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I feel that this movie is superior to Alfred Hitchcock's other films and that it, rather than "Vertigo", should be considered his masterpiece. Even though it was shot on a small budget, its suspense, thanks to Hitchcock's direction, Tomasini's flawless editing, and Bernard Herrmann's still holds up on multiple viewings. Also important to the film is solid acting from Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, Vera Miles and Martin Balsam and John L. Russell's constantly under-rated photography.
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.
I have been reading some of the comments about Psycho and was shocked to
read that some of the viewers thought that it was rubbish. You have to
realise that for its day it was a shocker. It broke all the conventions of
the horror films in that day. Every shot was carefully thought out, for
example, because of film laws, Hitchcock couldn't show the knife touch the
body in Shower scene, but the way that it was shot made you believe that
were seeing it.
Many people prefere the new version because it is in colour. Colour films had been around for quite some time when the film was made. Hitchcock decided to make it in Black and White for a reasion. You have to agree that it makes the film very scary. The shadows are enhanced on the house and Norman's face appears to be horribly hollow, just like the final image of his mother.
In my opinion, the new version is good, but the use of colour changes the initial image that Hitchcock wanted to put across.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The first Alfred Hitchcock film I saw was The Birds and I thought it was a film which couldn't be beaten in its genre, until I saw, "Psycho." (There are a few spoilers here.) Horror films usually leave you cold and chilled and as shocking and disturbing Psycho is, it's a film you can somehow warm to. The shower scene is a scene like no other. Its more shocking than frightening, the instant when the curtain draws back and you are faced with a shadowy figure clutching a knife sucks the adrenalin out you like a sponge, after Marion is viciously stabbed she clutches the shower curtain and falls to the floor, so simple yet so powerful. The full story which is one that you really need to know nothing about to get the full affect. Unfortunately I knew quite a bit about it before I saw it. If there ever was a film with a plot twist this film would top the list. If you haven't seen it then go, go, go and rent it now, in fact buy it ! You won't be disappointed.
I saw Psycho last night at the campus movie theatre and it was great, not to mention scary. I mean I had never seen it before (except for parts on TV when I was small) and had no clue about the plot or the ending. Untill the final scene I still thought it was the mother. Now I'm one of those guys who can pick out the ending like half way through the film, but Psycho had me fooled all the way to the end. Psycho may be great to watch again and again, but its even better the first time.
Only a sinister organization such as the Academy would bypass Alfred
Hitchcock as Best Director in 1960. Psycho is a masterpiece and Hitch will
be remembered for centuries regarding his classic portrayal of a young
Norman Bates, his run-down motel, and the mysterious relationship and
of his Mother. From Sam Loomis, Marion and Lila Crane, Detective Arbogast,
Mr. Lowry, and even the used car salesman, Psycho is filled with
characters, suspenseful plot twists, and a climax that would make every
child in America think twice before entering the basement.
Alfred Hitchcock was an American icon and Psycho is a true reflection of his genius. To his day, Psycho remains one of best films of its genre. Further, Hitchcock's talent has stood the test of time, ultimately earning him the most honorable surname "The Master of Suspense".
I am a big fan of Alfred Hitchcock. I have seen all of his movies, and think all of them are excellent. This one, however, is at the top of the food chain. Psycho is brilliant. Hitchcock gave this film excellent direction, and the acting was superb. Especially Anthony Perkins playing the role of Norman Bates. He always talked so fast, like he was nervous and anxious all the time. When he talked to Marion Crane about his mother, it gave me chills down my spine. "She just...she just goes a little mad sometimes. We all go a little mad sometimes." At that era, I don't think a better person could have delivered that line than Anthony Perkins. What makes this movie so great is its originality. Sure, there have been lots of films about "psychos," but this is pretty much the first one. The script was excellent, the acting was excellent, the direction was excellent, the cinematography was excellent, the music was excellent, the scenery was incredible, especially that dark old house where "Mother" lived. I could just go on and on about what a great movie this is. My grade: A+
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.
A respectable 30-year-old spinster steals $40,000 from her workplace
and takes off on a solo car journey to nowhere. She makes the fateful
mistake of staying overnight at the Bates Motel ...
There is a difference between a great film, where the cast and technicians seem inspired and the project is carried along on the energy of its ideas, and a merely good film, in which the cleverness is calculated, and the tricks are consciously inserted. "Psycho" is merely a good film.
But what cleverness! The incidental music of Bernard Herrman, Hitchcock's composer of choice, has a discordant, staccato leitmotif in the strings which repeats constantly, building almost hypnotically towards the shrill climax of the shower scene. Hitchcock deploys a battery of subtle devices to keep the viewer feeling vaguely uneasy. Sexual frankness was a shocking thing in a mainstream movie in 1960, and the opening scene (showing Marion's "extended lunch hour" with Sam) is so sexually honest that it cannot have failed to disturb contemporary cinema audiences. Faces are lit from below or the side, creating an inchoate sense of foreboding. Owls and ravens, traditional omens of evil, preside silently over Norman's parlour. The windshield wiper which fails to clear the rain is a symbol of Marion's guilty conscience.
