Music Webmaster Len Mullenger
MUSIC FOR HITCHCOCK
ALFRED HITCHCOCK CENTENARY
To celebrate the centenary of the birth of the master of suspense, we are inviting our reviewers to select one of his films and review it with special reference to the effectiveness of the music.
We start off with Film Music on the Web' s editor, Ian Lace reviewing Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo with music by Bernard Herrmann. Ian suggests you read this review in conjunction with his review of James Conlon's recording of Herrmann's complete score that forms an integral part of Douglas Gordon's concept, Feature Film.
We would like to acknowledge the support of Universal Home Video who are releasing 16 of Hitchcock's films in their special The Hitchcock Collection.
Film (in video format) Review:
Alfred Hitchcock's VERTIGO with music by Bernard HERRMANN
Universal 044 9523 Buy from: iMVS VHS (PAL) £9.18 NTSC Amazon (USA) $12.99
This is the superb quality digital restored version of the film, brilliantly remastered. The colour is glorious - just as Hitch envisioned it (colour is so important to the atmosphere of this film). The sound too is splendid - full stereophonic surround sound so that Bernard Herrmann's evocative score can be fully appreciated.
Interestingly, I noted that the running time of this new polished version of the film is 128 minutes. This is some six minutes longer than the version Universal put out on video a few years ago (VHR 1130).
In addition, this release also has a fascinating 28-minute documentary about the film.
Vertigo - the film
Vertigo must be one of the most discussed films ever made and is widely regarded as Hitchcock's masterpiece. I will not bore readers with a review of the film but concentrate on the music.
Seeing the film, and listening to Bernard Herrmann's score in this new restored version, one can fully appreciate the composer's magnificent contribution. His music is vital in creating moods, suggesting the characters' complex, often contradictory feelings - particularly those of Scotty (James Stewart) as he follows and then becomes obsessed with Madeleine/Judy Barton.
Herrmann's opening Main Titles theme with its swirling, dizzying figures that complement Saul Bass's imaginative titles, prepares us for the eerie mystery that follows. Immediately we are thrust into the first nightmare of the rooftop chase, the policeman's death fall and the vision of Scotty clinging for dear life to a crumbling drain-pipe, all vividly heightened by Herrmann's 'hysterical' scoring. Later, there is the unforgettably scary tower scene where Madeleine 'falls to her death.' Again Herrmann emphasises Scotty's overpowering Vertigo and we marvel at Hitchcock's famous special effects shot as we look down that frightening 'extending' stair-well through Scotty's eyes. The other highlight of course is the 'Scene d'Amour' and how Herrmann makes us share Scotty's anxiety/expectation as he awaits Judy's transformation in that green-lit hotel room, and their passionate embrace when his dreams are fulfilled. But equally impressive, are some of the quieter more subtly scored scenes. I am thinking in particular of the scene in the woods where Madeleine goes into one of her trances when she looks at the rings denoting the antiquity of a felled Redwood tree. As Scotty tries to get Madeleine to tell him all that is troubling her mind, Herrmann's music (mostly muted brass) adds an eeie, ghostly and profoundly remote dimension to this key scene.
Vertigo - The Documentary
The accompanying documentary is absolutely fascinating. It details how the film was restored by Robert A. Harris and James C. Katz. We learn that Vera Miles was Hitch's first choice as Madeleine and, in fact, a portrait of Vera was commissioned in the costume of Carlotta for the art gallery sequence but then the actress fell pregnant and Hitchcock had to turn to Kim Novak who, under his direction, gave the performance of her career. Kim and Barbara Bel Geddes are featured in this documentary offering their reminiscences of the production of the film and there are some pictures of the film in production at the San Juan Batista location. We are shown how Hitch achieved that 'extending stair-well' special effect and how they had to create (a glass shot presumably) a 70 ft bell tower because the original bell tower at San Juan Batista had been destroyed. Jimmy Stewart was chosen for the role of Scotty because he was thought to represent 'Everyman' so that the audience could empathise with and recognise his plight. [It is interesting to note that Bernard Herrmann, interviewed late in life, regarded Vertigo as a love story and he said that he would have envisioned an actor like Charles Boyer in the role of Scotty with the film located in New Orleans.] It is amazing to think of Hitchcock's eye for detail. He dictated colour schemes, and the style of Madeleine's clothes and hair. Yet he never looked through the eye of a camera - he just knew where to point his cameras, how the scene should be lit and when to say cut and print! What a genius!
