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About jamesrspencer

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  • Birthday 02/13/1968

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    Long Beach
  1. Thanks loemsch , for your thoughts. I"m so in agreement with you. I so prefer Mancini's score for Frenzy. It feels very dark, foreboding Jack The Ripper -retro Gothic Victorian with the pipe organ and fugal development. In fact Stephen Sondheim said that Mancini's score influenced his musical Sweeney Todd (which also opens with creepy pipe organ). The Goodwin score is very pompous over patriotic British (which is what Hitch wanted to create the ironic dark humor of the opening scene). I'm not a big fan of Frenzy to be honest. I don't like that Hitch gets so graphic in the rapes etc. It starts to feel cheesy 70s horror/suspense like any other B movie over the psychological mastery of early works like Vertigo and Psycho. Henry Mancini got screwed a couple of times in scoring.. Orson Welles rejected Mancini's score to Touch of Evil. (which had this amazing bebop frenetic jazzy score with drumming) in favor of almost no score. Many of the greatest film director's like Hitch were not master musicologists and often made mistakes in judgement. In fact Hitch originally didn't want any music at all for the shower scene of Psycho.. and Herrmann knew better wrote it anyway and pushed for the music....... Imagine how mediocre Psycho would have been without the music score? Thanks again!
  2. I'm sad that the Hitchcock class is coming to an end as I have enjoyed it immensely and hope TCM will do the following: 1. Have ongoing classes like the Hitchock Class 2. Create a low cost online streaming site like Netflix... so more people including myself can watch TCM daily. I refuse to pay $140 in Long Beach, CA just to get 1 channel TCM. Crazy (I don't watch most of the mindless tv programming that is out there. Concerning the score to Frenzy. There are some interesting facts people might not know: Henry Mancini was originally commissioned to write the score to Frenzy. (The music survives) Here is a link so you watch the alternate version with Henry Mancini's score which I prefer to Ron Goodwin's (Who also wrote a very good score) Mancini's score to me is darker combining organ fugal counterpoint in a very 'stuffy' British style. I love the rich polyphonic writing. I find it interesting to think if Hitchcock was a bit more prolific in the later years if he worked with Mancini.. what kind of duo they would have been artistically? Mancini of course wrote themes like the Pink Panther, Charade, Mr. Lucky etc. I think as a composer he would have worked well with Hitch. Goodwin's score on the other hand works extremely well too with a patriotic hymn feel that is more upbeat and good natured. Hitch went with Goodwin as it created more contrast and dark humor. Ron was a British composer that scored over 100 movies. Alas he is not well known in America.
  3. At Jimmy L. Thanks for dropping by the panel discussion. Glad you love Herrmann's scores too and have been examining them. Many of Herrmann's actual scores are up on Youtube with the music so you can view the score as you listen. I included a link to Psycho score as well. Yes agreed a basic knowledge of music theory is helpful in understanding the devices Herrrmann uses to get certain effects, but just listening offers many clues. There are numerous cd and digital collections of Herrmann's scores as well as many documentaries. The Psycho dvds often include the Herrmann documentary on his music. I encourage all Herrmann fans to listen to Hangover Square's Concerto Macabre as it is in my opinion one of his first great works in the gothic horror genre.. This score sets up things that would happen later in Psycho and Vertigo.
