I Just Finished – Alfred Hitchcock’s Movie Soundtracks

Okay, they’re not Hitchcock’s. He didn’t compose them. They’re Bernard Herrmann’s. Specifically, this collection includes the soundtracks to The Wrong Man, Vertigo, and North by Northwest. Herrmann scored a lot of Hitchcock films, especially his big, splashy Universal ones. Popular films whose Herrmann soundtracks are not included herein are Psycho, Marnie (perhaps not as popular a film, but a beautiful soundtrack), and The Man Who Knew Too Much (the 1956 release, with Jimmy Stewart and Doris Day.) He even served as sound designer on Hitch’s music-free film The Birds.

I first discovered Herrmann, like a lot of fans my age, because his music from The Day The Earth Stood Still and Beneath the Twelve-Mile Reef, was prominently featured in Lost in Space. Herrmann did a lot of TV, a lot of it original, particularly for The Twilight Zone. I guess my next encounter with him was his moody score for The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, with Rex Harrison and Gene Tierney. That was one of the first CDs I ever bought, when CDs became popular. (The cassette era, in which I came of age, wasn’t especially kind to soundtrack-lovers. They were pretty much released largely on vinyl and then jumped to CD. There are exceptions.

I was pleased to discover this set, shrink-wrapped and new, at one of my favorite stores, Ellicott City’s Archive. It was, unsurprisingly for the Archive, marked down significantly from retail. Pricy still—it’s four records, after all—but well worth it. Have I mentioned on this site that I collect vinyl? I do. It started a few years back, when Renee bought me a Crosley turntable with a CD recorder. Crosley makes a lot of turntables, and actually doesn’t have a great reputation. Apparently their tonearms (that’s the thing that holds the needle) apply more weight to the record than is considered healthy, and long-term use can damage good vinyl.

That unit was enough to get me started, though. It sat in the living room, encouraged me to use my existing, small collection of vinyl, and then encouraged me to buy more. My small collection was from college, in the time before CDs really came into use, and CD players were expensive. Cassette tapes wore out and weren’t mastered for quality sound, or so my audiophile cousin, Stuart, told me. If you wanted good sound, you bought vinyl. So my purchases between 1984 and 1987 were all on vinyl. Then I got a CD player and rarely listened to the vinyl anymore. My turntable cartridge wore out, and I never replaced it.

I slowly started picking up records from antique stores, and then The Archive opened in Ellicott City, and Trax on Wax opened in Catonsville. Plus Second Chance Used Books sells records in Columbia… I started buying a couple new titles every week. I duplicated all of my Alan Parsons Project CDs (which were mostly duplicates of cassettes already) onto vinyl. And then Alan Parsons started releasing vinyl special editions… I was doomed.

I bought a slightly higher quality turntable, and am really planning to get a replacement cartridge for a pretty good Pioneer unit that I have in the studio. And I have a couple hundred records now. This collection is the latest. Yeah, Herrmann’s soundtracks are available on CD, and yeah you can usually hear them free on your Amazon Alexa. But it’s nice to have a high-quality set, impressively packaged and imported from Europe. The North by Northwest disk has tracks I never noticed in the film, and which are not on an CD or MP3 collection I’ve seen. The Vertigo music spans two disks. The jacket art includes beautiful repros of the movie posters, and extensive notes.

I can’t say rush right out and buy it, as, again, it’s an import, and it’s pricey online. But, if you don’t know Bernard Herrmann’s music, pick your favorite music service—Spotify, Amazon Prime, YouTube and have a listen.

 

 

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