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The first half of the 1970s witnessed a magnificent resurgence for one of Hollywood’s legendary composers: Bernard Herrmann. Living in England, the notoriously cantankerous Herrmann—a near-pariah within the Hollywood establishment—suddenly became the darling of young directors like Martin Scorsese, Brian de Palma and Larry Cohen.
Cohen wrote, produced and directed It’s Alive near the beginning of a storied career as a high-end exploitation filmmaker. Although his plans to reunite the two principal actors from Psycho for his film about a mutant killer infant came to naught (John Ryan and Sharon Farrell instead played the hapless parents), he did manage to hire the composer of the iconic score for the Hitchcock classic.
Herrmann’s score for It’s Alive
represents the epitome of his succinct style. The music evolves from short, mostly conjunct motives (usually only 2–5 notes), repeated sequentially. There is little in the way of extended melody. The orchestration is also typical for Herrmann: an unusual ensemble consisting of 6 clarinets, 8 French horns, 6 trumpets, 6 trombones, 2 tubas, 2 harps, Moog synthesizer, electric bass guitar, organ and percussion. The only string instrument is a solo viola d’amore, a Baroque-era instrument that the composer previously used for On Dangerous Ground
and one of his Twilight Zone
This CD features the premiere release of Herrmann’s nearly complete score (only one five-second cue is missing), mastered from a set of ¼″ monaural tapes in the Warner Bros. vaults. (No stereo masters survive.) FSM’s 16-page booklet, designed by Joe Sikoryak, includes a detailed, perceptive essay on film and score by Jeff Bond and Frank K. DeWald.
The film’s tag line reads: “There is only one thing wrong with the Davis baby. It’s alive.” The only thing “wrong” with this CD is that it took 37 years to bring Bernard Herrmann’s third-to-last score to the public. FSM is happy to correct this oversight as a final tribute to the composer at the end of his centennial celebration.