  4. How does the opening of Frenzy differ from the opening of The Lodger? Feel free to rewatch the clip from The Lodger (Daily Dose #2) for comparison. I actually really love Frenzy. Frenzy returns to Hitchcock's "low British" roots of film making. Ron Goodwin's score set this up so brilliantly we get a rather 'patriotic British hymn" score with the travelogue style stroll down the Thames River. At first this set up what would first seem a travelogue style movie. It is Hitchcock paying tribute to his roots. After the pan shot under the London Bridge I notice the dark black smoke coming off one of the boats. It breaks the feel of London feeling like such a lovely travel destination. It reminds us that the Thames are filthy polluted with sewage, disease and "maybe something else." Hitch is good at engaging his audience. Like in other movies there is a feel of voyeurism. In Frenzy it is more subtle.. we are dropping in on the public crowd which places the audience at the scene of the murder. When we arrive at the gathering on the Thames.. I love the dark humor of the speech that progress has been made and that "modern London" is becoming clean from toxic pollution and other problems. Unlike the opening of The Lodger the crowd is quiet and calm. The dead body is nearly naked except for some white panties...It suggests a sex crime. I find the more graphic sexual nature of Frenzy interesting and frankly very 1970s. It seems to me this was a good style of movie making to move into for Hitch. I don't mind at all that it is not "a star vehicle" because by the 1970s the star system had dissolved pretty much. I like the interesting fact that when the dead body is discovered.. there is no "Frenzy" LOL... Hitchcock psychologically is stating that people in London at the time are so used to murders, rapes, and pollution that is just another part of Modern society. (this is in a way more disturbing). The modern 70s dress and return to color film feels right. It feels new (at the time) to be in glitter rock mod London with all of its sexually charged energy and tension. Perfect back drop for modern thriller. 2. What are some of the common Hitchcock touches that you see in this opening scene? Be specific. 1. Like all his previous films the music score in this case Ron Goodwin's rather patriotic British score sets up the tone and mood of the movie. The score works very well. The patriotic feel is funny as almost to say: "Welcome to London, the home of Jack The Ripper and other rapist mass murderers." 2. The Pan travelogue type shots is used in so many Hitch movies. 3. Close up of dead body 4. Dark humor. 5. Staring and building to early murder (start of the film) These are all classic Hitch touches. 3. Using Frenzy as an example, what thoughts do you have about the various purposes Hitchcock had in mind when he created his opening scenes? In the Daily Doses, we have focused on opening scenes, so there should be patterns or strategies you have noticed over the course of opening scenes spanning Hitchcock's 50 year career. Hitch is the master of opening scenes. The music, cinematography and characterization sets up what is to come perfectly in every Hitch movie. In Frenzy it is not different. I just think Frenzy has a lot of dark humor in the opening with such a patriotic feel with the music and London pan, then the nonchalant dead body in the Thames. It is so Hitchcock's own personality too. Emotionless in his face, dry dark humor. Rather funny to me.
  5. Based on the opening sequence alone, what do you feel you already know about Marnie as a character? In what ways does Hitchcock visually reveal her character through her interaction with objects. I have watched Marnie many times. I have to be honest, it is not my favorite Hitchcock, but I do see genius touches throughout the movie so it does engage the audience. As for Marnie's character I agree with film historians that Hitchcock slightly teases his audiences with throwback ideas from previous movies. We see Tippi's of Marnie with the things she has stolen The walking with the black hair, and wool suit harks back to the stiff cold clothes of Kim Novak's character in Vertigo. The yellow purse in such a bright and striking color choice against her outfit. Yellow represents "caution' as if she is a child that will later get caught. It reminds us immediately of Janet' s character in Psycho who steals money. The scene with Marnie going through the purse and changing social security numbers sets up the interest? Why? Who is this woman. The washing the black dye out of the hair to be faced then with Tippi with her Hitchcock blonde hair is a familiarity to audiences. We know Tippi from the Birds. Her hair style when she puts the bag in the locker and hides the key ... she looks Grace Kelly, elegant cold typical Hitchcock blonde. I guess my problem with MARNIE, is the subject matter. The childhood attempted rape and murder makes Marnie so tragic and pathetic. Tippi in my opinion is my least favorite Hitchcock blonde... she plays this role a little to melodramatic for me. I just can't seem to get into her performance ... though over all the movie works. I like Sean in his role and the mother character is well cast. How does Hitchcock use Bernard Herrmann's score in this scene? Bernard Herrmann's score for Marnie is one of his most beautiful, bittersweet and tragic. It is such a wonderful and