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The Perkins Factor
Mark Lovell27 July 2009
No matter how many times one sits through this Hitchcock classic, Anthony Perkins always manages to surprise you. It is a sensational performance - for which he didn't even get an Oscar nomination - I have no way of knowing how much preparation he dedicated to the creation of Norman Bates, maybe no more than usual, but the details of his performance are astonishing. Never a false move and if you follow the film looking into his eyes, you'll be amazed as I was. The madness and the tenderness, the danger and the cravings. A mamma's boy with hellish implications and yet we see, we feel connected to the human being, we are not horrified by him but of his circumstances. In short, we kind of understand him. That alone puts him miles and miles away from other cinematic monsters. From Richard Attenborough as the real life Christie in "10 Rillington Place" to the hideous, unredeemable Christian Bale in "American Psycho". Here Hitchcock and Herrman create an universe that Anthony Perkins inhabits with the same kind of electricity, nerve and shyness that Norman Bates projects throughout the film. Janet Leigh falls for it if not him. She, like us, sees the boy trying to escape his dutiful son's trap. He is in my list of the 10 most riveting characters ever to be captured on film.
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Anthony's Norman
A.W Richmond19 May 2017
Getting into Hitchcock's Psycho, 57 years after its original release is like assisting to a masterclass of sorts. We can now identify what made this little lurid tale into a classic. Hitchcock himself, naturally, but now we know the first director's cut was a major disappointment and that Alma Reville - Hitch's wife - took over, re edited and the results have been praised, applauded and studied ever since. Janet Leigh's Marion Crane created a movie landmark with her shower scene. Bernard Herrmann and his strings created an extra character that we recognize as soon as it reappears under any disguise but, what shook me the most now in 2017 is Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates. His performance has evolved with the passing of time and its effect has remain as chilling, as moving, as funny and as real as it was in 1960. It's interesting to watch Gus Van Sant's 1998 version with Vince Vaugh as Norman Bates. If you look at the film, shot by shot with Berrnard Herrmann's strings - it's pretty fantastic. - Play it in black and white if you can. The problem and it is a monumental problem, we wait for Janet Leigh and Anthony Perkins, if the casting of Anne Heche was really bad - not a hint of Janet Leigh's humanity, the casting of Vince Vaughn was incomprehensible. Not just not credible for a moment but annoying, very annoying. Anthony Perkins brought something profoundly personal to Norman Bates and as a consequence we connected with his sickness. We felt for him. Okay, sorry, I didn't mean to go there but I felt compelled to because I saw again Psycho (1960) ad Psycho (1998) at 24 hours from each other and realized that the main flaw of the 1998 versions is the absence of Anthony Perkins.
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It's the Little Things
telegonus5 September 2001
So much has been written about this film that all I can do is add my own voice of approval and say that I consider it to be a masterpiece, and add a few things often overlooked or not commented on that add so much to the movie's cumulative power. It's often the little things that make a film work. Here are a few examples:

a.) The absolute realism of the first twenty minutes of so, which are so true to life that they might have come from a documentary on how people lived in America forty years ago. There isn't a false note,--or a missed one--as each vocal inflection and raised eyebrow carries great meaning even if, on the surface, not much appears to be happening.

b.) Marion and the motorcycle cop. The cop is dark and sinister in appearance, due mostly to the bright desert sun, and never takes off his sunglasses. His conduct is at all times professional; he never raises his voice, and comes across as calm and rather perceptive; and he seems truly concerned over Marion Crane's fate, though he is unaware of her actual predicament. Marion is, alas, a bad actress, and the cop sees through this, if not to the heart of the matter, yet we don't want him to follow her. Despite his appearance the cop is not the angel of death but rather Marion's last chance. Had she confessed to her crime she would have escaped the fate that awaited her; and if she had just been a little less clever, and driven more slowly, and the skies remained clear, he might have followed her to the motel and intervened on her behalf.

c.) California Charlie. John Anderson is wonderful as the fast-talking, semi-streetwise small town used car salesman. At the end of almost every other line of dialogue he seems on the verge of discovering who Marion really is, then pulls back or comes to the wrong conclusion. He senses that she is being watched by the cop; but he also wants to make a sale. The scenes at the used car lot are both highly realistic,--and perfectly acted and timed--and also a little frightening, from the opening, "I'm in no mood for trouble", to the final "hey!" just before Marion drives away. We know that something isn't right, but the problem isn't with the car lot; it's Marion's plight casts a dark shadow over all her scenes there, despite the brightest sunlight imaginable.

d.) Chitchat with Norman. Once Marion and Norman settle down for a light meal in the parlor their conversation turns to general things, and Norman is a good observer, if a bit awkward socially. Without actually lying Marion gives herself away with a throwaway line ("Sometimes just once is enough", in a reference to private traps) and Norman seems to catch her drift, if not the actual meaning of what she's saying, and allows it to pass. We can see that he is moody when he angrily leans forward and delivers an angry, though controlled tirade against putting people in institutions. Every camera angle and line of dialogue in this scene has meaning and carries enormous weight, and yet the drama plays out in a light, relaxed mode, and the performers seems truly connected to one another at its conclusion, strangers no more. This is in my opinion the best written and most beautifully acted, edited and photographed scene I have ever seen in a movie. The handling of every nuance is prodigal and masterful, and the end result nothing less than staggering.

e.) The sheriff's house. When Sam and Lila wake up the sheriff and his wife in the middle of the night we see a splendid example of people talking to one another without either party understanding what is in fact going on. The result is a mini-comedy of manners; but it is also good exposition, as we learn of Mrs. Bates' death (and the dress she was buried in, "periwinkle blue"). John McInyre's sheriff dominates this scene (and no other), and expertly delivers its punchline, "Well if that's Mrs. Bates in the window, who's that buried up in Greenlawn Cemetary".

