In the course of this project I have come across a lot of odd and interesting things about Bach’s great Chaconne. But probably nothing is as odd as its use in the soundtrack of the film “Beast With Five Fingers” that a friend alerted me to during the summer. I had an urge to post it immediately, but it seemed a fitting thing for Halloween so I waited until today.
If you do nothing else, click the video to hear the soundtrack underneath the opening titles–a lush and dramatic orchestration of the opening measures of the piece.
Why the Chaconne? Well, the plot concerns a murdered concert pianist whose left hand reappears after his death to extract revenge on those who seek to steal his estate. At various points in the movie (see, for example, the scene at around 1 hour 18 minutes), we hear or see the hand playing the Brahms transcription of the Chaconne which is, conveniently, written to be played by the left hand alone. Max Steiner did the score for the soundtrack.
The movie’s screenplay by Curt Siodmak is based on a short story by W. F. Hardy which, oddly, has no mention of a piano or music. Instead, the disembodied hand of the story does other odd spooky things.
It would be fascinating to know how this particular screenplay evolved and how the musical decisions were made. Which came first: the story decision to make the hand’s owner a pianist and to make it a left hand, or the decision to build the score around Brahms’ left-hand arrangement of the Chaconne?
Alas, I fear this is one of many mysteries that will remain unsolved.