Welcome to Scribd, the world's digital library. Read, publish, and share books and documents. See more
Download
Standard view
Full view
of .
Look up keyword
Like this
0Activity
0 of .
Results for:
No results containing your search query
P. 1
The_orchestration_of_Anxiety.pdf

The_orchestration_of_Anxiety.pdf

Ratings: (0)|Views: 2 |Likes:
Published by Orlando Regidor

More info:

Published by: Orlando Regidor on Sep 01, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

Availability:

Read on Scribd mobile: iPhone, iPad and Android.
download as PDF, TXT or read online from Scribd
See more
See less

09/01/2013

pdf

text

original

 
 
 Psycho
and The Orchestration of Anxiety
Stephen Deutsch, Bournemouth UniversityAbstractSince its release in 1960, Alfred Hitchcock’s
 Psycho
has entered the consciousness of our culture as have few other films. Its striking imagery, combined with its universallyrecognised score, has prompted a wealth of scholarly output. New understanding in theareas of emotion and cognition now affords us the opportunity to re-examine this filmfrom a less familiar vantage point. This article places
 Psycho
within the context of American TV drama of the 1950s and explores the effect of Bernard Herrmann’s musicon the emotional responses of the viewer, as well as the possible consequences of thiseffect upon the literal reading of the film.KeywordsTV Drama, Hitchcock, Emotional signifiers,
 Psycho
, Herrmann, Mood and CognitionIntroductionIn the 50 years since its first release,
 Psycho
(1960) has been much discussed andwritten about; it continues to fascinate. Much of the writing on the subject has focussedon filmic issues, especially those concerning the notion of authorship, psychology,genre, and gender. Books and articles which address the aural aspects of the film tendto centre on the more musicologically focussed issues; few discuss the sound world of the entire film (Elisabeth Weis, in her 
Silent Scream
[1982] being a laudable exceptionto this generalisation). The focus on music in this film (and in this article) is hardlysurprising, however, as
 Psycho
’s production process closely resembled the practice of late 50’s television drama rather than of cinema, and as a result very few non-musicalsonic statements were part of the film’s acoustic landscape, despite Hitchcock’s normal proclivity to use sound as a structural device
1
.What is undeniable, is that for a number of reasons extremely well rehearsed elsewhere,audiences found the film shocking and disturbing. Hitchcock had played the audience“like an organ” (Truffaut, 417).There were many factors which contributed to our shock, not least of which wereexpectations we brought to the cinema before the first frame was screened. Some of these expectations were informed by television, especially for American audiences.
1
There
are
of course conspicuous and effective instances where non-musical sound carriesinformation, especially in the use of disembodied voices. See below, and Weis, 1982, p134.
 
 2
American cinema and tv drama in the 50s
Although Britain and Germany produced limited scheduled television broadcasts beforethe Second World War, it was in the USA that television took first post-war root.
2
Earlytelevision was studio based, and drama was a staple in the output of the networks.Regular one-off dramas appeared on television as early as 1947, and by the mid 50s,many prime-time hours were devoted to single dramas, usually performed live tocamera (with a few filmed inserts to help scene changes).
3
The list of these programmesincludes long running series such as Armstrong Circle Theatre, (1950-63), The UnitesStates Steel Hour (1949-53), Kraft Television Theatre (1947-58), and Playhouse 90(1956-60)
4
. There were several others.Television drama, given its stage roots, was vococentric, and in many ways its soundworld mimicked that which might be heard in theatre. Sound effects were used todepict events impossible to stage, or to heighten gestures (gunshots, weather, etc).Music was used as emotional signification, but rarely under dialogue. Also, thetechnology of the television receiver was such that (at least until the later 50s) only anarrow range of frequencies and amplitudes could be accommodated. With dialogue inthe foreground, there was room for little else.
Hitchcock 
 Psycho
” was an experiment in this sense: could I make a feature film under the sameconditions as a television show?” (Alfred Hitchcock, in Truffaut, 436)Hitchcock was probably the first director whose own persona transcended the movies hemade, at least in popular consciousness in the United States between 1955 and 1965(which was also the period during which he made some of his most accomplished andsuccessful films). From 1955 to 1965, Hitchcock regularly appeared on television,hosting his own show,
 Alfred Hitchcock Presents
(later 
The Alfred Hitchcock Hour 
).
5
 
