Archive for September 14, 2022

Symphony of a Gray City

Posted in FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 14, 2022 by dcairns

Rewatching EMILE AND THE DETECTIVES (1931) — mainly for Fritz Rasp and the amazing train hallucination.

But then it occurred to us —

First Fiona: this music reminds me a lot of a Universal horror movie.

Me: It’s Allan Gray, who scored A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH —

And I KNOW WHERE I’M GOING! which has another hallucinatory train journey…

And there’s A LOT of music here! Making it one of the very first full film scores in a talkie (BLACKMAIL showed the way, but Hubert Bath’s excellent work there wasn’t continued immediately in such a full-on way, almost as if it were considered a mistake to have so much music). Bernard Herrmann considered Karol Rathaus’s score for THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV, also 1931, to be the first, but Grey was contemporary with it, and so was Franz Waxman with THE MAN LOOKING FOR HIS MURDERER. It’s Waxman’s later BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN score that bits of EMILE seems to resemble — which may be more than a coincidence with the films being made so close together, and Billy Wilder working on the screenplay of both.

EMIL’s music characterizes the film beautifully: it has all kinds of stuff going on including a jaunty march and slide whistles, not just Frankensteinian dark thrills. It’s memorable and jaunty, even if sometimes it gets in the way. When Emile is trying to retrieve his money from under Rasp’s pillow, the bombastic crashing climaxes of the orchestra cancel out the suspense, which should all be about being as quiet as possible.

Come to think of it, one reason for the music may have been the location filming, with its attendant difficulties in recording live sound. The movie adds an interest absent from M (not that I’m knocking M’s eerily silent studio city) — the real streets of Berlin. A city symphony, with a children’s film going on in the foreground.