surprising departure from earlier scores he wrote such as the frightful horror feel of Hangover Square or Psycho and the hypnotic anxiety of Vertigo. Herrmann's Marnie is sublimely melancholy, bittersweet and vulnerable setting up Marnie's character so beautifully The music that opens the clip is a soft with strings and a notable main theme solo with oboe, and dialogue with other wind instruments. . We get the impression that there tragedy about Marnie's situation –perhaps not from the Character’s perception – but how we will witness it as the audience. A short, turning melodic phrase is repeated over and over, maybe subtly suggesting this is neither the first nor the last time this ‘event’ has or will take place with this character. In other words maybe subliminally it suggests a repeated character flaw and neurotic behavior. The music is Romantically gloomy yet repressed. We sense that the need for Tippi to change her appearance goes beyond just her kleptomania ... she wants to forget who she really is. The music does a subtle thing as she reaches for the purse. The short, repeated melodic motif, which had up until this moment had been in 4/4 time, changes to triple meter. This ‘removing’ of one beat per measure is a very subtle increase of urgency – the music is ever so subtly and again almost subliminally increasing in urgency, without the obvious loud crescendo or dramatic acceleration. It is a remarkable use of orchestration to show these action shots. Bernard has always been the master of this. I wish we could discuss Bernard Herrmann's scores more in class I created a board topic discussion on Herrmann with specific interest in his Psycho score. We get a new repeated musical cell, a little more urgent because it is only two notes, over shots of her sorting through multiple social security cards. This two note theme is just the tail end of the previous musical motif, and as such again is a very subtle way to rack up the tension – by further compressing that musical idea. Herrrmann would often morph one musical idea into another through use of intervallic inversion, augmenttation and diminution of themes Because it is shorter the phrase repeats more quickly. Clearly it parallels the idea that this is a repeated behavior on the part of the character, who has multiple identities and has committed multiple illicit actions. The minimalism of the repeated themes seem to reflect Marnie obsessive phobias and habits. We then get a slow buildup as she washes dye out of her hair to a climactic musical flourish as she whips her hair back to reveal her new self to us, the audience. I referred to it above as a ‘glamour’shot, and the music establishes that. The lecture video mentioned Hitchcock’s self-referential shots to previous films like psycho, and clearly this is a mini version of the transformation scene in Vertigo, not only visually but more obviously musically. The music then abruptly stops as she puts the suitcase into the locker. We are snapped out of this ‘glamour’ moment into reality – the sound of the announcer at the train station and all the ambient noise. We are not in a romantic, luscious moment but rather in reality, and reminded that this is someone on the run because of her criminal behavior. It is a supreme example how even SILENCE in a musical score can communicate to the audience important ideas or themes. The crescendo builds us to the first view of our Hitchcock Blonde. This short clip shows the subtle brilliance AND the obvious brilliance (the face reveal) of a masterful film composer at the height of his powers. I never get tired of of examining and listening to Herrmann's score. He captures the characters and action so beautifully. I find it interesting that he stays mostly with strings like in Psycho but punctuates with reeeds esp oboe. Oboe always had a vulnerable melancholy quality and it works well in the Marnie score. Did you see any variation in what Hitchcock is doing with his cameo in this film, and what do you think that variation means? I find this cameo slightly more humorous. He has a close up shot coming out of the apartment and looks directly at the camera with his typical aloof face while Marne is exiting and does a little facial gesture. It is like to say "Yes, audience I know you are looking for my cameo. so I'm making it obvious, for those new watchers that don't have the sophistication to really watch my movies." There is a slight bit of snobbery in the shot. It made me laugh instantly. Second, he looks at Marnie and it is like he is thinking..... You think you know this one... but I'm taking this film in a different direction.. You don't have me figured out. Ha ha I got you... I always loved Hitchcock's dry dark humor. It mimmicks my own. Well done.
