Thursday, 13 October 2011

Celluloid Sounds - Phenomena (1985)

I’ve always considered the soundtrack of Dario Argento’s Phenomena to be one of its most controversial aspects. The light textures and insinuating melodies of Ennio Morricone’s contributions to Argento’s early gialli, had rapidly made way for the grandiose and progressive rock inflected rhythms of Goblin. In the 1980’s Goblin’s approach took on a more synthetic and electronic sound which culminated in their offerings to the Phenomena soundtrack. The major difference here though was Argento’s decision too include heavy rock songs by Iron Maiden, Andi Sex Gang, and Motorhead. The result of their inclusion in the film was a damaging reduction in any atmosphere Argento was attempting to construct. On a recent viewing of the film I found these moments to be laughable and embarrassing. However if listened too in isolation the original soundtrack to Phenomena is very good indeed. The resounding highlight of the soundtrack however doesn’t come from Goblin, but from Bill Wyman and Terry Taylor’s marvellously spooky Valley.

01 Phenomena - Claudio Simonetti
02 Flash of the Blade - Iron Maiden
03 Jennifer - Goblin
04 The Quick and the Dead - Andi Sex Gang
05 You Don't Know Me - Andi Sex Gang
06 The Wind - Goblin
07 Valley - Bill Wyman and Terry Taylor
08 Locomotive - Motorhead
09 Jennifer's Friends - Goblin
10 The Maggots - Simon Boswell
11 The Naked and the Dead - Andi Sex Gang

In 1997 a second edition of the Phenomena soundtrack was released featuring the Goblin only instrumental material;

01 Phenomena
02 Jennifer
03 The Wind
04 Sleepwalking
05 Jennifer's Friends
06 Phenomena (Film Version 1)
07 Phenomena (Film Version 2)
08 Phenomena (Piano Solo - Film Version 3)
09 Sleepwalking (Alternate Version)
10 The Wind (Film Version - Suite 2)
11 The Wind ("Insects" - Film Version Suite 2)
12 Jennifer's Friends (Alternate Version)
13 Jennifer (End Titles)
14 The Monster Child (Bonus Track)
15 Phenomena (Video Clip Version - Bonus Track 2)
16 Phenomena (Alternate Version - Bonus Track 3)


  1. Yes! Now we have an official place to discuss soundtracks! No more bogging down the comment section of the fantastic "Intro to Giallo" Article with mostly unrelated patter about obscure movie score!

    The is PHENOMENA stuff is great! I've been a fan of Goblin for awhile, though I don't have any of their scores (don't have ANY of their stuff, really). I need to download ZOMBIE, which is the Italian title to DAY OF THE DAY (Romero), right? What I can remember of that score is very good indeed. DEEP RED blew me away when I was in college, same with SUSPERIA. Anyhow, I will indeed look this up. If I can't find it, I'll send you a message via Facebook.

    Thanks again for paving the way for this new off shoot of The Celluloid Highway!

  2. GOBLIN!!!!!!

    I'm willing to forgive them for their involvement with Contamination, if only for how great their work tends to be.

  3. @ Greg - Yes, our conversation over at the 'Intro to Giallo' post inspired me. I've been wanting to do something like this for awhile to add a little diversity to the blog. Reviews all the time gets a bit dull, plus I now have to contend with the spectre of writers block, so this provides some relief.

    Yeah Fulci's gore soaked zombie classic was titled ZOMBIE in the US, and ZOMBIE FLESH EATERS in the UK, but the proper title in my view is ZOMBI 2. It was titled as such to cash in on ZOMBI which was the European title for Romero's DAWN OF THE DEAD. Fabio Frizzi provided the great soundtrack. There is a review for the film up on here Greg, one of my favourite zombie films.

    SUSPIRIA, DEEP RED, PHENOMENA and music from ZOMBI 2 are pretty easy to get hold of and download for free...drop us a line if you want a link.

    @ Kev - Perhaps I'm in a minority, but I quite liked the soundtrack to CONTAMINATION.

  4. Yes, Wyman and Taylor's contribution is stunning - and obviously recognised by Argento as such, given it effectively opens the film.

    Emerson's 'Inferno' score is often criticised for being bombastic, but I think it's wonderfully appropriate for the film. And 'Tenebre' is a disco inferno that never gets old (at least to Eurocult fans).

    I think you can track Argento's decline by the quality of the scores for his films. 'Opera' is a mess, and everything since (bar some cues in 'Sleepless') is poor.

  5. I am indeed planning on dropping you a line for a few links, just too busy at this precise moment. Very interesting about ZOMBI 2. I had no idea it went that deep! DAWN OF THE DEAD must of been fairly popular in Italy then. I like how the UK was still behind the curve, they still needed to tip off the average cinema goer as to what a zombie was: a flesh eater! This is understandable, considering that zombie films were still rather new at that point. It'd be interesting to know how many NIGHT-OF-THE LIVING-DEAD-inspired zombie films came out in the interim between said original and its sequel. My guess is, a guy like you may already know the answer to this...

    Anyhow, you know what you can do with this inspired Celluloid Sounds section: compilations of great composers best work, like how you do that with certain filmmaker's title cards, only with score. You couldn't do all off their scores, obviously, good composers were/are in great demand, and their body of work is usually staggering. That said, you could break it down into eras or genres, like: Morricone's best westerns, or Jerry Goldsmith's best 80's action scores, or a scatter-shot of scores to Eastwood films. Just an idea...

  6. @ Jonny - I'm listening to 'Valley' as I reply to your comment, far and away the most exceptional piece of music in the film. I like one or two tracks on Emerson's soundtrack to INFERNO...mostly notably Mater Tenebrarum, which is superb. I've never looked at Argento's decline in musical terms, but you certainly have a point!

    @ Greg - Dario Argento as co-producer of DAWN OF THE DEAD had control of the films distribution in Europe. So you can imagine how peeved he was when a cheap imitation called ZOMBI 2 came out and started cleaning up at the box office. It famously led to a court case which Argento lost.

    Zombie films inspired by NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD up to 1978...lots and lots and lots! Too many to list here. One of the best was LIVING DEAD AT THE MANCHESTER MORGUE aka LET SLEEPING CORPSES LIE...which I happen to think is better than NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD.

    Your ideas for Celluloid Sounds are really good Greg, and I've made a note of them for future reference. My thinking had so far only extended to looking at one film each post, but the compilation or themed post is one I'm going to give serious thought too. I particularly like the best of Morricone's westerns. My only issue is the space embedded youtube videos take up...but I'm sure I can get around that.


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