July 2000 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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Alfred Hitchcock featurette (Video and CD reviews):-

Video Review:-

 A Talk With Alfred Hitchcock
CBC (Canada) Image ID9486CZ Black and White [52 mins]

I picked this video up in Tower Records on my way through Seattle after vacationing in Canada. It was announced as a new video release. The interview with Hitch dates back to 1964 (hence black and white). It was a two-part television programme broadcast by CBC in their Telescope series (sponsored by General Motors) roughly equivalent to BBC's contemporary Monitor series.

The interview is fascinating. For me, its most interesting facet is what is omitted - any mention of Vertigo. In 1964, that film had not quite achieved the cult status which it enjoys today. Interestingly, the interviewer, Fletcher Markle, says, "Most critics today agree that your finest film to date is Shadow of a Doubt, would you agree with that estimation?" "Unquestionably", agrees Hitch.

Hitchcock explains his philosophy of montage - putting an idea across in a series of "little assemblies" like a mosaic and shows how he achieved the Psycho shower murder scene by assembling no less than 78 pieces of little film over 45 seconds to convey its horror: shots of feet, head, hands, shadows on the shower curtain, water going down the plug-hole, and the shower curtain being pulled from its hooks as Janet Leigh's lifeless body slumps to the floor etc. He then contrasts this mosaic with another for the murder of the detective, using a different technique of sharply contrasted angled shots head-on and from high up.

Of music for his films, Hitch says, "I have no control over the music the composers do as they like, I can't judge its effect from hearing a piano (reduction)." Bernard Herrmann is also interviewed. He states that Hitch was adamant about having no music behind he Psycho murders but Bernie insisted and when Hitch reluctantly heard those famous stabbing chords with the film as opposed to silence he immediately relented.

Another fascinating section relates to the story limitations imposed by the use of certain actors. In Suspicion, it will be recalled, Cary Grant was suspected by his young wife, Joan Fontaine, of plotting to kill her. Now the producers, concerned for Grant's career and not wanting him to appear in unsympathetic roles, insisted that there be a happy ending with Grant proven to be just a loveable rogue (the wild car ride at the end where Fontaine is convinced he is planing to kill her by pushing her out when he actually pulls her back in). Hitch wanted to have an ending where Grant poisons her with that glass of milk. Fontaine would have realised his intention but resigned herself to death rather than continue life without his love. However she has written a letter to her mother, which she asks Grant to post as he hands her the milk. The letter reveals all so that no other woman need share her fate. The film would have ended, after her death, with Grant cheerfully posting that letter.

Special effects for The Birds is discussed and special mention made of Marnie which was in production at the time of the interview. A must for all Hitchcock fans.


Ian Lace


Ian Lace

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