When music makes the movie

subway 1973 by bobster855

I remember sitting in the movie theater seeing the original
The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 in 1974. In fact, it is one of the few movies where I really remember sitting in the theater and I can visualize myself watch watching he movie.

That is, for most movies I remember the movie, just the scenes, as if I had visualized them in my head. They are not much more different in my memory that the visualization I have for important scenes from my favorite books. I do not remember my surroundings or where I watched the movie.

But a few movies were so affecting to me that I not only remember the scenes but I remember exactly the theater I was in, what it smelled liked, what the event of watching the movie was like. I can ‘see’ myself sitting in the seat watching the movie. Some of the other movies where the event of watching the movie, of my emotional reaction to the movie, is still as visceral as the scenes I watched are: A Clockwork Orange (first adult movie I snuck into), Jaws, and Star Wars, All have one important element – sound.

For me, music has always been a way to achieve an altered state. I put something like Dvorak’s New World Symphony on the headphones, lay down and I am gone. The ego, I, no longer exists until the music is done. My wife disturbed me one time when I was in that state and it was like being hit with a hot poker to come out of it so fast.

Hearing affects our memory as much as sight. Each of these movies has an incredible soundtrack, one that was like nothing that had been used before. Clockwork Orange uses classical music to drive the movie. Jaws has the dread-enducing theme for the shark, and Star Wars does not need any explanation.

The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 was a pretty workman-like movie with little big scream machinations. It has Walter Matthau for goodness sakes. It feels like it is shot on handheld cameras located right in the action (well, actually, based on the many jiggles seen while driving in New York, it probably was). But it is an emotional blockbuster, setting up tension in ways that are so understated that you almost fail to realize how wound up you are by the end. It does this not only with a wonderful plot and great acting but with a dyscophonous soundtrack that is both irritating and hypnotic. The rhythms are both so wrong, yet so right.

Watch and listen to this incredible video edited to the theme from the Taking of Pelham 1 2 3. Simply listening to it puts me back in the theater. Watching the video makes me want to see the movie again. I think the music helps make this fan’s edit one of the best ‘trailers’ for the movie.

I doubt that the new version will hold up as well.Star power is much more important in this one than acting or tension. Maybe I will be wrong but few movies surprise as much with the use of sound as the original.

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