  6. what ways does this opening scene seem more appropriate to a romantic comedy than a “horror of the apocalypse” film? What do we learn about Melanie (Tippi Hedren) and Mitch (Rod Taylor) in this scene? The Birds is my 2nd favorite Hitchcock next to Psycho. Contrary to the question I do sense a slight "horror apocalypse" foreshadowing in the opening scene mixed with dark and romantic comedy elements. Maybe that is because I first saw this movie at age 6 and was really creeped out by it. I have never been a big birds fan when it came to nature or pets. As a child, there was a a large jungle jim near in the elementary school park. One October it was cloudy and I remember the black crows gathering in packs nearly 40 of them... it was so reminiscent of the schoolhouse scene from the movie that I couldn't even go outside to play. I remember even "not wanting" to go to school because of the the Birds. In addition I currently live in a beautiful historical area of Long Beach, CA with many palm trees. At certain times of the year, 100s of wild green parrots from Mexico fly into the palms in front of my condo. In fact I have a panoramic glass window view of these palms. Some mornings I'm waken up to the cacophony of parrot chirping that is so unsettling and then there is the retaliation of bird **** all over the cars that are forced to park on the street because many condos, and buildings in the old historic district I live in have no garages. I also once was driving on PCH in Huntington Beach and a gull actually did crash into my car! So though I doubt a bird apocolypse is possible, I do believe that smaller bird attacks and bizarre bird incidents are! I also had crows that bit through telephone wires on my roof disconnecting my phone on 3 occasions. I had to change to cell phone only. Crazy huh? Do like birds? (NO NO NO). I also have 2 friends who have parrots. I can't stand the grating noise they make, the molting feathers and the smell. UGG. so freaky. Ok sorry now to the movie: I always loved San Fran, and of course TIppi is the typical Hitchcock blonde, graceful and beautiful. I find it interesting that she is dressed in black business outfit which foreshadows danger. The one shot of the black birds in the sky... freak me out!!! Where others might not think about it.... I remember the first time I saw that .. was like Oh god time to move out of SF LOL. When Tipppi (Melanie) enteres the shop... I'm easily as unsettled ... all those birds flapping their wings in cages to me is unsettling. Rod Taylor is in my opinion a pretty sexy actor. I love him in this movie. I love how he mistakens Tippi (Melanie) for the shop girl. The flirtation is funny but the talk of birds foreshadow events to come. Esp.. talking about birds being locked up.. It sets up the bird attacks so perfectly. Even though I found the dark comedy/romantic elements sexy and fun.. I 'm always thinking.. what is one of those damn birds gets out of the cage and plucks Tippi's eye out. I like how Hitch uses social class in development of characters.. Tippi (Melanie) is rich and expects to ALWAYS gets what she wants. She is cross with the shop girl. "Where are my birds" they are so suppose to be here. Have them delivered to my penthouse etc. This theme will lead her on her obsessive chase to get Rod Taylor (Mitch) into bed and romance (I don't blame her LOL). The banter of Mitch buying love birds for his baby sis, and not wanting birds too "demonstrative" is funny to me. I love Hitchcock's humor in this movie which is what makes The Birds so bizarre when the attacks start. BIRDS is just plain bizarre and creepy which is why I love it. How does Hitchcock use sound design in this opening sequence? For example, how are the sounds of birds used to create a particular mood and atmosphere? Bernard Herrmann's sound design is brilliant. The sound of birds to me is always unnsettleing. Crazy. Again in the store all the background cacophony of birds creates tension. That is what I sense in the opening scene. Tensions of traffic, and mobs of people in a big city like SF, tensions of the birds in cages and the flock of birds in the sky, sexual tension between Mitch and Melanie, the tension the shop girl feels that Melanie's order is not ready. The background track ads to the tension and I love how Herrmann's bird tracks build and build through the movie It just gets more crazy till the bird war. Creepy as hell. The opening scene contains a famous Hitchcock cameo. Describe the cameo and if you think it has any particular meaning in relation to this scene. I always love Hitch's cameos. We always see the use of duality in Hitch's movies; good and evil, sexual and passive, black and white, etc. I think the duo of Hitch's pet dogs forshadlow that all relationships can go randomly from compatible to feuding. Many 2s (2 love birds) Mitch/Melanie, etc. I think the 2 dogs also subliminally say "Mans best friends" aka safety in numbers... that Melanie and Mitch will be forced to come together to save themselves and others from the birds. Notice how many birds we see in the opening scene. The only other animals are the brief glimpse of Hitch's dogs.
  7. Psycho opens with title design by Saul Bass and music by Bernard Herrmann. This is their third collaboration for Hitchcock, including Vertigo and North by Northwest. How does the graphic design and the score introduce the main themes of this film? I'm so glad we are finally studying my favorite HItchcock movie Psycho, which in my opinion is his absolute best blend of all aspects of film making coming together: Brilliant score by Herrmann, perfect psychological development of characters, great acting and cinematography. Saul Bass's title design is perfect! It is symbolic and psychological. The severe lines of the design and text evolving in between the lines says: "Are You Reading Between the Line?" or things aren't what they seem. In addition the severity of the lines creates a feeling of a cage, or jail. Saying literally "The main character needs to be locked