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First the photography exceeding even the best film noir Laura with the most stunning use of shadows even see in a film. Show me a scene like Norman at the swamp shadow covering half of his face in total darkness showing visually exactly what he was half man half monster. This is replicated at the end with the camera on the floor shooting upwards in the chilling "She wouldn't hurt a fly." How to terrify without exploding bodies gushing blood splattering all over if only young filmmakers would study Hitch more what better American films we would have today. The God's eye camera when Aborgast ascends the stairs we see the door open and norman's mother raises the knife high and stabs down we descend the stairs with him. Inside of him see how many examples of that you can find. Even when Marion wakes up in the car on the side of the road, the face of the sinister cop causes even her nascent conscience to terrify her. Look how Hitch shoots the cop so he fills the whole screen with sunglasses the face of God perfect work!!!
Hitch always has fate destroy the evil characters in SHADOW OF A DOUBT uncle charlie loses his balance and falls in front of the train; here Marion while smirking in evil satisfaction how she duped everyone at the real estate office a single raindrop falls wiping her glee off of her face. This begins the concatenation of events that drives her off of the highway to the Bates Motel and her dying stabbed to death in the shower. The wonderful overlooked scene where she begins to lead norman into her room, norman starts to step forward but something makes him retreat to the office and marion looks at him both alarmed and quizzically; she has not been rejected often we see a cloud of worry cross her face.
Perkins gives such a great performance; when marion suggests mom should be put away the volcanic and terrifying eruption of hate so sudden and without warning. People always mean well they cluck their thick tongues and suggest ever so subtly, marion almost leaves here she can see a glimpse of what is inside. What makes the picture work is his performance he gives such believability to the deeply disturbed norman. Marion is by no means a sympathetic character within the mores of the late 50s a woman having an affair with a married man was considered scandalous. Like De Palma's Blow Out with the angel of death towering over nancy allen, hitch like De Palma his disciple, the evil are punished. A sense of impending doom accompanies her as she scurries about changing cars even seeing her boss in the crosswalk. Viewers share her sense of dreadful destiny one step behind her. Yet the single smirk as she laughs at her cleverness is swiftly answered by Hitch with her doom.
The film is with SHADOW OF A DOUBT Hitch's two best films. Even gore sated ADD modern audiences should enjoy it for its wonderful creepiness. Norman is so odd so bizarre his presence on screen is never boring. I consider the use of shadows on norman's face and the interiors to be textbook exceeding the best of the film noir genre OUT OF THE PAST comes close but still hitch knows photography combined with unique camera angles all film students should study this film
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
What else can one write about a film that has been expounded by
numerous film scholars? We all know about the famous shower scene,
don't we? But there's so much more to "Psycho" than that. It works well
as a psychological thriller but if one understands the psyche of
"Psycho" it works remarkably as a horror movie (notwithstanding that we
are immune to on-screen gore now).
There is a reason why director is considered to be the most important person in a movie. We have heard about the legend of Hitchcok - the great director. The same story could have been rendered to a derivative b-movie by an average director but Hitchcock took it to unforeseen greatness. He made a great use of Robert Blotch's book. Where else would you see a mainstream suspense-horror film put on the highest pedestal of cinema?
There's no emptiness in a Hitchcock film. Every scene has a purpose and underlying meaning. There could be a meta-movie on the relationship between two sisters, who we never see together on screen for the obvious reason. We get a hint of their possibly strained relationship at the end. But it's done very offhandedly, very skilfully by the master. The possibilities of analyses are endless.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Psycho" ranks second on a list of Alfred Hitchcock's four
masterpieces, following "Vertigo" and followed by "North by Northwest"
and "Rear Window," which ranks number four only because it lacks a
Bernard Herrmann score. While Hitch's camera is always the best feature
of his films, Herrmann is the artist who puts three of them over the
top and into the realm of true greatnesssetting them beyond such
near-great movies as "Notorious" and "Strangers on a Train," which both
had good scores, but nothing like the sublime and haunting music of
this film. There is no underestimating Hitchcock, nor the work of Janet
Leigh and Anthony Perkins, who play the film's two main characters; but
without Herrmann this could not have been a great movie.