f.) Arbogast and Norman. The private detective's interview with Norman is played low-key, and yet we sense the tension in Norman's voice and manner, and know that Arbogast does, too. Something is amiss. This is beyond the question of who killed Marion. The stakes feel very high in this sparring match, and though Norman wins on a technicality, we know that Arbogast is coming back for more.

g.) The shrink's explanation. This part of the film has been criticized by many for being a sop thrown to the audience. I disagree. After all, the movie came out in 1960, and by the standards of the time some explanation seems in order, and Dr. Simon Oakland is as good a man for the job as I can imagine. His analysis of Norman's pathology is cogent and extremely well delivered. Yet throughout his speech, with all its Freudian brilliance, the doctor offered a take on the story that we in the audience, even if we can accept it, can never be satisfied with. He can explain the character of Norman Bates rationally, but he cannot make our response to his story and its effect on us feel ultimately safe, feel somehow in control and finalized. Yes, one can put people like Norman under the microscope, and even dissect what one sees, but this doesn't stop such events as unfolded in the movie any less likely to occur. Ask Milton Arbogast.

In conclusion I'd like to say that great films are made up of outstanding little things, not just big moments or fancy effects. There is in fact nothing fancy about Psycho, which is on the surface is a somewhat plain-looking movie. Only when one looks beneath the surface does one see the teeming millions of small things,--gestures, glances, sudden changes in lighting, razor-sharp editing, and all above the refusal on the part of the director to let any one factor dominate--that we understand the meaning of the word genius, the meaning of the word creative.
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Hitchcock and Herrmann
M. J Arocena23 November 2007
Robert Bloch wrote the original work, Joseph Stefano adapted it into a tight screenplay but it was Alfred Hitchcock with the extraordinary complicity of Bernard Herrmann who transformed this lurid tale into a classic, horror masterpiece. The score propels us into the moment before the moment arrives provoking the sort of anticipation that verges on the unbearable. The fact that the key scenes have become iconic film moments: copied, imitated, emulated and parodied, have not diminished its impact, not really. The anticipation, underlined by Herrmann's strings, creates a sort of craving for the moment to arrive. That doesn't happen very often. No amount of planning can produce it or re-produce it - otherwise how do you explain the Gus Van Sant version - so, the only possible explanation is an accident, a miraculous film accident and those do happen. Everything falls into place so perfectly that even the things that one may argue are below the smart standard of the film, are needed, the film without every frame is not quite the film. Try to turn away after the climax during Simon Oakland's long explanation. You can't. I couldn't. Partly because you know you'll soon be confronting those eyes, that fly, the car...
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Movie At The Crossroads Of Time
Bill Slocum10 August 2004
What can you say about a film that's been talked about to death? Just this: If you've never seen it, you owe it to yourself to do so, not because it's a way of paying homage to the one true master of modern film, but because it's so fun to watch.

Janet Leigh plays a bored office drone who decides to steal some loot from her boss's obnoxious client and parlay it into a new life with her all-too-distant boyfriend. All is going more or less according to plan until she stops in at the wrong motel, where she befriends a friendly if somewhat nerdy desk clerk only to find it causes problems with that clerk's possessive mother, who as her boy explains, "is not herself today." I'll say she isn't, and so would Leigh's Marion Crane, who maybe should have put up that "Do-Not-Disturb" sign before taking a shower.

You can feel the decade literally shifting out of '50s and into '60s with this one. Even the opening shot, where the camera looks over a Western U.S. city in the middle of the afternoon and zooms in on what looks exactly like the Texas School Book Depository overlooking Dealey Plaza. Norman Rockwell touches abound, like the decor of the motel, but look at what's going on around it. People dress well, they still wear fedoras and jackets, but in their tense conversations and hooded gazes you can feel the culture just ticking away like a time bomb waiting to explode.

Most especially, there's Anthony Perkins, who plays motel clerk Norman Bates in a very oddly naturalistic way, complete with facial tics and half-swallowed words, not the polished image one expected to see then. Just compare him with John Gavin, who plays Marion's boyfriend in the standard-actor-of-the-day way. Perkins manages to be so weirdly magnetizing, even in small moments like the way he stumbles on the word "falsity" or notes how creepy he finds dampness to be.

He shines in bigger scenes, too, like his tense chat with Martin Balsam's boorish but diligent private detective character, Arbogast, who along with Perkins and Leigh delivers a landmark performance. The way both actors play out the awkwardness in their conversation makes you literally sweat. Then again, you're always uneasy around Norman. You definitely feel wary of him right away, but you find yourself liking him, too, even when he's busy covering up "Mother's" misdeeds. Not since Bela Legosi played Dracula did you get a horror movie with such a compelling central figure.

If you are sampling the many other comments here, be sure to look up Merwyn Grote's. He makes an interesting, compelling case for how director Alfred Hitchcock used his television series as a template for "Psycho." Certainly "Psycho" looks more like early 1960s television than any of the more sumptuous fare Hitchcock had been bringing to screen at the time. Not only is it in black-and-white, not color, but the sets; a ramshackle motel, a mothbally old house, a couple of cheap looking bedrooms, a bathroom in a used-car dealership, are deliberately low class.

It's thrilling to see Hitchcock move so effectively outside his normal element, and move things along with such clinical detachment and low-key technical finesse. Thrilling, too, to realize this is one of his most accomplished products; made by a man who was experienced enough to know how the game was played, and daring enough still to break the rules; indeed, start a whole new ballgame.

Is it the best Hitchcock movie? It's definitely one of his best, right up there with "The 39 Steps" and "Strangers On A Train" and "Sabotage" and "Shadow Of A Doubt." He only once again came close to making as good a film, with "The Birds," while Janet Leigh and Anthony Perkins never escaped the greatness they helped create here. Poor John Gavin had to quit the biz entirely, and became an ambassador.

