Pino Donaggio on Crawlspace

A conversation with composer Pino Donaggio and director David Schmoeller by Marco Werba
Originally published in CinemaScore #15, 1986/1987
Text reproduced by kind permission of the editor and publisher Randall D. Larson

Pino Donaggio

In 1979 you wrote an interest­ing score for TOURIST TRAP, a film pro­duced by Charles Band and di­rected by David Schmoel­ler. Now, af­ter a few years, Band again called you to work with him. Why has it been so long since you have worked together?
Donaggio: Band met again with Schmoel­ler and they decided together to call me. After TOURIST TRAP, Schmoel­ler did another film called THE SE­DUC­TION with another pro­ducer. I saw David a couple of times while I was working for Brian De Palma, and since I found that TOUR­IST TRAP, even with a small budget, was an inter­est­ing film, and that David was a talent­ed di­rect­or, I had in mind to work with him again. So when David got in touch with Band to do this film, I had the opportunity to work with them both again. Besides CRAWL­SPACE, David has two other movies to do with Band.
Schmoeller: Yes, I have to di­rect HUNT­RESS and MONSTER PARK (now called BLOOD­LESS).

Are you satisfied with the music Donaggio write for your film, TOUR­IST TRAP?
Schmoeller: Oh yes.

Are there any similarities be­tween TOURIST TRAP and the new film, CRAWL­SPACE?
Schmoeller: No. Both the story and the music are quite different.

The music for your film, SE­DUC­TION, was composed by Lalo Schifrin. Why not Donag­gio?
Schmoeller: Because the producer didn’t want him. He wanted an Ameri­can com­poser.
Donaggio: It happens sometimes that a director has more confidence in an Ameri­can composer with whom he can work side by side. Instead, I come with the score finished and there’s little possi­bili­ty of chang­ing it while I’m at the re­cord­ing studio.

Do you think that your collabo­ration with Schmoeller and Band will be­come as impor­tant as the one you have with De Palma?
Donaggio
: I don’t know. Yester­day, Band came to listen to the music I re­corded here at the Forum studios for David’s film and he was very sat­isfied. He told me that, probably, there will be the possibility of do­ing films with a larger budget later on (around $8 mil­lion). We have to discuss this at Cannes. Band started with his company, Empire Pictures, doing small budget movies and he is slowly producing a lot of films with larger budgets now. He is already writing contracts with Al Pacino and Stallone. He bought a castle where he can shoot movies and organize meet­ings. But he still lives in Los Angeles and comes here to work.

Crawlspace

What can you tell us about CRAWL­SPACE and the music you wrote for it?
Donaggio
: It’s a scary story de­veloped around air conditioning pas­sages. A maniac, played by Klaus Kin­ski, rents apartments to young, beauti­ful girls and then kills them. About the music, I must say that it is very strong and uses a lot of electronics in addition to the or­chestra. Since my first movie, DON’T LOOK NOW, and recently for BODY DOU­BLE, I have already used elec­tronic instruments. But here I did a more complex work. I recorded an elec­tronic musical “carpet” with the com­puter that took me some days of work. Then Natale Massara came to conduct the orches­tra while this electron­ic “carpet” was in the background. In the film there is a rela­tion to Ger­man war camps, and David needed a girl singing in Hebrew. I used elec­tronics under an orchestra of 60 players and the feminine voice — strings, 4 trombones, 4 horns, 2 flutes, bass clarinet, etc.

How much music did you write for the film?
Donaggio
: About 80, 90 minutes of music.

Natale Massara conducted it, as he has with most of your scores.
Donaggio: Yes. But the music I recently did for MGM’s THE FIFTH MIS­SILE was conducted instead by Gian­franco Plenizio, not Massara.

Tell us something about that score.
Donaggio: The film is about a nuclear submarine. The story is very inter­est­ing since it under­lines the reaction of the sailors during a nu­clear ex­peri­ment that for most of them becomes real and dangerous. Mu­sically, the score is quite different from anything I have done before, since I used a mili­tary rhythm under the orchestra. Despite this, there is my style through­out the score and par­ticu­larly for the under­water se­quences while strange events are hap­pening in the submarine. I also used a 60-piece orchestra, per­fect­ly con­duct­ed by Pleni­zio. The film was made for television, so unfor­tunate­ly there is no record of the music.

What about your new pro­jects?
Donaggio
: I have to score HOTEL COLONIAL with John Savage, Robert Du­vall and Massimo Troisi. After that, Band and Schmoeller will write the two other scripts and I will again start working for them!

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