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Psycho
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Reviews & Ratings for
Psycho More at IMDbPro »

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20 out of 36 people found the following review useful:

Technique that defined an art

9/10
Author: Jerry_Horne from Seattle, WA
8 January 2001

*** 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 who 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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41 out of 78 people found the following review useful:

Brilliant

9/10
Author: Christopher Owens from Belfast, Northern Ireland
26 December 1999

I just got this film for Christmas.Since it is black and white I thought I wouldn't be interested. How wrong I was. From the start of the film,it grabs you by the throat and drags you into the world of Norman Bates.Although the 'shower scene'has been spoofed in so many other films,seeing it for the first time is truely tense. Don't watch the remake,watch this,and read the book.

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Brilliant Classic!

10/10
Author: rivardoman
28 March 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

It's hard to think of a thriller more well known than Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho! Unfortunately the films popularity may spoil the shock value. Upon seeing the film for the first time I thought knowing the outcome may make the experience less enjoyable. This was not the case! I now see why Psycho is considered masterpiece! Hitchcock is a master of suspense. As the film begins, the plot immediately makes the audience uncomfortable. As Marion Crane makes off with the money, I had no idea what would happen next. Hitchcock adds in various ideas that lead me astray and even stress me out. When the police officer was questioning Marion and began to follow her, I felt her anxiety. Also when she was rushing the car salesmen I felt uneasy. This is great film-making. The emotions that Hitchcock draws out don't exactly correspond with the direct plot. After all we haven't even met the infamous Norman Baits yet and already I am on the edge of my seat with anticipation.

We arrive at Baits Motel as the rising action rolls into the main plot. What an astounding actor Anthony Perkins is! Perfect casting for a psychopathic mamma's boy! He is an actor that truly understands his role. When he peers through the hole in the wall, spying on Marion you can almost tell the moment when the mother personality clicks on. The only thing that I could have found more satisfying would have been if we saw Norman doing his mothers voice.

I love Hitchcock's style. When Marion was stopped by the police officer the way he shot the actors close-up really gave me the impression of invaded personal space and added to my discomfort. He also had great techniques for moving the camera into may different positions without cutting. When the camera follows Norman Bates up the stairs to his mothers room the camera does a 360 as it climes and we are left with the perspective of a bug on the wall.

Psycho is a classic horror/thriller that I will watch again. It provides an outstanding cast and fantastic cinematography. The timeless score that accompanies the film could not be any better.

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

My Personal Favourite among Hitchcock's Work

10/10
Author: James Hitchcock from Tunbridge Wells, England
24 July 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The structure of "Psycho" can be likened to that of a three-act play. In Act I, Marion Crane, an employee of a real-estate company in Phoenix, Arizona, embezzles $40,000 belonging to a client of her employer in order to start a new life with her married boyfriend and goes on the run, ending up at a lonely motel. Act II deals with her stay at the motel and her conversations with its owner, Norman Bates, and ends with her murder in the famous shower scene. Act III deals with the investigations into Marion's disappearance, not only by the police but also by her boyfriend Sam, her sister Lila and a private eye named Milton Arbogast.

Many people have felt that Act I, and indeed much of Act II, is a gigantic red herring. Certainly, Hitchcock seems to be leading us to believe that Marion is to be the central figure in this drama and the stolen money the "McGuffin" around which it will revolve. Her murder midway through the film must have come as a great shock to the audiences who watched the film in 1960, not only because the shower scene was, by the standards of the day, graphic in its depiction of violence, but also because the violent death of the central character so early in the film was almost unprecedented. Marion is young, attractive, blonde (like most Hitchcock heroines) and played by a major star; just the sort of film character one would expect to survive a murderous attack. Moreover, in Janet Leigh's portrayal she emerges as not altogether unsympathetic, despite her crime. One gets the impression that she is not, fundamentally, a wicked person and that she stole the money in a moment of madness. The man from whom she stole is a seedy sexual predator, seen flirting with her and making veiled sexual suggestions. When she is threatened by that sinister-looking traffic cop in his dark glasses, we are just praying for her to get away with it.

This is probably the darkest of Hitchcock's films. Many of his films have a straightforward pattern of good triumphing over evil, ending with the villain dead or in police custody and the hero safe and free to marry the beautiful blonde heroine. "North by North West", the film which Hitchcock made immediately before "Psycho", and "Spellbound" are good examples of this pattern. In some films, such as "Rebecca", "Notorious" or "Strangers on a Train", there are elements of moral ambiguity, but in "Psycho" ambiguity seems to be replaced by a straightforward triumph of evil over good. Bates might end up under arrest, but not before he has murdered Marion and several other people.

There is a clear contrast between this film and "Spellbound", another film which shows Hitchcock's fascination with psychology. In that film the character played by Ingrid Bergman is a "healer of souls", (the literal meaning of the Greek words from which "psychiatrist" is derived) a force for good who is able not only to cure Gregory Peck of his psychological traumas but also to clear him of unjustified suspicion of murder. In "Psycho" the psychiatrist is a more neutral figure, able to explain why Bates committed his crimes, but unable to cure him or to suggest how such crimes might be prevented.

