Welcome to theBad.net Lee Van Cleef Blog! Here you will find information, photos, videos, and some of my opinions of the badman himself.

Many thanks to the wonderful fans of theBad.net for their contributions and continued enthusiasm!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Interview with Dolores Claman - Captain Apache Composer

John Mansell talks to Dolores Claman, composer of the music for Captain Apache and other Spanish westerns.   Below are excepts regarding Captain Apache and Bad Man's River.

Full interview is available here:

JM: In 1971 you scored CAPTAIN APACHE was this your first full film score, and how did you become involved on this project?
DC: We were taking a long sabbatical in Madrid when Richard and another writer friend went to see Phil Yourdan, the producer and Bernie Gordon, head writer of "Captain Apache" and the other films in the series, about getting some work as scriptwriters. It turned out that they wanted a theme song or two for Lee Van Cleef, and it developed from there.

JM: Staying with CAPTAIN APACHE, the star of the movie Lee Van Cleef sang the title song on the soundtrack, who’s idea was it to get Van Cleef to do this, what was he like to work with and did you coach him for the performances ?

DC: As I understand it, after Lee Van Cleef heard Lee Marvin singing in "Paint Your Wagon", decided that he wanted to sing too. His wife, who was in Madrid with him, had been an opera singer, and encouraged him to have a go. We wrote 2 demos, thinking Yourdan and Gordon would pick one, but they decided on both.

To be honest, he wasn't easy to work with. I think he felt out of his depth as a singer, and covered up by being difficult, which - of course - is not unusual. After 2 rehearsals with me on the piano, he said the piano made him sing out of tune, so a roving English guitar player was hired to be on the set and rehearse with Lee when he had a break.

Funnily enough, his problem wasn't so much about pitch, because we got him to speak a lot of the lyrics, but with the fact that he was "rhythm deaf" - not feeling where the phrase begins or ends, if you know what I mean.

At the recording, the engineer had to cut up his tape and feed it into the proper places to match the orchestral accompaniment.

JM: I am told that the songs in CAPTAIN APACHE were recorded in London, was the main score also recorded in England or was this done in Spain?

DC: No, they were recorded in Madrid. English speaking singers were very few and far between, and not necessarily experienced , so we had to add a LOT of reverb.

The score was also recorded in Madrid - but we had a very fine conductor/ arranger, Pepe Nieto, with whom we worked on a lot of other projects before and after.

JM: What size orchestra did you use on CAPTAIN APACHE?

DC: Not a large orchestra, there was about 24 players as I remember.

JM: On the score for CAPTAIN APACHE there is a piece of music just before Lee Van Cleef sings APRIL MORNING, this contains some whistling, it sounds very much like Alessandro Alessandroni, did he perform on the soundtrack at.

DC: No, it wasn't Alessandro. It was probably Antonio Areta, who sang bass in the backing track and whom we hired quite often when we needed a whistler. He was also a composer of Spanish jingles

JM: The movie has something of a cult following nowadays, but at the time of its release it received some very unkind press, are you surprised that it is still popular now some 35 years on?

DC: To be honest, nothing surprises me nowadays.

JM: I understand that your husband worked on BAD MANS RIVER, were you involved in any way on this movie, and did you score any other Spanish or Paella westerns?

DC: Richard was hired to write the lyrics. They had to use a Spanish composer because of co-production "points". Actually he was a very good Argentinean born composer, but hadn't a clue about barber shop quartets (these were used as a Greek Chorus to move the story along)

So Richard, with a little help from me, actually wrote the melodies and sang them to the composer. I did some "covers" for another movie - but I can't remember the name of the film.

JM: There was a rumour recently that the songs from CAPTAIN APACHE had been issued during the 1970's on a single 45rpm record for members of the Lee Van Cleef fan club, do you know anything about this recording?

DC: No, I don't, but I'd love to get one, if it were issued.

JM: Do you find it suprising that record companies want to issue your music from CAPTAIN APACHE onto CD, after all this time ?

DC: Yes. But I think there are a lot of Euro-Western fans who would be prepared to buy it.


  1. Interesting interview. Yes I had read Lee being quoted that when he saw "Paint Your Wagon" and heard his old buddies Clint Eastwood and Lee Marvin singing, it gave him the desire to do it too! And yes the recording session was held in Madrid. And yes Captain Apache and April Morning were released on 45 rpm records along with a few other songs for Lee's European fan clubs.

    About 1979 Lee recorded again but I never saw anything about the record coming out. Billboard Magazine had it listed as a "country and western" music album to be recorded in L. A. But I never heard of it again. I think DCG found something on this effort just recently did you not Amigo? Was it released in Europe or something like that?

    When they talked about "other films in the series" there were others that featured actors such as Chuck Conners, Telly Savalas, Robert Shaw, Stella Stevens, Clint Walker etc. all shot entirely in Spain back to back to back to back. Scotia International handled distribution for them and none were major releases in the United States. I always thought it was interesting they got so many known actors including the great James Mason for Bad Man's River along with Gina L. and Carol Baker and Stuart Whitman for Captain Apache and to me, none of these films are all that good. Kinda "B" Spanish westerns made fast. Certainly not in the same league with earlier efforts by Lee himself such as Big Gundown, Death Rides A Horse, Day of Anger, Sabata, El Condor etc. I noticed Leonard Maltin gives Big Gundown as many stars as For A Few Dollars More in his ratings. Said it is the best non-Leone SW and is as good as a Leone film except a bit different with a more complex plot with a political twist.

  2. The link now leads to an empty page.