- Rated R
- Buy the Blu-ray
Reviewed by Will Harris
eople might not have stopped taking showers altogether after the 1960 premiere of “Psycho,” but you can bet that everyone who’s ever seen it immediately feels their heart start to pound when they’re in the shower and hear someone enter the bathroom.
Based on the novel by Robert Bloch, “Psycho” is, of course, the story of a boy who loves his mother just a little too much. Although, as it begins, we’re led to believe that the film is going to be more about Marion Crane (Janet Leigh), a young woman who’s just stolen a considerable sum of money from the real estate office where she’s employed. She skips town with the dinero and, while on the lam both from the police and her boyfriend, Marion happens upon the Bates Motel, an innocent enough flophouse that’s overlooked by the decidedly foreboding homestead of its proprietor, Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins). And, in a bit of a bind, Marion decides to stay the night.
Normally, we wouldn’t give away the fact that Marion is killed, but, seriously, is there anyone who doesn’t know that she meets her maker while taking that most infamous of showers? The scene is quintessential Hitchcock, with the rapid-fire cutting of the scene hiding the fact that, unlike in modern day horror films, we almost never see the blade strike Marion’s skin – and, even then, the shot is done so quickly (it lasts precisely three frames, or 1/8 of a second of film time) as to be almost subliminal. Hitchcock’s brilliance in shifting from the blood swirling down the drain to a close-up of Marion’s sightless eye is one of the most chilling sights in motion picture history.
At this point in the film, many people – mostly idiots, mind you – decide that they’ve seen the money shot and don’t actually need to watch the rest of the film. That’s a shame, as “Psycho” is, throughout its 109-minute running time, an excellent psychological thriller. Although the remainder of the film beyond the shower scene involves the resolution of the events set into motion by Marion Crane’s theft of the money, in reality, what Hitchcock is doing is further exploring the psyche of Norman Bates. The film couldn’t possibly have worked without the performance of Anthony Perkins as Norman. Perkins played the part to perfection. So much so, alas, that it ended up defining the remainder of his career; he found himself doomed to a life of nonstop “creepy guy” roles.
“Psycho” later resulted in three sequels, not to mention Gus Van Sant’s 1998 shot-for-shot remake, but none of them – not even “Psycho IV” – managed to tarnish the effect of the original.
50th Anniversary Edition Review:
“Psycho” arrives on Blu-ray sporting a brand new DTS-HD 5.1 audio track and all of the bonus material from the 2008 Legacy Collection DVD, including the outstanding 25-minute documentary, “In the Master’s Shadow: Hitchcock’s Legacy.” Along with movie doc usual suspects John Carpenter, William Friedkin, and Martin Scorsese (who brilliantly homaged Hitch in a 2007 mockumentary commercial), relative newcomers Guillermo Del Toro and Eli Roth, as well as assorted lesser known editors, film composers, and others are on hand to explain just why Hitchcock is the most copied film director of all time. Also included is a solid commentary from author Stephen Rebello, an audio excerpt from the legendary series of Hitchcock interviews conducted by the great director and cinephile, François Truffaut, and the feature-length documentary, “The Making of Psycho,” which features interviews with Janet Leigh and screenwriter Joseph Stefano, both now sadly deceased. We also once again get the promotional newsreel explaining to theater owners how and why audiences would not be allowed in late to see “Psycho,” as well as the original “Psycho” trailer – still probably the funniest promotion for a horror film ever made – as well as a brand new featurette (“Psycho Sound”) about the 5.1 digital audio track created for the Blu-ray and more.