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See No Evil
  • Composed by Elmer Bernstein
  • Intrada / 2014 / 28m

A reasonably well-received but now largely forgotten 1971 movie, Richard Fleischer’s See No Evil saw Mia Farrow play a recently-blinded woman who wakes up one morning unaware that the other members of her family have been murdered during the night.  Fleischer worked with a number of brilliant film composers during his long directorial career, including Hugo Friedhofer, Leonard Rosenman, Jerry Goldsmith, Basil Poledouris and Ennio Morricone; and for this film he enticed a brilliant score by Elmer Bernstein, which has never seen an album release before this Intrada album and because of the relative obscurity of the film will have been completely unknown to many people (including me).  It’s a short score – presented in its entirety on this album, it still doesn’t quite make half an hour – but one carefully crafted to leave quite an impression.

The first of the two main themes is heard immediately, in the dark and aggressive main title cue.  It is rare to hear such a blisteringly aggressive piece of music from this wonderful composer, but he makes excellent use of it through the score, often presenting short fragments with tension-building pauses in between, which are very effective.  It’s painted on a broad canvas – punchy brass and percussion, flavour from an electric guitar – and this contrasts beautifully with the tender second theme, for Farrow’s character (though named instead after the actress – “Mia’s Theme”).  It’s so innocent, full of decency but also with a tentative side, just beautiful.  Between variations and developments of the two themes are some delicate little interludes – even in the cues that last under a minute (and there are several) there is something interesting happening.  See No Evil is a great album, a must-have for Bernstein fans – delicate, intelligent music full of his trademarks but also exploring a less-often heard side to the composer.

Rating: **** | |

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  1. orion_mk3 (Reply) on Wednesday 5 November, 2014 at 04:07

    How would you say the score measures up to Mancini’s “Wait Until Dark,” another film about a blind woman turning the tables on an aggressor with a potent score?

  2. ANDRÉ - CAPE TOWN. (Reply) on Thursday 6 November, 2014 at 21:45

    This score is too formulaic & derivative…echoeing those piano themes for ‘TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD’ or ‘THE CARPETBAGGERS’. And the aggressive brass with sleazy jazz undertones reminds of ‘THE RAT RACE’ or ‘ANNA LUCASTA’ > these signature BERNSTEIN stylizations crop up in many of his scores…most of which I treasure. This time round I was hoping for further developments of the composer’s psychological music as heard in ‘THE CARETAKERS’. One of the finest recent releases of BERNSTEIN’S music is to be heard on the 3 x CDs ‘THE AVA COLLECTION’ album. I’m still hoping for a legitimate, remastered ‘I LOVE YOU ALICE B. TOKLAS’ CD. The music is tuneful, has an infectious beat AND is BERNSTEIN saluting the Hippie era along with exotic Sitar instrumentation and that brilliant song ‘I LOVE YOU ALICE B. TOKLAS – AND SO DOES GERTRUDE STEIN’ – underscoring the sequence that sees a Toklas recipe of weed being added to brownies, and served to Peter Sellars’ conservative Jewish family – with hilarious results.