Often imitated, parodied, referenced, and analyzed to death, "Psycho" still isn't played out nearly 45 years after it came out. You owe it to yourself to pay a visit to the Bates Motel; Norman has a room ready.
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The More I See This, The Better It Gets
ccthemovieman-125 October 2006
When I watched this for the first time in over 30 years, I was surprised how little action there was since I had remembered this as some intense horror movie. Of course, I was young and more impressionable so I guess I just remembered those few dramatic, sensational scenes such as Janet Leigh murdered in the shower and the quick other murder at the top of the stairs. Basically, that was about it, action-wise, BUT I have no complaints because the more I watch this film, the more I like it. It has become my favorite Alfred Hitchcock movie, along with Rear Window.

I mention the lack of action, and blood, too, because younger people who might be watching this for the first time are not going to see the kind of horror film they're accustomed to seeing. A generation back, movie makers tended to build up characters and suspense, so there was a lot more storytelling and less action than you see today. Also, this movie doesn't have the shock value today for audiences, either, not after years of Freddie Krueger-type blood-and-guts seen in the past 30 years.

But, what you WILL see in this movie is (1) superb acting; (2) a fascinating lead character; (3) excellent photography, and (4) a bizarre story.

"Norman Bates" is one of the most famous fictional names in film history, thanks to this film and the great work portraying him by Anthony Perkins. "Norman" is a nutcase, as it turns out and the more you know all about him, the more fun it is to study Perkins and his character "Norman" in subsequent viewings. He really has the guy down pat. However, it isn't just Perkins' film; the supporting is just fine with Leigh, whose figure is still awesome no matter how many times you see it; Martin Balsam as the private detective; Vera Miles and John Gavin. Everyone contributes.

What makes me really enjoy this movie is the cinematography. I bought this on VHS when it became available on widescreen. Later, of course, I got the DVD. Each time, I appreciate John Russell's camera-work and Hitchcock's direction more and more. I wonder if this isn't Hitchcock's best job of directing as his camera angles and lighting are outstanding. On the DVD, the blacks, whites and grays are just super and the famous house next to the Bates Motel never looked better. That house really looks eerie.

The sound effects in here don't hurt. When Balsam is attacked, the accompanying frightening music never fails to bring chills down my spine. The music literally "screams" at you.

I went 35 years between showings but now have watched this five times in the past four years. I love it and look forward to seeing it again. Many people here think this is Hitchcock's greatest film. Add me to that list.
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Two Words: Hitchcock's Best (...and you know that's no small feat!)
LoveCoates31 July 2001
Yes, everything you've heard is true. The score is a part of pop culture. The domestic conflict is well-known. But nothing shocks like the experience itself.

If you have not seen this movie, do yourself a favor. Stop reading thse comments, get up, take a shower, then GO GET THIS MOVIE. Buy it, don't rent. You will not regret it.

"Psycho" is easily the best horror-thriller of all time. Nothing even comes close...maybe "Les Diaboliques" (1955) but not really.

"Psycho" has one of the best scripts you'll ever find in a movie. The movie's only shortcoming is that one of the characters seems to have little motivation in the first act of the movie but as the story progresses, you realize that Hitchcock (GENIUS! GENIUS! GENIUS!) in a stroke of genius has done this on purpose, because there is another character whose motivations are even more important. Vitally important. So important that you totally forget about anything else. I was lucky enough to have spent my life wisely avoiding any conversation regarding the plot of this movie until I was able to see it in full. Thank God I did! The movie has arguably the best mid-plot point and climactic twist in thriller history, and certainly the best-directed ending. The last few shots are chilling and leave a lingering horror in the viewer's mind.

Just as good as the writing is Hitchcock's direction, which is so outstanding that it defies explanation. Suffice it to say that this movie is probably the best directorial effort by film history's best director. I was fortunate enough to see this movie at a big oldtime movie house during a Hitchcock revival. Janet Leigh, still radiant, spoke before the film and explained how Hitchcock's genius was in his ability to 1) frighten without gore and 2) leave his indelible mark on the movie without overshadowing his actors (like the great Jean Renoir could never do). "Psycho" is clearly its own phenomenon, despite all the big-name talent involved.

Hitchcock does not disappoint by leaving out his trademark dark humor. His brilliance is in making a climax that is at once both scary and hilarious. When I saw it in the theatre the audience was both gasping in disbelief while falling-on-the-floor laughing.

One more thing...

Tony Perkins. Janet Leigh got much-deserved accolades for this film, but it is Perkins who gives what remains the single best performance by an actor in a horror movie. He is so understated that his brillance passes you by. He becomes the character. The sheer brillance of the role is evidenced by the ineptitude of the actors in Gus Van Sant's 1998 (dear God make it stop!) shot-for-shot "remake." Though the movies are nearly identical, Hitchcock's is superior mostly because of the acting and the atmosphere (some of the creepiness is lost with color). This is made obvious by the initial conversation between Leigh's character and Perkins, a pivotal scene. The brilliance of Perkins in the original shines even brighter when compared with the ruination in the remake even though the words and the shots were exactly the same. The crucial chemistry in this scene lacking in the remake gives everything away and mars our understanding of upcoming events. The fact that Perkins could never escape this role - his star stopped rising star as it had done in the 50s - proves that he played the part perhaps too well.

I keep using the word brilliant, but I cannot hide my enthusiasm for this movie. It is wholly unlike the overblown, overbudget, overlong fluff spewing all-too-often out of Hollywood today. "Psycho" is simple, well-crafted and just the right length.