The whole package especially at the bargain price is thoroughly recommended.
starring Janet Leigh and Anthony Perkins
Music: Bernard Herrmann
Universal Video 061 0433 purchase: Psycho Amazon USA
The details of this film are so well known there is little point in rehearsing them. The impact of the film is undimmed by the passage of the years and is somehow magnified by the stark monochrome photography. The shock value of the shower murder seems to be received wisdom. However, for me the knife-in-the-head murder of the savvy but luckless private investigator is far more shocking. Perkins is, of course, the mainstay. His murderous neurosis gleams and leers out through gimlet-slit eyes: balefully luminous horror incarnate. The music oozes in sultry threat.
The film has a mesmeric quality superbly founded on Herrmann's music and first asserted in Janet Leigh's rain-drenched drive towards perdition. Those windscreen wipers seem to beat out a Dies Irae for a doomed fraudster. The clock-ticking theme effortlessly build and builds the tension. That night drive reminds me of Trintignant's night-drive in Un Homme et une Femme, the Claude Lelouch film. Romance and Gothick horror are but small steps apart.
The photography is something special and Herrmann's music wonderfully underpins both atmosphere and action. This video edition is enhanced by Hitchcock's own introduction. What a tragedy that Hitchcock and Herrmann's partnership did not last longer.
Rob also adds his review of the acclaimed Varese Sarabande recording with the Royal Scottish National Symphony Orchestra conducted by Joel McNeely Varese Sarabande VSD5765 [61:00] purchase:
The score for Psycho is already a classic. Here it is presented with a muscular concert hall sound. The almost physical impact of this new recording and of the performance takes you by the lapels and shakes you. We are told that this recording includes every note of all 40 cues Herrmann composed for the film. With this knowledge and just over an hour of music by a string orchestra some may fear the onset of monotony. In fact that is avoided by a very long margin. The music is brilliantly and incisively served by McNeely and the Glaswegian musicians who demonstrate a sympathy and concentration beyond carping criticism. The cues are all quite short with only two just over three minutes and many less than 1½ minutes. This is virtually Hermann's concerto for strings and it is a tribute to him and his interpreters that he gets so much mesmerising variety from what is usually regarded as a monochrome medium.
The Prelude bursts in, immediately establishing an explosive pulse. Unlike in the composer's 1975 recording there is no trace of lassitude. The music is propulsive and bad tempered; impatient and belligerent, paralleling the expression on Herrmann's face in the portrait on the back of the CD case. Flight, Patrol Car and tracks 11 and 25 return to the driven and driving motoric beat and urgent jagged turbulence of the prelude.
Tracks 2-4, 8-9 and 11-13 are all of a piece in mood: dreamy, disengaged, disquieting - sounding a little like Sibelius in his Pelleas music - coolly sensual and dreamy. The Temptation cue uses a nagging little figure counterpointed by a treacly flowing string theme. 31-35 inhabit the same chilly Sibelian universe, this time reaching out to Sibelius's Fourth Symphony. Another symphonist (the Britain, Rubbra) also championed by Herrmann at CBS is recalled in tracks 37-38.
