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On the heels of Guns for San Sebastian, Navajo Joe and The Hills Run Red comes another classic Ennio Morricone spaghetti western: The Five Man Army (1969). Long believed to be lost, the complete score is presented in clean monaural sound (given a light stereo reverb for listenability) from a 35mm music stem in the Warner Bros. vaults.
The Five Man Army was an attempt to capture the popularity of Mission: Impossible (then riding high on television) in a spaghetti western, particularly through the casting of Peter Graves as the leader of a small team of mercenaries and misfits (the Magnificent Seven model) who band together for “one last job” that ends up benefiting the local Mexican population (the Wild Bunch model—though The Wild Bunch had yet to be produced). American Don Taylor directed the film, which was shot with synchronized sound (Italian-produced films were typically dubbed).
Little needs to be said about the colossal output of the legendary Ennio Morricone, whose westerns alone have made a titanic impact in film and pop music history. Everybody can conjure the “spaghetti” template (famous from A Fistful of Dollars) of whistling, whip-cracks and a pop beat—but Morricone’s actual western soundtracks are astonishing in their richness and diversity. The Five Man Army is no exception: from the heroic, rollicking main title theme (complete with bizarre sounds and quirks) to the tender, elegiac “Cinque Amici, Cinque Eroi” (“Five Friends, Five Heroes”) and peasant anthem “Muerte Donde Vas?” (“Death Where You Go?”)—plus the usual setpieces for action and suspense—this is a major work from an important period in Morricone’s career.
The Five Man Army was previously released on a short LP and CD (always in monaural sound), and the main title was released in true stereo (also presented here) on a Morricone collection in the 1980s. FSM presents the complete score in film order. Liner notes by Italian film music authority John Bender flesh out the customary detailed booklet.