Yet on a deeper level there is more ambiguity about "Psycho" than appears at first sight. The character of Bates, with his split personality, symbolises the duality of good and evil in the human soul. Bates originally committed an evil crime- the murder of his mother and her lover- but has been driven mad by remorse. In his madness, the two aspects of his character have crystallised into two distinct personalities. His "Norman" personality (shown in a brilliantly subtle performance by Anthony Perkins) is that of a polite and inoffensive young man. His timidity, his apparent domination by his mother and his odd hobby of taxidermy might make him seem creepy, but never threatening. (His speciality is stuffing birds, and several examples of his handiwork decorate the motel, adding to the eeriness of the film and foreshadowing Hitchcock's next film, "The Birds"). Bates has, however, unconsciously projected the evil side of his character onto his dead mother, and it is when the "Mother" personality takes over that he commits further evil deeds. One of the things that make the film so frightening is that the crimes are committed by a seemingly inoffensive character.

These two aspects of Bates come out in his dealings with Marion. The "Norman" side befriends her, the "Mother" side kills her. Before she is killed, however, she is persuaded her she must return the stolen money. One of the last things she says is that she must return to Phoenix "to get out of a trap I've gotten into". Unwittingly, Norman has persuaded her to cleanse her soul. He destroys her physically, but might have saved her spiritually. If that seems an over-portentous interpretation of this film, we must remember that Hitchcock was brought up as a Catholic and that themes of sin and redemption play an important part in his work. (Think, for example, of "I Confess"). There are also, of course, two sides to Marion, symbolised by the change in colour of her underwear from white to black after she has committed the crime.

Two things remain to be mentioned. One is that harsh, driving Bernard Herrmann score which fits the mood of the film so well. The other is Hitchcock's direction and his use of black-and-white photography to convey a threatening mood. He said that he used black-and-white to make the film less gory; in fact, it seems far more eerie and frightening than a colour version ever could. (A pity that Gus van Sant did not understand that before embarking on his ill-advised remake). Overall, this is a superb chiller, undoubtedly the best "slasher" movie ever made and my personal favourite among Hitchcock's work. 10/10.

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Pure Cinema

Author: jaywolfenstien from USA
14 October 2005

The hardest movies to review are the accepted classics. What can be said that hasn't already been said? And how can I write a glowing review that offers up genuine love and appreciation for the film, and not just regurgitate some propaganda that Psycho is the greatest slasher ever made? Well, here goes nothing . . .

From imitation and its popularity among film scholars and horror buffs, Psycho has no more surprises left – that's a given. However, Sir Alfred Hitchcock foresaw this problem and infused Psycho (as well as his other pictures) with the more effective element: suspense. We know where, why, and when the murders take place. So what? The key to Hitchcock's famous bomb analogy is that suspense comes from the audience's knowledge of the bomb, not a lack of knowledge. We know, but the characters do not. That's suspense.

I watched Psycho again just recently, and felt an unprecedented excitement as those famous Bernard Herrmann strings began playing and Saul Bass' credits filled the screen. I was watching one of my favorite movies again, and I couldn't wait to dive into the film, itself. I couldn't wait for that opening shot of Phoenix – I looked forward to seeing that look of horror on Marion Crane's face as her bosses crosses the street in front of her car while she's escaping to Fairvale. I wanted to see Anthony Perkins to appear on screen with his brilliantly subdued performance of Norman Bates, and I leaned closer to the screen and smiled when he says, "We all go a little crazy sometimes."

Needless to say, I love this movie.

What amazes me about Psycho, and I didn't consciously realize this until reading the Truffaut book "Hitchcock", is how the film manages to smoothly switch protagonists midway through the film (from Marion to Norman). As Hitchcock and Truffaut talk in the book, when the car is pushed into the swamp and it stops – the audience's heart stops. We want the car to sink, and we want Norman to succeed. More amazingly is how even after knowing all the revelations the film has to offer – the truth about Norman Bates and his mother – we still want that car to sink. We still sympathize with Norman Bates in that moment.

That, in my opinion, is what truly separates Hitchcock's Psycho from the pack. Sir Alfred actually made us care about his killer. I can't think of any other slasher film that attempts this and succeeds. Most slashers are content to have a killing machine under a mask, but only Hitchcock has the balls to show us the face of his killer. Only Hitchcock would dare to make his killer a full-fledged characters with intelligent thoughts and complex emotions, and only Hitchcock was good enough to pull it off.

As if that's not enough, in the final act Hitch plays the audience like an organ and switches our sympathies once again (from Norman to Lila) – and all the while, the audience never really consciously recognizes that their loyalties fly from character to character on a whim. We want Marion to succeed because the man she's stealing from is a prick, we want Norman to succeed because of the love for his mother and his humanness in reacting to the murder, and we want Lila to succeed because we want to know the truth behind Norman Bates' mother.

