Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Cast: Anthony Perkins, Vera Miles, John Gavin, Janet Leigh
Screenplay: Joseph Stefano
109 mins. Not Rated.
- Academy Award Nominee: Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Janet Leigh)
- Academy Award Nominee: Best Director
- Academy Award Nominee: Best Cinematography, Black-and-White
- Academy Award Nominee: Best Art Direction-Set Direction, Black-and-White
Few films could break new ground in film-making quite like Alfred Hitchcock (Vertigo, Rear Window) did with Psycho, an adaptation of the novel by Robert Bloch. In it, the world witnessed the first flushing toilet in motion picture history. Funny now, but back then screenwriter Joseph Stefano (Two Bits, Blackout) was told that the toilet had to be integral to the film, so he made it just that.
Perhaps more important than the toilet is the entirety of Psycho, an absolutely shocking and unnerving masterpiece from Hitchcock, made on a minute budget with an all television crew to cut costs, and released as one of the best horror films on modern record.
It tells the story of Marion Crane (Janet Leigh, Touch of Evil, The Manchurian Candidate) who steals $40,000 from her boss in order to live the life she deserves with the man she deserves, Sam Loomis (John Gavin, Spartacus, Imitation of Life). Along the getaway, she stays for the night at the Bates Motel, run by the shy Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins, The Trial, The Black Hole) and his mother. When Marion goes missing, her sister Lila (Vera Miles, The Searchers, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance) and Sam go looking for her. The plot is both simple and yet still unbelievably watchable.
Janet Leigh is amazing here, creating a character who does bad things and is still someone I connected to emotionally. I think practically everyone has had thoughts of stealing enough money to live luxuriously and getting away with it. Her chemistry with Perkins as Norman Bates (or as Hitchcock called him, Master Bates) is very strong and grounded as well. I felt some sensual connection these two characters build, which ultimately leads to chaotic conclusions.
Hitchcock’s use of the camera is what causes so much jitter. There is a scene where the camera focuses entirely on Bates’ jaw and throat as he is questioned by a private detective about Marion’s disappearance. It just focuses on the way he chews his food. The famous shower scene as well is so perfectly executed that nudity is kept to a bare minimum while somewhere over 70 shots are all spliced into a minute of film that stays with the viewer through the rest of the film.
Bernard Herrmann’s musical score is another great element that has surprisingly stayed effective even 54 years later. It was so good that Hitchcock included it in scenes he originally wanted completely silent and later mentioned in an interview of its importance in the film over just about everything else.
The set design is well worth its Oscar nomination. Each environment is so vividly realized that I can actually recall color in them even though the film is black and white. I can picture them perfectly while not distracting me from the story.
This movie is perfect. I can completely see why Alfred Hitchcock went insane over his requiring of theaters to not allow people in after the film had started. I can’t believe I waited so long to view this picture. Watch this movie!
-Kyle A. Goethe
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