up". which by the end of the picture is what happens. Filming in black and white is far more atmospheric and creepy then in spectacle color. I actually prefer black and white. I have created a panel discussion on Bernard Herrmann's score for Psycho, and I encourage students to look at my lecture to get a greater understanding of the brilliance of this score. From the opening ambiguous "HITCHCOCK CHORD" which is technically a minor triad with a Major 7th interval, to the underlying tension of minor seconds in this spectacular all strings score. The ostinati punctuations and the basic minimalistic 16th triplet motif that is obsessive, relentless and anxiety provoking. I feel the Hitchcock's team of Saul and Bernard are perfectly on the same page and everything works brilliantly. As the titles end, we have three shots of Phoenix, Arizona, and a very specific day, date, and time: “FRIDAY, DECEMBER THE ELEVENTH” and “TWO FORTY-THREE P.M.” What is Hitchcock seeking to establish with such specificity? Also, why do you think Hitchcock elects to enter the hotel room through the semi-closed blinds from the outside? Does this shot remind of any other Daily Doses we have watched? The voyeurism in Psycho is far more interesting and erotically charged than the voyeurism of Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window. Reasoning? Jimmy Stewart is so ordinary that audiences don't see him as a sexual leading man. (I personally never been a big fan of Stewart, and prefer Cary Grant, and other Hitchcock leading men). I love that we enter the Hotel window under the closed blinds. The blinds mimic the look of Saul Bass's opening design. The blinds represent something forbidden, as well as the lines of the blinds are similar to jail bars, Danger looks. The scene is titillating. John Gavin is by far one of the sexiest stars. The opening scene of him standing over Janet in bra and slip feels extremely voyeuristic. John standing over her reflect the dominant/submissive role of sex. Notice John's pants are black (representing sexual aggression) Janet is all white, representing innocence and naivete. The hotel room feels cheep and seedy. This ads to the voyeuristic tendency. We rarely see so much skin in a Hitchcock picture. Again people used to seeing "conservative" Jimmy Stewart are now seeing sexy John with his shirt off. The flashing of Phoenix Arizona is interesting, When one things of Phoenix they think HOT DESERT. Obviously this reflects the hot scene happening behind closed window. The date of December .. it is the last month of the year. Psychologically the last few days of Janet's character's life. The time is late afternoon TWILIGHT. reflecting the darkness.. between light and dark. Something dark is lurking around the corner. Hitch being specific with this makes the audience psychologically think? WHY? Why do I need to know this info? Ironically the audience will learn that it is Janet's last day of happiness before the murder. We also get that this whole relationship is doomed. John's character is very poor. Long distance relationship etc. Many problems. Not to mention it is so sexually charged that ... is really just a relationship of hot sex? All this goes through the audience's mind. In the remainder of this sequence, we are introduced to Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) and Sam Loomis (John Gavin). The scene pushed the boundaries of censorship, especially considering our last Daily Dose for North by Northwest was edited for a line of risqué dialogue. Since this is the opening scene of Psycho, how does the hotel room scene function as a way to establish Marion Crane as a main character? Defend your answer. What I find so interesting is Marion's garments through the picture. When we see her first she is in white bra and white slip. The white represents her innocence, her naive nature that throws her into danger. Her love for Sam, the sexy hot stud. We know she is in over her head. Before the murder scene, her bra changes to black (Norman looks into her hotel room)> BLACK DEATH!!!!! so obvious! And it is a sexual style death. Norman's repressed lust, the guilt of the mother etc. Alll that is reflected in Janet's bras. Wild huh? The dialogue between John and Janet in the hotel scene is titillating. Turning 'Mom's photo" to the wall, etc. and laying around on the bed half naked in the summer heat. The fact that is is already 3:oo in the hotel room. You know they have been having sex literally all day. We know Janet (Marion) is the main heroine. She of course is physically beautiful... typical Hitchcock blonde. She is the object of sexual desire. Yet we see her character's anxiety/vulnerability, desperation. It sets up things great. We get the feel that Marion will do anything be with Sam. She'll steal money, quit her job, follow him anywhere. We sense her obsession with him.. which later we will Norman's voyeuristic obsession. Bernard Herrmann's score needs to be mentioned again. The icy, melting feel of the hotel scene music. Bernard writes descending dissonant augmented 4th/perfect 4th chord streams descending. The feel is anxiety provoking, melancholy...Not sweeping romantic passionate music. The music score tells us danger lurks, and this relationship is doomed. The crescendo rising 2nds, create tension. Again I feel it Herrmann's best Hitchcock score.
