ROME – Italian soundtrack composer Riz Ortolani, who won a Grammy for his “Mondo Cane” theme “More,” and whose wide range of music for movies was featured in three Quentin Tarantino films and on the Dino Risi-directed classic “The Easy Life” (Il Sorpasso), among dozens of other titles, died in Rome on January 23.
He was 87. The cause was reportedly due to complications from bronchitis.
Born on March 25, 1926, as Riziero Ortolani, in Pesaro, Italy, the prolific composer started his career in his early twenties working as a musical arranger for the orchestra of Italian pubcaster RAI, before forming his own orchestra. During the 1950s he and his Riz Ortolani orchestra wound up in Los Angeles and worked at famed night club Ciro’s on the Sunset Strip.
Ortolani’s career in movie soundtracks started in 1962 with Gualtiero Jacopetti’s seminal creepy exploitation docu “Mondo Cane,” which screened at Cannes.
The “Mondo Cane” theme “More” won a Grammy, was nominated for an Oscar, and over the years has been covered by everyone from Frank Sinatra to Judy Garland to Herb Alpert.
Ortolani went on to work with many of the top Italian directors including, besides the above mentioned Risi, Vittorio De Sica, Franco Zeffirelli, Carlo Lizzani, Alberto Lattuada, and Pupi Avati, for whom he scored the 2013-2014 TV miniseries “Un Matrimonio” (A Wedding), a recent ratings hit on RAI.
The soundtrack to Ruggero Deodato’s 1980 cult slasher pic “Cannibal Holocaust,” featuring Ortolani’s opening synthesizer theme, is widely purchased.
Ortolani’s explosive guitar compositions for spaghetti Westerns have featured in Tarantino’s “Kill Bill,” in “Inglorious Basterds” and “Django Unchained.” Ortolani’s song “Oh My Love,” sung by his wife Katyna Ranieri, was featured in Nicolas Winding Refn’s 2011 pic “Drive.”
Ortolani, who had established the Riz Ortolani Foundation in Pesaro, offering scholarships to young composers, is survived by Katyna Ranieri, a son and a daughter.