Argento and Goblin

Welcome back! As we continue to look at some the great horror collaborations we turn our attention to Dario Argento and his frequent and hugely successful work with the Italian Prog-Rock band Goblin – and two of the cult films that came out of this relationship.

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Dario Argento came to prominence in the early 70’s, his debut film being 1970’s “The Bird with the Crystal Plumage.” This would be followed in 1971 by “Cat O’ nine Tails” and finishing up the trilogy with 1972’s “Four Flies on Grey Velvet”, these films are now known as Argento’s “Animal Trilogy”. Interestingly, Argento collaborated with another legendary composer for these films, who may pop up again at some point….For today though we are talking about Argento’s relationship with Goblin.

Goblin logo

Inspired by UK Prog-Rock bands like “Yes”, “King Crimson” and “Emerson, Lake and Palmer” Goblin were formed in the early 70’s by the two main band members, Claudio Simonetti and Massimo Morante. Performing initially under the name “Oliver” and then working for a while as “Cherry Five” the familiar Goblin name didn’t come into being until they were asked by Argento to help create the score for 1975’s “Profondo Rosso (Deep Red)”.

For a full insight into our thoughts on Profondo Rosso (Deep Red) we have an episode all about it so feel free to check that out!

The short version for the purpose of the article is as follows; English music teacher Marc Daly (David Hemmings) currently living in Rome, witnesses the murder of neighbour (and pyschic) Helga Ullman. Marc intervenes in an attempt to save her but is unfortunately too late.

deep red Marc

Marc finds himself dragged into the case when he is attacked in his own home soon after. Marc remembers seeing a mysterious painting on the wall that vanishes after the murder, thinking this could be a clue to the identity of the murderer he begins investigating. Joining Marc on his quest to find the murderer is reporter Gianna Brezzi (Daria Nicolodi) and her broken car.

Deep Red car

What follows is a visual masterpiece, the imagery on display in Profondo Rosso is easily some of the best in the entire Giallo genre and is well worth investigating for yourself. A beautiful mix of the modern and the classic, the timeless backdrop of Rome with modern touches throughout.

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Argento originally hired Italian pianist and composer Giorgio Gaslini to write the score for Profondo Rosso, but after hearing his intended score Argento was apparently very dissatisfied. The idea then became to have Gaslini composing the music and having it performed by prog-rock band. Legend has it that Argento was hoping to approach Pink Floyd to perform the score, not to diminish Goblin’s contribution at all, but what a collaboration that might have been!

As an alternative to the likes of ELP, King Crimson, Pink Floyd, one of Argento’s producers suggested an Italian band going by the name of “Cherry Five” and very quickly they stepped in to perform the score that Gaslini wrote. As the relationship between Gaslini and Argento broke down, Cherry Five got their chance to compose the remainder of the score, reportedly Claudio Simonetti finished it off in just one night!

The rest, as they say, is history.

The band Cherry Five changed their name to become the Goblin we all know and love.

The soudtrack LP was a huge hit for the newly born Goblin.

This was the start of a successful career for Goblin who would go on to create many soundtracks for Italian cinema over the next few years, including Joe D’amato’s “Beyond the Darkness”, Luigi Cozzi’s Alien rip-off “Contamination” as well as the international version of Romero’s “Dawn of the Dead”.

Here they are looking extra cool on Italian TV!

This brings us nicely to the second of the Argento / Goblin collaborations we’re going to look at, 1977’s “Suspiria”.

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There is a full episode where we discuss our thoughts on “Suspiria” and “Inferno”, we don’t really talk about “Mother of Tears” because it’s not really very good, there are maybe one or two moments we enjoyed. “Extendable rape poles” and heads crushed in sliding toilet doors aside, we were mostly disappointed. Hear our talk on “Suspiria” here:

The short version though, to get you warmed up for listening to our episode, is as follows:

Jessica Harper stars as Suzy Bannion, an American ballet student travelling to Germany to study at the apparently prestigious Dance Academy in Freiburg. She arrives on a stormy night and despite being enrolled there nobody will open the door for her. It’s during this storm that Suzy sees another student Pat, fleeing the school in terror and running off into the night.

Suspiria

What follows is certainly one of the most unique horror films ever made.

From this first scene onwards you know you are watching something special. Pat, who we just saw escape from the school, heads off to seek refuge with a friend. Whilst Pat is hiding out she is attacked by an unseen force leading to probably one of the most famous kills in all Italian Cinema.

Suzy returns to the school the next day to begin her ballet lessons and meets up with the rest of the students at the school. During her very first training session Suzy begins to feel unwell and faints.

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Suzy is prescribed a glass of red wine a day by the local doctor to help her with her fainting, not too bad! The mysterious events continue on day one as hundreds of maggots begin raining down on the students as they try to sleep.

The weird occurrences continue and this brings us to one of my favourite scenes in the film as we follow Daniel, the blind pianist from the Freiburg School, taking a walk with his guide dog when he suddenly feels himself pursued by a sinister force.

suspiria

Suspiria is said to be one of the last films ever made using the Technicolor process, this helps give the films it’s characteristic vivid and vibrant look. The use of colour is Suspiria is absolutely one of it’s strengths for me.

The other significant thing that Suspiria features is obviously the soundtrack provided by Goblin. You can see them here (kind of) performing the Suspiria intro on some sort of Italian ‘Tops of the Pops’ type show.