  8. Here is a link that gives excerpts from iconic Bernard Herrmann scores: Showing his diverse style of composition:
  9. I'm such a huge Hitchcock fan so to narrow it down to my five favorite performances is difficult but here it goes: 1. ANTHONY PERKINS (PSYCHO) Anthony Perkins was the perfect person to play the role, he brings all the complexity of this character out completely. Gentleness vs. violence, the sexual ambiguity (gay in real life), the passive/violence. He is mesmerizing. 2. JUDITH ANDERSON (REBECCA) She is creepy, cold and obsessive as Mrs. Danvers. Truly one of the most iconic performances. Love her. 3. ROBERT WALKER (STRANGERS ON A TRAIN) Another mesmerizing performance, creepy, bizarre. 4. KIM NOVAK (VERTIGO) She is haunting and beautiful and her subtlety between the two women are mesmerizing. I also share a birthday with her so I'm a huge fan. 5. CARY GRANT (NORTH BY NORTH WEST) He is so iconic, handsome, and it is great to see him in a movie with danger. My thoughts: I know so many people love Ingrid Bergman in NOTORIOUS but I really never cared for her much. She has a melancholy air to her performance and lacks the sensuality and beauty of the other more iconic Hitchcock blondes like Kim, Eva, Grace, Tippi or Janet. Her character seems so frickin' bird brain that she would become such a victim for her love. Though Grace Kelly is of course stunning I'm not impressed by her performance in Rear Window. The character doesn't have the depth of other iconic Hitchcock heroines. She is gorgeous to look at but personally it is so odd to see her as the love interest of Jimmy Stewart. (In fact I'm not the biggest Jimmy Stewart fan either). He is just to common man and lack the charisma of Cary Grant and other leading men. I personally don't buy Jimmy Stewart in ROPE.. The character of the professor Rupert was supposed to be homosexual. Jimmy played it to straight. It would have been much more interesting to have seen Cary play the role who was closeted gay in real life. He would have brought more sexual tension to the role. Esp since in the original store Rupert has an affair with Phillip. Though I love Doris Day. I find her slightly annoying in The Man That Knew Too Much. She is just too sugary for me The Que Sera songs gets on my nerves as well. I prefer the black and white version. I found Julie Andrews surprising good in Torn Curtain with Paul Newman.. it is interesting to see her brings some sex to the role when she had just finished The Sound of Music. I love that Torn Curtain is such a great travel logue seeing parts of Norway and Copenhagen. I wish Herrmann would have done the score though. It would be so much more interesting then what Hitch went with. I love Tippi in The Birds and there is sort of cool iciness to her character that works well. I love Janet in Psycho: The shower scene is so iconic. The open eye shot is amazing. Robert Cummings in Saboteur is another actor I really like. He is handsome, and so sweet and innocent. You get pulled into his plight. He has a fresh innocence that works well, yet he is still a rugged and handsome leading man. Farley Grainger in ROPE.. He is great and brings a lot of the subtle gay mannerisms and nervous tension to the role. He is much more believable than Jimmy Stewart (who I never really cared for much in Hitchcock films)
  10. I personally find some of the later movies slow moving and they did not hold my interest: Family Plot, Topaz specifically. I'm also not a fan of Mr. and Mrs. Smith (I'm not into screwball comedies) Some of the early Brit movies are slow for me too but others are masterfully done.
  11. For a more detailed look at Bernard Herrmann's life and career, I have included this short 10 minute video where I discuss some of his key movies: 1. Daniel and Mr. Webster (1941) : Herrmann wins his only Academy Award. 2. Citizen Kane (1941): Herrmann experiments with orchestral color such as scoring parts of the score with 4 alto flutes. 3. Hangover Square (1945): He writes a through composed 1 movement piano concerto and begins to establish his Horror/Suspense iconic sound. The score has many typical Herrmann elements such as the use of tritones, minor 2nds, chromatics and the minor/major 7th (later known as the Hitchcock chord). He uses a Requiem dirge in the lowest range of the piano for eerie Goth effect. 4. The Man That Fell To Earth (1951): Herrmann experiments with the theremin, the same instrument used by Rosza for the movie Spellbound. The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) Hitchcock masterfully re-orchestrates The Storm Clouds Cantata by Arthur Benjamin....also conducting it in a cameo for the 1956 remake. Vertigo: The famous hypnotic motif of an augmented chord (D, Bb, Gb D Gb Bb). Psycho: All string score. Use of minor 2nds and augmented 4ths. The ambiguous Hitchcock Chord Bb,Db,F,A over F bass. Birds: Electronic manipulation of birds and synthesizer and other effects to masterful effect. Bernard Herrmann discussed:
  12. Good Day: I'm James Spencer, a musicologist from Long Beach, California. I wanted to create a panel discussion on the key points to Bernard Herrmann's score for Hitchcock's Psycho. Psycho is the most iconic horror score of all time and set the bar to inspire other horror film composers to compose in a similar style. Here are some key points about Bernard Herrmann's Psycho score: 1. Scored for only String Orchestra using the whole voicing range of instruments: violins I and II, violas, cellos and double bass. Each line of music often was divided into two parts to create 8 to 10 voice harmony. 2. THE HITCHCOCK CHORD: The iconic jolting opening chords of Psycho became known as the Hitchcock Chord. It is technically a minor triad [b-flat, D flat, F] with the added dissonance of a Major 7th interval [A] =Bb, Db,F A over an F bass. The chord is dissonant, jolting and also ambiguous. Major and minor together. The chord can represent the duality of the main character Norman Bates.. Passive/Aggressive, Masculine/Feminine, Gentle/Dangerous. The strings create the effect with sforzandi (forceful) down bow. 3. The Use of Minor 2nd intervals for tension and unsettled feeling. The use of minor 2nds or half steps is used throughout Herrmann's score. It creates tension, dissonance and an unsettled feeling. This device would inspire John Williams when he created his iconic minor 2nd theme for the movie Jaws. 4. The use of Augmented 4th Intervals: Diabolus in Musica. Known as the Devil in Music as early as the Medieval period, The augmented fourth interval for example C to F# creates dissonant tension. In the City scene of Psycho (the voyeur scene of looking at Janet Leigh/Robert Walker in the Hotel room. We get in the high register of the strings ambiguous Perfect and Augmented descending fourths. The effect is not romantic, but eerie, unsettling, icy and cold. Like the decision of Janet's character to steal the money. It psychologically sets up the feeling that something is wrong. 5. Shower Scene: Hermann makes use of a device known as glissando. That is when the string players slide their fingers up the strings. Down with knife like sharp down bows, the string players would slide up to strings to specified notes. Often a Major 7th apart (from the Hitchcock Chord) to create the terrifying effect. 6. Use of harmonics, the wood of the bow for bowing and pizzicato for effects. Bernard Herrmann uses all kinds of effects for tension and drama. Harmonics is created by barely touching the strings to create very high pure overtones. The wood of the bow instead of the horse hair can create metallic and airy effects, Pizzicato is plucking the strings which also creates additional depth of texture. 7. Repeated ostinato: The famous 16th not triplet followed by an 8th note motif throughout the movie creates the psychotic feeling. It is one of the most recognized motifs in all of move musical scores. Here is a link where TCM students may watch the actual musical score for Psycho with the music. Enjoy! Thanks for joining me and feel free to comment or add any points. This is obviously just the basic overview of some important points of the score. I included links (Sorry the files were to large to download. Psycho discussed by James Spencer: Psycho Score with Music: James Spencer jamesrspencer.com
  13. Even at the level of the dialogue, this film is playing with the idea that two Hollywood stars are flirting with each other (e.g. the line, "I look vaguely familiar.") How does our pre-existing knowledge of these stars function to create meaning in this scene. I found this scene slightly humorous because indeed Hitchcock plays with the fact that both actors are indeed big stars so the audience can get some of the inside jokes. When seated at the dining car, Eve Marie Saint is the typical cool, sexy Hitchcock blonde, she is dressed glamorous, and smokes. Cary is wearing dark sunglasses (very movie star). The lines "Have I seen you before" etc. are obvious that of course the audience had.. they are super stars. Eve's character paying off the waiter to have Cary's character seated .. similar to Hollywood star obsession. The flirting theme is interesting because Eve's character is so beautiful that she seems unattainable and vain. It let's the audience know that this developing relationship might not be what it seems and that it will be bumpy. There are James Bond like touches through this scene with Cary... esp the vodka martini on the table. What I find funny is Cary's like "one would think I would want to make love to you".. The inside joke was he was a gay male.. so to gay audiences this is a bit funny.. Playing the hetero leading man but .. in private he was gay and also in a long term relationship for many years with Randolph Scott. There is minimal action in this scene, so any deviation from the overall pattern of focusing on the faces of the two leads will have increased significance. In that sense, discuss how Hitchcock uses the R.O.T. matchbook as an important piece of acting business (or as a prop) in this scene. The lighting of the cigarette is so old Hollywood it brings to mind many famous Hollywood star couples like Bogie and Bacall. It feels classic Hollywood seduction. THE ROT matchbook is funny when she asks about the innitials and he says the O doesn't mean anything.. OH LOL It is have Cary's character is trying to fit in but truly is a much more introverted guy. uncomfortable with a more forward woman. The costuming fits the characters perfectly as well. How is Hitchcock using sound design in this scene? Consider music and other background sounds in your answer. The music is flirty and it works well with the background sounds of the train. It is a sexy metaphor. The train building speed, the flirtation and intimate setting, we know that eventually these characters will hook up.
