Alfred Hitchcock - Music To Be Murdered By

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There is little to relate 1958's Alfred Hitchcock Presents Music to Be Murdered By and the original soundtrack to the 1960 English thriller Circus of Horrors, starring the ever-menacing German actor Anton Diffring. However, both are owned as legacy properties by EMI Music, and it is through their Special Markets division that this 2-for-1 DRG Hollywood Collector's Series release was prepared, Alfred Hitchcock presents Music to Be Murdered By/Circus of Horrors. Not very many directors of motion pictures have made record albums of their own; it is more likely that a musical artist might direct a picture, such as Frank Sinatra did with None But the Brave (1965). However, there wasn't any good reason why Alfred Hitchcock should not have made a record album, as he was very well known through his popular Alfred Hitchcock Presents television series, which in 1958 was three seasons into its eight-season, 268-episode run. All of those episodes were introduced by Hitchcock himself, and his perpetually grave, droll sense of black humor and barrel-like girth were attributes known to every television-watching American. Obviously, Alfred Hitchcock presents Music to Be Murdered By wasn't a bad idea -- it was a commercial one.

Hitchcock, at least in Music to Be Murdered By, didn't have to step too far out of his comfort zone to accommodate this project. His characteristic flat, dry, and heavily inflected delivery occupies only the first minute or so of each track, whereas the rest of the time is taken with Jeff Alexander's "spooky" arrangements of familiar tunes with titles related in an ironic way to Hitchcock's murderous narrative -- "After You've Gone" and "I'll Never Smile Again" for example. Hitchcock's monologues are the best thing about the album, and they are quite amusing; Alexander's music is considerably less so. Chances are the Hitchcock enthusiast who obtains this will only want to listen to it once, or perhaps, once a year at Hallowe'en. That is why it is so devilishly confusing that this is combined with Circus of Horrors, a score half taken up with circus music cues modeled after familiar pieces and two -- count 'em -- two versions of Tony Hatch's unbelievably wretched pop song "Look for a Star." Owing to the incongruity of the tune with Circus of Horrors' overall mood, something about its use in the film strangely works, but on its own this miserable number, whether sung by Mark Anthony or Gary Mills, is unbearable. The few genuine horror stings found in the score, composed by Franz Reizenstein, are decent, if very short, cues but their appearance in the movie offer rather a "differing" perspective (pardon the pun).

Hitchcock managed to make a second record; in 1962, he recorded Ghost Stories for Young People, a children's album made for Little Golden. This was a little out of his comfort zone given his acknowledged disdain for kids, particularly child actors. He once told a terrified Billy Mumy, "If you don't stop moving around on your mark, I will go get a hammer and nail your feet to the floor." DRG 's 2-for-1 Alfred Hitchcock presents Music to Be Murdered By/Circus of Horrors might not keep the listener so riveted to his/her spot, and if one doesn't want the additional album then it's not really a bargain. Nevertheless, with as little as DRG had to work with -- a three-page foldout and the back plate in a transparent case -- it did a very nice job with the graphics for this disc. Being able to include the colorful poster for Circus of Horrors is decidedly a plus. -