 

Unlike Deep Red where Goblin are mostly performing the score that somebody else composed, during the creation of Suspiria they now had full creative control, giving them free reign to push the boundaries and let their Prog-Rock sound emerge fully.

As you can see and hear from the video, the instruments used for this score are much more diverse than were used for the Profondo Rosso score, with the main theme of Suspiria including what looks like a Bouzouki and a Tabla (if anybody knows what these instruments are for sure then please let me know).

 

 

There would also be more collaborations with Argento, officially with the release of 1985’s “Phenomena” and kind of unofficially with “Tenebrae”, with the soundtrack being credited to Simonetti, Morante and Pignatelli. You can check out our episode about Tenebrae here:

Tenebrae

Goblin continue to perform live to this day in one form or another, I couldn’t name all the different various line-ups though. Regardless of the line-up changes over the years, Goblin have a huge cult following, they tour fairly regularly and can usually be found performing a live soundtrack accompaniment to Suspiria or Deep Red.

They can be seen early 2018 in Holland if Death Metal is your thing. Admittedly, they do seem a little out of place at a festival with the likes of Carcass, Devourment and Nunslaughter (and a couple I can’t make out) but that just goes to show how wide their influence reaches.

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Hope you enjoyed this brief intro to some of the collaborations between Argento and Goblin, there are plenty of great blogs out there if you interested in learning more and lots of great people to follow on Twitter. Hopefully a few more collaboration blogs will appear soon and also maybe a look at some of the influences of horror literature and horror cinema on music in a more general sense.

P.S. If you say that Suspiria is a giallo there’s a chance somebody might come and get you 😀

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JB

Let me know what you thought of this piece on twitter! https://twitter.com/cthulhu502

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SS Experiment Camp (1976)

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“That Nazi’s hot!”

Words you don’t expect to be saying on a drizzly Thursday night in front of the TV. Oh who am I kidding? Give me some Hugo Boss Jack-booted and slightly camp eye candy any day, I’m not ashamed. Blame Helmut Berger, Dirk Bogarde and all the other fine actors who’ve stepped into the leather boots of a morally troubling antagonist over the years, making me question just what it is about these movies I’m so drawn to.

Well sometimes you just want to be appalled by something, don’t you? Sit down to watch A Serbian Film, The Human Centipede, or I dare say Speed 2: Cruise Control and you’ll come out of the room satisfied and dirty and in need of a long hot shower. I get my freak show kicks all over the place but nothing makes you feel quite as wrong as Nazisploitation. Whether its the high end Salon Kitty with its camp Dietrich-cum-Lady-Gaga heroine rubbing oversized shoulder-pads with midget porn and slaughter-house footage, or bad old Ilsa She Wolf of the SS, with Dyanne Thorne looking like Krystle Carrington’s Nazi cousin with her blonde bangs and giant tits… you want nasty, go Nazi.

Salon Kitty alone features so much queer imagery mixed up in its dark maze of fetish and horror that I’ll be coming back to delve deeper into that in a future blog and podcast.

So I finally went for it and grabbed the 88 Films release of SS Experiment Camp. This film reportedly kicked off the ‘video nasty’ scandal, although I could have sworn that honour goes to Driller Killer, but either way the image of a naked girl bound naked upside down under the gaze of an evil Nazi commandant was always going to ruffle feathers. Think of every heartbreaking, infuriating and downright shocking image you’ve ever seen of ‘life’ in a concentration camp. Got it? Okay. Throw that away. Stamp all over any semblance of good taste. Replace the gaunt, emaciated victims of the holocaust with cheap, make-up-covered centrefold vixens, sprinkle in some rape, mutilation and any excuse for bare breasts and you’ve got this film.

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Turned off? Repulsed? Horrified? Offended? You should be. The sheer horror loses its power when you see the execution of most of these films. I mean on one hand it makes you even more angry that they were made with such flimsy budgets and flimsier moral compasses, something so weighty, so unbelievably tragic, reduced to a tawdry sex movie with added blood and gore. But on the other hand, you came here to be shocked and offended so pipe down and watch the rest of the damn movie.

If you stick with it you’ll get a damp squib attempt at a love story, a predatory lesbian (obviously), a forced testicular transplant that must be seen to be believed, and – for fellow queer viewers and ladies who like men – you get some damn fine male flesh on show. In my ongoing crusade to re-address the balance in a genre seemingly hellbent on turning women into sex dolls splayed on a slab to be prodded, I’d like to salute the rather beautiful Mircha Carven.

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Playing Nazi soldier Helmut, he’s the piercing blue eyed boy of the third reich is considered the most virile of the lot (yeah right, he’s never picked up a Luger in those manicured model hands), and after falling for a female POW during one of the camp’s many sexperiments he becomes the object of the commandant’s unwanted attention. He’s got something the boss Nazi wants – balls, big ones, and he’ll stop at nothing to get them.

No, this really happens. Somewhere amongst the rape and torture and terrible 70s hair, a beautiful man’s balls are at peril. I’m describing it in a way that makes it sound interesting, quirky and exciting, but the execution of this and all the other plot lines is so inept its rendered almost dull. But watch it for Mircha, watch it for the boys in the barracks being coraled to take part in the naked experiments which are carried out – and I quote the marketing of this fine piece of work – “in pursuit of a better tomorrow!”

SS Experiment Camp (Sergio Garrone 1976) 88 Films DVD Screenshot 003

Then go get that shower. You’re gonna need it.

(JL)