Night Digger/Herrmann

September 17, 2008

One of my favorite writers of short stories has been Roald Dahl with many of his quirky tales being adapted to the Alfred Hitchcock Hour and Tales of the Unexpected. Night Digger was based on the Joy Cowley novel “Nest in a Falling Tree”, adapted by Dahl and starred his wife Patricia Neal. Patricia is quite close to my heart having also survived a serious stroke. This English thriller about a spinster, her blind mother, and a psycho biker handyman came to and left the silver screen quickly. The film also starred Nicholas Clay and Pamela Brown and was directed by Alastair Reid. Today the film is quite obscure and one would be hard pressed to find a copy at all. Thanks to Label X and John Lasher the soundtrack, by Bernard Herrmann, has been re-released and is currently readily available.

Herrmann, true to his cantankerous personality, created some conflict by trying to change the ending to the story to the objections of Dahl. When the dust settled Herrmann was given the compromise of recording location and final mix of the sound but the ending remained unchanged.

Numerous tracks are the norm for a Herrmann score, his latest new re-release from Tribute Film Classics The Kentuckian having (48) for less than 60 minutes of material. However, Night Digger is called” Scenario Macabre for Orchestra” for a total of 43 minutes and divided into only (7) sections making this soundtrack flow a whole lot easier than some of his others. According to Herrmann’s instructions the 7 tracks are arranged in sequential order. So, if you are familiar with the film, the music is in correct order. The last track is a bonus being a short one-minute haunting harmonica solo from Tommy Reilly. Parts of this music are very similar to the style that Herrmann used in his Psycho score and to a lesser extent Sisters. The score was written for harmonica (the biker), tenor viola (tragic love), and small string ensemble giving it a “British sound for thriller pictures” according to critic Royal S. Brown. It has the Herrmann trademark of a motif being repeated over and over and over and over. While it has some sections of louder dissonant jump in your seat scary passages, most of it is rather subdued, somber, dark, and downright eerie. This style of horror/terror music written in the psychological way it is has a far greater impact on this reviewer than some of the newer clanking shrieking material. It doesn’t have to be ear squeaking to be effective. The agonizing tragic love theme, not unlike Vertigo makes your heart yearn for that happy ending that we know is not going to happen in this film.

This is a re-release of material from1994/1996. This reviewer felt this was an improved, better sounding recording from the compilation release of 1996 which includes Battle of Neretva and a suite from Sisters. The new release also has an additional bonus track and (5) minutes of material. Finding some of this out of print material can be a challenge so purchasing this new release while still available is the logical choice for listeners of Bernard Herrmann. While this is not his best material, even less than Herrmann is far better than most soundtracks. Recommended.

Rating is (***½)

Produced by JSR Lasher

Remix Engineer is Michael Lynch

 

Track listing

1. Scenario one (06:28)

 

2. Scenario two (04:09)

 

3. Scenario three (05:46)

 

4. Scenario four (06:17)

 

5. Scenario five (08:33)

 

6. Scenario six (06:47)

 

7. Scenario seven (05:29)

 

8. Billy’s theme / Harmonica suite (01:02)

Bonus track

Total Duration: 00:44:31

 

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