Psycho Deep Dark Thoughts
It is amazing when I reflect back on the beginning days of the House of Horrors and think of the limited range of films that I originally intended to cover (Thank GOD, Scream was never on that list!!!!). In fact, I find it quite humorous. Luckily, through the many hours of research, viewing, and hundreds of corresponds with all the great horror fans around the world, my love, and appreciation of the genre have continued to grow. One of the films that I initially overlooked was Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. What was I thinking?? Psycho is and always will be one of the most influential horror films in history. Without it, where would we be today?? The following are the key elements of this gothic masterpiece.
First and foremost, the magic of Psycho lies with Hitchcock. Psycho marked his first foray into the genre. Without a doubt, it is my favorite of his film. I have also been a fan of The Birds and Rear Window. Upon beginning to work on this page, I have dedicated myself to watching more of his films and have even decided (with the help of my fans’ emails) to add his to The Master’s Chamber. Hitchcock’s brilliance can be found in his overall perfectionist approach. He plotted out every camera angle, every scene, and every scream. Many actors and actresses that worked with Hitchcock have said that in his filmmaking, “the camera is absolute”. He used it to guide the story, build the tension, and throw twists into the ending. He was to his time (and is still today) what Lucas and Spielberg are to contemporary filmmaking….a masterful storyteller. (**There has been much debated about Saul Bass’ claims that he in fact directed portions of Psycho, included the now famous “shower scene” and from all the interviews and accounts that I have read this is pure hogwash. Just by looking at his directorial accomplishments since, you can tell that Saul Bass didn’t have the talent to direct the 4th grade Christmas show, let alone one of the greatest horror films of all time. )
Secondly, Bernard Herrmann’s score. Just as Hitchcock’s camera helped to guides us on this journey, Herrmann score was the knife that brought Psycho home. In my opinion, not only is it one, if not the greatest, score to ever grace a horror film but probably one of the greatest soundtracks of all-time.
Thirdly, the shower scene. Even for those that don’t know Psycho, there is no doubt in my mind that they are still familiar with this scene. This scene set the standard and has be duplicated rather badly in many horror films. Hitchcock used 70 different camera angles intermixed with quick cuts to emphasize the brutality of the act, yet the knife is never seen penetrating the victim. Its effectiveness is in what is perceived to happen and not what is shown on the screen. The scene is further enhanced by Herrmann’s score and it’s hard to believe that Hitchcock ever considered filming it just with the sound of the action. Pure cinematic magic.
Fourth, the ending. As not to provide a spoiler, all I can say is that much in the same way that the “shower scene” is engrained on our soul, so is the ending of Psycho. It brings a shocking ending to a roller coaster of a movie. Again, pure cinematic magic.
Finally, the scripting. Joseph Stefano masterfully scripted from Robert Bloch’s novel. He was giving a lot of freedom by Hitchcock and through his characterizations, he laid the foundation for a classic chiller. Stefano, a young screenwriter at the time, showed the maturity of a veteran as he leads the audience down a path where we actually began to feel sorry for Norman, even considering him a victim of his environment, and finally shocking us with the ultimate conclusion of his madness. By far one of the tightest and well-crafted stories to ever be filmed.
All these factors, as well as, outstanding performances by Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, Vera Miles, and Martin Balsam, lead to some outstanding cinematic moments. A definite classic film for the genre and one along with Night of the Living Dead, Exorcist, and Texas Chainsaw Massacre, that is directly responsible for the horror landscape of today (and no I don’t mean that teeny bopper shit either). As always please e-mail me if you have anything you can add to this page, or if you have any comments, criticisms or suggestion.
Marion Crane (Janet Leigh), women in love, searching for a way to free her boyfriend from the shackles of debt and secure herself a husband. When an overzealous and rather rich oilman teases her with $40,000, Marion sees her future flash before her eyes. Off she goes with money in hand to begin her new life not knowing the terror that awaits her.
After many hours of driving in heavy rain, Marion decides that she needs a good night sleep before surprising her boyfriend (John Glavin) the next day. Along the way, she happens upon a quaint little motel…the Bates Motel. There she meets a rather shy young man (Norman) who is controlled by a domineering mother. As the two chat, Norman defends his mother and her sickness. The next scene went onto make cinema history as Marion is brutally murdered while showering by a mysterious woman. A mortified Norman quickly cleans up and disposes of the remains of his mother’s rage.
But where there is sparks, there’s fire. It seems that both Marion’s sister, Lila (Vera Miles) and a private detective, Milton Arbogast (Martin Balsam), think she is heading to Sam’s place. As the three converge (Lila, Sam, & Milton), the investigation leads to Marion’s last known whereabouts…the Bates Motel. But it seems that Mrs. Bates isn’t going to let anyone get in the way of her and Norman’s life and she will stop at nothing to keep their little secret….secret. Just as with the “shower scene”, Psycho’s ending has forever ingrained itself on the psyche of every moviegoer. This is a must-see for every fan!!! Hitchcock at his best.
Psycho Frightful Facts
- Robert Bloch got $9500 for the rights to his book “Psycho“. Hitchcock would later buy up as many copies of the novel before the film came out so people would know as little as possible about the storyline.
- Janet Leigh received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress and won the Golden Globe for her role in Psycho.
- Considered for the role of Marion were: Eva Marie Saint, Piper Laurie, Martha Hyer, Hope Lange, Shirley Jones, and Lana Turner.
- Hitchcock received an Oscar nomination for Best Director only to lose out to Billy Wilder’s The Apartment. Hitchcock never won an Oscar although he was nominated 6 times.
- The film only cost $800,000 to make yet has earned more than $40 million.