The Madhouse meanders in music of questionable tonality which reminds me a little of Benjamin Frankel's symphonies. The strings cascade but not in a sweet syrupy way, rather in some poisonously dripping venom. Track 15 (voyeur scene - peephole) is much the same but dissolves into an ostinato similar to something Bax might have written (e.g. in symphony No. 5)
The icy flowering music of The Bathroom drifts neatly into the famous bird-call shrieks of the shower scene (tracks 17/18) and these return for the 'knife in the head' murder of Argobast in track 30. This is staggering stuff; I caught myself glancing over my shoulder while I listened to it. The next two tracks contrast grim work deep in the strings with very high passages for the violins.
Tracks 21-23 sound as if they are about to pitch in to a Walküre ride but decay into creepy scurrying violins, hyper-Rimskyian buzzing bees and hints of the more mysterious moments in de Falla's Nights in Gardens of Spain. Darting high strings also recall 'Morning' from Britten's Peter Grimes. The swamp (24) music twists and revolves in a befogged dream. Penderecki's Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima (for 52 stringed instruments) dates from 1960. I would be very interested to know whether Herrmann knew or had conducted the Polish score. Presumably Herrmann had not encountered Pettersson although the Swedish composer's string writing would have spoken directly to Herrmann's soul: try the coldly glistening music of tracks 26-28.
The stairs (29) uses new textures outlined by many quietly strummed instruments. The cellar music (38/39) sounds like the miniature clattering of hideous insects running everywhere. The finale is quietly grim.
This score is a masterpiece and all written in one month! I would be intrigued to know what music Herrmann was involved in conducting at that time. I certainly hear Shostakovich-like sounds in some of these cues. Symphonies 10-12 are not all that far away from the sounds and moods Herrmann so compellingly and magically establishes. The booklet notes are exemplary - the thoughtful and apparently well-researched handiwork of Kevin Mulhall.
Recommended without reservation as a musical experience
THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY (1955)
Starring: Shirley MaacLaine, John Forsythe, Edmund Gwenn and Mildred Natwick
Music by Bernard Herrmann
Universal Video 044 9313 [95:07] Purchase
"He looked exactly the same when he was alive, only he was vertical." Jennifer Rogers (Shirley MacLaine), commenting on the late Mr Harry Worp.
The Trouble With Harry was the first of nine films composer Bernard Herrmann worked on for Alfred Hitchcock (the others being The Man Who Knew Too Much( 1956), The Wrong Man (1957), Vertigo (1958), North by North West (1959), Psycho (1960), The Birds (1963), Marnie (1964) and Torn Curtain (1966)).
The film stars Edmund Gwenn, John Forsythe and Shirley MacLaine and is, for the mid-1950's, an rather odd mixture of black comedy and light-hearted charm, concerning the discovery, and attempted disposal of the corpse of the titular Harry. Various characters assume they are responsible for Harry's death, and so begins a morbid farce which may even have inspired the classic Faulty Towers episode "The Kipper and the Corpse". Perhaps it was the surprising lack of star names (the 21 year old Shirley MacLaine made her film debut here), the morbid subject matter and humour, or even the lack of expected Hitchcockian thrills, but for whatever reason The Trouble With Harry was one of the director's few box-office flops, and remains one of his less well known films. This is a shame, for while not one of Hitchcock's very best films, it is immensely enjoyable. Perhaps, like so much of the director's work, it was ahead of its time, its sensibility more in tune with the 90's than the 1950's. It is nevertheless a one-joke film, ingenious and at times very funny, but not entirely successful at feature length.
Visual beauty, excepting Vertigo, is not something one would normally associate with the films of Alfred Hitchcock, yet The Trouble With Harry is a most beautiful film. So much has been made of Hitchcock's association with Bernard Herrmann, that his even longer association with Director of Photography Robert Burks is usually completely overlooked. With the exception of Psycho, which was shot using the crew from the TV show Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Burks shot all of Hitchcock's films from Strangers on A Train in 1951, to Marnie. Excepting Torn Curtain, Herrmann's score for which Hitchcock rejected, there is therefore a complete overlap with the period Herrmann worked so successfully with Hitchcock, and perhaps we should think of Hitchcock's most important creative period as the years spent working with Herrmann and Burks. Surely it must be more than coincidence that without these two superlatively talented time collaborators, Hitchcock's work immediately went into decline.
