Although Bernard Herrmann only scored on Scorsese film knowingly, that being Taxi Driver, he also had his music arranged and adapated by Elmer Bernstein for this remake of the classic and rather naster thriller. Whereas the original had good and evil rather well defined, Scorsese went for a more ambiguous approach; but ultimately as with all remakes, it was compared to the original and so will always be referred to as such. While there are probably plenty of composers who are skilful enough to write music for this kind of film, only someone as great as Bernard Herrmann could have penned such a classic. Beginning with a short brass chord that then dies away only to be interrupted by Herrmann's very menacing four note motif that permeates much of the score. Even more than usual, this score is shot through with deeply disturbing unease; Vertigo had at leats a few moments of true warmth and romance and perhaps not since Psycho has one of Herrmann's scores been quite so consistantly brooding.
Virtually every track has its fair share of creeping strings or grumbling deep sonorities, but it is when the music explodes with fury that it reaches its emotional peak. Rape and Hospital is one such moment that features some terrifying string and brass writing, but this is counterbalanced by a more subdued repeating string motif afterward. Cady Meets the Girls starts with a shrieking string figure that brings back memories of Psycho. The more observent and ardent Herrmann fans will notice that another fragment of the rejected score to Torn Curtain appears in The Fight. The murder rumbling timpani based murder music is used extensively; similarly the three note descending motif from the prelude also appears, played rather slowly on muted trumpets and then on french horn. I cannot be sure, but I would suggest this was done by Bernstein to add a little more action to the score, especially since this version was more violent than the original which rather played more on psychology. It works quite well, but does sound a little strange hearing some quite familiar strains in another Herrmann score.
The original score remains unreleased officially and Herrmann doesn't seem to have ever recorded any suites from the score on his compilation albums and so this must remain as the currently most definitive renditions. It has to be said that it does sound a lot more like a film score recording than the more concert ambiance of recent Herrmann recordings. The opening track alone is worth the price of admission, the blazing horn and trombone parts very clear and razor sharp playing means that the Herrmann sound is as if Herrmann himself had conducted it. Elmer Bernstein is clearly a great fan of Herrmann's music and so his attention to detail is meticulous and the end result thus excellent. While the music is excellent in creating menace, as a listening experience it is perhaps a little too relentlessly intense and some of the creeping suspense moments perhaps occur a little too often. Fans of Herrmann's music would do well to pick this up as a great re-recording of the score, but the more casual fan is likely to find it a bit too intimidating for an introduction to Herrmann.