Director: Alfred Hitchcock | 109 minutes | horror, thriller | Actors: Janet Leigh, Anthony Perkins, Martin Balsam, John Gavin, Vera Miles, John McIntire, Simon Oakland, Vaughn Taylor, Frank Albertson, Lurene Tuttle, Patricia Hitchcock, John Anderson, Mort Mills
No scene is more legendary than Janet Leigh’s shower murder scene in “Psycho.” This scene has been imitated and parodied a lot. Leigh died in early October 2004 at the age of 77. In her career she has played more impressive roles such as in “Touch of Evil” (1958) and “The Manchurian Candidate” (1962), director Demme’s remake of this film was released in 2004. But above all she will always be reminded of how she came to her end screaming in the shower with the sound of those screeching violins. She received her only Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her role. Leigh became a horror icon, and later so did her daughter Jamie Lee Curtis (“Halloween” (1978), “Halloween H20: 20 Years Later” (1998) and “Halloween: Resurrection” (2002)). In “H20”, mother and daughter play side by side. “Psycho” led many viewers to fear the bathroom and Leigh admitted several times that she had been unable to shower after seeing the film.
The Norman Bates portrayed by Anthony Perkins became one of the most legendary psychopaths in film history. Then he got stuck in the role as he starred in all of the “Psycho” sequels that couldn’t make it to the original. Perkins passed away in 1992. In 1998 Gus van Sant made the most recent remake “Psycho” with Anne Heche and Vince Vaughn. Unfortunately, like so many others, the remake has nothing extra to offer and it is nothing more than a tribute to the master.
The complex psychological horror “Psycho” is in fact the mother of all modern horror films. ‘Psycho’ was followed by many films inspired by ‘Psycho’ (including ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ (1974), ‘Halloween’ (1978), ‘Motel Hell’ (1980) and ‘Dressed to Kill’ (1980) ). “Psycho” was the first true horror film from the master of suspense Alfred Hitchcock. Since the film he has been incorrectly described as a horror director. Hitchcock started his career as a silent film director and has always maintained the talent to make things visually clear without relying too much on dialogue. Previously he made “Vertigo” (1958) and “North by Northwest” (1959) in color, but “Psycho” was made in black and white to make the gory scenes less gruesome. Hitchcock makes one of his famous cameos in “Psycho” by walking past the real estate agency where Marion Crane is chatting with colleague Caroline (daughter Patricia Hitchcock).
The film is based on Robert Bloch’s book of the same name. Joseph Stefano wrote a script of it. Bloch was inspired by the existence of Wisconsin psychotic serial killer Edward Gein. Gein’s life was the inspiration not only for Norman Bates but also for the farmer in ‘Deranged’ (1974), Leatherface in ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ (1974) and James Gumb (Buffalo Bill) in ‘The Silence of the Lambs (1991).
“Psycho” needs to be watched more often to understand the multiple layers of the movie. Hitchcock manipulates the viewer with great ease. There are many scares and twists. The entire film is imbued with a chilling threat of evil forces and dark secrets. There is an ominous atmosphere. The stuffed animals in the Bates motel and the mirrors serve as symbolic surroundings. Hitchcock had a morbid fascination with birds. This is evident in “The Birds” (1963), but there are many subtle references here. The chilling music was composed by Bernard Herrmann. The way in which the opening titles are presented by craftsman Saul Bass, in combination with the music, perfectly conveys the split personality of Bates. George Tomasini’s flashy editing work on the shower scene is very good.
The masterpiece “Psycho” is one of the best horror films (if not the best) that should not be missing in any film collection.