The opening scene is the best place to appreciate both Herrmann and Hitchcock. Joseph Stefano's script is extremely well-structured and it was his idea to make Marion Crane the story's main character, before switching over forty minutes later to Norman Bates. (In the original novel, Robert Bloch dispatches Mary Crane much sooner.) But his dialogue is often stilted, and the opening scene, where Marion and Sam Loomis (John Gavin) share a lunchtime tryst in a cheap hotel, is badly written. The fault is made worse by Gavin, whose performance is stiff and awkward throughout, nowhere more than here. Yet this scene is among the glories of the movie, with the camera, the music and Janet Leigh's performance all giving it an aching poignancy that haunts our minds long after the film is over. Our sense of Marion's longing and frustration, which could not be conveyed by Leigh alone, is necessary for us to understand why she commits the rash act of stealing money from her boss's client. Watch how much is conveyed to us by the camera when Marion suddenly rises from the bed. Listen how much is conveyed by Herrmann's music when Sam spreads out his hands in mock-surrender and says, "All right." The scene as written would seem unworkable in other hands; in the hands of Herrmann and Hitchcock (and Leigh) it becomes masterly.
Gus Van Sant's remake, a fascinating failure, helps us appreciate many things about this film, including the performanceseven, perversely, the performances of Gavin and Vera Miles, who plays Marion's sister, Lila. Gavin is incompetent and Miles is thoroughly competent, but both have the same effect on us: we don't care about them. Or rather, we would be bored by them if they were doing anything other than solving the mystery of Marion's disappearance. Viggo Mortensen and Julianne Moore give these bland characters more dimension, and in doing so, annoy us with their distracting personalities. Characters that are deliberately featureless often excite our imaginations more than ones that are full of tedious quirks. As is so often true with old movies, their "faults" prove to be virtues when remakes attempt to correct them.
Oddly, I vividly remember everything about the Van Sant film, except for Vince Vaughn's performance as Norman Bates; I only remember that at the time I thought it was excellent. Anne Heche, by contrast, was memorably awful, especially in the one scene that enhances our appreciation of Janet Leigh. When Marion is in her apartment alone (and without any monologue), packing her things and worrying about her mad plan, Leigh conveys all the anxiety in her decision with a minimum of affectation. But Heche not only makes the putrid decision to play the scene as if she is half-amused by her own craziness; she conveys this idea with the maximum of overplaying, as if she were compensating for her lack of dialogue with broad gestures and eye-rolling. Leigh shows us how she feels; Heche announces it over a megaphone.
Anthony Perkins' performance as Norman Bates is among the most memorable ever recorded on film. He is sympathetic and frightening; innocent and malign; horrifyingly unlike us and even more horrifyingly like us. Stefano gives him the best lines; and Hitchcock's camera is preternaturally adept at drawing us into his world when necessary and then coldly keeping us distant when needed. Yet with all this, how much more than a satisfying thriller with a clever trick ending could "Psycho" have been without Herrmann's score to help it transcend itself? Could Norman Bates have haunted us as much with a merely excellent score, like the ones for "Strangers on a Train" and "Frenzy"? Neither Bloch nor Stefano is Shakespeare, and Norman Bates does not live on the page, as Macbeth, Edmund and Iago do. Could Norman Bates, like Shakespeare's characters, live for four-hundred more years? If he survives, it will have been the joint genius of Perkins, Hitchcock and Bernard Herrmann that rendered him, and his story, an immortal nightmare.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Throughout his long and illustrious career, director Alfred Hitchcock thrilled and captivated audiences everywhere, but never before or since as well as he did with the psychological chiller, `Psycho,' which introduced the cinematic world to a guy named Norman Bates. And now-- forty years later-- even in an age of jaded, desensitized sensibilities, graphic horror and the likes of Hannibal Lecter and `American Psycho,' Hitchcock's masterpiece remains, even after repeated viewings, truly frightening and intrinsically disturbing. Just as Ingmar Bergman did with his character of Karin in his landmark film, `Through A Glass, Darkly,' Hitchcock presents a character (Bates) at the psychological crossroads of his life, a pivotal juncture wherein he is required to make a conscious decision that will determine the course of the rest of his life: Whether to reach for the light (and healing), or succumb to the voices beckoning to him from the dark, a place from which there will be no return. Norman, however--like karin-- is incapable of making that decision, and ultimately must adhere to the resolution of the subconscious, which takes him past the point of no return and subsequently beyond the reach of any help forevermore. The rest of the characters in the story-- Marion Crane, Lila, Sam