April 2002 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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DVD Film Review: North by Northwest with music by Bernard HERMANN
  Starring Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint and James Mason directed by Alfred Hitchcock
  WARNER HOME VIDEO Z1 65016   [131 mins approx with 90 mins feature]

North by Northwest

This 1959 Hitchcock thriller gathered three Academy Award nominations: for Ernest Lehman's writing, and for its art direction and editing; yet Bernard Herrmann's exciting score, did not score a nomination. As it turned out, the film won no Oscars.

This DVD incarnation not only includes crystal clear images and crisp sound of this MGM release, in VistaVison, but also a music-only Audio track showcasing Bernard Herrmann's score. And the good news is that many UK stores are selling this fine album for only £9:99!

This DVD really is feature-rich with a fascinating behind-the-scenes glimpse at the progress of the production of the film in the 40 minute 'Destination Hitchcock: the Making of North by Northwest.' It stars Eva Marie Saint, Martin Landau, Hitch's daughter, Patricia Hitchcock, and the original screenplay writer Ernest Lehman (introduced to Hitch by Bernard Herrmann). Lehman conspired with Hitchcock to deceive MGM into thinking they were working on both North by Northwest and The Wreck of the Mary Deare simultaneously (the latter film was eventually abandoned by both of them; Lehman adamant that he could not develop the story – the film that starred Gary Cooper flopped). Another unusual but absorbing feature is the feature-length commentary by Lehman who explains that he could not have written the story without meticulous research of all the film's many locales spread across the U.S.A. and how he had writer's block in working out the denouement of the story. Of special interest is his commentary over the crop-dusting scene. [See also the review of William Golding's book, Which Lie Did I Tell – More Adventures in the Screen Trade reviewed on this site, this month which includes the full screenplay of this famous scene.] Alas Lehman hardly mentions Herrmann's score at all, only to say how effective it is in the scene where he is force fed a whole bottle of bourbon and left to drive a car down a windy cliff road.

Herrmann's score is, of course, one of his Hitchcock film music classics. It heightens the tension and drives the action forward with its wild and colourful

dazzling and dizzy music for Cary Grant's frenetic adventures, music that Herrmann himself described as, "a kaleidoscopic orchestral fandango…"

Brilliant and great value for its modest price.

Ian Lace


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