Psycho (1960)

March 14, 2012 — 27 Comments

In 1959, Alfred Hitchcock came across a novel by Robert Bloch, called Psycho. The novel was loosely based on the crimes of Ed Gein, the infamous grave robber and murder that shocked America in the mid 1950s. Hitchcock enlisted Joseph Stefano, and together they developed it into a screenplay. Hitchcock took the directors chair and Psycho found its way to cinema screens on 16th June 1960. Where is was met with excellent box office success and overwhelmingly positive reviews.

So, what makes Psycho so outstanding? First, don’t be fooled by the slightly jumpy opening credits, this is deliberate. The jittery, jagged words mirror the unstable mind of Norman Bates. This referencing of his mental state is also apparently in Bernard Herrmann’s soundtrack, which is genuinely uncomfortable. It somehow blends seamlessly into the movie while simultaneously being impossible to ignore. Once the movie starts the production quality becomes sleek and professional. Deliberately shot in black and white, in a time when most films were in colour, the picture is sharp and polished, and as the film progresses, it becomes clear that it could never have been shot in colour. It was a story meant to be told in black and white. Finally, the acting is first-rate, and though there was no question that Anthony Perkins was a world-class actor before Psycho, his performance as Norman Bates; both beautifully creepy and terrifyingly charming, and is easily the best of his career.

Psycho holds claim to one of the most iconic scenes in cinema; the shower scene. It took 77 different camera angles, 90 splices, over 50 cuts and a 7 days to make the 3 minute scene. It is one of those markers in cinematic history that destroyed conventional barriers of the time.  Overall, Psycho was unpredictable, which on a subconscious level made people feel unsafe, but more than that, it crawled under the skin of its audience because it was believable. Along with North by Northwest, Psycho established Hitchcock as the most influential filmmaker of all time and, more significantly, gave birth of two new horror sub-genres; psychological horror and slasher films.

Although not a reflection on the film itself, Hitchcock did some brilliant promotional work before Psycho’s mainstream release, including a 6 minute trailer to introduce the film and a short, to the point radio ad that ended with loud woman’s scream. Also, Hitchcock brought up as many of the copies of the Psycho novel as he could, to keep the ending as much of secret as possible but, best of all, theaters were supplied with a life-size cardboard cut-out of Hitchcock pointing to his wristwatch with a note from the director saying:

“The manager of this theatre has been instructed at the risk of his life, not to admit to the theatre any persons after the picture starts. Any spurious attempts to enter by side doors, fire escapes or ventilating shafts will be met by force. The entire objective of this extraordinary policy, of course, is to help you enjoy PSYCHO more. Alfred Hitchcock”

Our Rating: 9 / 10
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27 responses to Psycho (1960)

  1. 

    Haha, very nice! I’ve never actually seen this all the way through, I just couldn’t get into it. I love the story though! Finally, you wrote a post! Yay! Awesome job 🙂

  2. 

    I recently watched Psycho for the first time (I know!) and covered it for my blog. Probably one of my favorite Hitchcock films although not THE favorite of his films in my opinion (Rebecca takes that one).

  3. 

    I love Psycho, great film. Anthony Perkins was perfectly cast – brilliant performance. What I love about the shower scene is that you never see Janet Leigh get stabbed, it’s all implied with the knife thrusts, music, screams and blood pouring into the drain hole. Apparently Psycho also caused controversy by being one of the first films (maybe the first) to show a toilet bowl!

    The only thing that let’s it down is the very end, where the police psychiatrist explains Bates’ behaviour for the benefit of the audience. Perhaps it was needed at the time, but to me it feels a little patronising.

  4. 

    Some people claim that hitch chose to make the film in b&w because he was unsure that it would be viable on the silver screen and, thus, he was considering it for his TV series (frankly, I don’t know how that’s possible, given the length).

    Apparently, once the music was merged with the film, he found saw that it had potential.

    Not sure how true that is, or if it’s just speculation and/or hearsay.

  5. 

    B-t-w, any thoughts on Psycho II?

    • 

      I know it gets slammed a lot, but I think people were expecting too much. It was never going to be as good as Psycho and it had a tough performance to follow. Its not going to find it way into my DVD collection, but I gotta say, I didn’t mind it.

  6. 

    I think that this is one of the most powerful ‘horror’ films ever made. My grandmother never took a shower that I know of, baths only. And it was because of the shower scene. It scared her that much.

    And I will also say that Anthony Perkins deserves all credit! No matter how many times this one is remade, no other actor will ever be able to hold a candle to Anthony in portraying Norman Bates.

  7. 

    Good stuff man. Keep it up!!!

  8. 

    Hey, have you absconded or something?
    Where ya been? LOLz

    • 

      Still here, quietly reading your blogs 🙂 Na, To be honest I’ve been all over my other writing for the last month or so. I go through different flavours. Plus, we’ve had good weather in the UK, that doesn’t happen often, so I’ve been pretty much living on the beach 😀

      Looking forward to Cabin in the Woods next week 🙂

      How are you? x

      • 

        Hey! Oh, that’s cool! I thought you’d given up your blog or something, then I was gonna have to kick ya butt! I’m glad you’re having good weather! We are too here, it’s been the warmest March since I dunno when. I’m doing pretty good, how are you? Hopefully well! 🙂

  9. 

    I’m great! Atm I’m slowly being enticed in love with a film called Claustofobia – About 30 mins in, and so far its excellent. Very scary 🙂

  10. 

    This post inspires me to revisit PSYCHO. I love Hitchcock’s ability in using the camera to force us to embody a character’s point of view.

  11. 

    One of my top picks too, Hitchcock was a true visionary. Great post!

  12. 

    My number 1 movie for many reasons.

    Nice post.

    Here’s my write up on it: http://wp.me/p2dIbk-12Q

    I could talk all day about it. Thanks for covering it in a different kind of way.

    My favorite scene has to be the parlor scene just before the shower scene. I love the way that scene closes the first part of the movie and introduces Norman Bates – classic. The angles, the dialogue, the tension and suspense. It is just a great scene.

    I need to cover the sequels now – very good. Part III might be my favorite of them. I think there’s a T.V. show in the works now.

  13. 

    Reblogged this on atothewr.com and commented:
    You guys know I love Psycho. Here’s a really good write up on it.

  14. 

    Thanks for liking my recent post at scopophiliamovieblog.com it is much appreciated. I think you have a very informative blog here. I liked your ‘Psycho’ post and found the picture of the poster with Hitch pointing at his watch to be pretty funny. Your top 100 Horror movie list is impressive and well thought out and I’ll have to check out that documentary on “Nightmare on Elm Street’ as it sounds excellent. You should put up an About page so we can get to know a little more about you otherwise keep up the good work!

  15. 

    I am a Hitchcock fan myself. I watched “Marnie” for the first time la couple weekends ago and wrote about it. My very favorite Hitchcock movie is “Vertigo”. Interesting blog you have here!

  16. 

    Great writeup! All the most interesting facts about a classic horror film. Your blog description doesn’t lie — straightforward and informed is right. I like it!

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