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The Nostalgic Attic: Soundtrack Spotlight: Inferno - Keith Emerson

29 October 2014

Soundtrack Spotlight: Inferno - Keith Emerson


Argento's follow up to his near-instant classic, Suspiria, was never going to be easy, and like many viewers, it took me a long time to warm to Inferno. When I first saw it in the late 90's, it felt like a watered down version of the earlier film, lacking many of the spectacular set pieces, nasty violence and sheer bonkers nature that set the original apart from the rest of the crowd. I kept coming back to it though, and by around the 3rd viewing it finally clicked with me, and I saw the film for the flawed beauty that it was. It had an incredible visual style that was signature Argento, and the dream logic he was pushing hard in his films never seemed to work quite as well as it did here. Those set pieces were there; they just didn't revolve around bloody murders and instead worked to slowly chip away at the reality surrounding the characters.



One of the pieces of the Inferno puzzle that I found hardest to click with was the soundtrack. It's a strange thing to say, as usually when discussing Dario's films the music and imagery goes hand-in-hand, as if Goblin (who scored many of his pictures) was part of his directing style and process, one-and-the-same with Argento himself. This is most apparent on Suspiria, in which the score plays a vital role in the success of the film, and made Goblin a household name among horror fans. So why choose to get Keith Emerson in to score the sequel, Inferno? It might have been to do with Goblin themselves, who didn't appear under that name on his following film, Tenebrae, as one of the members had left. Maybe Dario and Claudio (his brother, who produced many of his films) wanted to broaden the appeal of their film by pulling in the prog rock fans familiar with Emerson, Lake and Palmer... who knows, really.




What initially struck me was how it felt more like a traditional score, full of reverb'd organs and horror stings, unlike the creepy prog-tinged works of Goblin. It works less as a stand alone record; but then again, does that matter? When watching it now, I can't imagine any other score on the film, and some sequences work perfectly with it. Tracks such as 'Rose's descent into the cellar' don't stick out so well on their own, but when combined with the images in the film, they gel nicely. Same goes for 'Bookbinder's delight' and 'A cat attic attack'. Vocals are used well on 'Rose gets it'; probably the closest to the madness of a Goblin track here, though Emerson does finally let loose on 'Mater Tenbrarum' and 'Inferno finale'. Overall, it's still probably my least favorite score on an Argento film from that period, but it is worth checking out. I have the Cinevox re-issue on CD from 7 or 8 years ago.




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4 Comments:

At 30 October 2014 at 03:53 , Blogger Craig Edwards said...

I love Suspiria and have seen it several times but I have only seen Inferno once - taped off a screening from the Independent Film Channel here when they were showing several of his films. So I'm kind of fuzzy on the film - need to see it again. I do remember feeling the score was very different and noticing the lack of Goblin.

 
At 30 October 2014 at 12:23 , Blogger Wes M said...

A fine selection John, and a soundtrack I like myself... it's probably the best thing Keith Emerson has done, and while I'm not a fan of Emerson, Lake & Palmer, I do like some progressive rock stuff, so the more overblown excesses of the soundtrack I can take. I sometimes think the music would be more suited to a rock opera film though, maybe something like Phantom of the Paradise. I'd like to think Argento saw Emerson doing his famous stage act where he attacks his huge Hammond organ with knives, and thought "That's my man!". It is indeed hard to think of Inferno's visuals without that music but I will forever lament the fact that Argento never commissioned Tangerine Dream to write a score. As I type this I'm listening to their 1976 record Stratosfear and their music combined with Argento's images could have been a match made in Heaven and Hell... I'm planning to watch Suspiria this weekend because it's been a good few years since I saw it last, and now that I'm waxing lyrical about it, Inferno might be on the cards as well. Inferno will always stand in the shadow of Suspiria but I find both films work as a terrific double-header. If Suspiria has the thrills and spills (and what incredible spills especially in the opening reel), Inferno is the more sensual of the two, and there's stuff in the film that profoundly resonates with me, like Irene Miracle's incredibly elegant, almost erotic pen-writing in the opening of the film, the descent into the water-logged basement, or the weird shot of the water rippling as Leigh McCloskey comes round after his fainting fit - images that are forever sketched on the wall of my memory. It's an extraordinary film...

 
At 30 October 2014 at 17:08 , Blogger JP Mulvanetti said...

Craig - definitely check it out again if you can - I highly recommend the Blue Underground Blu Ray if you don't have it!

 
At 31 October 2014 at 08:33 , Blogger JP Mulvanetti said...

Wes, you're clearly a man after my own heart... I too tend to watch them both together now. Sure; Inferno is 'Suspiria-lite', but it has a wonderful sense of dream logic, and Argento never seemed to embrace it as fully again as he did here. For me the key scene (on top of those excellent moments you mentioned) is the the swamp-attack scene. Something so chilling and nightmarish about it, it sums up most of my fears of the outside world at night...

Same here, regarding Emerson, Lake and Palmer... and I can't see me getting into them at this stage. Great call on Tangerine Dream, though, Image their music to one of his films? He could have done with their excellent, understated approach on a film such as Phenomena, for example, as the heavy metal music is just jarring with the rest of the picture...

 

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