He Shoots He Scores #6: Once Upon a Time in the West

For those not familiar, He Shoots He Scores is a fortnightly feature here at Southern Vision where I look at a great film score or soundtrack and highlight its excellence. This week’s score rivals Three Colours: Blue and Werckmeister Harmonies for the spot of my favourite score of all time. It’s hard to make such a choice, but Ennio Morricone’s score for Sergio Leone’s film Once Upon a Time in the West is easily one of the most amazing, breathtaking pieces of music I have ever heard.

The film itself is in my opinion the greatest western ever made, and it’s famous ‘Death Rattle’ theme is my favourite piece of musical score for the movie. The opening notes of a solo harmonica does not send shivers down my spine – rather, it sends them coursing unbearably through my entire body. My blood runs cold. Any man standing while listening to this track is bound to fall to his knees. It’s quite a composition from Morricone, a man who is credited as a composer for more than five hundred films. Yes, you read it right. Ennio Morricone has 510 credits on IMDb for ‘Composer,’ and though of course I haven’t heard all of them, none can be more amazing than his work for Sergio Leone on Once Upon a Time in the West. If that film is in my eyes essential for fans of westerns, then Morricone’s score is essential for fans of music. One of my personal favourites of all the things I’ve ever tweeted on Twitter is a tweet I wrote during a rewatch of the film that simply read: “MORRICONE = GOD.” A startling hyperbole, sure, but his music, along with that of composer Zbigniew Preisner, is music for the heavens. Below I’ve included only one piece of music from the film: the most important. Turn your speakers up as far as they will go; that’s all I ask of you.

Posted on June 19, 2012, in He Shoots He Scores, Movies, Music and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. The Maestro… this is my 2nd favorite score of his behind The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly as I just love the operatic arrangements he creates and the themes made for the central characters. To me, there is no composer that is better than Morricone. I bow down to this man!

  2. Everything about this movie is incredible. Morricone can do no wrong in my book.

  3. Wish I’d thought of this feature (and its title) myself. I wouldn’t mind writing about my own favorite scores, and this would definitely be on my list.

    • A good score is integral for me. I always look for one when I watch a movie. Which makes it so ironic that I love so many Michael Haneke movies, because the man rarely uses score.

  4. Great pick but I was expecting more words from you,Tyler,I mean,come on,this is one of the greatest score ever!!

    It worth noticing that Morricone wrote the score before Leone shot the film,and he wrote four unique score for the four main characters.Every time I heard “Jill’s Theme” played when the camera pulled up for a full shot of the village,I felt I was there.

    • Haha well David, there are just no words for how amazing this score is. Interesting facts about its conception – I never knew that!

  5. I was wondering if this one would make it into the series. I think this might be my favorite, although I’m not sure I can say that with full confidence. It is a magnificent piece of work and certainly one of the best scores ever written. I do know that Morricone is easily my favorite film compose.

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