Morricone, Ennio (b. 1928)
The Return of Ringo [Il ritorno di Ringo] (1965)
“The immediacy of Ringo’s dilemma throughout the film is emphasized by the title song, which is performed in the first person as a plea by the hero for help from the locals. Maurizio Attanasio wrote the words, Morricone the music and Maurizio Graf . . . garbled the lyrics:
I have looked in the faces of my old friends.
But nobody looks at me as my old friend.
You must remember who I am.
If you see a man with downcast eyes and ragged clothes.
Walking through your village, don’t shun him.
The liar who told my sweetheart that I was dead.
To take my place you shall pay for this base lie.
“The music that accompanies this song is more downbeat than Pistol’s. The tune is in a mournful minor key, with the soothing Alessandroni Singers, a strummed guitar and a tired, march-like drum rhythm. The choir harmonizes on the verse with ‘Gone forever . . . now there is Ringo’ and on the chorus with ‘Ringo’s Son.’ The piece has a world-weary feel, an atmosphere of assignation that matches the story. But the music to Return isn’t a patch on the intricacies of Pistol—virtually the whole score being based around the main theme tune, voiced by a variety of instruments (violin, guitar, harp, music box). At other times, Morricone uses a series of menacing compositions with sustained piano notes, syncopated strings, bells and drums. There is also a rewrite of Mussorgsky’s ‘Night on the Bare Mountain’ in the scene where Ringo is tempted to shoot his wife (he suspects she has been unfaithful), until he sees his little daughter for the first time. Mussorgsky’s piece detailed a Black Mass and the music adds an elemental quality to the scenes, especially when cut to shots of a little girl picking flowers.
“The poignant trumpet piece at Ringo’s ‘funeral’ is similar to themes in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and The Hellbenders (with their Civil War connotations). The funeral sequence is accompanied by a Last Post—a heavenly choir and a lone trumpet, played by Morricone’s regular trumpeter, Michele Lacerenza. At the subsequent feast, Rosita sings a love song ‘Mi Corazon’ (‘My Heart’) before dancing to Morricone’s ‘La Bamba di Barnaba,’ a folk song with a virtuoso harp solo played by Anna Palombi. Through these compositions, Morricone again captures the mood of Tessari’s west—a blend of ‘downbeat, threatening and desperate,’ with a hint of ‘religious epic’ and ‘fiesta’ thrown in for good measure.” 1
1 Howard Hughes, Once Upon a Time in the Italian West: The Filmgoers’ Guide to Spaghetti Westerns (London; New York: I. B. Tauris, 2004), 35–36.