One of my favorite moments in all of cinema occurs in Psycho. Watch the film while Sam Loomis is searching and calling out for Detective Arbogast at the Bates' motel. Then Hitch cuts to a slow fluid push in on Anthony Perkins at the swamp, and Perkins looks up at the camera with a mixture of emotions in his eyes. It's one of the simplest camera movements in the film. Perkins doesn't say a word - he just quietly looks on. Yet it's one of the most effective shots in the entire film. A simple movement and silent look is all Hitchcock needs.

When the marketing gimmicks have all been forgotten, when all the surprises are known, and when imitators have sucked away and blatantly stolen whatever they can get to work for 45 years, Psycho still stands as solid as ever. It did not need the shock of killing its star, nor did it need the shocking revelation at the end, it didn't need the gimmick that "audiences won't be admitted after the start of the picture." Psycho works just as well without them because Hitchcock delivered great characters played by competent actors, and he let the audience know there's a bomb waiting to go off that none of those characters know about.

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5 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

You'll Never Shower Again!

10/10
Author: (sylviastel@aol.com) from United States
11 November 2007

Lock your bathroom doors when you take a shower. This chilling horror classic by the master of horror, Sir Alfred Hitchcock, is probably his finest film. The cast is stellar featuring the unforgettable Janet Leigh in her Oscar nominated role as Marion Crane who steals 40 thousand dollars and takes to the road. She ends up at the Bates Motel operated by Norman Bates played brilliantly by Anthony Perkins. The rest of the cast is first rate like the wonderful Vera Miles as Lila Crane, Marion's concerned sister, and Martin Balsam as the private investigator. I believe the actor who Sam, Marion's cash-strapped lover, is also quite good in the role. Frank Albertson and Lurene Tuttle and Pat Hitchcock also round out a supporting cast. I won't spoil the plot but the classic should not be tampered with as it is simply one of the best thrillers ever made.

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5 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Hitchcock's "Crazy" Film!

10/10
Author: shepardjessica-1 from United States
16 May 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

One of my favorites and I think Hitchcock's best film. Made relatively low-budget with his TV-show crew, this movie has haunted me for years and not because of the shower scene. Actually, the best scene is just prior to the shower scene and it's in the parlor with Norman and Marion. The only human connection moment in the film that doesn't show selfishness or ulterior motives. Quiet and full of info, as the camera looms over them, this scene is masterful in writing and acting. Perkins gave his best performance as the timid and lonely Mr. Bates who really is clueless. Janet Leigh is perfectly cast as the sexy, intelligent woman in over her head. The rest of the cast is top-notch and this film should have cleaned up at the Oscars in '60, but was considered too creepy for most folks.

A 10 out of 10. Best performance = Perkins. Brilliant editing and cinematography (b/w) with The Bates Motel a wonderful set. This film is highly undervalued and I don't consider it a horror film. Dashed illusions, loss of essence, and money-will-fix-it attitude while suspicions fly all over the place. Great stuff!

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5 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

pure timeless brilliance, this is more than a classic horror film

10/10
Author: flygirl-on-the-roof from Metro Detroit, Michigan
29 January 2005

This film will never be outdated. It's a perfect example of the art of shocking and disturbing an audience without ever having to resort to graphic violence and gore. Excellent atmosphere, superbly talented actors, and a brilliantly demented storyline -- those easily add up to an entertaining movie night no matter how many times you have watched it in the past. You know all the lines, you know the ending, but you're still pulled in from the first second to the end credits every single time. It's a rare film that accomplishes this with such a massive audience.

This film deserved better sequels and it definitely didn't deserve the terrible late 1990s remake, but the merit in this first installment actually helps all of those to hold up better than they otherwise would.

Absolutely timeless, and SO much more than just a classic! :)

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6 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

One of the best movies ever!

10/10
Author: Martin Dousa (martindousa@iol.cz) from Czech Republic
18 August 1999

Stunning performances, especially by Anthony Perkins who was never in the future so good. Great photography in b/w. Hitchcock's best film and a masterpiece of directing. The chilling music from Bernard Herrmann I can't forget. I love the scene in the shower, which was later in dozens horror films and the killing of detective Arbogast. I must see Psycho soon again. The sequel was also good, but the color was for me disturbing. Parts 3 and 4 was bad and the new version was very bad. Why make the same movie with bad actors? Vince Vaughn (as new Norman Bates) is better in the film Clay Pigeons. There he is also villain and I can this movie also recommend.

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6 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

The best horror movie ever

10/10
Author: anonymous from 15 miles out of Fairvale...
18 June 1999

I have watched this film about four times now, and I can safely say that this is the best horror movie ever. The actors are the best thing about it. Anthony Perkins is superb as the shy, gorgeous, boyish Norman Bates. His twitchings and stammerings are scarily flawless, and the scene where the car stops momentarily sinking into the swamp, and he stares with a look of pure terror in his eyes, then ultimate relief when it continues are unforgettable. His "...I wouldn't even harm a fly" face at the end is inimitable. As for Janet Leigh, she couldn't have gotten into her part more. She looks genuinely desperate when confronted by the police officer. Hitchcock controls the audience as if he were pressing keys on a piano with this film. Everything is perfect about this film, and has become one of my personal favourites. If you haven't seen it, see it now.

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