Eleven-and-a-half out of ten stars.
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Hitchcock did it all in this one.
Chris-33219 January 2000
Warning: Spoilers
When Psycho came out, the horror industry of movies was merely monsters, zombies, werewolves, and vampires. So when Psycho hit screens, the audience was finally introduced to psychological thrillers. It hit with such a huge bang that the audience was shocked...with fear and suspense. Psycho created what the thriller genre is today. It sliced through clique monster movies and changed it forever. Still today when you look at Norman Bates and his extremely freaky look when you see him watching the inspector's car sinking into the swamp sends chills down my spine. And when Marion Crane met her bloody demise in the middle of the movie, Hitchcock proved to everyone that this movie is different, different from every other movie you have ever seen. The cinematography in this movie is fabulous, the music is marvelously freaky, the acting is magnificent, the story is exceptional, and everything else about the movie is great. Too bad the sequels and the new remake was complete trash.
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The Greatest Horror Film Ever
Popenoe17 January 1999
When you look up the phrase "Horror Film" in the dictionary .. a picture of Janet Leigh screaming in a shower should appear next to it. Undoubtedly, Psycho is the greatest horror film ever made, bar-none. The story is incredible. The acting is near perfection. The cinematography is godly. The soundtrack is perfect. It's hard to find anything wrong with Psycho. Perhaps the only imperfection I can find with Psycho is the inability to stand the test of time. One of the reasons the shower scene has become so notorious is that it's not only filmed to perfection, but because the elements of sexuality and murder are so surreal. In 1960, seeing a nude women being murdered in a shower was something that no-one had experienced yet, and was quite shocking. Nowadays, seeing Jason double-spearing two lovers having sex is nothing uncommon. I envy those who experienced Psycho in 1960 in the theaters .. those experienced the full terror of Psycho.

Aside from this though, the movie is flawless. I won't even go into to how incredible the cinematography is. One thing I think people seem to forget about the movie is the incredible soundtrack. Sound is such an important element in movies and Psycho is undaunted when it comes to sound. The only other horror movie that even comes close to using sound with such perfection is Halloween (1978).

The movie is perfectly casted as well. Janet Leigh as the beautiful Marion Crane, Vera Miles as the concerned sister, Lila Crane, and of course the unforgettable performance from Anthony Perkins as the eerie yet charismatic Norman Bates.

I would recommend this movie to any horror movie film fanatic. I would especially recommend this movie to any horror movie fan not desensitized by Friday The 13th, Nightmare On Elm Street, or Scream .. if such a fan exists.
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One of the greatest horror/suspense films ever!
Kristine16 November 2002
Warning: Spoilers
Alfred Hitchock is the master of suspense and Psycho is probably his most famous film. Because, let's face it, one way or another, you have seen or heard of this film. It's been made fun of, been remade(unfortunately), not to mention that this movie's word will be spred from generation to generation. I came across it very young, my parents used to tell me how scary it was and how I wouldn't want to take a shower after watching this film. I didn't believe them, but when I watched it, I for the first time pulled the blanket over my head, it was that frightening! The thing that is so amazing about Psycho is how much of an impact it made, and understandably why it did. It ranked in over 60 million dollars at the box office, now this was the time where tickets were like 50 cents at the theater, now if you compare that to today, that's Titanic like money! It broke many taboo's, like this was the first film to show a toilet being flushed, isn't that interesting? My high school teacher said that her and her mom saw Psycho when it was first released in theaters and she actually ran out of the theater terrified! Alfred did so well keeping us glued to our seats with all his great twists! This was before The Sixth Sense, I mean, the ending is just such a mind blower! But I won't give spoilers.

Janet Leigh plays Marion Crane, a woman who is in love with a divorced man Sam Loomis. He says once he pays his ex wife off with the alimony, they'll get married. When Marion's boss asks her to put their most valued client's money, $40,000 to be exact, and bring it to the bank. She has other plans though, she takes the money for herself and flee's the city, but not before her boss sees her driving off. Shaky enough, huh? But she pulls over to get a nap in, and a police officer asks if she's OK, but she gets shaky and just wants to drive off. The policemen fallows her since she is so shaky and she ends up buying a different car. She gets caught in a giant rainstorm and pulls over to the Bates Motel.

She meets there, the owner, a pleasant and polite young man, Norman Bates. He lives in the house next to the motel with his mother. Marion checks in and Norman offers her dinner, they have a conversation mostly about his mom and Marion is concerned when she heard screams from the house that sounded like his mom. Norman gets on the defenses and asks Marion some questions as well, she says she is going to a "private island". Norman is very attracted to her, you can tell immediately, and she leaves knowing that she has to get out of the trap she set for herself back in Phoenix. As she's taking a shower before bed, a mysterious figure comes to the curtain and opens it stabbing Marion violently several times causing her to die. Norman cleans up the mess and gets rid of her body not knowing about her money and throwing that away too.

Marion's boyfriend, Sam and her sister, Lola, hire a private detective to find her. The private detective comes across The Bates Motel and doesn't end up coming back after trying to "talk" to the mother. Lola and Sam are concerned and decide to investigate for themselves, but will they end up coming back to the city alive? Psycho is just one of those movies you have to see before you die. It's one of the most important films of our time and will never be forgotten. It's a true treasure with terrific actors and a terrifying plot that will give you nightmares for weeks! Please don't let that scare you, I'm just having fun, but it is a freaky film! Watch it in the dark! It has a better effect, I think. Over 40 years and this film is still horrifying as if it were made today!

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Perkins Is Remarkable
Josh12 September 2000
Most modern-day horror films make the killer to be an absolutely inhuman, grotesque, unimaginable monster in order to scare the audience out of its wits. Most of the time, however, these stereotypes create a generic murderer a raving, ranting, clearly demented psychopath. One of the few memorable cinematic killers that does not adhere to these restraints and cliches is, of course, Anthony Hopkins' Hannibal Lecter, whom manages to effectively cause the audience to recoil without such drek as the aforementioned devices.

