Psycho (1960)


PSYCHO (1960) One of the all time greats, as director Alfred Hitchcock takes on the B-movie genre with stunning results. There’s so much worthy of study it’s hard to know where to begin… the pitch perfect performance of Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates, the absolutely incredible, oft imitated/never duplicated music score (& “screaming violins”) by the great Bernard Herrmann, and the hidden directorial details for those that want to revel in them – like Hitch’s use of light and shadows and his unusual pre-occupation with birds (stuffed ones, framed ones, references, even the character name, Marion Crane… from Phoenix). Hitchcock took B-movie ideas and turned them into high art, even shocking jaded audiences by killing off the film’s star within 45 minutes. And how he killed her, the infamous shower scene where Janet Leigh gets hacked to death is legendary, while the quick-cut editing has spawned endless speculation about what was actually seen and what viewers imagined they saw (no longer, though, since videotape and DVD). What many never realized – even to this day – is that while they were busy looking for millisecond breast shots, Hitch showed them full nudity without viewers ever realizing it. Watch the end of the scene, when Marion raises her hand to the camera and clutches the shower curtain. There in the background, slightly out of focus, is a pair of full, naked, screen-sized breasts, which have been aired on TV networks since the 70s without censors even knowing it. My favorite moments are the dialog scenes, especially when P.I. Martin Balsam coolly corners a stammering Bates on Crane’s stay at the motel. Hitchcock makes his famed cameo @ 6:38, standing outside the bank in a cowboy hat (with his back to the camera). These days, the plot’s pay off might be considered tame, but in 1960 it was as shocking as Hitchcock’s entire deconstruction of modern film making. PS: Avoid the sequels and remakes. New Movies, Fridays ‘Round Midnight.

3 Comments

  • 1
    October 18, 2012 - 11:53 | Permalink

    Psycho will always be one of the greatest movies ever made. Every time I watch it, there’s something new to appreciate, it’s a perfect movie. Never noticed the breasts before, though. It’s surprising that Psycho is one of the few movies cinematographer John L. Russell ever did.

    I was at a local flea market a few years ago, one of the dealers had a few wooden picture frames. One of them held a 1958 Award Of Distinctive Merit from the AIGA NYC chapter, presented to Saul Bass for his design for Lightolier lighting fixtures. “Hey, I can use that frame. Will you take $2 for it?” “Sure”. I went straight to my car and locked it in the trunk. Unbelievable.

    Here’s an interview with Camille Paglia on Hitchcock: http://tinyurl.com/9eteku5

  • 2
    Willard
    October 18, 2012 - 21:54 | Permalink

    Many thanks. It’s funny you mention John Russell. I saw an Alfred Hitchcock Hour episode just tonight where he was credited as Director of Photography. It also starred Vera Miles (getting attacked by another looney) from 1962.

  • 3
    Anonymous
    October 19, 2012 - 00:25 | Permalink

    Wow! I’ve seen this movie a hundred times and never noticed the breasts either. That’s incredible.

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