Together Hitchcock and Burks made five films for Paramount in the 70mm VistaVision process, the first being To Catch a Thief (1955). The Trouble With Harry was made immediately afterwards, and was thus Hitchcock's second Paramount VistaVision comedy-thriller of 1955. The film is set in Autumn in New England, and the dying, falling leaves, make for an ironically beautiful backdrop to the deceased Harry. The black comedy of the story is greatly enhanced by such a beautiful setting, and by Burks gorgeous location photography.
While the screen is filled with mellow golds and crimson fire, Herrmann composes to the images to produce a beguilingly humorous, whimsical, nostalgic cinematic poem. His music is not only displays a rare, though understated, humour, but also draws on his love of English classical music to great effect. Some of the humorous moments formed the basis for Herrmann's short concert piece, A Portrait of 'Hitch', which the composer recorded for his Decca album, Music from Great Hitchcock Thrillers (available on CD as London 443 895-2).
Herrmann pays tribute to the spirit of an England he had already described in his music for Jane Eyre (1943), The Ghost and Mrs Muir (1947), and his opera Wuthering Heights (1944), underlining that both in name and nature New England is the part of USA most akin to England. There are nods towards Bax, Elgar, Delius, in a score which is lyrically pastoral, yet slyly so, sardonically complementing the increasingly frantic on-screen complications. In the main title overture, Herrmann plays with the audience's expectation of a serious Hitchcock thriller, before a jaunty theme accompanying a scene of a boy with a toy gun. He then sets this against the sound of a real gun being fired off screen, indicating that nothing is to be taken here at face value. What follows is a playful work, Herrmann having fun in a light, surprisingly conventionally orchestrated venture, winking at the audience and adding a charm which underlines the quirky nature of the central characters, particularly Shirley MacLaine establishing her elfin persona as Jennifer, and Edmund Gwenn as Captain Wiles. Fun can even be had spotting precursors of future themes: there are brassy hints of North by North West and a harp arpeggio even suggests Obsession (1975), which wouldn't be written for another 20 years.
Rather than sustained, wildly scored set-pieces, the nature of the film calls for often very short cues to underline the comedy and counterpoint the action. Of course, over all this is a rather more low-key film than Hitchcock's combative thrillers, and so it is appropriate that the music be less inherently dramatic than such later Herrmann scores as Vertigo and Psycho.
Herrmann and Hitchcock would combine comedy with genuine thrills in the much more successful North by North West, and while The Trouble With Harry is not great Hitchcock, Herrmann's very melodic score is a gem and works superbly with this beautiful, delightful film. Marking the beginning of one of the most artistically satisfying composer/director relationships in the history of Hollywood, this film needs to be seen by everyone with any interest in Hitchcock, Herrmann, or great film music. An excellent, virtually complete modern recording of the score, conducted by Joel McNeely with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra is available from Varese Sarabande VSD-5971 (1998).
This video release offers a 'full-screen' transfer of the original 1.96-1 aspect ratio VistaVision image. Clearly it can not begin to do justice to the original, though due to the technicalities of the VistaVision process, little information is lost from the sides of the image: rather, more material which was unseen at the cinema is exposed at the top and bottom of the frame. The review tape has good picture quality, with sharp images and rich colours, but just a hint of graininess. The sound is mono, though surely the film would have been shown in cinemas with a stereo soundtrack, and while voices and sound effects are crisp, clear and natural, the music often sounds a little strident, harsh and restricted.
Gary S Dalkin
STRANGERS ON A TRAIN (1951)
Robert Walker, Farley Granger, Laura Elliot, Ruth Roman, Jonathan Hale,
Leo G. Carol.