Anthony Perkins' skillfully crafts his performance as Norman Bates, avoiding a ranting, raving, drooling, murder-happy, manic characterization; instead his performance as Norman is subtle, creepy, cool, and unsettling. He is brilliant; from his quiet conversations with Marion Crane amidst the stuffed birds, to his weasling wimpiness when confronted by Arbogast, his performance is so exact that it chills the viewer, all without the unnecessary disturbing images prevalent in more modern films (read The Cell, Henry: Portrait of A Serial Killer).

Perkin's fine performance, a tight script, and Bernstein's classic score make Psycho a film that is now and will always be remembered as one of the pinnacles of the horror genre.
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Always holds me from beginning to end...
calvinnme25 March 2017
...from the first time I saw it at age 14 until today whenever I run across it.

This is the rare example of a much-ballyhooed film that is truly deserving of all the hype surrounding it. It would have been nice to have experienced the film without any knowledge of the plot twists. Unfortunately, for most viewers, the big surprises are not possible since so many of the scenes are part of our popular culture.There were, however, so many unexpected surprises.

The opening scene with Janet Leigh and John Gavin in the hotel room was amazing and (pardon the cliché) so real. Hitchcock and Janet Leigh did a brilliant job of pulling us into Marion Crane's story, that of a woman in love with a divorced man who might as well be married considering his heavy financial obligations that leave him unable to marry in a practical sense even though he can in a legal sense. He doesn't even have a proper home - just a room in the back of the store he owns.

Marion is then seemingly set up as the center of the movie as she thinks she has found a solution to her problems - a felonious one. Then the focus is skillfully shifted to the Norman Bates character as the "protagonist" victimized by his insane mother (or so it seemed) and then the focus is shifted once again to Marion's sister's search.

The movie was adapted from a novel so some of the original audience would have been familiar with the plot of the book. In the novel, Norman Bates was a middle-aged man. I think it was a brilliant stroke to have the Norman of the film as a man in his twenties, a boy who never grew up in a man's body. Anthony Perkins is so identified today with his role of Norman Bates that it was surprising to see how endearingly he played him in the early scenes. And he did one of the best stammers I've ever seen in a movie when he was being questioned by the private detective (Martin Balsam) who is also searching for Marion. I also wasn't expecting to see how protective the local sheriff and his wife were of Norman when they were being questioned about him and his mother. You could tell they didn't want somebody (Norman) whom they thought had been dealt a bad hand to have anymore publicity and scrutiny than he already had.

This film is mentioned in the documentary "Moguls and Movie Stars" as an example of how films were becoming more like TV as the 60s began - spartan art design and a script that was bold in the amount of sex and violence it had, even if the vast majority is implied. You have to be impressed by the versatility that is Hitchcock. Making movies in England? No problem. Making movies in the American studio system? No problem. Modernizing to deal with the evaporation of the production code? Again, no problem.

Weird factoid - for you TCM fans out there Robert Osborne is credited as "man" in Psycho, although I don't remember him ever mentioning it. The only person it could possibly be unless he never comes close to having his face on camera is the parson as the sheriff and his wife are exiting church. See what you think.
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The scariest ever...
doodles-215 October 1998
I saw this movie as a teenager when it was first released in the 1960's. The promotional hype for the film ensured you did not have a clue what it was about and people who had seen the movie were asked not to reveal the ending. You went to see it anticipating something scary and thats what you got. Even 30 years later I still remember sitting in a dark theatre with my heart pumping and everyone, and I mean everyone, screaming their lungs out.

The movie set a new and very high standard in horror movies which I don't believe has ever been equaled. The characters were great, the direction perfect and the music, which I thought was absolutely fantastic, made this a classic.

I still get scared when I see it on TV.
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Perkins Irreplaceable?
walt whizzer1 October 1999
Hitchcock was very fortunate to have cast the young Anthony Perkins in the leading role. At the time there were some other young aspiring actors who might have qualified for the part, namely: Michael J. Pollard; Jack Nicholson; Bruce Dern, Dean Stockwell, Victor Buono and Dennis Hopper. However, it's hard for me to imagine anyone other than Perkins playing Norman Bates with complete authenticity, it's seems the role was simply made for him and only him. Could you possibly imagine anyone other than Nicholson in the role of Randall P. McMurphy in "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest" or Dennis Hopper as Billy in "Easy Rider"? Keep in mind the introverted, insecure Mama's Boy was not really PSYCHOpathic as Hannibal The Cannibal was in "Silence of the Lambs" - a cold-blooded killer with no conscience - but rather criminally insane, plagued by schizophrenic delusions and seriously in need of multiple reality-checks. Anthony Hopkins did a wonderful job as the vicious Hannibal, and also as Corky, the schizo-killer ventriloquist in "Magic". I think he just might have pulled off a convincing Norman, but don't believe he was available back then. Oh well, so much for speculation...Perkins did a great job.
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A Perfect Film.
Donald J. Lamb28 June 1999
Warning: Spoilers
Perfect films are few and far between and the filmmakers usually have no inkling as to the top-notch quality of work they are doing. Alfred Hitchcock thought it was a good idea to make a new kind of suspense picture back in 1959. Something that would give the audience goose bumps was in order, but bigger bumps must have been the goal. Hitch had to use his TV crew (from his network series "Alfred Hitchcock Presents..." because many film executives didn't like the material. Little did they know that the big Brit was about to make a cinematic milestone and change the way films are structured and material is presented. At the time, PSYCHO was a nasty-spirited movie that led some moviegoers to leave early or stop taking showers. It has held up amazingly well and is far superior to its countless rip-offs.

