in the scene and I think to contrast that with your with your question previously with traditional musical companies for horror film where they're just telling you they're there pops and they're jarring dissonance you know to tell you oh this is a scary moment in this in this situation. The music is with you. It's very much. You're aware of it, it comes from a sort of it comes from a place that many people can relate to from their youth. It's a music that's coming out of the rock tradition and I think that there's an energy in this music. That is just so it is so it works so well with the intensity of the entire whole Rachana but there's a mystery to this is it was a well I mean I don't know why it works so well I mean look at the response. It's just it's an overwhelming music.
Beth: You are a musician at U.C.S.D. and you actually performed the score to Suspiria live. What made you want to do that and what did you think that would either bring to the film or what would it do to make people more aware of what that music was doing.
Ryan: I am a classical musician and I of course I have a passion for playing music and relating to an audience making music live and feeling that relationship between those listening in and those on stage. I'm also my whole life I have loved the horror the horror genre and it's an Italian horror films that I came to later actually in life that I now judge all horror films by I think that the music of Argento and Suspiria and of course in in Fulci’s Zombie score. It's just the perfect. It's the perfect music for these films. It's memorable, it's intense to answer your question about why I perform this live when this is music for a film I think that this music uniquely translates to a live idiom. You know you only need a certain handful of players as music is rooted in or in a sort of rock tradition there is just this when you hear it live. It might even be better than what it you're at home on your television you can envelop the audience which is what Argento actually originally intended he wanted he wanted to almost obscure some parts of the dialogue he wanted the audience to feel the music and to sense the music more than almost anything else and I think that's a good a very good reason to play it live in term and people of that because now are on our T.V.'s that can sort of get lost that music is very, very important Argento and I think to a successful chick.
Beth: I have to say I went to see your performance of the Suspiria score. And it opens in black right before the titles and the first thing I'm not terribly musical so I'm not sure I am identifying the instruments. I think the first thing was some sort of drum tympani drums or you know when you were playing it live. I could feel the music like coming from the floor like through my body. It was just like there was a chill I got goosebumps when that started
Ryan: Just to yeah to reiterate I had I had five I discovered some interviews of Argento and I know that when they were scoring the Suspiria with Goblin the idea was to have the music in the forefront of the film in the final mix in the sense of the theaters. It was music sound effects dialogue in that then that order and now that it's on D.V.D. that has actually been much more equalized and is a much is the equalization is much different than the original to my understanding the original premiere and so I think playing it live. Not only do you have these musicians standing in front of you. So that automatically draws the attention of the audience course but you can E.Q. it the way you want and we were able to really bring that level of volume that I think Argento wanted it doesn't take a lot to make that energy of the film that the film is just shaking with energy it's an intense film and that music is just so well suited.
Beth: So why do you think it's important for contemporary audiences who may not be familiar with these kind of horror films to test them out or sample them I mean there wasn't a huge crowd here but it was a highly appreciative crowd. And I feel like these films really hold up well I watch them again and again and I wish more people would see them but why do you think it might be important for a younger audience or a new audience or a new generation to kind of go and revisit these or visit them for the first time.
Ryan: Well as you stated the audience was not huge but it is a very there was a great intensity and appreciation from this audience myself included. And I'm no stranger to that as a as a musician specializing in contemporary classical music very often and the situation is that I perform for very small audiences but their audiences who have come out for a particular reason and I think that I don't. Yeah it's not it's not so much a quite a question I don't think of why should audiences come out to see this meet that this movie or that new music. I think that the responsibility is with the musicians, curators, and artists to just continue doing what they think is important and there will always be there. People will follow that and you saw here tonight. Maybe we didn't need much bigger of an audience. It was just a great it was a great audience. We always wanted bigger but it was a good audience and it was these films will never go away and this music will never go away. It is in the canon. It's in the canon and you know now it's such good music and they're such good films and it's a very hard question to answer though because I want everyone to like these films but the reality is that not everyone wants to like these films. So I think that people like Miguel and yourself. People like me. We just have to do what we're passionate about and people come out of the woodwork. As you know there was a very eclectic group here tonight that loves music so and this and these films.
Beth: Did you have a favorite piece tonight that he played?
Ryan: Zombie. Absolutely. That's that. The horror film by which I judge all others maybe a close tie with Suspiria but I also that's my favorite film score for a horror film is Zombie.
Beth: Awesome, thank you very much.
