Monday, October 26, 2015

Psycho - The Shower Scene With And Without Music

This was a real surprise. I was sure before I even saw this that the infamous shower scene from Psycho would fall completely flat without that eeeek, eeeek, eeeek, eeeek music by Bernard Hermann that helped make it so famous.

Not so, in my books.

Hitchcock knew the power of sound. He knew we hear before we see (in the womb), so sound is much more primal, even though we live in a culture which is almost 100% visual. The soothing shhhhhh sound of the shower is broken by the sssssst of the curtain being scraped back, and then the most godawful movie sound ever: the tip of the knife repeatedly entering flesh with a ruthless chttt, chttt, chttt. Though it's hard to pick up in the original, Janet Leigh's screams become increasingly erotic-sounding, with gasps and sighs interspersed, as if she's just having a particularly lusty bout of sex (illicit sex being very big in this movie, with bad women like Marion Crane paying with their lives).

Hitchcock did nothing by accident. This scene stands just fine by itself, and is maybe even an improvement because it strips back any interference with the extremely disturbing sounds of the original. The ping-ping-ping of the shower curtain being pulled down is a nice touch (though as usual with YouTube, this was clumsily edited and left out the best shot of the scene: Janet Leigh's open-eyed, staring face lying flat on the cold bathroom floor).

Which see.

TITBIT (or tidbid): I was to learn this, after the fact:

Herrmann biographer Steven C. Smith writes that the music for the shower scene is "probably the most famous (and most imitated) cue in film music," but Hitchcock was originally opposed to having music in this scene. When Herrmann played the shower scene cue for Hitchcock, the director approved its use in the film. Herrmann reminded Hitchcock of his instructions not to score this scene, to which Hitchcock replied, "Improper suggestion, my boy, improper suggestion." This was one of two important disagreements Hitchcock had with Herrmann, in which Herrmann ignored Hitchcock's instructions. The second one, over the score for Torn Curtain (1966), resulted in the end of their professional collaboration. A survey conducted by PRS for Music in 2009, showed that the British public consider the score from 'the shower scene' to be the scariest theme from any film.

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