PSYCHO is perfect because: 1) It is in black and white, not blazing technicolor which would have stained the film for no purpose and made the shower murder less artistic. (Hitch may have went the route of director Michael Powell who became an outcast once his technicolor murder flick PEEPING TOM was seen.)

2)The featured star disappears a third of the way through igniting a new method of scriptwriting and casting. (Hitch made strict stipulations for theatre owners not to allow people into the movie once the picture started in order for this secret to stay secret.)

3)Lesser known actors are used to provide a more authentic feel for the characters. This is so true in the case of Anthony Perkins, not exactly a Cary Grant, who creates a stunningly chaotic portrayal of an abused son/mental madman. (Hitch shoots him from tilted angles and shadowy atmospheres to project Norman Bates' unquestionably distorted state of mind, not to mention his evil grin.)

4) The shower scene, of course. Never before in any film of any kind known to man had people seen such frightening butchery and frank brutality. (Hitch storyboarded each of the 80+ cuts that take place within the 2 minute segment.)

5) Norman Bates' mother, who sits upstairs in the "old house on the hill" and just watches what transpires when she's not taking part in it. (Hitch makes her a mystery until the very end when she is finally revealed to us and to Vera Miles in a masterfully shot turn of a chair.)

6)The set-up and payoff which consists of 40,000 dollars, a device common in most thrillers but new to this kind of psychological terror. (Hitch makes the viewer think the 40 grand will be the staple of importance and plot when it really disappears amidst the horror and has no significance at all.)

7)Finally, composer Bernard Hermann's famed musical score is a pulsating, vibrant piece of gothic composition that matches the story and character actions perfectly. (Hitch and Hermann worked on several films together, none better than this.)

Is there any other question that PSYCHO is one of the top 7 or 8 films of all time? I don't think so. Just look how film history began a slow course towards more independence and honesty after PSYCHO scared everyone into believing this kind of film could be made.

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It was a dark and stormy night...
Merwyn Grote13 June 2004
Warning: Spoilers

For most people, the most memorable scene in Alfred Hitchcock's PSYCHO, indeed it's most famous scene, is the shower sequence. It has been broken down and analyzed ad nauseam as an example of the fine art of editing. It is a great sequence, but to me the best scene in PSYCHO occurs just before that. Janet Leigh as Marion Crane, on the run from having committed a crime, sits in the parlor behind the Bates Motel's office and discusses nothing and everything with Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates, the motel's lonely proprietor. It is a chat between strangers who desperately need to talk to someone, anyone, but have no one to whom they can confide. It is a beautifully written and acted scene, which serves as the calm before the storm.

For all of its flashiness and sleight-of-hand gore, the shower sequence isn't nearly as effective at showing what a master filmmaker Hitchcock was. It is in the parlor scene that the entire narrative spins around; as the audience is prompted to switch their allegiance from Marion to Norman. Nothing really happens in the scene, other than two characters talking, but how things are said reveals as much as what is actually said. Here Marion comes to terms with her mistake and decides to pull herself out of her "private trap." Norman introduces us, indirectly, to Mother and wins our sympathy, which is vital to the way the rest of the film plays out. The scene very skillfully sets the mood of uneasiness that propels us into the upcoming murder, even as it suggests that Marion is achieving a sense of inner peace. Madness is revealed, danger is suggested, yet the audiences is coolly and cruelly lulled into an almost tranquil state. It is obvious something is coming, but not so soon.

Then the shower curtain is ripped aside and blood begins to splatter.

The measure of a film like PSYCHO is not how cleverly it fools you the first time, but how irrelevant its surprises are to enjoying it time after time. Indeed, compare it to Gus Van Sant's 1998 remake, or even Brian De Palma's 1980 semi-remake, DRESSED TO KILL, and the power of the film is obvious. Van Sant's version, though a scene for scene imitation is barely watchable even once, especially if you are already familiar with the plot; and while De Palma's homage is stylish and intriguing the first time around, its psychology and plot tricks don't stand up on repeated viewings. By contrast, Hitchcock's PSYCHO can be viewed repeatedly with full awareness and appreciation of knowing what is coming up next.

I think an element of Hitchcock's genius is apparent in that he doesn't treat his major plot twist as a just a gimmick. The entire first half of PSYCHO could have been treated as just a shaggy dog story, a prelude marking time until Norman Bates' story takes center stage. But Hitchcock realized that Janet Leigh's story had to be presented with all due gravity, otherwise the shift to Anthony Perkins' story wouldn't be nearly as effective. Neither Van Sant nor De Palma seemed to understand this, especially De Palma who treats the Angie Dickinson scenes in DRESSED with a cruel, condescending sense of humor. Hitchcock's PSYCHO works as a whole, but could very easily have been presented as two independent episodes of "Alfred Hitchcock Presents....." Marion Crane's story is not just a build up (though Hitchcock himself claimed that killing off his leading lady was all meant as a joke on the audience), but as a complete story unto itself, replete with the type of shocking twist ending that was the hallmark of Hitchcock's television anthology. Likewise, the Norman Bates half of PSYCHO, is a complete suspense tale in its own right. The shower scene is the bridge between the two stories, but it is the scene in the parlor that cements the two tales -- and the fates of the two protagonist.

And if you look at PSYCHO as two separate parts of a whole, then Marion's story is revealed to be the more complete of the two. Norman's story, while beautifully done, is essentially a mystery story; Sam, Lila and Arbogast are trying to solve a whodunit: what happened to Marion and the $40,000? The cleverness of Hitchcock and screenwriter Joseph Stefano is that they let us think we know the answer right off the bat, building to a conclusion where it is revealed how completely we have been fooled. In the end, we know little more than Lila and Sam. To some extent, this is the real gimmick of the film.

