Saturday, November 6, 2010

363. PSYCHO (1960)

Running Time: 109 minutes
Directed By: Alfred Hitchcock
Written By: Jospeh Stefano, from novel by Robert Bloch
Main Cast: Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, Vera Miles, John Gavin, Martin Balsam


Well Netflix finally brought "Psycho" back to an "available now" status and today I was able to get comfortable in my bed and check it out. This wasn't the first time I've seen "Psycho" and it probably won't be the last and while this Hitchcock film isn't my favorite of his, it is certainly one that deserves the acclaim that it gets.

Our main character this time around is Marion Crane (Leigh), a receptionist who steals $40,000 from her employer and plans to run off and get married to her boyfriend, Sam (Gavin). After taking the money, Marion drives until she can't drive any longer, pulls off to the side of the road and sleeps until the next morning. Upon being awakened by a police officer, she hastily tells him what he wants to hear to get away from him and makes her way to California Charlie's used car lot, where she trades in her car for a different one. She then begins to drive again and when it begins to rain heavily, she has no alternative but to stop at the Bates Motel and get a room. At first, after she arrives at the motel, there doesn't seem to be anyone around, even though the sign says "vacancy". She soon notices a house behind the hotel and a man making his way toward her. The man is Norman Bates (Perkins), owner of Bates Motel, a very friendly man, who goes out of his way to make sure Marion is comfortable. Norman prepares some dinner for Marion and they chit chat a bit, talking about Norman's taxidermy hobby and what Marion is running away from. Marion retires to her room and Norman takes a peek at her undressing, through a peep hole in the office wall. As Marion showers, what looks to be an elderly woman wielding a butcher knife barges into the bathroom of her motel room and stabs her until she dies. Now the search is on, as Marion's sister Lila (Miles) wants to know where Marion is and Marion's employer (or former employer) wants his $40,000 back.

There's so much to say about this movie, let's not waste any time and lets hope I can spit it all out in a coherent, structured way.


The first thing I want to mention is Bernard Hermann, who may be the best motion picture composer I've ever known of. In "Psycho" his score becomes an extremely integral part in heightening the suspense and preparing you for whatever lurks around the dark corners of this movie. His score puts you on guard, because when a score that powerful is being played, there must be trouble brewing. As long as we're talking about individuals, lets talk about Perkins, who becomes more terrifying than any monster in any monster movie and more horrific than any horror icon. It is Norman Bates' human side, his kindness and hospitality, that ultimately make him more scary. Norman is as gentle as a lamb when in public and conversing with strangers, but behind closed doors he's a sick individual. It makes you think about that bagger at the grocery store who was so kind to you or that gas station attendant who went out of his way to make sure you had a pleasurable experience. It makes you think about those nice people, and what they're like when they go home at night and no one else is watching them. I also enjoyed Leigh's performance, as she was basically cast as an object of Norman Bates' lust and turns in, what I believed to be a good performance.

The shower scene gets a lot of attention and rightfully so, as it was wonderfully shot and really made you give the proverbial grimace. Marion Crane lies in a puddle of her own blood, her upper torso hanging out of the bathtub, while her legs and feet are washed with a mixture of blood and water...the definition of a cold blooded killing. In fact the entire movie is wonderfully shot and the black and white of "Psycho" is one of the sharpest black and white pictures I've ever seen, and actually I think the movie benefited from not being in color. This is Hitchcock's darkest movie and no color should be shone on the subject.

With all of those beaming things to say about "Psycho", I still found myself a bit bored after the death of Marion Crane, when the film starts to introduce new characters, like Lila and Det. Arbogast. Everything up to that point was gripping, engaging and just really good film making, and beyond that point it drops off...but just a little bit. The ending brings it all back and the grand payoff at the end is worth every minute, so I'm not trying to be too hard on the middle portion, it just really does slow down a little bit. Although, I can defend the slowing of the pace, by saying that the beginning was actually holding a really fast pace, moving through the plot fairly quickly until we get to the motel.

While this isn't my favorite Hitchcock film (that honor is still held by "Shadow of a Doubt") it is still really good and a must see for anyone who wants to be considered a film buff.

RATING: 7.5/10 Not a bad score and a rating that I could definitely see rising (I've been saying that a lot lately, haven't I?).


November 6, 2010 6:30pm

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