Loomis, Arbogast-- are all mere pawns who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and are forced by fate to help play out the drama of Norman's twisted existence. Janet Leigh gives a memorable performance as Marion, creating a character that was not only destined to go down in cinematic history, but one that would make women everywhere afraid to shower at a motel. Vera Miles is effective as Marion's sister, Lila, and John Gavin gives credibility to Marion's lover, Sam Loomis. Martin Balsam gives a solid performance as well, as Arbogast, the ill-fated Private Eye whose encounter with Norman's mother on the stairs is a scene nearly as famous as that of Marion's `shower.' But the real star of the film is, of course, Anthony Perkins, who gives an Oscar worthy performance as Norman Bates, a character even more chilling than Hannibal Lecter, in that his outward appearance is so deceiving, so contrary to the evil dwelling behind his unintended facade of normalcy. His gentle countenance and boyish charm are so `real' that after being exposed to him it forever after makes anyone and everyone you encounter in your own life suspect. And Perkins plays him to perfection, in arguably the best (and definitely the most memorable) performance of his career. The supporting cast includes John McIntire (Sheriff Chambers), Simon Oakland (Dr. Richmond), Vaughn Taylor (George Lowery), Frank Albertson (Tom Cassidy), Lurene Tuttle (Mrs. Chambers), Patricia Hitchcock (Caroline), John Anderson (Charlie) and Mort Mills (Highway Patrolman). If there was any doubt by the time this film was made, `Psycho' once and for all proved that Hitchcock was, indeed, the Master of Suspense. There have been many imitators before and since, but all of them, good and bad alike, only serve to point out that nobody does it better than Hitchcock. I rate this one 10/10.
Ever wonder what the movie history would be like, if the "genius" of Hitchcock, were never brought to silver screen? Aside from the story line, the cast, and the acting, the highest point of this film, to myself, is the camera direction. Being a past film and tv school grad', all I can say is, this one is a masterpiece. The angles and the way he let's the camera, lead or suggest to the viewer, the next scene,is alone, among the best direction of any movie. To see what Im saying, when next shown, turn the volume off, and just let the camera , under his direction, tell you the story. I believe one will get a different understanding of this film, and a greater appreciation of the director.
The first time I saw this film I was quite disappointed. So much of it has
become cliché in the four decades since its release, including the famous
shower scene, Perkins' oedipal relationship with his mother, and even
Bernard Herrmann's unsettling score. I had known the identity of Perkins'
"mother" even before I saw the film and had to be told by a sibling that the
audience was not supposed to be aware of this up to the last. It was like
knowing the punch line in advance and not really getting the joke once it
was actually told. It is, to be sure, a tribute to Hitchcock that this film
has become so much a part of North American popular culture, but the
downside is that the element of shock that so affected audiences back in
1960 is almost entirely lost on a later generation of viewers. One thus has
to imagine what it would have been like to see it during its first run in
the movie theatres.
Had I been there at its opening, I think I would still have judged this film to be inferior to the string of excellent Hitchcock offerings preceding it during the previous decadefrom "Strangers on a Train" to "North by Northwest." Why? So much of his previous work had relied on the use of suspense to draw the viewers into the plot. A good thriller builds this up carefully and deliberately until the final climax at or near the end of the film. Good suspense leaves much unstated and works its way subtly into the imagination. It's what you don't see that's the scariest. Think, for example, of the murder in "Rear Window." You hear a crash and a short, shrill scream followed by ominous silence, but you're not really sure what's happened until much later. Here, on the other hand, Hitch kills off his heroine brutally near the beginning of the film, leaving little if anything to the imagination, and largely putting aside the issues we had been misled to think the plot was building up to.
Moreover, despite Hitch's tongue-in-cheek claim that he had intended it as a comedy, there is little of the director's famous humour so much in evidence in the immediately preceding film, "North by Northwest." There is not much humour to be found in shock, while there is great humorous potential in suspense. He should have stuck with suspense and left shock to a lesser director.
I alluded to Herrmann's score. Without it, I think this would have been judged a far less effective film and less the classic it is generally reputed to be. Imagine Leigh driving along the highway without the composer's jittery music in the backgroundor, perhaps more accurately, the foreground. In such scenes it is the music that almost entirely creates the suspenseful atmosphere. Without it there is nothing of the sortjust Leigh driving and looking in her rear view mirror. Period. Not very scary.
