Bernard Herrmann
The Essential Film Music Collection

Composer: Bernard Herrmann
Silva Screen
RRP: £14.99
SILCD 1208
Available 22 May 2006

This 2-CD set features carefully selected themes from 48 film scores, Highlights include
Twisted Nerve (Kill Bill), Psycho, Vertigo and Taxi Driver...

I've reprinted the text on the press release (above) as my synopsis for this CD collection. Why? Well, firstly I'm very lazy, and secondly I have a number of issues with this collection and the press release raised a couple more.

Firstly I was curious to know what "features carefully selected themes from 48 film scores" actually meant. I'm guessing that it really means that Herrmann composed music for 48 movies, and that 15 of those films have been chosen for this compilation - because there certainly isn't music from 48 movies on this collection. And secondly I was surprised to see that Psycho and Vertigo were listed as "highlights". Yes, I know these are great scores, but I've lost count of the number of compilation soundtracks I own with these two themes on them.

Now I don't want to come over all cynical - but I'm going to. Look at the cover for a minute and ask yourself what Silva Screen where trying to do. We have the composer's name at the top of the cover and then some images of New York taxi cabs and "Taxi Driver" in black text on a yellow background. The real title of this CD "The Essential Film Music Collection" is neatly hidden (well "The Essential" is really difficult to spot at a quick glance). Could it be that knowing that students buy soundtracks to their favourite films, and that one of the all time favourite student movies is Taxi Driver, Silva Screen were hoping that people would pick this up thinking it was: "Bernard Herrmann's.... Film Music Collection... for Taxi Driver?"

As we only get eight minutes of music from Taxi Driver I am surprised that it's being marketed so heavily. This is made even more bizarre when you consider that it is probably Herrmann's weakest score in this collection.

In truth a lot of these scores have been reproduced on countless "classic" movie compilations but there are some gems here to get excited about.

The tracks from The Snows of Kilamanjaro are interesting as are those from The Ghost and Mrs Muir. And, even though I've heard the Cape Fear theme a thousand times it still sends shivers down my spine. Marnie and North By Northwest are also compilation oldies, but still excellent. The music for Mysterious Island was a nice surprise, as was On Dangerous Ground.

Fans of Herrmann's music will already own much of this collection, so will not get any real benefit from buying this. This is aimed more at the casual soundtrack lover who has only a vague awareness of who Herrmann is. As an introduction to his music this collection can't be faulted. But, for poor presentation and marketing, Silva Screen should bow their head in shame.

Ray Thompson

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