Bernard Herrmann's driving main title music for Alfred Hitchcock's murderous thriller sets the tone for a score that helped elevate the film from what the director feared was merely pedestrian (he was seriously considering editing it into parts for television) to a masterpiece of terror. Hitchcock hadn't wanted much music for the film and insisted that Herrmann write nothing for the shower sequence. In secret, Herrmann scored the scene -- in which Janet Leigh is brutally stabbed to death -- with slashing, dissonant strings. When Herrmann played it for the hesitant director it changed the fate of the picture. As editing progressed, according to "Psycho" screenwriter Joseph Stefano, Herrmann's deeply unsettling score, written entirely for strings, became more and more prevalent with the final cut eventually containing more music than any other Hitchcock film. "Bernie took the picture and turned it into an opera," Stefano commented. Herrmann's instantly recognizable cue for the murder sequence has never lost its power to shock audiences, and has influenced dozens, perhaps hundreds, of scary movie scores, while becoming embedded in popular culture in the process. Actor Paul Schackman will portray Herrmann in the forthcoming "Hitchcock," starring Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren and Scarlett Johansson, which focuses on the filming of "Psycho." Listen to music from "Psycho"
Copyright © 2018, Los Angeles Times