Ennio Morricone’s film score for Brian DePalma’s “The Untouchables” remains one of my favorites of his from the 80s. It covers the gamut of musical themes from victory to tragedy, and it captures the corruptness of the city our heroic characters played by Kevin Costner, Sean Connery, Andy Garcia and Charles Martin Smith have to fight against. Now La La Land Records has put together a long-awaited remastered edition of this soundtrack which has Morricone’s music sounding (big surprise) better than ever. It features two discs, has over two hours of music and contains an informative booklet written by Jeff Bond, all of which makes for a limited edition soundtrack release that fans of “The Untouchables” and Morricone will be pleased to add to their collection.
The first disc contains the original motion picture score for “The Untouchables,” and the tracks are sequenced in the order in which they appear in the film. This wasn’t the case when the original commercial soundtrack release came out back in 1987; that one started with the movie’s end title for some odd reason. There’s still no beating “The Strength of the Righteous” which gets the movie off to a thrilling start, and it’s one of those pieces of film music which I never get sick of listening to. “Al Capone” perfectly illustrates the obscene wealth and greedy nature of its character that is more than willing to use violent means to achieve his goals.
Listening to this soundtrack for “The Untouchables” also reminded me of how beautiful Morricone’s music is. He captures the idyllic home life of Elliot Ness (played by Kevin Costner) and his family so well that it makes you wonder if your own family life can ever compare to Ness’. Other tracks like “Four Friends” help to elevate the tragedies the main characters suffer through in the movie. I remember watching “The Untouchables” when it came out on video, and it was the first film I saw where the heroes don’t always make it to the end. That shocked and saddened me, and Morricone’s “Four Friends” emphasizes not only the loss of life but of what that person’s life meant to those closest to him.
Some of my other favorite tracks include “Waiting at the Border” which has Ness and company waiting in Canada for the arrival of Capone’s liquor shipment, and I love how that track starts soft and continues to build dramatically throughout. There’s “Courthouse Chase” which adds a lot to the big action scene between Ness and that villain we love to hate, Frank Nitti (played by Billy Drago). The end title of “The Untouchables” is also one of those thrilling pieces of music that celebrates the victory of those characters who deserve the victory they got, and listening to it always raises the spirits of the listener. There’s also no forgetting Morricone’s masterpiece of this score which is “Machine Gun Lullaby,” and it shows his brilliance in how he escalates the suspense and tension of certain scenes in DePalma’s movie.
The first disc also contains tracks of Morricone’s that were not used in the film, most of which are short transitional cues. The second disc contains the remastered version of the original soundtrack release from A&M Records, and the order of the tracks remains the same as when it first came out. Hearing it again might be seem redundant for those who spent an hour listening to the first disc, but some still hold the original release of “The Untouchables” as sacred so it’s here for them to enjoy with a better sound quality than ever before. The second disc also has several bonus tracks which include different versions of “Machine Gun Lullaby” and “On The Rooftops” among others. There’s also the “Love Theme From The Untouchables” which is sung by Randy Edelman and which didn’t make it into the movie.
Jeff Bond, who has written informative booklets for many special edition soundtrack releases, writes us another great one for this release of “The Untouchables” which is entitled “The Strength of the Righteous and the Triumph of the Police.” Most of Bond’s booklets are usually written in two halves; one half details the making of a movie, and the other half details how its soundtrack came together. With “The Untouchables” however, Bond is more interested in focusing on Morricone and the working relationship he had with DePalma. Bond even takes the time to write about every single track on each disc and the specific instruments which stand out and help to define certain characters and scenes in the movie.
“The Untouchables” actually marked the first collaboration between Morricone and DePalma, and the composer came to work with DePalma again on “Casualties of War” and “Mission to Mars.” In the booklet, Bond quotes from an interview with Morricone in which he describes DePalma as being “a great film director” and “wonderful to work with.”
“At a human level, too, he is a wonderful person, even if he gives the appearance of being a very reserved sort,” Morricone said of DePalma. “Behind that gruff exterior is a very kind soul.”
Morricone has still never won an Oscar for any individual movie, but he did deservedly receive one for lifetime achievement in 2007. Then again, he doesn’t need one to prove to the world what a prolific film composer that he is, and his output of work over the decades is amazing. “The Untouchables” remains one of my favorite film scores of his and it takes listeners through a wave of different emotions, some sad and others which make you happy and fulfilled.
La La Land Records has limited this special edition of “The Untouchables” to only 3500 copies, so be sure to get yours soon before it sells out. They have once again put together a great release of a truly unforgettable film score.