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5 Essential Soundtracks By Riz Ortolani

On the tenth anniversary of the legendary composer’s passing we look back at his legacy in the CAM Sugar archive through some of his most seminal scores.

Riz Ortolani conducting the orchestra, 1975. Image courtesy Ortolani family.

“I am not a hotel, my name is Riz, without the T”, would often say Riz Ortolani. Born in Pesaro in the spring of 1926, composer, conductor and orchestrator Ortolani has been one of the colossi of Italian film music, with over 200 scores under his belt and winner of the 1964 Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Theme with ‘More’ from Mondo Cane (1962).

Written with Nino Oliviero, Mondo Cane was a cult from the very beginning – also thanks to the widespread success of ‘More’ in his many international vocal versions – as well as an early cult score in the CAM catalogue.

However, this may have at times ended up overshadowing the other many gems of the composer for the Rome-founded label. 

As today marks the 10th anniversary of Ortolani’s passing, it comes the occasion to look back to the extraordinary life and career of the Italian Maestro and his prolific bond with CAM across 5 of his soundtracks, whether seminal or worthy of rediscovery. 


1 –– Le Ore Nude (1964)

Riz Ortolani - Le Ore Nude soundtrack, 1964

Jazz and exotica were the sonic expressions of early-to-mid 1960s Italian dramas, equally commenting on the alienation and eroticism of the post-war bourgeoisie and its kinky tedium. This film by Marco Vicario, starring Rossana Podestà, Philippe Leroy and Keir Duella, makes no difference with its plot based on a novel by Alberto Moravia: L’Appuntamento.

Ortolani moves accordingly, between jazz, bossa nova and refined orchestrations, crafting a score as elegant as the Italian bourgeoisie of the 1960s and as exuberant as the modernist tension of the young student and lover, Aldo (Keir Duella).


2 –– Si Può Essere Più Bastardi dell’Ispettore Cliff? (1973)

Riz Ortolani - Si può essere più bastardi dell'Ispettore Cliff? soundtrack, 1973

Also known as Super Bitch, the movie is one of the many overlooked nuggets of Italian 1970s spaghetti crime cinema or, as we like to call it, poliziesco

Whether the film may or may not stand as a masterpiece, its score by Riz Ortolani indeed is the real deal with its explosive brassy jazz-funk sound. One for the sample diggers.

Find the main theme in CAM Sugar’s collection Piombo, dedicated to the sound of Italian cinema in the Years of Lead.


3 –– Fantasma d’Amore (1982)

Riz Ortolani - Fantasma d'amore soundtrack, 1981

An eerie soundtrack for an eerie film by Dino Risi, a 1981 whimsical drama of love and death in which two glorious faces of classic European cinema, Marcello Mastroianni and Romy Schneider, are reunited on set. 

The neon blue and pink hues of 1980s lights are mirrored in the use of synthesisers by Ortolani while the participation of Benny Goodman and his clarinet pervades the opus with a shroud of nostalgia. However, the score finds in ‘Do It To Me’, a sensual disco banger with vocals by Charly, Pat, Rosy and sleazy guitar riffs, its highlight. The composition had already made an appearance the previous year in another work by Ortolani for CAM, La Casa Sperduta nel Parco, a revenge movie directed by Ruggero Deodato.


4 –– Il Sorpasso (1962)

Riz Ortolani - Il sorpasso soundtrack, 1962

What hasn’t already been written about Dino Risi’s Il Sorpasso? The bitter comedy starring giants Vittorio Gassman and Jean-Luc Trintignant captures in a nutshell all the essence and braggadocio of Italy in the years of the economic Boom, with its vices and virtues. 

The Italian road movie par excellence, however, didn’t have a complete soundtrack to its name until two years ago, when CAM Sugar finally sourced and remastered the original music from its archive master tapes  as well as including one track in the collection Boom! – Italian Jazz Soundtracks at their Finest (1959-1969)

The outcome is a vibrant jazz opus by Riz Ortolani, where Afro-inspired percussion typical of early 1960s exotica meets with swinging jazz phrases. At the same time it features takes on popular chartbusters of the times (‘Quando Quando Quando’, ‘St Tropez Twist’) to capture all of the frenzy and exuberance of airplay while driving on a hot Italian summer day.


5 –– Mondo di Notte N.3 (1963)

Riz Ortolani - Il mondo di notte N3 soundtrack, 1963

Ortolani’s love affair with Mondo movies certainly didn’t end with Mondo Cane. Perhaps lesser known, but of no less relevance is Mondo di Notte N.3 which offers another exquisite foray into exotica and jazz, with Tribal and Afro-tinged percussion highlights, as heard on the track ‘Sex’.

The film is a follow up to Mondo di Notte N.2, whose soundtrack, once again part of the CAM Sugar archive, had been instead composed by Piero Piccioni. 

Discover these and more CAM Sugar albums by Riz Ortolani on all streaming platforms.


Opening image: Riz Ortolani conducting his orchestra, 1975. Image courtesy of the Ortolani family.

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