Ryan: Yes thank you very much.
Beth: That was Ryan Nestor who I'm hoping will have an opportunity to perform the score Suspiria alive again in San Diego. Because it was such an amazing and breathtaking experience. Now for the final interview with Miguel Rodriguez and John Condit. It was after the concert was over and after Miguel had dropped off all the Italians at their hotel room. We started talking around two am on Friday morning. Maybe it was a bad idea to do the interview then but the emotions they expressed were very genuine
Beth: The Fabia Frizzi concert ended a few hours ago and Miguel, you had a bit of an emotional moment at the end of the concert.
Miguel: Opening act is taking the darkness and making it art. And I made art with the artist who is standing on the stage right now. [applause] This man his name is, oh they are cutting me off. I’ve seen his name on the screen since I was six years old, seven years old, or ten years old. And now I’m standing next to him and having fucking coffee with him. Yesterday on the fucking beach.
Beth: Tell me how you felt at the end.
Miguel: Well because it wasn't necessarily how I felt at the end it's how I felt throughout the concert. It's how I felt throughout this very surreal two days where I've had a chance to mingle sensually just be around hang out with on a personal level with this this figure who's been with me. Essentially as far back as I can remember you know we think about these kind of legendary mythical celebrity status. Figures in art and culture or movies pop culture or what have you and we never think they're real human beings until they ask you to join them for a walk around the beach and have a cup of coffee with them. And that's precisely what happened with Fabio Frizzi yesterday. We've been planning this for about a year then a very trying experience to put this show on in San Diego. And it's been very expensive and it's a high cost of events. But it's also a passion event and everything that drives that passion was in play on stage for two hours which by the way was longer than they played the last time I got the first and only last time I got to see them. Only this time they were there because well because we made it possible. And you know we're the ones who signed the immigration paperwork. We're the ones who really got them to play in the United States this time it was kind of us doing that and that moment they talked about when it was just before their encore when they finished The Beyond score. I was there and Fabio reach just invited me onto the stage and I didn't and didn't have anything prepared to say but. I just let it all out like you know exactly why I think they're so important. Exactly why I went through extraordinary personal cost to make this happen and why I think it's completely worth it because this is something that I identified with and I think in a lot of ways. Fabio Frizzi’s music is like a soundtrack for our lives a soundtrack for the lives of. People who are kind of freaks or feel outcast or have at any point and he gives us a voice in you know. Have him pull me on stage and immediately embrace me it was a bit much. It was a lot to handle.
Beth: What do you have to say about your initial connection to this music when you were younger?
Miguel: One thing I do think about Fabio Frizzi’s music in particular film scores in general but Frizzi’s music in particular is the score. He provided the scores to these really over the top gore films really I mean exploitation films but there's this bizarre marriage of the trashy exploitation the over the top carnage and violence and then this strange kind of art house mystique that especially Luccio Fulci. and his directors of photography would put into the images and that Fabio Frizzi would put into the soundscape there's this marriage that is something wholly unique they just can't you just can't find it anywhere else and that's why people watch these movies when people who are first introduced to these movies they don't want to make of them like what is this what's even going on and this because they are not totally coherent they're not totally linear they're like fevered dream in a lot of ways and a lot of that is owed to Fabio Frizzi And so I was introduced to Frizzi’s films at a very early age because you know my family particularly my aunts and my grandmother take me to the video store I grew up on home video and a little later there was the zombie release that you would you know I would see the cover for ages and begged to see it because. It has that amazing image of the Comvistascore Zombie [phonetic] [00:52:04] with the worms coming out of the eyehole and I always wanted to see that movie and so we watched it and you have these expectations for a horror film particularly with the music of the horror film where there are lots of like jump scare nodes and the kind of like oh I hear the scary music Now the scary things going to happen it kind of builds your expectation but the music in zombie in the music in a lot of Luccio Fulci’s films. Fabia Frizzi scores wasn't like that it wasn't this track your expectations it was more of an iffy aerial atmospheric it held you by the hand as you walked through this fevered dream and it touches it's strange that it touches you instead of scares you. Because rather than be this what we think of horror in America especially as this boo and you know this jump scare kind of thing. It's more of a tragedy there. It's hard to explain without hearing the music I'm sure you'll play a clip. [music] But in Zombie in particular you have the typical night of the Living Dead kind of they're trapped in a building in this case old church or a hospital. It's a church and the zombies of course are breaking through the door but the music is not at all what you'd expect. It's more like it's more tragic it's more sad and I remember just that was one of my first times as a child saying who did this who's responsible for this music. Why does it sound like this and actually searching the credits for a name and I remember seeing obviously helps that it's a litter of short it's a very you know it's a punchy name Fabio Frizzi. You know. So that's one of those names that just sticks out of my head and seeing his name and on the back of movie covers is one of the things that would make me rent a movie is back in that those days you would go to the movie the video store and you've got a whole smorgasbord to choose from but you can only have one movie it's not like Netflix. Where is that? And so and whatever you get your ass. Oh well that's it. You'd be better like it or who cares. And so as you know well this one was for before you must. And that you know them you ask these questions and it's like you know biographies on
Beth: John you helped sponsor this event here. Why did you want to put this on?
