The Red Queen Kills Seven Times Album Review

Written by Richie Corelli

Released by CAM Sugar

the red queen kills seven times 01

Composed by Bruno Nicolai
Released on April 23rd, 1972


Director Emilio Miraglia’s 1972 thriller, The Red Queen Kills Seven Times (La damma rossa uccide sette volte), is a sadistic whodunit that smoothly combines traditional Giallo with elements of gothic horror. The story follows Kitty Wildenbrück, a series of murders, and a family legend of a red-cloaked queen who rises from the dead every hundred years to go on a killing spree. As the movie plays, the story twists and turns and pivots, occasionally making it feel cluttered and plot-heavy. But there is enough intrigue to keep it going.

There is also a lot of style. Emilio Miraglia and cinematographer Alberto Spagnoli load the film with beautiful wide-angle scenery shots and closer, more intimate POV camerawork. The garish ‘70s Technicolor gives the movie a lurid, unnatural feel, supporting the supernatural themes in a way the script could not. The staging and editing are meticulous. The costume design is outstanding—the appearance of the titular Red Queen, for example, is still creepy today, five decades later. And then there’s the music. Composer Bruno Nicolai wrote and arranged a score that strengthens the film by accenting its unpredictability and underlining its uneasy mood.

The album launches with a child’s voice. It’s eerily sweet; a soft, vulnerable melody vocalized and hummed a cappella. After about 30 seconds, the young girl finishes her song, ending the soundtrack’s short prelude. From here, it moves into the title sequence. A harpsichord, backed by plucked strings, swoops in and mimics the child’s performance. The hushed tones of the girl’s voice set against the power of the following instrumentation sets up a dichotomy that runs throughout the rest of the work.

The Red Queen Kills Seven Times is all about those opposing sounds. Elegant, jazzy lounge pieces and jaunty little numbers are interlaced with sharp horror cues and threatening drones. Nicolai was a master composer, and his gear-shifting between these different styles feels smooth and natural. The Red Queen Kills Seven Times is one of those rare soundtracks that spreads wide but still feels cohesive. A big reason for this sense of unity is because of the score’s frequent reprisals. When the soundtrack begins to veer off, these repeated melodies force it back in place.

Yet, what’s good for the screen isn’t always good for the turntable. In 2017, I reviewed Nicolai’s score for the 1971 flick, The Case of the Scorpion’s Tail. I enjoyed that record and still listen to it frequently. But I thought Nicolai leaned too heavily on reprisals. The opening melody is repeated throughout the record again and again. It made the album feel redundant. The Red Queen Kills Seven Times suffers the same approach. The prelude and title sequence music is gorgeous, but Nicolai overdoes it and the melody continually threatens to overstay its welcome.

To his credit, Nicolai does what he can to diversify. He changes the instrumentation, timbre, and tempo as much as he can. Sometimes the melody saunters forward with a mischievous baseline and shivering strings. Other times, it sleepwalks with the heavy sounds of a dirge. And still, other renditions make it feel strangely joyous and celebratory. It’s a noble effort that mostly works …but not always.

The best parts of The Red Queen aren’t the repeating melodies but the relationship between those melodies and the sounds around them. For example, the fourth track on the album entitled “In Automobile” combines a bossa nova rhythm, weeping strings, and a frantic harpsichord to glorious effect. Later, on the track “Interrogatorio,” Nicolai goes full-horror. His orchestra shivers and stalks. It builds and holds that tension perfectly. “Incubo ed aggressione” is another good track. This one also plays with tension, but here the anxiety builds and releases, giving the listener false security. Throughout the score, there is an intentional imbalance that causes a rift. This gives the work a dual nature and allows it to swerve from predictable to unpredictable—which is exactly what makes good horror.

The music for The Red Queen Kills Seven Times has been released twice before, once on CD and once on vinyl. Both are long out of print. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of this Giallo favorite, Italian soundtrack label CAM Sugar pressed a limited vinyl release of Nicoli’s work. It put out a physical product that’s worthy of this golden anniversary. The 2 LP set is pressed on red vinyl and that color carries over to the artwork. The cover art, like the film’s plot, is busy but effective. Printed on a matte cardboard gatefold, the front and back design uses red, blue, and yellow to balance a collage of characters, text, and images. The color is deep and the lines are soft, perfectly replicating the overly airbrushed visual style that was popular at the time of the movie’s release.

That nice touch of nostalgia also permeates the inner gatefold. Here, the layout is more straightforward. A collection of still images from the movie are arranged in what is almost a grid. All of the pictures are bleached out like sun-kissed Kodaks from an old photo album. It works both visually and conceptually. The only negative about the artwork is some of the chosen images veer into movie spoiler territory.

This release is limited to 1500 copies. The music is fully remastered from the original tapes and sounds great. The album boasts two bonus cuts, “Risata Malfica,” which was previously unreleased, and “La Dama Rossa Uccide Sette Volte (Edit)”. These tracks do little to strengthen the album. They’re not essential, but they’re fine.

The music for The Red Queen Kills Seven Times undoubtedly elevates the movie. The melodies and compositions are fantastic, but Nicoli’s over-reliance on reprisals, while appropriate when heard during the film, doesn’t work as well without it. The bonus features do little to enhance the experience. Curious listeners may prefer to save their money and stream the album instead of buying the vinyl. (Note: To find this on Spotify, search under the original Italian title, not the English one.)

Giallo fans may have a different opinion. Because there aren’t a lot of releases like this, they may be more forgiving. Sure, The Red Queen Kills Seven Times gets repetitive. But Nicoli tweaks and alters the melodies just enough to keep them from becoming too dull. Further, his use of opposing sounds and unexpected tonal shifts continually attempt to keep the music fresh. He mixes different sounds and styles, moving from soft and graceful to sharp and intimidating, swinging from traditional balladry to ‘70s contemporary funk. It’s successful more than it isn’t. Beyond that, the attractive packaging, perfectly nostalgic artwork, and clean sound quality make this record a welcome addition for any record collector looking to boost their Giallo titles.


Music: Cover
Physical Quality:
Overall: 3.5 Star Rating

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Richie Corelli
Staff Reviewer
Richie isn’t ignoring you. He just can’t hear you over the music. He’s been plugged in to his headphones for decades, diving into the zine culture of the 90s, blogging relentlessly through the 00s and beyond. He knows more about certain bands than he knows about himself. His love of music is rivaled only by his love of horror. If it’s creepy and spooky, he’s into it. Horror DNA sutures his two passions together, giving him a platform to analyze and express his feelings on horror scores, soundtracks and live performances. It’s a celebration of all that goes bump in the night.
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