  14. Describe what you think this film will be about simply from the sounds and images in these opening credits. Even if you have seen the film, try to focus on these sounds and images themselves and “the story” (or if not "the story," the mood and atmosphere they are establishing) that this sequence is communicating to the audience. Vertigo is my second favorite Hitchcock film. It is very obvious from the opening credits that the film will be a psychological thriller. The close-up of the face and then the eye with the morbid red light filtration ads the feeling of fear and trepidation and danger. The hypnotic kaleidoscopic mesmerizing Saul Bass graphics create a hypnotic effect of obsession, a nightmarish dream state. It tells the viewer that there will be illusion between what is reality and what is not in this film. Bernard Herrmann's score is pure genius. The minimalist tonal cell motif of the ascending/descending augmented chord is relentless. It picks up in tempo as the credits finish, creating a fabulous frenzy hypnotic effect. Bernard Herrmann is by far my favorite Hitchcock composer. This score is only second to Psycho for me. I think Herrmann is the most brilliant composer of film scores. I have had the pleasure to teaching Herrmann to college students as well as performing several of his works including his Concerto Macabre from the movie Hangover Square. Bernard uses an vast range in orchestration in terms of harmonic color and range of instruments. The harps playing the main theme underscored by extremely low basses creates the demented feel. In your own estimation, what is the single most powerful image in this title sequence? Defend your answer. The most haunting and powerful image in sequence is the close up of the eye esp when the music punctuates and the filtration turns to blood red. It evokes terror, obsession, hypnosis, mental illness.. basically that one shot sets up the whole movie to come. I like Hitchcock best when he really pushes the gamut into the surreal, bizarre. That is why my favorites Hitchcock movies are: Psycho, Vertigo, North by North West, and Spellbound. How do Saul Bass’ images and Bernard Herrmann’s score work together? How different would this sequence be with a different musical score? To me the only reason the opening sequence is so effective is due to the genius of Bernard Herrmann's masterful musical score. With another composer's score... this would not work well. Herrmann was the master of setting up the psychological mood of movies. The opening motif (the arpeggiated augmented chord) is probably the most iconic motif in the history of film.. with maybe the exception of the minor 2nd motif of John William's score to Jaws) The hypnotic harps, the menacing low strings and light punctuation of French Horns and brass enhance Saul Bass's iconic hypnotic credits. The spiraling kaleidoscopic patterns are continually reinforced as they become larger as the credits go on.. They pull the viewer into the screen. They overtake. On a side note: Jimmy's obsession with the Kim Novak character borders on creepy obsession. Wanting to possess her, making her over. Notice Kim dye job to blonde ... it mimicks Hitch's obsession with his leading actresses. I love Kim in this movie and I even share a birthday with her. The whole movie is a hard watch .. but I believe that is what Hitch wanted. One doesn't know what is real and what might be fantasy in Jimmy's head. It is weird, and creepy. I have watched this movie many times. I always find new things to focus on each time. That is what makes this movie great. Same with Rear Window.... there is so much to see that one finds new things they missed upon more viewing.
  15. How would you describe the opening camera shot of this film? What is Hitchcock seeking to establish in this single shot that opens the film? Whose vantage point is being expressed in this shot, given that Jeff has his back to the window? We see the courtyard of the apartment complex through the window of Jeff's apartment. The opening shot pans through Jeff's window to the window views of the all the neighbors. Hitch sets up the minor characters of Rear Window in the opening shots. We see the married couple with the dog sleeping on the firescape, the dancer in her apt, the composer/pianist in his apt, etc. We also see the heat of the city. The feeling of clausterphobia, tension and people trying to make the beset of it. We see the milkman, the kids playing in the street with fire hydrant etc. It is amazing to see how intricate this sound stage set is. Working electricity in every apt. The intricate sets and detail is amazing. The audience sees the movement through Jeff's eyes. It is voyeuristic and uncomfortable. Hitch doesn't miss anything. There are even pidgeons on the roof. Cat and other pets. We see the thermometer in Jeff's apt. and the heat of summer. What do we learn about Jeff in this scene without any pertinent lines of dialogue (other than what is written on Jeff’s leg cast)? How does Hitchcock gives us Jeff’s backstory simply through visual design? We know Jeff is in a cast and trapped in that hot apt. We know he is a photographer/journalist from the photos around him on the wall. They seem to deal with dark stories.. which indicate that Jeff's life has drama/trauma and is tense. Does this opening scene make you feel like a voyeur or, at a minimum, remind you of being a an immobile spectator? What feelings does Hitchcock elicit from you as his camera peers into these other people’s apartments? The opening scene does indeed make the audience feel trapped, and like a voyeur. The feeling is confining. We feel tempted to view but also like we shouldn't. We sense Jeff's irritation about his situation, There is sweat on his brow, he is hot, itching, stuck in that apartment all day with nothing to do but look out the window. There is a sense of restlessness Bonus question: if you have seen the entire film before, do you agree with Hitchcock that this film is his most cinematic? Absolutely: The fact that Hitch can create so much depth in such a confined space/set is amazing. We feel for all the characters which are well developed.. Not just Jeff in the wheelchair with the broken leg. There is the lady who's dog has been murdered and we feel for her loss. We feel for the lady looking for love, lonely and sad. We feel for the pianist/composer trying to get a break or the artist below him with her sculptures. There are all the commentaries Hitch makes on relationships. The sexy dancer who is the object of desire but secretely dating a short/bald/fat guy. There is the newlywed couple adjusting to living together. There is the guy who murdered his wife and that tension. It is a well synchronized choreographed dance through all the intricate set windows. It is so intricate that when I watch this movie again and again... I discover new things I missed. Like the pidgeons on the roof or the kids playing in the fire hydrant. Or the gigolo on the corner getting money from a lady. (Or all the party guests across the courtyard each with their own characterizations and motivations.
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