John: There's not a lot of opportunities that you have in your life to do something where you can bring something that's literally magic to your own locality. I don't know if everyone in San Diego really appreciates what happened this evening.
Fabio Frizzi is one of the greatest Italian composers of our time and for me this was about bringing something very special that that people would appreciate. But it was almost like if you weren't there tonight you missed something magical I was in tears from the moment they took the stage show the moment they left and I wanted to bring something to San Diego and give back to the fandom in a way that that a lot of people don't get the chance to the scores of Frizzi are unique. They're romantic in a way that the Italian films are romantic they brought something to the American film industry that we hadn't seen before and for me bringing them here and sharing that with people is incredibly important.
Beth: I was talking to Ryan Nestor who is a musician from U.C.S.D. who performed the Suspiria score live and we were talking about. I wonder what these films would play like if you took their Frizzi’s score off and put a conventional kind of a jump scare score that punctuates it and I would just be curious to see two audiences being able to watch the original score and the other what and just see if there was what kind of different reaction you would get to what's on screen.
Miguel: I don't think that asserting that Luccio Fulci’s films would be lesser without Fabio Frizzi’s score is really saying doing a disservice of all I think that's complete truth and I think would you feel she would be the first to agree with that statement. The thing is you know the film is a collaborative art and if there's anything that Fulci did marvelously well it was finding his collaborators. But yeah I don't think it would be the same without Frizzi I mean it's the Fabio Frizzi, Luccio Fulci collaboration's and Fulci didn't always work with Frizzi but when they worked together it was magic.
It was like John Carpenter working with Kurt Russell it was magic. When they got together and certainly the best stuff and they did they did their early stuff together like zombie was in the late seventy's and when we did Cat in the Brain which was many, many years later in the early ninety's I believe he brought three D. back in free to square that Cat in the Brain by the way is an interesting met a film because in the film. He directs himself he plays himself and he explores the effect that making all these gore films had had on his own psyche and he has this amazing image of that which is a literal cat just ripping away and eating his brain and that's why it's called Cat in the Brain.
And you know they project the image and you see that a lot when they play that is that captures like there's a real cat going into the brain but I only bring up Cat in the Brain because it was a mad and it was an extremely personal later life project for Luccio Fulci And I think it's quite telling that he would go back to his old friend. Fabio Frizzi to score it after so many years so that just for me is one evidence of their indelible pairing.
Beth: We've talked about Italian horror films and also Italian spaghetti westerns and this sense of kind of this Italian operatic sensibility. What do you think it is because it's not just Fulci and Frizzi you have Dari Argento and Goblin and you know of Mario Bava’s films. What do you think it is about these the Italian horror films that at this particular time the seventy's and eighty's where the sensibility about horror and the choice of music was so different from what was going on here in the United States.
Miguel: Well in the seventy's and eighty's. There's. First of all you know there's a history in terms of filmmaking. But for that dramatic flair you're talking about. I think that's really a cultural thing with the Italians that is just part of their language for example you know I drove just thinking out with them. I drove them to the beach and. They don't express themselves like you and I would express ourselves just like I did at the beach. No no it's like oh Mama Mia bellisimo, Miguel believe me again and again this is like a magical thing. Please. Oh Mama Mia bellisimo you know. Like it was the whole van was this ecstatic all of them were saying this and just going to the beach and saying hey thanks for bringing us the beach is nice is a really interim magic musical event of language and expression and I don't know if.