Music by Dimitri Tiomkin
Note this is a WARNER BROS VIDEO Purchase: Yalplay
On a trip to finalise divorce proceedings with his wife, tennis pro Guy Haines bumps into sociopath and psychopath Bruno Anthony. Their friendly chatter gives way to one of Bruno's fantasies - 2 complete strangers swapping murders. He has a father he wants out the way, and knows all about Guy wanting to remarry the daughter of a prominent Senator.
Miriam Haines then finds herself tailed by Bruno on a night out to the local fun fair. On a lover's retreat island, Bruno executes stage one of his diabolical scheme. Guy is horrified when he then presents him with Miriam's glasses. Shattering Bruno's twisted hopes by refusing to have anything more to do with him, Guy then finds himself on the receiving end of Bruno's stalking blackmail attempts.
Everything becomes pinned upon Guy whipping through a tournament in order to prevent Bruno from depositing incriminating evidence at the crime scene. In a mad-dash finale, a helter-skelter goes out of control as the 2 fight to the death.
Tiomkin atypically went overboard in his score. Where another composer might have sought to invoke a subtler portrayal of madness per Walker's superb performance, he instead delights in a whirligig of sound; rather like the all important fun fair locale. Through the main title and into the walk to the train, there's an enormous stress put upon dramatic foreshadowing. The brass swells are dynamically vast, and the urgency conveyed in the strings only give out once a tinge of dark humour creeps into mimicking the disparate pairs of shoes. In amongst this highly enthusiastic musical introduction, we meet the thematic devices that will follow the two leads. Guy naturally takes a sympathetically gentle piece to bolster his clean-cut good looks. Bruno on the other hand is the source of the aforementioned madness. The warped 5 note theme Tiomkin employs is an eerie swirl on the fair ride music, and undergoes all manner of variation. From initially suspecting him of weirdness through to being in no doubt whatsoever, it's vague ambiguity plays with our expectations of just how dangerous he might be.
The best sequence is the most well known. Both visually and musically, the tennis tournament is the showpiece that lingers in the memory. Essentially a race against time, it has all the thematic material washed together to keep the intercuts from the 2 separate sequences together.
Initial enthusiasm for writing this piece actually turned to slight disappointment when re-watching the film. At times the music is too strong for a sequence and overpowers.
The film remains a classic but close examination of the score within reveals turns of brilliance and unbridled extravagance.
SHADOW OF A DOUBT (1943)
Starring: Joseph Cotton, Teresa Wright, Macdonald Carey, Hume Cronyn,
Music by Dimitri Tiomkin
Universal Video 044 8653 108 mins Purchase: Yalplay Amazon (USA)
Uncle Charlie (Joseph Cotton) arrives in a small Californian town from the East. He is hero-worshipped by his niece Charlie [Charlotte?] (Teresa Wright). He gives her a ring for a present but is then shaken when she notices an inscription, initials of its former owner, on its inner face. Then he tries to hide a part of the newspaper and is startled when she hums The Merry Widow Waltz at the dinner table. Then two men appear claiming to be researchers wanting to know about Uncle Charlie he refuses to see them and demands that the older photographer give him the film of the picture he have taken of him. Later, the younger man, Macdonald Carey, confesses to Charlie that they are really detectives looking for a man who has committed some terrible crimes and that Uncle Charlie is suspect. Understandably, Charlie is upset and she defends her uncle. Nevertheless, her own suspicions increase and when she reads the missing newspaper page in the library her suspicions are confirmed. It carries a news item that police across the country are looking for 'The Merry Widow' murderer so called because he has strangled three rich widows in three Eastern States. The article goes on to say that the police suspect two men and one of the three victims is named. Her initials fit those on Uncle Charlie's ring.