On the other hand, Marion's story allows Hitchcock to make so much out of so little. He creates tension, even though there is no tangible threat. Marion is on the run with stolen funds, but the theft hasn't even been discovered yet. All of the danger is strictly in her mind: What will happen when...? She is a smart woman who has done something very stupid, but proceeds even as her fears grow and grow. But cinematically the suspense is created out of mundane things: a policeman's face at the car window, rain and windshield wipers slashing across the screen, the glare of on coming headlights. Mix this with the haunting voice overs of accusing voices and Bernard Herrmann incredible musical violence and the effect is hypnotic. But these imagined dangers do not prepare Marian or the audience for the real dangers ahead.

And something has to be said for Janet Leigh. Always overshadowed by Anthony Perkins' iconic performance, Leigh never gets her due (though she was nominated for an Oscar, she lost to Shirley Jones in ELMER GANTRY). But she dominates the first half of the film with a vivid performance that is sexual, humorous and bittersweet. So much of her role depends on the subtlety of her facial expressions: her sad smile at pretending to believe Sam's excuses for not marrying her, her bemused glances at the flirtatious old millionaire, her self-satisfied smirks as she thinks about how people will react to discovering her crime, her mixture of concern and fear as she talks to Norman in the backroom parlor. Plus, she displays an attitude that is both smart and sexy. It is one of the great film performance.

It's easy to take PSYCHO for granted now; it has been imitated so many times in so many ways by far lesser talents. Indeed, it's one negative is that it inspired so may pale imitations, including its own three sequels and a very bad remake. Yet even so, PSYCHO remains a one and only original. And its iconic status can't be denied; it redefined the concepts of what a Hitchcock film was and what a horror film could be.
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A Hitchcock masterpiece—thanks to Bernard Herrmann
J. Spurlin7 December 2006
Warning: 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 greatness—setting 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 performances—even, 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.
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Hithcock masterpiece in his most accomplished and perfect movie
ma-cortes26 June 2007
This famous film with known story tells about Marion Crane(Janet Leigh),she works in a Phoenix(Arizona)office,when his employer trusts her a money.Seeing the opportunity to take the cash and beginning a new life along with her fiancée Sam(John Gavin).Larcenous Marion leaves Phoenix and heads with her car toward California where her lover with debts is owner a store.When is caught in a storm and pursued by a policeman,she leaves the highway and enter to Bates hotel.The hotel with twelve rooms (and 12 showers) is managed by a strange young who seems to be submitted by his overbearing mother,she's leaving into a creaky mansion nearly to hotel.Then,rare thing start to happen.Later a detective named Arbogast(Martin Balsam),her sister(Vera Miles) and Sam(John Gavin) are looking for to Marion,asking help to sheriff(John McIntire).

Psycho was not only Hitchcock's biggest successful movie,but was a phenomenon in its own right.The picture is a magnum opus of the terror genre and its immediate impact and its future influence was enormous and cannot be over emphasised.It's the quinta-essential shocker that initiated an authentic sub-genre about psycho-killers continuing until nowadays.The shower images is one of the most studied ,copied and analysed sequences in cinema history and has obtained a notoriety what exceeds of the movie itself.Terrific performance by Anthony Perkins in an immortal role as Norman Bates and sensational Janet Leigh with Oscar nomination included that was the only one of her career.Inventive and superbly constructed plot,filled with delicious black humor, by Joseph Stefano based on Robert Bloch's novel.The highlight film is,of course,the shower scene,it was made 70 cameras to shot the 45 seconds of footage and the creepy sound effects were realized by stabbing a knife into a melon.Magnificent main titles by Saul Bass,he's usual on Hitcock films.Excellent black and white-Hitch thought it would be gory in colour- cinematography by John Russell.Bernard Herrmann'legendary musical score copied and endlessly imitated aids to create a thrilling atmosphere.Film is directed with exquisite taste and intelligence by the master Hitchcock who makes an impeccable control of every scene and maneuvers your emotions, infusing with a deliciously macabre wit,it makes ¨Psycho¨far superior to the several movies what tried duplicate,these are the following: PsychoII(1983)Richard Franklin,PsychoIII(1986)Anthony Perkins and for cable television:PsychoIV(1990)Mick Garris.Psycho'Hitchcock belongs his best period in the 5os and 60s when he produced his finest work,perfecting the art of suspense in a series of masterpieces,Dial M,Rear widow,Vertigo,North by Nortwest,Birds and specially Psycho what are still studied and copied today.Rating: Indispensable and essential classic movie.
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A classic essential cinema!
Nazi_Fighter_David14 October 2005
Warning: Spoilers
"Psycho" is the most astounding, daring, and successful scary film ever made... Hitchcock uses pure cinema to arouse audience emotions...

For the first forty minutes he cautiously builds up sympathy and audience identification with a troubled fugitive, a young estate secretary Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) who wants to marry Sam Loomis (John Gavin) but neither can afford it... Entrusted, by a wealthy customer, with $40,000 to put in a safe deposit box in a bank, she succumbs to temptation and steals the money in order to start a new life with her lover... So the motive is love!

We begin to feel the tension when she's spotted – leaving Phoenix, Arizona – by her boss who thinks she remains in bed with a headache... Then, when she pulls off the highway to take a nap and is awaken by a suspicious patrolman – in disturbing dark glasses – who trails her... Hitchcock's trademark— paranoia about the police is here at his best...

Frightened and tired by a violent rainstorm, she stops at Bates Motel and has a small talk with a twitchy cordial motel keeper Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins-in an outstanding performance), an attractive shy young man who seems uneasy around her and can't even bring himself to pronounce the world bathroom...

The movie turns dark and claustrophobic when she overheard the voice of Norman's mother speaking sharply with her son, and after she learns Norman's strong devotion to his irritable mother...