I feel like maybe that carries out in the art as well but you bring up this because the westerns that I know you love to talk about Django and the fact that the proxy Ku Klux Klan guys don't wear white hoods but these bright red hoods. Because white hoods are just not baroque enough. And the music to that to not Frizzi but it's also really operatic and. It's a baroque country. If you go big or you don't do anything. The women in the movies are all these huge hair, fully made up, buxom amazing goddesses and they don't take any crap they like their stern looks in their all of their expressions are very forceful and full of drama full of music and I think yeah I think it's just cultural. But of course I'm just going on my experience with watching lots of films and two days hanging out with van load of Italians.
Beth: So John, you are with Dread Central you are dealing with horror all the time and with horror fans. What do you think current horror fans feel about these Italian horror films are you feeling that there is a connection with a large contingent of contemporary horror fans or do you feel you have to kind of push it towards them in order to make them take some note.
John: For me it's about being a steward of the genre and to some things that came before that it's well it's weird for me because the films that kids grow up on these days are within the last five to ten years and when I was a kid growing up and the films that I watched. I grew up on films from the seventy's and eighty's and sixty's but kids today they're lucky to see films that are even five or ten years older than they were they were at the time it's weird because things these days are so disposable and there's so much noise and so much content. These kids are already growing up on films that are remade within five to ten years of themselves
Miguel: When you do have a million streaming services with a million options and you have younger people and being really stereotypical but generalizing you. You know the new generations of fans clicking through Netflix or whatever they're going to want to save Pat I think when I was a teenager in high school we wanted to find the craziest most insane most disturbing stuff we could it was like a test. You know you're the jerky little kid and you want to make sure that you watch the nastiest thing you can find you could always count on the Italians because the Italians had Mondo Cane which had some of the worst most brutal most absolute exploitative garbage that that has ever been committed to celloid. You know like Goodbye Uncle Tom and the original Mondo Cane some stuff that's truly putrid and of course the Italians had Cannibal Holocaust.
John: With horror the Italians really pushed the envelope that they said what can we do that is going to shock people. But I don't really know that it was meant to be shocking. It was it was a lot of what can we bring to the table that's going to be unique.
Miguel: I haven't read any of the novels but I hear they're the same way like a lot of the pulp novels were. The pulp crime novels were a lot of the giallo those are based on but certainly the comics which I have read a lot of the comics are just vicious and brutal and are filled with you know great bodily harm and rape and all kinds of stuff. And so I think it's just Italian pop culture in general has pushes the envelope a lot more. You know one great example actually is the splinter in the eye scene in Zombie it. It's great. There were definitely people tonight when they showed they projected that scene that had not seen it before because when the splinter actually goes into the eyeball nobody really expects it to go all the way because a lot of those movies you have the getting closer. They have all getting close to the eyeball and then the rest of it's kind of off screen it lets you do your imagination.
John: This is not making it would have stopped the hair but the Italians or the Italians were like No no. Screw that we're going to go all the way into the eyeball and then park popped the eyeball out of the side and you're going to have to sit for the whole ride. The filmmakers were pushing what they could show on camera and the scores especially of Fabio Frizzi were right there with the filmmakers they were they were saying. We're going to take this a little bit farther than you're comfortable with and the music would be note for note right there with the filmmaker they. I don't know that they understood what they were doing at the time but everything just kind of flowed.
Miguel: Yeah I kind of just came up with something are and this is another point that I was thinking too about. People's tastes today. You know horror has gone in very today and that is just antithetical to what the Italian or was. It. I mean everybody wants something everything to be so realistic and follow you know logically they wouldn't do that. Well fuck logic that's what makes this fun. There's a great book. I'm trying to remember exactly what it's called but it's a really it's a very dry and academic but it is traces the history of Italian horror all the way back. Very, very early silent errors through Fulci in Argento and even now the book at the very beginning says if I had to describe horror I would call it hallucinatory horror and that that's totally correct and one thing that for people who are used to the idea that a film is not good unless it at here is to as realistic a regimen as possible or as realistic an approach as possible then something like City of the Living Dead will really thrill of them or Manhattan baby. Really throw them because there's a lot of like what the hell just happened in this movie. What. Why did this scene immediately follow that scene it just doesn't make any sense. One thing I love about all these it's not the most realistic thing in the world you know about how they did it. You know they took a mold of a head and I don't know exactly what they made the eyeball of some kind of gelatin or whatever and that splinter goes all the way into that molded head works it's affective we buy into it but I think that's part and the blood the blood is this like fire engine gush it's beautiful but it's not realistic. It's representational it's something that you have to buy into and I think for me. That is what makes it more memorable. Then say that you know if I was going to say like what is very take Who are these days found footage is probably the most extreme example of that and there's very few found footage that I find memorable year. It's actually more like a roller coaster because with a roller coaster. You have the experience in the moment and then once you get off the rollercoaster you say oh that was fun and then there's no that's not on the memories gone really of the actual like heart pumping of the roller coaster. Whereas something like The Beyond is not really it's more tragic and more disturbing and more when you buy into that ridiculous world and actually follow through on a Macall and care about and David war back and actually care about what happens to their characters and here that Fabio Frizzi music with that lone flute. You remember it. I have dreams about it. It sticks with me and it calls back to me days after I've seen it. I still hear the music.