At dinner next evening Charlie berates rich widows viciously, and Charlie's father (Henry Travers) and his friend (Hume Cronyn) discuss murder which upsets Charlie and alerts her Uncle who follows her through the town and confronts her with her knowledge. Then it is announced that police in the East have closed the case because the other man had been arrested (and died eluding his captors). At first, Uncle Charlie is elated but then realises that his niece is still very suspicious and she has the ring which he then steals back before unsuccessfully trying to kill Charlie through faked accidents. Charlie steals back the ring and shows it off conspicuously. Uncle Charlie knows the game is up and says he will leave town (as agreed with Charlie to avoid causing the family needless pain). Before he leaves, he pulls Charlie onto the train on the pretext of a last minute parting. Then he tries to throw her off but in the ensuing scuffle, it is he who falls from the train straight into the path of a oncoming locomotive.
With the death of the other suspect, Uncle Charlie can be given a dignified funeral, so freeing the family of any scandal and the young detective is united romantically with Charlie.
Tiomkin's music is used sparingly but it certainly adds to the dramatic tension often clarifies on-screen action and underlines moods and emotions. We learn from Charlie's mother that her Uncle had had an accident when he was a small boy and that he had had headaches and had acted peculiarly ever since. This clearly indicates a psychological thriller with Cotton's character clearly an unhinged psychotic. This is made quite clear in his cruel and cynical outburst at the dinner table when he insults and damns widows for frittering away their deceased husbands' fortunes.
The opening titles are superimposed over a ballroom scene in which couples, in full turn-of -the -century evening dress, are dancing to the strains of Lehar's Merry Widow Waltz but Tiomkin distorts it so that it sounds dizzying and malign. The opening scene shows Cotton lying on a bed in lodgings in the East. Money lies scattered about. His landlady enters to tell him that two men are looking for him. The music is darkly mysterious and dramatic and we are left in no doubt that Cotton has been up to no-good particularly as the distorted Merry Widow motif returns as he looks out of the window to see two detectives. In a typical Hitchcockian dramatic shot Cotton leaves the house and passes the detectives who then follow him the music climbing to a crescendo through the sort of percussive piano and timpani rolls motifs so beloved of Tiomkin. Then there is a wry little sardonic, cheeky final twist as Cotton escapes.
In contrast, we have homely music as the scene shifts to California and we meet Cotton's neice's family. The music for Charlie is at this point sweet and innocent as she looks forward to meeting her long absent Uncle. Intriguingly as Cotton descends from the train to meet his family we hear a pre-echo of Tiomkin's main theme from Stranger's on a Train (a much stronger score, see Paul Tonks' review). The music darkens as Charlie's suspicions grow and reach a crescendo as we follow her to through the town to library. (We are nearly as much in the dark up this point as she is.) In this sequence, Tiomkin uses the piano almost as if it was the dark heroic protagonist of a Late Romantic piano concerto with the music rising to a dramatic peroration culminating in tolling tubular bells as Charlie arrives at the library as it closes at 9 pm. (It is opened again especially for her). Tiomkin's music again grows agitated as she reads the newspaper report and examines the engraving on Uncle Charlie's ring. This sequence has the most uninterrupted music and Tiomkin seizes his opportunities. The rest of the music comprises brief and isolated sinister/ threatening figures except when Uncle Charlie chases Charlie through the town and we have another turbulent crescendo. One anticipates, from hearing this sinister peroration, that he will throw her under a car (but Hitchcock brings a traffic cop into the scene to obviate this threat).
An interesting score that works well with the film but we had to wait for Strangers on a Train and Dial M for Murder for the best of the Hitchcock/Tiomkin collaboration. I Confess was Tiomkin's other score for Hitch.
Starring: Cary Grant, Joan Fontaine, Nigel Bruce,
Music: Franz Waxman
Universal Video - 061 6413 Purchase
A sedate and naïve but intelligent young woman (Joan Fontaine) is swept off her feet by a reckless playboy (Cary Grant). Slowly she begins to realise that he is a scoundrel, a charming rogue and liar. He tells her he has a job then absconds to the races, embezzles from his employer and sells antique chairs a valuable wedding present from her father to clear gambling debts. Then her suspicions grow when she hears that his best friend (Nigel Bruce) has died in Paris. She begins to grow so paranoid that she believes he will kill her for her life insurance. When he drives her home along a remote coastal road she thinks he wants to throw her from the car and shrinks away from him. The denouement is happy and it seems the couple might loook forward to a happier future.
