Torn Curtain

John Addison

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Torn Curtain Review

by JT Griffith

Alfred Hitchcock's film Torn Curtain had two scores written, but only one was used. The music heard in the film was written by John Addison, but an alternate score by famed cinematic composer Bernard Herrmann has also been released thrice on CD. The legend of the scores is that Herrmann refused to craft his composition toward the director's and studio's preferred pop direction. After an amazing nine efforts, Hitchcock and Herrmann parted ways after collaborating on some of the most famous soundtrack music of all time, including those for Psycho, Vertigo, and North by Northwest. The two never worked together again. The Addison version is about half as long, probably due to resultant time constraints. "Main Title" is sweeping with some jazzy hints while "Love Theme" sounds like most upbeat romantic cues of the time. Whereas Herrmann's unused score has moody and paranoid undertones throughout (as befitting a 1966 Cold War drama), Addison's only occasionally repeats those darker motifs. Herrmann's, with so many more cues and subsidiary pieces, provided a much deeper musical experience. So soundtrack fans are presented with a wonderful debate: Which score is better? The used is reflective of the time, but the unused has cache, a lot more music, and a challenging missive. While Addison used melody to propel the story ahead, Herrmann chose to forgo Hollywood's melodic conventions to further a brooding mood. The soundtrack to Torn Curtain shows that the tensions between producers and artists is universal and that the corporate needs with regard to film music are probably as old as film itself. Like with Orson Welles' unsuccessful struggle to make The Lady From Shanghai (and its music) more alienating and frightful, Bernard Herrmann was unsuccessful in forcing his musical vision upon Hitchcock. The used score is undeniably lesser, but also a good piece of work. The released Torn Curtain employed the use of silence, which made for an interesting artistic choice forged out of necessity. The two scores together make for an interesting history lesson for the students of film music.

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