Is it a classic then? It is, insofar as it influenced a whole generation of movie-goers and film makers who sought to imitate it. But on its own merits, I don't think so.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I am an A-Level student studying this film for part of my total grade.
is so much you can get from this film, as can be seen by anyone who has
watched the film. This was the first film to be made where people couldn't
come in halfway through and then watch the end, followed by the start.
is, of course, the perhaps urban myth of Hitchcock being phoned by a
desperate cinema manager telling him that there was a queue round the
it was raining, and could he let them in? Hitchcock, undaunted, made him
Hitchcock himself called Psycho a comedy, and it has comic sections in it, although it is an extremely black comedy. At the end, you really don't expect the psychiatrist, when asked if Norman killed those people, to say "Yes...."turn of head, raise of eyebrow"and no!". This made the entire cinema, consisting fully of A-Level students, laugh. You don't expect half of the things that happen in the film to happen, but that doesn't make it necessarily bad. Of course, there was the 3 sequels including a made for TV one, and practically everyone had a go directing, including Perkins himself. Mind you, no-one can beat the master.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Television has brought murder back into the home - where it
- Alfred Hitchcock
I am often asked what my favorite film of all time is. My reply is always the same: I do not have a favorite from all the genres. But from the thousands of films I have seen, I have not seen a film more horrifying nor terrifying as Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho," the only movie that has ever truly scared me in my entire life. And so I can honestly say that "Psycho" is the scariest film I have ever seen, and is quite probably my favorite horror film of all time.
This is the movie that redefined the genre, and literally gave birth to psychological thrillers. By today's standards, "Psycho" may seem - at the most - tame. Audiences may not be scared by the plot anymore - a plot that was, at the time, unlike anything other, but nowadays quite normal. Gus Van Sant remade Hitchcock's classic in 1998 with both critics and audiences blowing it off. Modern audiences of today are used to slashers such as "Halloween," "Friday the 13th," "A Nightmare on Elm Street," "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre," etc., and so Van Sant's "Psycho" did nothing but disappoint them. But I guarantee that if you place modern audiences in front of Hitchcock's "Psycho," they will come out of the film terrified to death (like I was when I first saw it).
Why is this? It is simply because modern audiences don't expect such creepiness and evilness to be in a 1960 film. Most modern audiences think that "Star Wars" (1977) was the start of motion picture history, that anything beforehand is stupid, cheery and not worth their time. They will go into Hitchcock's "Psycho" and expect a happy little picture, which is why they will come out pale with fear.
It all comes down to the fact that in 1960, mainstream films did not have such subject matters as split personality disorder (seen in this year's "Identity"), figures with homicidal tendencies (like John Doe in "Se7en"), or characters who are literally insane (like Hannibal Lector-type-criminals). "Psycho" set the course for these films. It blew audiences out of the water. They had never seen anything like it before. It is probably the only film that has ever really, truly scared me to death. I didn't want to take showers for weeks.
Hitchcock once said, "Cartoonists have the best casting system. If they don't like an actor, they just tear him up." I'm glad Hitchcock didn't try to tear up Anthony Perkins, who plays Norman Bates in "Psycho," as a shy, awkward fellow living off of a re-routed highway. He is perfectly cast and soundly directed by Hitchcock, coming off as a somewhat strange, implacable fellow. We aren't quite sure what to make of him.
Phoenix banker Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) is a poor creature living off of practically nothing. She wants to get married to Sam Loomis (John Gavin), but the costs of a wedding outweigh both their incomes. And so one night when her employer entrusts Marion with 40,000 dollars, she flees with the money in the back of her car to go find Sam. However, tired from a long drive, she stops at the Bates Motel for the night. She never leaves the motel, because Norman Bates' reclusive mother becomes jealous of Marion and kills her. Or does she?
Hitchcock masterfully weaves the suspense and horror in "Psycho," so much so that we simply do not know what to think until everything unravels towards the end. The infamous shower scene remains one of the most impressive and wonderful segments in all motion picture history, ranking up there with the unveiling of Harry Lime in "The Third Man," the revelation by Darth Vader in "Star Wars," and one of my personal favorites, the part in "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" when Neal Page and Del Griffith wake up in bed entangled with each other. ("Those aren't pillows!")
I think that the anticipation of fear, or the insinuation of something sinister lurking behind a shadowed doorway, is much scarier than blood and guts. Freddy Krueger does not scare some people. Modern horror films tell us what we are supposed to fear, whereas films such as "Psycho" leave the images up to us. Not every person may leave a Jason Voorhees movie scared. Everyone will leave "Psycho" scared. Because as our mind tries to place a face on the fear, our mind incorporates our very fears into the image.