Suspicion was one of four films that Franz Waxman scored for Hitchcock. The others were: The Paradine Case, Rear Window, and Rebecca. The latter was very much his best score for Hitch; its dark gothic and mysteriously convoluted plot must have provided a much stronger stimulus. This RKO Radio thriller is rather stiff and artificial, with a lame and unconvincing ending. The master offers us few thrills - the scene where Grant mounts the elegant staircase carrying a glass of milk (that glows threateningly) and which may or may not have been poisoned, being an exception. Grant is clearly miscast: wooden as a light comedian and not dark enough as a convincing villian.
Waxman's score is nonetheless a charming creation that lifted this ailing production. The Main Titles music is all surface glitter in its opening bars but a persistent timpani ostinato beneath a rich passionately romantic melody hints at the Joan Fontaine character's growing paranoia. The sweet violin solo suggests her innocence and loving personality. Early on, Waxman creates a sort of English pastoral portrait as Cary Grant courts Fontaine. Birdsong and tolling Sunday church bells heighten the peaceful atmosphere but then a slightly sinister edge develops, as we see from a distance, the couple struggling - she is frightened and repulses his first intimate advance. Yet Waxman subtly suggests she is attracted to him and she soon falls head over heels in love. Her caring warm-hearted figures contrast with the whimsical devil-may-care charm of the Grant character which Waxman conveys in a few deftly-written wryly comic bars. As the story progresses and Fontaine's apprehension increases, the music grows darker the timpani ostinati more pronounced, until we reach the thrilling pounding crescendo that underscores the climactic car drive over the cliff-tops. The score ends with the flowering love theme now untainted by the relentless timpani poundings, and clear and confident of a brighter future.
starring Jon Finch, Barry Foster and Anna Massey
Music: Ron Goodwin
Universal Video 044 9313 [120:00] Purchase: Yalplay Amazon (USA)
All in all this is a class act and remains to this day an enjoyable and grimly shocking murder film. The scene is 1970s London on the seamier side. For some reason I can't quite pigeonhole I mentally bracket this film with the earlier shocker Peeping Tom; perhaps that seedy ambience? This is quite a nasty film in some ways. The rape and murder scene in the agency office is particularly repulsive without being at all explicit. The quality of the colour is deeply nostalgic - somehow unnatural. Barry Foster is excellent throughout as are the rather gloomy police detectives. Nice to see Bernard Cribbins as the rogue landlord - not even pretensions towards amiability. As for the opening those London skylines are truly masterly. The wide scenic sweep to the background of Ron Goodwin's Elgarian bombast is superb. However confounding some expectations Goodwin's music becomes increasingly intense as the tension and sense of injustice is racked up in the closing half hour of the film. The Thames shore scenes that follow the opening are agreeably dotty in Hitchcock's best unnerving manner. Those with a hankering for time-travel can journey back to 1970s London. The master at work. As for Goodwin: well, he proves himself a much broader colourist than popular prejudice suggests.
The Universal Hitchcock Selection includes these titles . To purchase a VHS (PAL) video through Yalplay (formerly iMVS) click on the title. American and Canadian purchasers should use the Amazon link for NTSC format.
Psycho Amazon USA Topaz Amazon (USA) The Birds Amazon (USA) Marnie Amazon (USA) Mr and Mrs Smith Amazon (USA) Saboteur Amazon (USA) The Man Who Knew Too Much
Shadow Of A Doubt
Suspicion The Trouble With Harry Rope Amazon (USA) Frenzy Amazon (USA) Torn Curtain Amazon (USA) Family Plot Amazon (USA)
Return to Film Music on the Web