As those of you who follow me on Facebook or Twitter are well aware, I stumbled across this little gem on YouTube over the weekend…
Yeti, Giant of the 20th Century was the Italian entry in the international stampede to cash in on the popularity of Dino De Laurentiis’ 1976 remake of King Kong, a surprisingly crowded field that included the likes of Hong Kong’s bizarre Mighty Peking Man, South Korea’s jaw dropping A.P.E., and Britain’s utterly ludicrous Queen Kong. While each of those knockoffs have something to recommend them to diehard bad movie lovers, the one thing I can’t say is that I remember any of their soundtracks. I assure you, that will not be the case with Yeti, Giant of the 20th Century. Give a listen to the movie’s theme song and you’ll see, or should I say hear, exactly what I mean…
Oh, 1970s, you’re the gift that keeps on giving. Even better than the simple fact that this exists, though, is the realization that they actually released this thing in Greece as a single. You can listen to the flipside, Funky Disco Sound, on YouTube as well, providing your heart and ears can take it.
Now I’m sure everyone out there recognized how The Yetians (most likely a group of studio musicians assembled by composer Sante Maria Romitelli) took the liberty to, shall we say, ‘borrow’ just a little bit of O Fortuna from Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana. Not that I’m complaining, mind you. How could I? It’s not like we Americans raise a fuss over My Country, ‘Tis Of Thee lifting its tune straight from Britain’s God Save The Queen, and no self-respecting Catholic would ever say a word about Charles Gounod appropriating Bach’s Prelude No. 1 in C major for use in his Ave Maria.
Still, My Country, ‘Tis Of Thee was just trading one anthem for another, and Bach, while a devout Lutheran, accepted a commission for at least one Catholic mass, so he probably wouldn’t have been too put off by his work being used for an Ave Maria. Yeti, Giant of the 20th Century, on the other hand, is a story about a defrosted oversized beast-man, while O Fortuna is about… what exactly? You know, the tune is so ubiquitous in movies that I don’t think I’ve ever bothered to check. Wikipedia (yeah, I know, but it was quick) translates the Latin lyrics as follows:
O Fortune, like the moon you are changeable, ever waxing and waning; hateful life first oppresses and then soothes as fancy takes it; poverty and power it melts them like ice. Fate – monstrous and empty, you whirling wheel, you are malevolent, well-being is vain and always fades to nothing, shadowed and veiled you plague me too; now through the game I bring my bare back to your villainy. Fate is against me in health and virtue, driven on and weighted down, always enslaved. So at this hour without delay pluck the vibrating strings; since Fate strikes down the strong man, everyone weep with me!
Basically, the poem (originally written by Catholic monks, it’s a long story) is a rant against Fortuna, the Roman goddess of luck, and her annoying habit of turning on people at a moment’s notice. One minute you’re up, the next you’re down. Solomon sure seems to have recognized this sentiment when he penned in Ecclesiastes…
Again I saw under the sun that the race is not won by the swift, nor the battle by the valiant, nor a livelihood by the wise, nor riches by the shrewd, nor favor by the experts; for a time of misfortune comes to all alike. Human beings no more know their own time than fish taken in the fatal net or birds trapped in the snare; like these, mortals are caught when an evil time suddenly falls upon them.
Of course, it was Solomon who also wrote in Proverbs…
The Lord has made everything for a purpose, even the wicked for the evil day… Into the bag the lot is cast, but from the Lord comes every decision.
So, yeah, we Christians complain when bad things happen, but we also recognize that in some mysterious way, those same misfortunes still fall within God’s providence, either because he directly wills them or, more likely, because he allows them to happen in order to preserve our own free will. Doesn’t really make them suck any less, but it’s an ultimately more satisfying explanation than ascribing misfortune to pure blind chance.
You know, maybe that theme of sudden turns in fate is the reason why they used a bit of O Fortuna for the theme to Yeti, Giant of the 20th Century. After all, the big fellow never asked to get frozen in an iceberg or to get thawed out by flamethrowers and brought to civilization in chains. I mean, who could have possibly predicted stuff like that was going to happen. So it kind of fits.
Or maybe I’m just over thinking a terrible movie and they simply ripped off O Fortuna because they could. Unless Orff is stuck in an iceberg somewhere waiting to be defrosted, it’s not like he’s going to come back and complain about it.
The "O Fortuna" poem in the manuscript is helpfully illustrated with a Wheel of Fortune just in case anybody didn't get it. The Wheel of Fortune image/idea was all over the Middle Ages because of Severinus Boethius' "Consolation of Philosophy", which was a best-seller, as well-known as Augustine's "Confessions."
I heard Wang-Chung in the grocery store today, so I don't have it in me to listen to the soundtrack just yet....
I wouldn't rush. It's likely to suck some of that medieval knowledge right out of your skull if you're not prepared.
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