Enzo Girolami Castellari's 1977 low-budget war epic Quel Maledetto Treno Blindato is a glorious mutt of a film. Based loosely on The Dirty Dozen, it has circulated under more titles than pseudonyms employed by its prolific Italian director, most frequently identified as "Inglorious Bastards," but also "Counterfeit Commandos," "Commando Bastards," "Hell's Heroes," "Deadly Mission," "The Dirty Bastard," and at one point simply "Dirty 7." Starring Fred Williamson, the film has become such a cult classic that Quentin Tarantino has offered to remake it with a regular big budget and big-name cast for release in summer 2009; this is written in the fall of 2008. Quel Maledetto Treno Blindato is decidedly the best-known film scored by de Masi, whose other credits include such obscurities as Dracula the Terror of the Living Dead (1973) and Go Kill Everybody and Come Back Alone (1968) among his 150 or so scores for Italian films. Establishing himself in the spaghetti western genre well before his more celebrated compatriot Ennio Morricone, de Masi was a consummate professional who delivered the expected whether the onscreen action involved gunslingers, Mafiosi, Roman gladiators, or zombies; he did not develop an intensely personal, quirky style like Nino Rota or Piero Umiliani, nor was he a voraciously experimental maverick like Morricone. The track for Quel Maledetto Treno Blindato supports this view; it is good, not great, war movie music and fits the picture like a glove, though in itself it is just OK. Better is the filler, a collection of cues for ANIC Newsreels taken from raw, unedited master tapes that contain de Masi's instructions to musicians between cues and other random sounds, with some pieces heard in multiple takes.
This Hexachord/Dagored disc is dedicated to de Masi's memory, and participating in the remastering of the Quel Maledetto Treno Blindato score was one of the last things he did, as he died in November 2005, mere months after the master on this disc was completed. The score to Quel Maledetto Treno Blindato certainly needed some attention, as the master tape is rough in spots; the ANIC Newsreel material, while hissier, more variable, and not as well recorded, is at least stable. The Quel Maledetto Treno Blindato "Symphonic Suite" only totals about 17 minutes, with the 20 added of the newsreel cues that make for a short disc indeed, running only 37 minutes in total. It also would have been convenient if Hexachord/Dagored had explained what an "ANIC Newsreel" is, and when those recordings date from. As a tribute to de Masi and to represent the film, this is certainly adequate, and the music itself is decent, though it might not whet one's appetite for more from Francesco de Masi.