Music To Be Murdered By/Circus of Horrors/Alexander & Mathieson

March 22, 2007

 

Leave it to DRG to come up with something unusual in this double album Hollywood Collector Series. Upon a first listen to it this reviewer came to the immediate conclusion that the only tie in between the two remastered albums is that they fit on a single CD. They are about as different as chow mein and pizza and each of them has their good and bad points.

Music to be Murdered by was originally released in 1958 on the Imperial label and is loosely based on material from the long running series Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Alfred presents each track with his witty off the wall sense of humor that had as much appeal as some of the episodes themselves. As an example he introduces “I’ll Never Smile Again” as ‘it is inevitable I would do a recording as my measurements are 331/3-45-78’. The music is arranged and conducted by veteran television composer Jeff Alexander, who also offers two original compositions “Music To Be Murdered By” and “Suspicion”. The “Alfred Hitchcock TV Theme”, based on the now quite famous Gounod theme, is an excellent arrangement with lots of good brass and just the right amount of humor. “Suspicion”, begins with a solo female voice that almost sounds like a theremin, and then it slides into a Les Baxter style of a bongo percussion exotic lush South American music. Since Alexander worked at Capitol with Baxter, Riddle, and May one can hear a similiar style of orchestration to each of them along with his own unique arranging. “Music To Be Murdered By” is a great track of underscore material complete with danger motifs and is one that was used in various episodes. There are also 6 standards which are arranged in such a way that they nicely fit the program. Overall Jeff Alexander offers us very professional arrangements, not big band, dance, or easy listening material but an acceptable experience that anyone with an ear for some of the golden age material would like. The issue is you have to keep listening to the commentary from Alfred Hitchcock between every track and while it is witty and puts a smile on your face the first time, it gets annoying after that. There is no way to program it out, that’s the way it is recorded so you have to live with it.

Circus of Horrors was an American International British made 1960 film that attempted to offer circus thrills, pretty girls, and horror all in one and frankly failed in all three areas. It was made as a ‘B’ film with a bit more of a budget than many but is still relegated to late night television. The theme from the film turned out to be another story. “Look For A Star”, written by Tony Hatch and performed by Gary Mills turned out to be a huge hit probably out grossing the film itself! This was the time when many producers insisted on a pop vocal hit for their film to help sell it. The song itself really doesn’t have a circus sound to it at all but worked fine in the film. However, “Russian Dance”, a spinoff on the Sabre Dance, does. Also “Waltz” is a very typical hire wire type of circus music. The music is by Muir Mathieson and Franz Reizenstein and there is no designation in the liner notes at all as to who did what with score. One of the most interesting things to listen for are the references that are made to other films. “Circus Mystery”, an overall dissonant track, does sound like some of the underscore that was done for the Sherlock Holmes Universal films. “Stillness” almost begins like Cape Fear before it goes into another direction. “Dance of Death” is a french accordian cafe style music while “Latin Love” is a typical castinet style South American rhumba beat. While there are some unique underscore tracks such as “Madness”, clarinet led, and “Circus Nocturne”(no its not a nocturne), there is nothing groundbreaking about this soundtrack at all.

There is an interesting useless bit of trivia that I found out about as a result of listening to it. Each of the featured albums offers a song that is used in Flags of Our Father! “Thunderer”, which is actually the Washington Post March of Sousa and not The Thunderer is also used in Flags as well as “I’ll Walk Alone” which Clint sings at the end of the film and is also played in the Hitchcock murder album.

The remastering by Alan Silverman is fine considering the age of the material. The liner notes with pertinent information that the soundtrack collector would like to have is non existent. The liner notes are the original lp ones and do not supply a lot of pertinent information. I suspect that both of these are straight transfers from the master tapes. Considering the obscurity of the material and the lower retail cost from DRG this is one that could be in your collection. There are a few worthwhile tracks that are worth having which outweigh the negatives I have talked about in the review.

Golden Score Rating (**)

Produced by Hugh Fordin

DRG-CD-19098

Track Listing:

1. Music To Be Murdered By

2. I’ll Never Smile Again

3. I Don’t Stand A Ghost Of A Chance With You

4. After You’ve Gone

5. Alfred Hitchcock TV Theme

6. Suspicion

7. Body and Soul

8. Lover Come Back To Me

9. I’ll Walk Alone

10. The Hour Of Parting

11. Look For A Star

12. Thunderer

13. Russian Dance

14. Waltz

15. Stillness

16. Circus Mystery

17. Circus Of Horrors

18. Look For A Star

19. Circus Nocturne

20. The Kill

21. Latin Love

22. Madness

23. Girlie Tent

24. Dance of Death

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