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  Special Merit 

THE WRONG MAN (1956)

Music composed, orchestrated, and conducted by Bernard Herrmann.

Total Track Time = 41:30

Tracks:
1. Hitchcock (0:41)
2. Prelude (2:04)
3. The Hallway (0:51)
4. 5 am (0:39)
5. The Car (1:35)
6. The Store (1:28)
7. The Second Store (1:04)
8. Fingerprints (1:44)
9. The Cell I (1:48)
10. The Cell II (1:21)
11. Police Van (0:40)
12. Felony Court (1:10)
13. The Tank/ Handcuffs (4:09)
14. The Door (0:33)
15. Bob (1:09)
16. The Telephone (2:24)
17. Farmhouse (0:33)
18. The Bridge (0:38)
19. 3rd Floor (1:09)
20. Alibi (0:33)
21. The Glove (0:50)
22. The Mirror (1:12)
23. The Parting (2:20)
24. Prayer (1:08)
25. Stork Club (0:28)
26. Finale (4:01)

Bonus Tracks:
27. The Door (alternate) (0:33)
28. Trailer (Hitchock/Prelude/Manny) (2:36)

Album Produced by Lukas Kendall.
Digital Assembly by Michael McDonald. Digital Mastering by Doug Schwartz.
Music recorded at Warner Bros. scoring stage, Burbank, California, October 18-19 and 22, 1956.
CD Album Notes by Christopher Husted.

Film Score Monthly Vol. 9, No. 7

Rating: ****

 

For those expecting the suspense music like later Herrmann-Hitchcock collaborations such as VERTIGO or PSYCHO, they will be in for a big surprise. The score for THE WRONG MAN is extremely somber. Yet I believe it just may be Bernard Herrmann's greatest film noir score.

When I wrote the article titled, "From Hitchcock to Harryhausen: Ten Essential Herrmann Scores" (Film Score Monthly, April/ May 2000, p 30-33), I couldn't include THE WRONG MAN on the list because there wasn't any soundtrack available. Now that is no longer true.

This FSM release is the first issue of the complete soundtrack and though it only survives in monaural sound, it is much better than expected. The digital work done by Micahel McDonald and Doug Schwartz have worked miracles on this subdued soundtrack. It should be noted that there was another soundtrack recording on Soundstage Records which I have not heard and so I can't comment on it.

The story involves one of Hitchcock's favorite devices, that of mistaken identity. In THE WRONG MAN the one who is mistaken for a thief is Christopher Emanuel (or Manny) Balestrero (brilliantly played by Henry Fonda) and his wife, Rose (Vera Miles in another stellar performance). Balesterero is a string bass musician at the Stork Club in New York City and is first investigated and then arrested for crimes he did not commit. To accompany the anguish and fears of Manny Balestrero, Herrmann has composed his bleakest sounding film score. Yet it's also a mesmerizing and unforgettable series of cues, using the same darkly hued instrumentaion he will use a few years later for Rod Serling's landmark TV series, THE TWILIGHT ZONE.

The opening track is "Hitchcock," as the director introduces his film--the only time he didn't make a cameo appearance in the film as himself. Instead Hitchcock appears far off in silhouette as he introduces the film. The next cue is the "Prelude," composed in a dance club style seldom heard in a Herrmann film score. It's a delightful cue and nicely sets up the pleasant existence of Balestero before he is put under investigation. Following that is "The Hallway," which begins the long series of cues with dark and somber orchestration and featuring string bass prominently to represent Balestrero's torment.

Among the the effective cues are "The Cell I and II" (tracks 9-10), featuring the same Hitchcock theme with muted trumpets and descending string bass figures leading to an increase of tempo and with added harps. This accompanies Hitchcock's filming of Balestrero's increasing fears in his cell thinking of what has happened to him. The swirling of the camera and music are perfectly joined in this mesmerizing scene.

The 16 page CD booklet includes several black & white photos, including a few candid shots of Herrmann conducting the Glendale Orchestra in 1956. The notes by Christopher Husted are very well done and provide the background on the film's story and a track-by-track description of the score. There is also a list of all the 33 studio musicians, who are called "THE WRONG MAN players." One of them is the future film composer Dominic Frontiere, who plays accordion.

There is no film composer from the past who created such startling orchestral combinations like Herrmann. He was a master of subtle soundscapes.

So considering his subdued score, Herrmann was indeed "The Right Man" for this Hitchcock film.

If you are a Bernard Herrmann fan, THE WRONG MAN is an essential release.

Highly recommended.

 

--Roger Hall, 1 June 2006

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The Wrong Man

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