Dramatic Vocalise Database

Morricone, Ennio (b. 1928)

The Hills Run Red [Un fiume di dollari] (1966)

Ennio Morricone was hired to score The Hills Run Red, though to disguise his prolificacy he worked under the pseudonym ‘Leo Nichols.’ Hills features the haunting voice of Gianna Spagnolo, but, as with other post-Civil War spaghettis, Morricone uses trumpets to add a ‘military’ feel to the title music. The main theme features Spagnolo’s approximation of an echoing Red Indian incantation, accompanied by a melodramatic string section, drums and trumpets. This triumphant charge becomes the root of the ‘riding theme’ throughout the film. Hills also features a departure for Morricone: a ballad is used, not as a main theme, but as incidental music. This owes much to Samuel Fuller’s Forty Guns (1957), in which a lament entitled ‘God Has His Arms Around Me’ accompanies a tracking shot of a young widow standing on a hilltop beside her loved one’s hearse. With their song, Morricone and Lizzai seem to be striving for a combination of parody, homage and pathos. It’s called ‘Home to My Love’ and accompanies Brewster’s return to his ranch following his stretch in prison. Morricone wrote the tune and Audrey Nohra provided the lyrics, which for once are completely audible. Sung by Gino, ‘Home to My Love’ sounds like ‘Angel Face’ from A Pistol for Ringo, but could have appeared in any Hollywood western. Hopelessly sentimental and not to say optimistic, the lyrics include:

“For the Italian release of Hills, Morricone and Gino also recorded ‘Quel Giorno Verra’ (‘That True Day’), sung to the tune of ‘Home to My Love’, with new Italian lyrics by Sanjust. The English version of the song echoes the note left by Brewster’s long-deceased wife Mary. But the letter also destroys the idealism of the ballad by revealing that, although Mary may have been ‘waiting in the window’, she did so with an empty stomach, a starving child and the imminent threat of eviction. Fragile instrumental versions of ‘Home to My Love’ (on strings, guitar or harp) are later associated with Brewster’s son, linking him to the ranch.

Morricone’s incidental music owes much to his previous work, but by 1966 he was scoring a vast number of films and his writing occasionally became formulaic. More imaginative are the musical sound effects Morricone uses for Mendez. In one scene Brewster lies beaten and Mendez puts a pistol to his head—filmed from a low angle, so that the gun barrel points directly at the camera in close-up. A high-pitched whine on the soundtrack convinces us that Mendez is about to shoot, but instead he lowers the hammer and bursts out laughing. Like A Pistol for Ringo, the music also reinforces the cultural differences between the gentlefolk at the Mayflower Ranch and their rough Mexican employees. The aristocrats have a square-dance ‘hoe-down’, while the Mexican celebrations at the corral (a horseback knife-throwing competition) are cut to fiesta music. In the Austin saloon Morricone sends-up dancehall girl clichés, with atonal Hattie Gardner (Gianna Serra), the saloon singer from hell. She is introduced as ‘Fresh from her triumphant successes in Dallas and St. Louis’—where presumably everyone is deaf. Morricone also alludes to Mexican serenading cowboys like the ‘Cisco Kid’. After Horner’s men ambush the horse herd, a survivor arrives at the corral to find the brutally psychopathic Mendez harmonizing with his muchachos on the Mexican lament, ‘Marie Rosa’.” 1



Opening Scene


Opening Credits


After Five Years of Incarceration, Brewster gets out of Fort Wilson


“Home to My Love”


Brewster Rides to the Milton Ranch


Brewster and the Townsfolk Ambush Mendez’s Men


Mendez Rides to Town


Ending Scene



1 Howard Hughes, Once Upon a Time in the Italian West: The Filmgoers’ Guide to Spaghetti Westerns (London; New York: I. B. Tauris, 2004), 76–78.