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Bruno Nicolai - A Profile

by Dale Pierce

August 2005

For films with Bruno Nicolai-scores
on (re)Search my Trash
click here !

Quick Links

Abbott & Costello

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Feeling lucky ?
Want to search for CDs by
Bruno Nicolai
yourself ?

The links below
will take you
just there !!!

Born in Italy in 1926, Bruno Nicolai studied piano and organ with the intent of being a classic composer. Little is known, however, about his personal life, except he lived in Rome, married and had a number of children. From the time of his rise to fame, till his death from a heart attack in 1991, he remained a private person, reluctant to give interviews or to capitalize on his celebrity status. There are only a handful of photos of him in existence, most of which reveal him to look a little like Al Capone.

It was during the rise of Ennio Morricone, whom he was friends with for many years, that Nicolai started to gain fame as well. Morricone composed, Nicolai conducted and together they made numerous soundtracks in this fashion. Predominately, these were western scores such as For A Few Dollars More, The Mercenary, The Good, the Bad and The Ugly and so on, but they worked in several other genres as well.

It was either shortly before or shortly after Nicolai started composing on his own that a violent breakoff transpired between the two men. Neither would speak publically on the seperation, with Morricone reportedly commenting to the effect of "He did me wrong, he did my family wrong, and I will not talk about him any more," when asked and the other way around from Nicolai's end, during the few times he spoke to the general public. Some contend that Nicolai has rewritten compositions Morricone has not used in past films, which may or may not have been true. The styles of the two men remained remarkably similar, but this again, could have been from like-thinking due to so many years together. The full story may never come to light.

On his own, Nicolai did a number of western scores, all sounding inseperable with Morricone's style, the guitars, the trumpets, the whistling, the chimes. Indio Black/Adios Sabata, $100,000 for Ringo, Hellhounds Of Alaska, Django Shoots First, Run Man Run, My Name Is Holy Spirit, Violent Journey, Shanghai Joe and various episodes in the Sartana-series all helped him rise in the ranks as a composer himself and not just a conductor.

When the westerns started to die out, Nicolai smelled the coffee and woke up to working in the upcoming horror genre. Jess Franco, the prolific cult director, utilized him for various scores which were well-handled though not as throbbing as the westerns. Rather than being regarded as a "second fiddle" to Morricone, he seemed intent on branching out with his own unique style here. The organ, one of the aforenoted trademarks of his youth, became an integral part of his scores in scream cinema.

Franco's Count Dracula was one of the prolific director's most high-budgeted works and was announced with the intention of following the Stoker book to the letter. It did not and although major star, Christopher Lee, was placed in the starring role and he did have a mustache (like the Count in the novel, but not in past Lee or Lugosi interpretations of the role), there were tons of improvisions not in the original text. Nonetheless, the movie is regarded by Franco fans as one of his best products and in this, Nicolai established himself for successfully breaking away from the Morricone-ish past scores. The film soundtrack in this is brooding and far more subtle, unique from a Nicolai standpoint. It remains available on CD.

Other horror films for which Nicolai composed include Demons Of The Undead, What A Strange Drop Of Blood On Jennifer's Body, Caligula (though his music cannot be heard in all versions of the film), Demons Of the Undead, A Virgin Among The Living Dead and Bloody Judge/Night Of the Blood Monster.

Aside from horror and western movies, he also made scores for comedies, crime dramas, suspense films and romances.

One of the most overlooked of his scores as well as overlooked movies in general would be Christ Of the Ocean. A diffcult film to catagorize because it fits into various genres comfortably, but completely in none, the plot offers an uncanny look at the return of Jesus. A mysterious stranger with a (briefly shown) nail scar on his hand leaves the viewers wondering for most of the plot.

While Nicolai LPs became hard to find (at one time Run, Man, Run was going for as high as $300 among collectors), the advent of CDs wrecked the collector's pricings, but brought back numerous long-gone Nicolai scores to light. More are still coming.

There are several posthumous  tributes on the net and webpages devoted to this composer/conductor.



© by Dale Pierce

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On the same day
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produced by and starring
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directed by
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written by
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