- The “shower scene” took over 7 days to shoot and involved 70 camera setups for the 45-second scene. Anthony Perkins wasn’t even on the set for the shooting but rather was back in New York preparing for a play.
- Hitchcock originally envisioned the shower sequence as completely silent, but Bernard Herrmann went ahead and scored it. Lucky Hitchcock had a change of heart and the rest is motion picture history.
- Hitchcock insisted that “no one”is admitted into the theater after the film started. This proved to be a marketing coup, as the audiences numbers continued to stay steady the longer the film played. Also, since Janet Leigh was billed as the star, they didn’t want the word to get out that she was killed in the first half of the film.
- Hitchcock waived his standard $250,000 directorial fee for a 60% share of the film’s grosses.
- Norman Bates character was based on 50’s serial killer, Ed Gein.
- Psycho marked the first time a “toilet” was ever shown and flushed in a film.
- After the film’s release, Hitchcock received an angry letter from the father of a girl who refused to have a bath after seeing Diaboliques, Les (1954) and now refused to shower after seeing Psycho. Hitchcock sent a note back simply saying “Send her to the dry cleaners”.
- Hitchcock, who made it a tradition to make a cameo in all his films, can see 4 minutes into the film outside of Marion’s workplace.
- Hitchcock tested the “fear factor” of Mother’s corpse by placing it in Leigh’s dressing room and listening to how loud she screamed when she discovered it.
- The sound that the knife makes penetrating the flesh is actually the sound of a knife stabbing a casaba melon
- Spawned three sequels and one remake. I liked Part 2 a lot.
Psycho Cast & Crew
|Runtime||USA:109 / UK:108|
|Color||Black and White|
|Certification||USA:R / UK:15 / France:-12 (re-release) / France:-16 / Australia:M / Norway:15 /Sweden:15 / Germany:18 (nf) / Finland:K-16|
|Production Companies||Shamley Productions|
|Distributors||Paramount Pictures [us]|
Universal [us] (video)
|Directed by||Alfred Hitchcock|
|Writing credits||Robert Bloch (novel)|
|Cast||Anthony Perkins …. Norman Bates,|
Vera Miles …. Lila Crane,
John Gavin …. Sam Loomis,
Martin Balsam …. Milton Arbogast,
John McIntire …. Sheriff Chambers,
Simon Oakland …. Dr. Richmond,
Vaughn Taylor …. George Lowery,
Frank Albertson …. Tom Cassidy,
Lurene Tuttle …. Mrs. Chambers,
Patricia Hitchcock …. Caroline,
John Anderson …. California Charlie,
Mort Mills …. Highway Patrolman,
Janet Leigh …. Marion Crane,
rest of cast listed alphabetically,
Francis De Sales …. Official (uncredited),
George Eldredge …. Chief of Police (uncredited),
Sam Flint …. Official (uncredited),
Virginia Gregg …. Voice of mother (voice)(uncredited),
Paul Jasmin …. Voice of mother (voice) (uncredited),
Frank Killmond …. Bob Summerfield (uncredited),
Ted Knight …. Prison Guard (uncredited),
Jeanette Nolan …. Voice of Mother (voice)(uncredited),
Helen Wallace …. Customer in Sam’s Store (uncredited),
|Produced by||Alfred Hitchcock|
|Original music by||Bernard Herrmann|
|Cinematography by||John L. Russell|
|Costume Design by||Helen Colvig|
|Film Editing by||George Tomasini|
|Other crew||Jack Barron …. make-up artist|
Saul Bass …. pictorial consultant/title designer Florence Bush …. hair stylist
Clarence Champagne …. special effects Robert Clatworthy …. art director
Robert Dawn …. make-up artist
Hilton A. Green …. assistant director
Joseph Hurley …. art director
Lew Leary …. unit manager
George Milo …. set decorator
William Russell …. sound
Waldon O. Watson …. sound
- Buy the collector’s edition of Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” on DVD at Amazon.com
- Buy “Psycho II” on DVD at Amazon.com
- Buy “Psycho III” on DVD at Amazon.com
- Buy “The Birds” on DVD at Amazon.com
- Buy Robert Bloch’s novel on which the film is based on at Amazon.com
- Buy “Deviant : The Shocking True Story of the Original ‘Psycho‘”, a book about Ed Gein at Amazon.com
- Buy “Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho” at Amazon.com
- Checkout the new House of Horrors t-shirt for sale now
- Visit the ultra cool Hitchcock: The Master of Suspense webpage. The ultimate Hitchcock resource on the net.
- Visit the Psycho—Check Right In! webpage. Another great page on this classic film.
Some of my earliest horror memories are of my mother telling me about scary movies she saw when she was younger-the ones that frightened her the most, she said were The Haunting and Psycho. She would tell me (’cause I bugged her to death about them) what she could remember about the plots, but, as a brief aside, this is a woman who doesn’t like to watch a car chase. She finds any amount of suspense too nerve-wracking, so I wonder to this day how she endured those two movies.
Finally, after seeing brief clips of it from time to time on TV “great horror films”-type shows, I got to rent it from the video store at age, oh, 10 or 11, under the condition that my mother wasn’t even in the house when I watched it.
I have been a rabid fan of the film, Alfred Hitchcock, Anthony Perkins, and Norman’s creepy old house ever since. Thankfully, the clips I had seen gave no hint as to the film’s conclusion, and I fell for it, hook, line, and sinker. I sat in shock as the tape ran out and the TV went to snow…and that smile at the very end has haunted me to this day.
The sequels were, at best-fun(2 and 4), at worst-terrible(3), but do not even come close to that original snap ending. Truly, one of the main tributaries of the river that we call modern horror.