Alone in the room, she strips to shower… Safe and relaxing, the hot air rises as the water cascades over her… Suddenly she turns at a sound, her eyes dilate with horror and her repeated screams rend the air as a hand from nowhere holding a long knife plunges it repeatedly into her body… Her blood, mingling with the water, flushes down the drain in one of the most terrifying images of modern cinema…

No one who saw the film will forget the shock effect of that scene... Not only because of its terrifying realism, with the blood gushing and swirling on the shower floor; but also because Leigh was a sympathetic and star figure… Although she had stolen, we felt involved with her (as we were involved with Marnie); we wanted her to get away; and here, with two-thirds of the film still to got we watched helplessly as the life and the beauty and the hopes were butchered out of her…

The movie is only off one third when Hitchcock's spiral close-up of her unmoving eyeball reveals the nightmare... But the movie does really begin after her murder because once she is killed, we never stop thinking about her...

With Marion Crane gone, our attention is shift to the sensitive Norman with a passion for birds and mother... They are very close and he guards her jealousy...

As three people began to investigate, our sympathies were subtly maneuvered to the good-looking young man who, it seemed, must try to protect a homicidal mother… We see him distraught, cleaning up and disposing of Marion's car, with her body and cash, into a swamp...

We have no reason to think that he himself have done the dirty work... So could his crippled old mother be the vicious murderer? Or do we have some other reason to suspect that Norman's abusive mother does not exist? We heard the old woman talking constantly to him and we see Norman carrying her to the cellar... Or is it another Hitchcock's trick? But the knife comes out again striking and killing... The high angle shot shows perfectly her mad menacing rush from her bedroom...

Hitchcock's version is definitive, a terrifying insinuating thriller with only two sudden and vicious murders... A classic essential cinema with his rich, vivid and effective imagery in the use of light and shadow; his voyeurism when Perkins spies on Leigh in a black bra (The first time he shows a lady disrobed); his 'metaphysical vertigo' in the overhead shot as Norman drags his mother down to the cellar...
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"A boy's best friend is his mother. "
Agent Dice21 October 2013
Without a doubt one of the most influential films of all time. Timeless classic.

Whether this is a true slasher film is debatable, but it's influence on the genres of horror and suspense/thriller is undeniable.

This masterpiece uses amazing black and white cinematography and a very low bodycount (yes, that's correct, a very low bodycount) to weave a fascinating story of a woman caught in a criminal web of her own doing who stops off at the wrong motel on a wet and rainy night. She meets the inn-keeper, a fragile and soft spoken young man who is emotionally and verbally pushed around by his overbearing mother.

What follows is a tension filled and horrifying tale of psychological suspense. I have heard others comment that this film is not really "scary", and I beg to differ. Nothing to me could be more terrifying than the reality that people like some of those presented in this film truly exist in our world. It takes a lot more than fake blood and overly-gory special effects to impress me, and the sad thing is that today's "horror" films and even some claiming to be suspense films rely too much on the supernatural or just plain disgusting to achieve their affect. None of that for me thanks.

One of my true pleasures is to see someone view this film for the first time. Moments in the film tend to shock or surprise people who think they've seen it all. Those who have seen enough knock-offs (and there are a TON of them) may figure out some of the story's plot before it is revealed, but only because so many films have shamelessly ripped this one off. See it for the first time (and even a tenth) and enjoy a master director at the peak of his craft.
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Nobody Does It Better Than Hitchcock
jhclues21 January 2001
Warning: 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.
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A mind is a terrible thing to lose
witch king22 October 1998
The psychological threads of the film are so complex as to be nearly inexhaustible; this feature alone contributes to its place in film history as one of the great celluloid efforts of all time. Like any genuine work of true genius, it may be enjoyed on more than one level. Alfred Hitchcock forced film-goers to confront head-on just a few of the shadowy corners of the human psyche: the Oedipus/Elektra complexes, jealousy about sexual perceived sexual] rights, guilt, and self-hatred [as in Norman's cross-dresssing], to cite just a few examples of neurotic behavior. Perhaps the most frightening interpretation of the film is that one is responsible for one's actions and cannot, ever, alter the designated course a particular act has set in motion. Here, it is Marion Crane's decision to steal the $40 grand from her employer in order to race to Fairvale to be with her [illicit] lover, Sam Loomis. The opening vista, a bleak mountain and desert landscape over Phoenix [note the metaphor for both the geographical location and the town's name], is replete with the futility of the lovers ever forging a permanent bond with one another. The film is a terrific essay of human desperation and its stray threads: the hunger for sex, for a safe haven, for an ascendant place in one's tiny universe. The barrenness of the emotional landscape is shiveringly mirrored in Bernard Herrmann's shrill, spiky score, which speaks of the desolation of all humankind. Both murders are violent acts of mutilation and hatred, one thinks, not only for the victims, but also for the perpetrator. Fittingly, the killer's "cleansing" ritual takes place in a swamp, the normal repository for all kinds of secrets and unclean, dangerous organisms lurking beneath the stagnant surface. Finally, I found most interesting the title on the record label on the turntable in Norman's room: Beethoven's Eroica Symphony [No. 3]. This majestic, noble work bears no resemblance to the music one would justly associate with the tormented mind of young Bates. One can only guess that the boy's impressionable mind was at one time quite normal and receptive to elevated experiences such as a hearing of this great work of Beethoven's, but that jealousy, perhaps having been spurred by an intimacy with his mother, drove the boy to madness. Guilt, one of the human being's great purgatives, finds no outlet here, as we see in Norman's feral smile at the film's end. Hitchcock's use of mirrors works wonderful psychological tricks upon us, forcing us to wonder if what we see in our real and fancied mirrors, is real.
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