The film's abiding mood is one of creepy uneasiness, and this is reinforced at every turn by Hitchcock's system of visual imagery. There is, of course, the Old Dark House, but far less obvious techniques are also at work. As Arbogast mounts the stairs, the camera retreats disconcertingly before him. The tines of the rakes in Sam's store are raised like bony, clutching fingers behind Lila's head. Marion's unblinking eyeball is compositionally echoed by the circular plughole, the water draining out as her life force ebbs away.
In the long dialogue scene between Norman and Marion ("We all go a little mad sometimes"), the rhythm of the cutting is exquisite. Sometimes we see the speaker, sometimes the listener, as the rapidity of the cuts forms a counterpoint to the text, and emphasises the discomfort of the characters (Marion wary but self-possessed, Norman outwardly affable but painfully shy).
The cinematic axiom, "Show it, don't tell it", is beautifully illustrated in the scene in Marion's bedroom. The camera closes in on the bundles of banknotes lying on the bed, then pans to the packed suitcase, telling us without the need for words that she has decided to take the money and run.
Then something puzzling happens. The film seems to lose all belief in its own precepts, and the rich visual symbolism is abruptly abandoned. Lila opines, "I'll feel better when all this is explained," but she is wrong. The explanation is a huge let-down. We get Dr. Simon, a psychiatrist, lecturing us at tedious length about Norman's condition. "Show it, don't tell it" flies out of the window. Maybe Stefano, the scriptwriter, realised that the running time was already over two hours and the thing needed its loose ends tied up rapidly. Perhaps the flat, prosaic ending is the price Hitch has to pay for the slow painstaking build-up in the early reels (it is almost half an hour before Norman makes it onto the screen). Whatever the reason, I for one found the closing section very disappointing.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This definitely contains **SPOILERS**, and is intended only for those who
have seen the film, although it's hard to imagine many of you out there
haven't already seen this remarkable film.
Let's start with what is probably the most amazing scene in the film, the conversation between Norman and Marian in the motel office parlor. Anyone interested in learning how to develop dramatic, and/or psychological tension, should study this scene. Sharp dialog, mood swings, marvelous camera angles and great character reactions permeate the scene. Much of the scene, and it's darkly humorous lines, hint at the truth about Norman and his mother without actually revealing it. For example, as Norman is bringing the tray of food into the office for Marian after an argument with mother, he says, "My mother is ...what's the phrase...she isn't quite herself today". In the parlor while Marian eats, Norman defends his mother with, "We all go a little mad sometimes". And just before Marian leaves the office she tells Norman, "I stepped into a private trap back there. I'd like to go back and pull myself out of it...if it's not too late". The irony being that Marian may have decided to try to escape her trap, but she has already, unknowingly been ensnared in Norman's private trap. Yes Marian, it is too late.
In another sequence while Norman and Marian are talking in the parlor, the camera is at eye level on both characters. Suddenly, when Marian brings up the subject of Norman's mother, the camera angle changes. Norman is now being viewed from a lower angle. We are looking up at Norman and, in the background, his stuffed owl with it's wings spread, clearly in an attack posture. At the same time, we are now seeing Marian at slight downward angle. Norman has become the predator and Marian the prey!
Now, how about lighting? In a scene very near the end of the film, Marian's sister has made her way into the fruit cellar, lit by one bare bulb, where mother sits in a wheelchair. Lila touches her shoulder, the wheelchair swings around revealing mother's well preserved corpse. Lila screams and draws her hand back hitting the light bulb, causing it to swing wildly. The end result is that the remainder of the scene is played out in alternating light and shadow due to the swinging bulb: Lila's terrified face, mother's corpse, Norman running into the cellar in mother's clothes wielding a butcher's knife, Sam running in behind Norman and dragging him to the floor, Norman's face becoming a twisted mask of despair as the knife falls to the floor and the wig slips from his head. It all has the look of a nightmare...macabre, surreal, and sheer genius!
I have always loved Hitch's brand of humor, dark or otherwise. Here are some of my favorites from this film: Marian talking to Sam in the motel room at the beginning of the film, "You make respectability sound...disrespectful". Charlie the used car salesman, speaking to Marian, who is obviously intent on trading in her car, "First time I ever saw the customer high pressure the salesman". Arbogast, the private detective, speaking to Norman at the motel, "If it doesn't gel, it isn't aspic...and this ain't gelling". Norman speaking to Sam, after Sam has implied that Marian may have made a fool of him, "She might have fooled me, but she didn't fool my mother". Lila to Sam, defending her decision to try to talk to Norman's mother, "I can handle a sick, old woman". How about the fact that Norman's hobby is stuffing birds, and in cleaning up mother's mess he stuffs a "Crane" into the trunk of a car. Classic Hitch!
Let me leave you with one last tidbit. In the final scene of the film Norman is sitting in a cell, wrapped in a blanket, and we hear mother's thought that is the last line of the film, "Why, she wouldn't even harm a fly". The scene then dissolves to a shot of Marian's car being dragged from the swamp. Just as Norman's image disappears from the screen, look closely and you will see the face of mother's corpse superimposed over Norman's face for a fraction of a second. One last little (subliminal?) chill from the master! I can see you all rushing to your VCR's now. Enjoy!
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