Although The Lost Weekend's score is one of its most defining features, it almost never existed. That's a scary thought. Maybe even scarier than the score itself.
It might be hard to imagine, but The Lost Weekend originally featured a light, jazzy soundtrack. That's like a Quentin Tarantino movie with exclusively Bieber songs—it's just wrong. According to the International Film Music Critics Association, this even led many early audiences to initially assume that the film was a comedy, which couldn't be further from the truth.
Baffled by this reaction, director Billy Wilder turned to Miklós Rózsa, a Hungarian-born film composer who had been building up a reputation as one of Hollywood's most skilled music makers.
As it turns out, he made the right call.
The Lost Weekend's score is jarring and tense, its cutting melodies imbuing us with Don's anxiety as he kicks and screams and craves the next fix. The score is also notable for its use of the theremin, a bizarre instrument you know as either "the flying saucer sound" or "that one weird instrument from the chorus in Good Vibrations."
Rózsa had first used the theremin in his score for Alfred Hitchcock's Spellbound, making him one of the first composers to use the instrument in cinema. Given that the theremin would later become synonymous with science fiction and horror, it shouldn't be surprising that this alien instrument creates a sense of dread throughout the entire film.