2
This is hardly surprising, given the economic devastation suffered in most European countries by1945. It should also be noted,
en passant 
, that in 1939 very few homes were able to receivetelevision broadcasts (or could afford the televisions); Television broadcasting the USA didn’t reallyget going until after the war; the real growth occurred in the decade starting in 1948. In NaziGermany, television broadcasting was designed for communal rather than private viewing. Televisiondidn’t really establish itself in either the BRD or GDR until the mid-fifties.
3
It is fascinating to note that if a drama received rave notices, it was repeated live a few days later.
4
Playhouse 90 in particular was a major contributor to the careers of those who would later becomeimportant in film. They include Rod Serling, Abbey Mann and John Frankenheimer (among manyothers). Several of the plays premiered in air were later remade as films, such as
 Days of Wine and  Rose
” (Edwards 1962),
 Requiem for a Heavyweight 
(Nelson, 1962), and
 Judgement at Nuremberg 
 (Kramer, 1961).5 The programme was aired at peak time on Sunday (9.30 p.m, 8.30 Central Time Zone). In
 
the tenyears of its initial run, over 253 episodes, Hitchcock helped the careers of several directors, includingArthur Hiller (who directed 17 episodes), Robert Altman (2 episodes) and Stuart Rosenberg (four episodes) and various writers, including Roald Dahl, Ray Bradbury and Robert Bloch
.
 
 3
A good example of the sonic world of television drama can be seen in an episode of thatseries entitled “Lamb to the Slaughter” and broadcast on 13 April 1958. The script was by Roald Dahl, and Hitchcock himself directed. The Director of Photography was JohnL Russell, who would have the same role in
 Psycho.
The music is uncredited. In manyways, this 25 minute film bears resemblance to
 Psycho
; the studio setup isunpretentious, the sound is cleanly recorded and audible, and the acting subtle (BarbaraBel Geddes is the main character). There are very few sounds which were not provided by the actors’ movements (a police car approaches of camera, its lights making a pathon the window).
6
 
 Alfred Hitchcock Presents
began and ended with a short piece to camera in whichHitchcock made (often facetious) comments about the show in question
7
. He directedvery few of these programmes himself, yet his ‘brand’ attached to them
8
. His eccentric,intrinsically English, droll delivery was much enjoyed, and his penchant of comedy-suspense as a sub-genre
9
inclined audiences to expect thrills tinged with humour. Thetrailer for 
 Psycho
, shot on the motel set on the day principal shooting ended, capitalisedon the affection audiences felt for this persona. He takes the viewer on a tour of the set,almost (but not quite) giving away the plot, seducing the viewer into the expectationthat they will see a film very similar to other Hitchcock films. This expectation was to be shattered.As were others. The biggest (indeed the only) star in the film was Janet Leigh. By1960 she was almost an “A list” actor, and a screen icon. In 1960, such icons were notkilled, especially not within the first half of the film. Her character’s death cametherefore as a double shock, from both sides of the screen.As we have come to learn from many sources,
 Psycho
was a difficult and problematic project. Hitchcock therefore decided to invest his own money in the film, and as aresult endeavoured to produce it as inexpensively as possible (Rebello, 1990). He usedcrews from his TV series, minimised exterior locations (as compared to
Vertigo
and
  North By Northwest 
)
 
and cast the film similarly, with A-minus or B list actors, some of which had been used on the television series
10
. Bernard Herrmann was equally wellversed in the television aesthetic (and more importantly the production/post-production
6
This episode is available for viewing on YouTube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BmpY9cpe6g8 I have been reminded that in the previous year, Hitchcock directed an episode of the show entitled“One More Mile to Go” which seems a rehearsal for the
 Psycho
scene in which the policemaninterrogates Marion through the window of her car.
7
Sometimes he was required to film two versions of the opening sequence, especially when he pokedfun at the sponsors, about which the British affiliates were not as amused as the Americans.
8
Hitchcock directed 17 of the 268 episodes which were broadcast between 1955 and 1962.
9
He believed
 Psycho
to be in such a mold (Truffaut 1978).
10
Martin Balsam and John McIntire had been featured in that series; all of the principal cast, saveJohn Gavin and Janet Leigh, had extensive experience in TV drama.

You're Reading a Free Preview

Download
/*********** DO NOT ALTER ANYTHING BELOW THIS LINE ! ************/ var s_code=s.t();if(s_code)document.write(s_code)//-->