Tending Herrmann's Garden

Tending Herrmann's Garden

Posted by Mike Matessino on Apr 20th 2016

Among the many virtues of the classic Fox western Garden of Evil (1954) is the wonderful (and wonderfully lengthy) music score by the great Bernard Herrmann. This was Herrmann’s first score recorded in stereophonic sound, and we are fortunate that the original 35mm masters survive in excellent condition and are nearly complete. Although the score has been released on CD, as well as presented as an isolated track on Fox’s standard DVD edition in 2007, this time we were able to improve the quality further and present the music in discrete 3-channel stereo (left-center-right). Some missing segments have also been included from the film’s music & effects stem. Conversely, we also have one unused cue placed where it was originally intended. Also on this track, but not on the 2007 DVD, is the source music from early in the picture.

Also for the 2007 DVD, a commentary was recorded, with our own Nick Redman moderating a discussion with Herrmann experts Steven C. Smith, William T. Stromberg and John Morgan. Toward the end of the commentary, Nick rightly sums it up by calling it a “master class” on Bernard Herrmann. And indeed it is, incredibly rich and filled with an amazing amount of information about Herrmann and the world of film scoring in general. The commentary, in conjunction with the isolated music score, makes Garden of Evil a “must-have” for enthusiasts of film music in general and Herrmann in particular.

The work with the music didn’t stop there for Twilight Time’s Blu-ray, however. The film itself was originally presented in 4-channel stereo, and sadly some of the reels began deteriorating since the DVD was issued. Fortunately, the transfer done in 2007 has allowed the 4-channel audio to be preserved. While preparing it for Blu-Ray (it needed some clean-up and re-syncing to the new hi-defintion master), I noticed that there was very little surround activity on the track — all of nine minutes, in fact, consisting of just a few key moments of score and ONE instance of a sound effect. While we have preserved this “historic” presentation on the Blu-ray as a 4.0 track, the existence of the 3-channel music score created the opportunity to go a step further to create an enhanced 5.1 track. Some conservative additional sound effects have been added and the score is now present through the entire film, resulting in a dynamic experience that gives the movie a sonic upgrade that showcases Herrmann’s score even more.

This is the third time I’ve gotten to work with this music, and it gets better every time. I hope that collectors enjoy the end result on Blu-ray as much as I enjoyed working on it. Garden of Evil arrives May 10. Preorders open April 29.