Alfred Hitchcock is undoutedly one of the greatest and most influential film directors in the history of motion pictures. He can create suspense like no other and he can make even the simplest story the most nail-biting, terrifying picture of all time. I recently purchased a DVD with four of Hitchcock's early British films from the thirties, including "The 39 Steps" and "The Lady Vanishes." Hitchcock's sense of solid suspense can be felt even in those early films. He is, quite simply, the master of suspense. Is it no wonder he has gained the exact reputation as mentioned?
Some films land on greatness and don't always deserve their reputation quite so much as everyone seems to think so. "Psycho" is not such a film. Here is a movie that bent and broke every set rule of film making for the time, and changed the course of horror films for the better. The nineties have shown a return to the classic horror/mystery/thriller mix of Hitchcock and Agatha Christie. Here is the granddaddy of them all. Here is the best horror film ever made.
- John Ulmer
This is one of the most well-crafted horror film of all time. I can't say much about this film that hasn't already been said, so I'll just say it is eerie, suspenseful, and well-told. With this, Hitchcock became one of the best directors ever. 5/5 stars.
The strings of Bernard Herrmann combined with the screams of Janet
Leigh, the knife of Norman Bates and the cuts of Alfred Hitchcock makes
the movie moment that penetrated pop culture like no other.
My impression is that Psycho is perceived as purely a great piece of craft and entertainment, but in my mind what makes Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho such a singular work is the deep and personal poetry it contains.
Hitchcock was completely fearless in his ideas at this point. He makes his most radical and innovative film. The movie is heightened from his famous thrillers to a pure and modern horror movie. The visual universe is now dirty and grim as opposed to beautiful and glamorized. The icy and sophisticated blonds are gone and there are no traces of sympathetic heroes.
Everyone who has seen an interview with Alfred Hitchcock knows that he hides behind an inflated and parodic character. In his interviews he is very secretive and doesn't revel anything about himself. The opposite is true in his films. In his movies he is often completely open and naked. He exposes the most shameful truths about himself and his life. In Psycho he does a personal examination on a level beyond anything I've ever seen. He puts himself in the space where he is the most vulnerable. He offers a "peeping hole" into the darkest corners of his personality. The movie is extremely revealing, but in very subtle ways. One has to work to find the treasures of Psycho.
Psycho is like a novel in the way images are often suggested and has to be completed in the heads of the audience. The sexual and violent scenes are never explicit. This makes the movie even more disturbing than it ever could be if we had seen the images, and this was also the only way Hitchcock could convey what he wanted to convey and still get past the ridiculously strict American censorship laws of the time.
Sexuality is always a theme in a Hitchcock movie, but he never explored it as profoundly or intimately as he did in Psycho. The shower scene for example feels like a rape as much as it does a murder(the feeling intrusion, the nakedness and so on). Norman desperately desires Marion Crane. He is sexually satisfied by killing her(it might be a stretch, but I see the knife as a symbol of the male sex organ). This scene is all about the childish shame of Normans sexuality. Norman, or the mother side of him, tries to suppress his sexuality completely. This is one of the examples of the openness of Hitchcock in this movie. His catholic upbringing would suggest a lot of shameful sexuality in his life as well. Something he has in common with his biggest contemporary director hero, Luis Bunuel. Bunuel are one of very few directors who explored his own sexuality with anything close to the amount of honesty of Psycho.
Psycho is such a rich movie. It is filled with details. I believe you could watch it fifty times over and still find something new the fifty first time you watch it. Pay for example attention to all the little symbols and metaphors scatterd all over every single frame. Notice all the fascinations or "fetishes" of Hitchcocks that he put into it. The stuffed birds and the way they mirror Normans mother. The way food and eating connects with murder and sex. The peeping hole as a symbol for voyeurism and the movie camera. The cellar as a symbol of the suppressed and the shameful truths about Norman Bates. I really want to go into all these details, but like I said, there are too many and too much to discuss. It wont fit into the format of an IMDb review...
If you don't see the same things I do in this movie, please watch it again. Even more than the magnificent "Vertigo" Psycho has the ability to grow immensely on a second viewing, and continue to grow on the third, fourth, fifth, sixth... In my heart it has grown to be one of the absolute best films in movie history.
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