Dramatic Vocalise Database

Morricone, Ennio (b. 1928)

The Big Gundown [La resa dei conti] (1966)

The Big Gundown features another manic [Alessandro] Alessandroni take on the Duane Eddy/Dick Dale school of electric guitar and a ghostly, wordless soprano melody, a device the composer would use again to great effect on several future scores.” 1

“With The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, The Big Gundown is Ennio Morricone’s most popular score. The main theme song, ‘Run Man Run,’ is sung in powerful fashion by Joan Baez-esque ‘Christy’ (real name Maria Cristina Branucci). It begins with Cuchillo’s gentle flute theme. Then the strings swell, as the piece ups the tempo and becomes a vocalized version of ‘Ecstasy of Gold,’ complete with the Alessandroni Singers (chanting ‘Never!’) and stirring brass. The lyrics were written by Audrey Stainton Nohra and read as follows:

The lyrics echo the sentiment of free-thinking brotherly love that places Sollima’s film as a precursor of the US-produced, anti-Vietnam, counter-culture films of the late sixties. Quieter instrumental versions of ‘Run Man Run’ are used throughout, on acoustic guitar, cor anglais and oboe, often accompanying picturesque shots of the landscape. At the Brokston’s wedding reception a jazz band even plays the tune on banjo and fiddle. The widow’s theme is a threatening, understated flamenco guitar piece that suggests hidden danger, while in a woodland gunfight between Corbett and three bank robbers, Morricone employs a flute and gently tidal strings. In the desert scenes (Cuchillo’s arrival at an oasis and the posse scouting the hills) odd, echoing sound effects (voices, strings, piano and gong) are used as a musical collage, with some of the effects achieved by playing the music at half speed (in the manner of Nascimbene’s eclipse music from Barabbas—1961). In contrast, Cuchillo’s encounter with Old Barney in the bullpen is accompanied by a spluttering, comic piece, with jokey mariachi trumpet, oboe and violin.

“Three religious pieces appear in the film—the abrasive ‘Death Day’ procession chanting, the monks’ hymns at the monastery and the strident Mormon choir, who sing as their wagon train pulls out of Willow Creek (‘Come and rejoice, let His light be yours . . . all is well!’); like ‘Run Man Run,’ the Mormon hymn was also recorded in an Italian-language version. Throughout the chase, Cuchillo is associated with a flute trill, while the baron plays Beethoven’s ‘Für Elise’ on the piano. The showdown finale between Cuchillo and Shep is scored with a triumphal march (with brass, piano, drums and trumpets), as Cuchillo reaches down to pick up his knife and the duel begins.

“It is the two-part chase music that is most associated with the film. As Cuchillo runs for his life through the sugar cane, scraping violins and a flute pant on the soundtrack. In a moment’s silence, as Cuchillo stops to draw breath, he hears the baying hounds. His dismay is emulated in the soundtrack; Morricone deploys layers of multi-tracked percussion, timpani drums and Edda Dell’Orso’s pure soprano solo (accompanied by screaming flute blasts and the gutsy Cantori), as the posse tear through the cane. This piece develops into the trumpet ‘riding theme’ (based on the title song), which stops as Cuchillo heads into the desert. Once in open country, a second, even more ferocious piece begins—with chilling piano chords, jagged guitar and drums, as the hunters get closer to their prey. The Alessandroni Singers, sounding like a raucous version of the Mormon choir, add a religious intensity to the chase. Only in Leone’s films have Morricone’s grandiose riding themes accompanied such powerful imagery.” 2



Opening Credits — “Run Man Run”


Cuchillo Escapes


Corbett Commandeers a Horse


Corbett Chases Cuchillo




Final Scene



1 Jerry McCulley, liner notes to The Ennio Morricone Anthology: A Fistful of Film Music, by Ennio Morricone, Rhino Records DRC2-1237, 9.

2 Howard Hughes, Once Upon a Time in the Italian West: The Filmgoers’ Guide to Spaghetti Westerns (London; New York: I. B. Tauris, 2004), 153–54.