Riz Ortolani, an Italian composer of dozens of film scores, whoseGrammy-winning instrumental melody featured in the 1962 film“Mondo Cane” evolved into “More,” the celebrated anthem of love covered by sensuous crooners around the globe, died on Jan. 23 at his villa outside Rome. He was 87.
The cause was complications after surgery, his son, Enrico, said.
At home in a variety of musical styles and moods — jaunty humor, buzzing suspense, lush romanticism — Mr. Ortolani was among Italy’s busiest film composers for almost half a century, working in a wide range of genre movies, including spaghetti westerns, thrillers and erotica.
Though not widely known in the United States — unlike his countryman the composer Ennio Morricone, he was not generally associated with popular American films — Mr. Ortolani wrote the scores for a number of English-language films. Among them were “The Yellow Rolls-Royce” (1964), a triptych about three different owners of the same car, with an original screenplay by the playwright Terence Rattigan; “Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell” (1968), a comedy with Gina Lollobrigida, Phil Silvers, Telly Savalas and Peter Lawford about an Italian woman with a daughter who has been getting child support from three former American soldiers who return to Italy for a reunion; and “The Hunting Party” (1971), the western drama with Candice Bergen and Gene Hackman.
More recently, the director Quentin Tarantino, a fan, used Mr. Ortolani’s music in his movies “Inglourious Basterds” and “Django Unchained.”
But Mr. Ortolani is probably best known, at least in this country, for two films. The first was “Mondo Cane” (“A Dog’s World”), a documentary of sorts presenting a kaleidoscope of cultural oddities and human behavior, from peculiar to perverse, that the filmmakers, Paolo Cavara, Franco Prosperi and Gualtiero Jacopetti, found in far-flung corners of the world. The score, consisting of several distinct musical themes repeated in varying arrangements, is credited to Mr. Ortolani and Nino Oliviero, though Mr. Ortolani’s family said Mr. Ortolani had been responsible for all the themes.
“Ti Guarderò Nel Cuore,” or “More,” as the song came to be known — the lyrics, beginning “More than the greatest love the world has known,” were subsequently written by Norman Newell — accompanied scenes depicting a parade of female lifeguards in Australia, drunken beer drinkers in Germany and a French artist using naked women smeared with blue paint as brushes.
It won a 1963 Grammy Award for best instrumental theme and was nominated for an Oscar for best song. (The winner was “Call Me Irresponsible,” by Jimmy Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn, from the film “Papa’s Delicate Condition.”) Since then “More” has been recorded by Frank Sinatra, Sergio Franchi, Doris Day, Andy Williams, the Supremes, Bobby Darin and Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass, among many others.
The second film for which Mr. Ortolani was well known in the United States was “Cannibal Holocaust” (1980), directed by Ruggero Deodato, which prefigured “The Blair Witch Project” in its use of what it presented as found footage taken by a team of documentary filmmakers who had vanished in the Amazon jungle. Ostensibly an examination of what it means to be civilized, it became a notorious cult film and was especially controversial for its scenes of bloody violence, animal slaughter and gang rape — a context that makes Mr. Ortolani’s often serene score strikingly, even appallingly, ironic.
Riziero Ortolani was born in Pesaro, on Italy’s Adriatic coast, on March 25, 1926, the last of six children. His father, Domenico, a postal employee, was a music lover who taught himself to play the double bass and presented his youngest child with a violin when he was 4.
Young Riziero studied at the Rossini Conservatory of Music in Pesaro and then moved to Rome, where he worked for RAI, Italy’s national broadcasting company, directing its jazz orchestra. Before beginning his movie career in the 1950s, he served in the Italian Air Force and played in its orchestra.
In addition to his son, Mr. Ortolani is survived by his wife, Katyna Ranieri; a daughter, Rizia; and two grandchildren.
Mr. Ortolani received a second Oscar nomination in 1970 for the song “Till Love Touches Your Life,” from the film “Madron.” He won a Golden Globe in 1966 for the song “Forget Domani,” from “The Yellow Rolls-Royce,” and received many awards and nominations in Europe, including a lifetime achievement award from the World Soundtrack Association in Ghent, Belgium, in 2013.