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Pandemonium Morricone

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Toronto film soundtrack collectors who get moist and/or misty-eyed at the sight of resplendent Italo-wax LP rarities should hustle immediately to Pandemonium Books & Discs in Toronto’s Junction area, at 2920 Dundas Street West. Inside this very roomy and rectangular used book and record haven is, at the time of writing, an entire display wall-turned-patchwork collage of rare soundtrack LPs by the maestro of maestros, Ennio Morricone. Almost all of them foreign issue (Italian, French, Japanese), almost all in near mint condition. Concealing the usual mixed bag of new arrivals and rarities, it feels more like an art installation than simply good commerce, and made my nerdy soundtrack-hungry maw literally drop. Ready your wallets!

Fango captured some images of this one-of-a-kind, should-be-sanctified-in-a-museum collection before it’s splintered and sold, and spoke with shop owner Neill Cunningham. Neill has dealt in LPs, books, CDs, and DVDs at Pandemonium since 2000 (originally at a smaller incarnation of the shop a few blocks down the street). While a touch on the pricey side, Pandemonium is a serious buyers’ market for obscure psych, jazz, avant-garde, soul, reggae, rock, and Canadiana oddities. With their latest acquisitions, the soundtrack section has assumed dominance.

Fans who follow the releases of Beat Records or CineVox, or more contemporary upstarts like Death Waltz Recording Company and Waxwork Records know how visually lush – as well as audibly lush, of course – these releases can be, often incorporating foreign poster art, specially commissioned illustrations, plus sometimes bafflingly selected film stills into unique one-off eye-candy stunners. All together in one display, they look frickin’ beautiful, man.

FANGORIA: How did you come across such a treasure trove?

NEILL CUNNINGHAM: Things like this collection of Morricone records comes in occasionally, where you get a really consistent collection. Often it’s all disco, or it’s all punk rock, or it’s all jazz. Recently I’ve gotten a massive collection of Cuban jazz, a massive collection of Misfits records. Two weeks ago, I got a crazy Bollywood collection. I get soundtracks in all the time, sometimes really nice ones, sometimes collectible ones, but rarely something this great. You get something like a Morricone collection in… Well, once in the 15 years I’ve been doing this. This is the first time.

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FANG: Most of these LPs seem to be pristine, or close to. And there are duplicates. Pristine duplicates!

CUNNINGHAM: Actually, they’re not pristine. If there are two copies, one of them will have a scuff [laughs]. That’s what I saw in that collection. One will have a scuff on it, so he had to replace it. A collection like that is an audiophile collection, where the person who owned that record collection also had a $10,000 Oracle turntable, totally into audio fidelity, super hi-fi. I don’t know how much his speakers would have cost. But the thing about soundtracks is the sound quality is really generally quite phenomenal. So record labels who specialize in soundtracks — like Varèse Sarabande is one that carries a weird, huge scope of soundtracks — the quality on their vinyl is really fantastic.

FANG: A lot of these are Italian issue.

CUNNINGHAM: Italian, French, Japanese, a few Canadian pressings. But yeah, a lot of Italians. The collector was Italian. He’s a well-to-do Italian-Canadian.

FANG: What was his reason for parting with them?

CUNNINGHAM: Downsizing. Downsizing keeps me in business! [Laughs] People “going Zen” is my favorite. I had a guy once say he was just going Zen, getting rid of everything, going to head out to the West coast. Oh, okay, good for you! [Laughs]

I played a few of those Morricone records and it’s like, [referring to the track sequence] first it’s the theme, then something a little faster, and then a chase, and then a love theme. It’s hard to listen to these records all the way through. It’s kind of funny. I mean, that’s the thing with Morricone, you could do a great compilation of like, just love themes…

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FANG: I noticed there are a bunch of compilations in the collection. Morricone’s filmography is like 300+ movies, or something absurd.

CUNNINGHAM: And how many of them have songs called “Love Theme”?

Come and answer that question for yourself! While unable to provide a complete list of the Morricone LPs in stock, Pandemonium has around 100+, all in superb shape, very few (if any) are recent reissues. Prices range from $20-$60, with most between $30-$50.

While the collection is admittedly a little shy on Morricone’s giallo work beloved by the Fango crowd, we horror and film fans of the darker genres still have plenty of treasures to sift through, including L’UMANOIDE (aka THE HUMANOID – 1979), EXORCIST II: THE HERETIC (1979), THE SICILIAN CLAN (1969), BLOODLINE (1979), THE ISLAND (1980), GIU LA TESTA (aka DUCK, YOU SUCKER -1971), THE GREAT SILENCE (1968), TEOREMA (1968), HUNDRA (1983), LE PROFESSIONAL (1981), THE SERPENT (1973), INVESTIGATION OF A CITIZEN ABOVE SUSPICION (1970), MATCHLESS (1967), COPKILLER (aka ORDER OF DEATH aka CORRUPT – 1983), VIOLENT CITY (aka THE FAMILY – 1970), and tons more. Cunningham has additional ultra-collectible and pricier LPs stashed out of sight, and can be reached at neill@pandemonium.ca with inquiries.

Pandemonium Books & Discs can be found at 2920 Dundas Street West, Toronto, Canada. Shop hours are:

Monday – Wednesday: 11AM to 7PM
Thursday/Friday: 11AM to 8PM
Saturday: 10AM to 7PM
Sunday: 11PM to 5PM

Top photo by Clint Enns. Photography by David Bertrand. 

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About the author
David Bertrand
David Bertrand is a writer, film programmer, drummer and dad living in Toronto, Canada. He co-founded Montreal’s Blue Sunshine Psychotronic Film Centre and has worked for numerous film & culture institutions including the Fantasia International Film Festival. Alongside work in film & TV, he is a sporadic contributor to heady film and music zines, including Spectacular Optical and Cashiers du Cinemart.
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