Home > Reviews > TEACHING MRS. TINGLE – John Frizzell


teachingmrstingleOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

Of the young new composers to emerge during the latter half of the nineties, John Frizzell is the only one to have not yet developed a truly original voice of his own. Contemporaries such as John Ottman and Marco Beltrami have already established an earmarking “sound”, stylistic trademarks and compositional techniques, and while Frizzell has shown an adeptness in a number of genres (horror in Alien Resurrection, comedy in Beavis and Butt-head, action in Dante’s Peak) he is still musically anonymous – his new score for Teaching Mrs. Tingle being a prime example.

Teaching Mrs. Tingle – originally entitled Killing Mrs. Tingle – is a part tongue in cheek thriller, part schoolboy wish fulfillment fantasy directed by Kevin (“Scream”) Williamson and starring Helen Mirren as the eponymous high school teacher – the one every student hopes they don’t get when the classes are announced at the beginning of each year. After pushing one of her charges just a little too far, Mrs. Tingle is kidnapped by three of her own pupils (Katie Holmes, Barry Watson and Marisa Coughlan). But, having finally got Mrs. Tingle exactly where they have always wanted her – tied up in their living room – what do they do now?

It is clear from the opening bars of the opening cue that Kevin Williamson and John Frizzell never intended for this movie to be taken too seriously. Mischievously light-hearted pizzicato violins and scratchy cellos dominate the opening ‘The Incident at the School’, and several other cues after that. It’s also quite evident that, had he been alive today, Kevin Williamson would have asked Bernard Herrmann to score his movie, because Frizzell quotes liberally from classics such as Vertigo and Psycho, and tries oh-so hard to emulate the distraught musical sounds the Maestro was able to create with such ease. The problem with trying to emulate a film music legend to such an extent is that, inevitably, the emulation falls way short of the original – and this problem plagues Frizzell’s score in its entirety. It also doesn’t help that, on many occasions, Teaching Mrs. Tingle has the unfortunate effect of reminding me of Alan Silvestri’s depressingly dreary Death Becomes Her.

To be fair, Frizzell has come up with some interesting motifs and variations, like the skittish strings in ‘The Crossbow Incident’, the sleazy sax solo in ‘Get a Television, Mrs. Tingle’, and the dark piano melody in ‘I Know You’. There is also some genuinely attractive pseudo-romantic material in three consecutive middle album cues, the pathos-fuelled ‘My Mom Has Been Very Sick’, the touching guitar-led ‘Luke Confides in Tingle’ and the lightly jazzy ‘Close Your Eyes’. The five-minute finale, ‘Destiny’, expands further on the central four-note motif with a loud percussion section, a rapid tempo and even a sampled choir, turning it into an admittedly rather grand and exciting way to end things.

Ultimately, though, John Frizzell’s work on Teaching Mrs. Tingle is little more than a fairly run of the mill thriller score with delusions of grandeur. Some listeners may enjoy hearing his take on the Herrmann sound, and others may enjoy it simply for being another string in Frizzell’s bow – another genre effectively ticked off the list. Personally, though, I feel that there is too little originality and too little memorable music for it to warrant any amount of repeated listenings. It may work perfectly well in the film, but for it to succeed on disc it needs to have far more personality than it has.

Rating: **

Track Listing:

  • The Incident at School (1:59)
  • Untie Me… Please (2:14)
  • The Crossbow Accident (2:48)
  • Get a Television, Mrs. Tingle (1:07)
  • Spanky Shows Up (3:13)
  • I Know You (2:19)
  • Caught Cheating (1:36)
  • My Mom Has Been Very Sick (1:08)
  • Luke Confides in Tingle (2:29)
  • Close Your Eyes (1:18)
  • Leigh Anne Crosses the Line (1:41)
  • I Don’t Think So (0:48)
  • I’m Your Friend (1:07)
  • Destiny (5:12)
  • Triumph (0:58)

Running Time: 30 minutes 30 seconds

Varèse Sarabande VSD-6064 (1999)

Music composed by John Frizzell. Conducted by Pete Anthony. Orchestrations by Andrew Kinney, Jeff Atmajian, Frank Bennett and Don Nemitz. Recorded and mixed by Bill Schnee. Edited by Abby Treloggen. Mastered by Erick Labson. Album produced by John Frizzell and Micha Liberman.

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