CD: Hitchcock (2012)

January 2, 2013 | By

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Rating: Very Good

Label: Sony Classical/ Released: November 27, 2012

Tracks & Album Length: 27 tracks / (38:38)


Special Notes: 12-page colour booklet.


Composer: Danny Elfman


HBO’s 2012 teleplay chronicled a more fanciful, if not dramatically divergent making of Psycho (1960) and received mixed critical responses, but Danny Elfman’s score does stand on its own as a mini-tribute to the Master of Suspense during his association with composer Bernard Herrmann.

Elfman’s approach is to evoke Herrmann and Psycho without direct quotes, and his acknowledged admiration for Herrmann is evident in the meticulous method he alludes to both director and composer and the subject material while supporting the supposed details of Psycho’s genesis, the film’s production, and release, as drawn from Stephen Rebello’s 1990 making-of book (where the author also attempted to address a related controversy of whether title designer Saul Bass did more than storyboard and assist in the design of the celebrated shower sequence).

Sticking to a small chamber orchestra, Elfman stays close to the all-string design of Herrmann’s Psycho score by invoking gestures, heavy vibrato, or fleeting quotations of Herrmannesque colorations instead of thematic material, and Hitchcock is very much an Elfman score. The energy level, neo-mysticism of cues like “Explosion,” and use of piano, wooden percussion, and small jazz combo of vibes, flute, and bass (“Selling Psycho”) are quite delightful and evoke a small bit of the early sixties when jazz orchestra scores were also en vogue.

The use of piano in cues like “Fantasy Smashed” carry Elfman’s lonely man theme, which also functions as a discrete comment on Hitchcock the artist who had to balance commercial, corporate, and creative needs for each film, but risked his reputation with the low-budget Psycho. Running just under 39 minutes, Hitchcock never feels fragmented because Elfman’s brief cues weave in and out of moods featuring angst, morbid amusement, and delight, and after two lengthy theme statements the score appropriately ends with a quotation of Charles Gounod’s “Funeral March for Marionettes” – the director’s signature tune.

HBO’s other Hitchcock-themed teleplay of 2012 was The Girl, inspired by Donald Spoto’s massive 1983 biography of the director, The Dark Side of Genius.



© 2012 Mark R. Hasan


External References:

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