hmv.com presents… The Best Soundtracks of All Time: Psycho
With some great in-store offers coming this summer on film soundtracks as part our 'Decades' series, every day we'll be picking the best soundtrack, one for every year, starting with 1950 right through to the present day. Today we're up to 1960 and we've picked a classic - Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, featuring music by Bernard Herrmann.
Psycho, classic Alfred Hitchcock suspense-thriller featuring the famous ‘shower scene’…
So what’s the film about?
Probably Hitchcock’s most famous film, Psycho stars Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates, the owner and proprietor of the Bates Motel. When Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) goes on the run after stealing $40,000 of a client’s money, she hides out at the motel. On checking in, she meets the nervous Norman and everything seems as it should, but Norman is hiding a dark, murderous secret.
Famous most of all for the shower scene in which Leigh’s character meets her untimely demise, Psycho is an all-time classic and a perfect illustration of why Hitchcock is commonly referred to as ‘the master of suspense’.
Is this a score or a soundtrack?
With Hitchcock’s composer of choice Bernard Herrmann at the helm, this is very much a score, and an iconic one at that.
So what’s it like?
Despite having worked on numerous Hitchcock titles, including the equally iconic score for Vertigo, Herrmann had a fairly poor opinion of the director, dismissing him as being concerned only with suspense at the expense of character depth, once claiming that: “Hitchcock only finishes a picture 60%. I have to finish it for him.” Herrmann was a Hollywood outsider, vocal in his criticism of the film industry and notoriously difficult to work with. In other words, he bore all the hallmarks of a bona fide genius.
Although he would usually insist on being on set while the film was being shot, the opening title sequence was written even before it’s accompanying animation had been completed. The recurring theme associated with Marion’s escape appears throughout the film, its swooping, angular melody conveying her despair and fear.
What does it give the film?
Herrmann was a master of character illustration through sound and his scores for Hitchcock’s films always feature themes for each of the main characters, presumably as a means of making up for the perceived lack of depth he felt they suffered from. Instead, Hermann used the music to convey aspects of the characters’ personalities that he felt were absent from the script or the performances.
What’s the best moment?
It’s hard to look past the scene in the shower. Herrmann’s stabbing, screeching violins have become so synonymous with Psycho and Hitchcock films in general, thanks to it’s iconic sound, that it’s often the first thing people remember about the film and the director.
Has it stood the test of time?
Definitely. Hermann’s score has a timeless quality and still has the ability to make your nerves jangle, which is what scoring a Hitchcock thriller is all about.