Beth: We just screened the remastered Phantasm and looking at that an American film it feels very Italian and very influenced by kind of Fulci and Argento and even the music of Fabio Frizzi.
Miguel: The music is amazing and I can't remember the names of the two composers on it now because it's what three in the morning. There's only now but two forty seven who was close but yeah I mean the mutant The other music in and I'm just like in a lot of the Frizzi ones he does this kind of theme and variations where the main theme echoes throughout the film and might have a couple of variations here and there. So you find yourself trying like pulled into the movie by this repetitive melody and dark melody and that's part of what makes it almost like an earworm but because the movie is connected to the melody it traps the movie in your head and I think it makes it more memorable That's why I think one of the reasons I think Phantasm is so memorable or even want to go back older the Psycho score by Bernard Herman is another one when she's driving that all of the that that that driving scene with that music and to say nothing about the shrieking shower murder scene
Beth: To bring this back to Frizzi and the concert that you just put on did you have a favorite moment at the concert?
Miguel: Man that’s really hard. Other than when I got to go on stage and give Frizzi a hug in front of everybody and get a kiss from Julietta on the cheek. I'm going to go with the blast fighter being the first encore song because that song is awesome. I don't really have a favorite moment. Now I can't say I do because the whole thing was it was one holistic experience.
John: I have to agree with Miguel and part of that is because I really don't have as expansive knowledge of Italian filmmaking it as my goal does but for me. There's one standout moment played out last night at dinner when I see played the refrain from the beyond on the piano. That discordant piece is beautiful and when they played it live. It was very hard and I think that will stick with me forever in the way that Angus Graham reading you know polo the weekend horrors will stick with me it was the kind of thing that you had to be there for and seen very, very talented musicians bring to life things that I've seen on film was amazing but there's something about that that off key discordant piece. It's very much indicative of everything about the beyond everything about the beyond is very off key very strange and as you watch it. You're like why does this make sense. Why are they doing that? How does that fit here why does she have no eyes? Why is there a goddamn German shepherd like you don't know or that nothing really fits and at the end they're fucking like they walk out the door and there's nothing there. Well I've been along for the ride.
Miguel: I think to and with stick with The Beyond for a second one of the great scenes spoiler alert is the climax takes place in the hospital and David Warbeck and Catriona MacColl are running around and suddenly they escape the zombies and they go down a flight of stairs. And suddenly they're on this spiral staircase going into her basement back at her mansion and David Warbeck. It's one of the greatest bits of acting he does in the whole film when they reach the bottom landing and she's like we're back at the house and he goes impossible. Impossible. That is exactly describing the movie I love that scene and one there.
Beth: We do have to end.
Beth: I do want to thank you for participating in this until three something in the morning. So that is it.
Beth: Thanks for listening to another edition of the K.P.B.S. listener supported cinema junkie podcast. It will be a month of horrors in October with upcoming podcast on Clive Barker's Night Breed horror literature Godzilla and more. Also check out the cinema junkie Facebook page for thirty one days of Italian horror. If listening to cinema junkie has become a bit of a habit and we'd love to have you support the show with a donation at KPBS.org/feedthejunkie. But if you're financially strapped or just cheap. Then it only cost you a minute of your time to leave us a review or rating on iTunes. But it's just as important to the show
so to our next film fix, I’m Beth Accomando, your resident cinema junkie.
Satisfy your celluloid addiction with the Cinema Junkie podcast, where you can mainline film 24/7. This film and entertainment series is run by KPBS Film Critic Beth Accomando. So if you need a film fix, want to hear what filmmakers have to say about their work, or just want to know what's worth seeing this weekend, then you've come to the right place