Psycho Film Details
Overview: A Phoenix secretary embezzles $40,000 from her employer’s client, goes on the run, and checks into a remote motel run by a young man under the domination of his mother.
Tagline: A new—and altogether different—screen excitement!
Review: (((((SPOILERS)))) For most people, the most memorable scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s PSYCHO, indeed it’s most famous scene, is the shower sequence. It has been broken down and analyzed ad nauseam as an example of the fine art of editing. It is a great sequence, but to me the best scene in PSYCHO occurs just before that. Janet Leigh as Marion Crane, on the run from having committed a crime, sits in the parlor behind the Bates Motel’s office and discusses nothing and everything with Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates, the motel’s lonely proprietor. It is a chat between strangers who desperately need to talk to someone, anyone, but have no one to whom they can confide. It is a beautifully written and acted scene, which serves as the calm before the storm. For all of its flashiness and sleight-of-hand gore, the shower sequence isn’t nearly as effective at showing what a master filmmaker Hitchcock was. It is in the parlor scene that the entire narrative spins around; as the audience is prompted to switch their allegiance from Marion to Norman. Nothing really happens in the scene, other than two characters talking, but how things are said reveals as much as what is actually said. Here Marion comes to terms with her mistake and decides to pull herself out of her “private trap.” Norman introduces us, indirectly, to Mother and wins our sympathy, which is vital to the way the rest of the film plays out. The scene very skillfully sets the mood of uneasiness that propels us into the upcoming murder, even as it suggests that Marion is achieving a sense of inner peace. Madness is revealed, danger is suggested, yet the audiences is coolly and cruelly lulled into an almost tranquil state. It is obvious something is coming, but not so soon. Then the shower curtain is ripped aside and blood begins to splatter. The measure of a film like PSYCHO is not how cleverly it fools you the first time, but how irrelevant its surprises are to enjoying it time after time. Indeed, compare it to Gus Van Sant’s 1998 remake, or even Brian De Palma’s 1980 semi-remake, DRESSED TO KILL, and the power of the film is obvious. Van Sant’s version, though a scene for scene imitation is barely watchable even once, especially if you are already familiar with the plot; and while De Palma’s homage is stylish and intriguing the first time around, its psychology and plot tricks don’t stand up on repeated viewings. By contrast, Hitchcock’s PSYCHO can be viewed repeatedly with full awareness and appreciation of knowing what is coming up next. I think an element of Hitchcock’s genius is apparent in that he doesn’t treat his major plot twist as a just a gimmick. The entire first half of PSYCHO could have been treated as just a shaggy dog story, a prelude marking time until Norman Bates’ story takes center stage. But Hitchcock realized that Janet Leigh’s story had to be presented with all due gravity, otherwise the shift to Anthony Perkins’ story wouldn’t be nearly as effective. Neither Van Sant nor De Palma seemed to understand this, especially De Palma who treats the Angie Dickinson scenes in DRESSED with a cruel, condescending sense of humor. Hitchcock’s PSYCHO works as a whole, but could very easily have been presented as two independent episodes of “Alfred Hitchcock Presents…..” Marion Crane’s story is not just a build up (though Hitchcock himself claimed that killing off his leading lady was all meant as a joke on the audience), but as a complete story unto itself, replete with the type of shocking twist ending that was the hallmark of Hitchcock’s television anthology. Likewise, the Norman Bates half of PSYCHO, is a complete suspense tale in its own right. The shower scene is the bridge between the two stories, but it is the scene in the parlor that cements the two tales — and the fates of the two protagonist. And if you look at PSYCHO as two separate parts of a whole, then Marion’s story is revealed to be the more complete of the two. Norman’s story, while beautifully done, is essentially a mystery story; Sam, Lila and Arbogast are trying to solve a whodunit: what happened to Marion and the $40,000? The cleverness of Hitchcock and screenwriter Joseph Stefano is that they let us think we know the answer right off the bat, building to a conclusion where it is revealed how completely we have been fooled. In the end, we know little more than Lila and Sam. To some extent, this is the real gimmick of the film. On the other hand, Marion’s story allows Hitchcock to make so much out of so little. He creates tension, even though there is no tangible threat. Marion is on the run with stolen funds, but the theft hasn’t even been discovered yet. All of the danger is strictly in her mind: What will happen when…? She is a smart woman who has done something very stupid, but proceeds even as her fears grow and grow. But cinematically the suspense is created out of mundane things: a policeman’s face at the car window, rain and windshield wipers slashing across the screen, the glare of on coming headlights. Mix this with the haunting voice overs of accusing voices and Bernard Herrmann incredible musical violence and the effect is hypnotic. But these imagined dangers do not prepare Marian or the audience for the real dangers ahead. And something has to be said for Janet Leigh. Always overshadowed by Anthony Perkins’ iconic performance, Leigh never gets her due (though she was nominated for an Oscar, she lost to Shirley Jones in ELMER GANTRY). But she dominates the first half of the film with a vivid performance that is sexual, humorous and bittersweet. So much of her role depends on the subtlety of her facial expressions: her sad smile at pretending to believe Sam’s excuses for not marrying her, her bemused glances at the flirtatious old millionaire, her self-satisfied smirks as she thinks about how people will react to discovering her crime, her mixture of concern and fear as she talks to Norman in the backroom parlor. Plus, she displays an attitude that is both smart and sexy. It is one of the great film performance. It’s easy to take PSYCHO for granted now; it has been imitated so many times in so many ways by far lesser talents. Indeed, it’s one negative is that it inspired so may pale imitations, including its own three sequels and a very bad remake. Yet even so, PSYCHO remains a one and only original. And its iconic status can’t be denied; it redefined the concepts of what a Hitchcock film was and what a horror film could be.
Country: United States
Duration: 109 min
Genre: Horror, Mystery, Thriller
Also known as: Psycho,Psychoza,觸目驚心,Psychose,Psico,Psicosis,Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho,驚魂記,Psicosi,Психо,Psyho,Psichopatas,Psicose,Sapık,Psixo,Psiho,Wimpy,サイコ（1960）,Psyko,Ψυχώ,Psicosis de Alfred Hitchcock,Ravani,Psyco