Director Sir Alfred Hitchcock was so pleased with the score written by Bernard Herrmann, that he doubled the composer's salary to $34,501. Hitchcock later said, "Thirty-three percent of the effect of Psycho was due to the music."
When the cast and crew began work on the first day, they had to raise their right hands and promise not to divulge one word of the story. Sir Alfred Hitchcock also withheld the ending part of the script from his cast until he needed to shoot it.
Director Sir Alfred Hitchcock originally envisioned the shower sequence as completely silent, but Bernard Herrmann went ahead and scored it anyway, and upon hearing it, Hitchcock immediately changed his mind.
Although Janet Leigh was not bothered by the filming of the famous shower scene, seeing it on film profoundly moved her. She later remarked that it made her realize how vulnerable a woman was in a shower. To the end of her life, she always took baths.
Paramount Pictures gave Hitchcock a very small budget with which to work, because of their distaste with the source material. They also deferred most of the box-office take to Hitchcock, thinking the movie would fail. When it became a sleeper hit, Hitchcock made a fortune.
In the opening scene, Marion Crane is wearing a white bra because Sir Alfred Hitchcock wanted to show her as being "angelic". After she has taken the money, the following scene has her in a black bra because now she has done something wrong and evil. Similarly, before she steals the money, she has a white purse. After she's stolen the money, her purse is black.
For a shot looking up into the water stream of the shower head, Sir Alfred Hitchcock had a six-foot-diameter shower head made up and blocked the central jets so that the water sprayed in a cone past the camera lens, without any water spraying directly at it.
Sir Alfred Hitchcock wanted to make this movie so much that he deferred his standard $250,000 salary in lieu of 60% of the movie's gross. Paramount Pictures, believing that this movie would do poorly at the box-office, agreed. His personal earnings from this movie exceeded $15 million. Adjusted for inflation, that amount would be just over $120 million in 2016 dollars.
When Norman first realizes there has been a murder, he shouts, "Mother! Oh God! God! Blood! Blood!" Sir Alfred Hitchcock had the bass frequencies removed from Anthony Perkins' voice to make him sound more like a frightened teenager.
After this movie's release, Sir Alfred Hitchcock received an angry letter from the father of a girl who refused to have a bath after seeing Diabolique (1955), and now refused to shower after seeing this movie. Hitchcock sent a note back simply saying, "Send her to the dry cleaners."
Janet Leigh received threatening letters after this movie's release, detailing what they would like to do to Marion Crane. One was so grotesque, she passed it on to the F.B.I. The culprits were discovered, and the F.B.I. said she should notify them again if she ever received any more letters.
Every theater that showed this movie had a cardboard cut-out installed in the lobby of Sir Alfred Hitchcock pointing to his wristwatch with a note saying "The manager of this theatre has been instructed at the risk of his life, not to admit to the theatre any persons after the picture starts. Any spurious attempts to enter by side doors, fire escapes or ventilating shafts will be met by force. The entire objective of this extraordinary policy, of course, is to help you enjoy PSYCHO more. Alfred Hitchcock"
To ensure the people were in the theaters at the start of this movie (rather than walking in part way through) the studio provided a record to play in the foyer of the theaters. The album featured background music, occasionally interrupted by a voice saying "Ten minutes to Psycho time", "Five minutes to Psycho time", and so on.
The movie in large part was made because Sir Alfred Hitchcock was fed up with the big-budget, star-studded movies he had recently been making, and wanted to experiment with the more efficient, sparser style of television filmmaking. He ultimately used a crew consisting mostly of television veterans and hired actors and actresses less well-known than those he usually used.
One of the reasons Sir Alfred Hitchcock shot the movie in black-and-white was he thought it would be too gory in color. But the main reason was that he wanted to make the movie as inexpensively as possible (under one million dollars). He also wondered if so many bad, inexpensively made, black-and-white "B" movies did so well at the box-office, what would happen if a really good, inexpensively made, black-and-white movie was made.
The amount of cash Marion stole, $40,000 in 1960, would be equivalent to approximately $315,000 by today's standards. The $700 difference she paid when trading in her car, and getting another one, would be equivalent to about $5,500 in today's money.
In order to implicate viewers as fellow voyeurs, Sir Alfred Hitchcock used a 50 mm lens on his 35 mm camera. This gives the closest approximation to the human vision. In the scenes where Norman is spying on Marion, this effect is felt.
According to Janet Leigh, the wardrobe worn by her character Marion Crane was not custom made for her, but rather purchased "off the rack" from ordinary clothing stores. Sir Alfred Hitchcock wanted women viewers to identify with the character by having her wear clothes that an ordinary secretary could afford, and thus add to the mystique of realism. (Not to mention that buying clothes off the rack would keep this movie from going over its very small budget.)
In Robert Bloch's novel, Norman Bates is short, fat, older, and very dislikable. It was Sir Alfred Hitchcock who decided to have him be young, handsome, and sympathetic. Norman is also more of a main character in the novel. The story opens with him and Mother fighting, rather than following Marion from the start.
Janet Leigh wore moleskin adhesive patches covering her private parts when she acted out the shower scene, so she would not really be nude and the camera would not pick up anything supposedly obscene. However, after the warm water of the shower washed off the moleskin, Sir Alfred Hitchcock still did one more take. The take was used in the finished movie.
Anthony Perkins and Janet Leigh said that they did not mind being stereotyped forever because of their participation in this movie. They said in interviews they would rather be stereotyped and be remembered forever for this classic movie than not be remembered at all.
This was Sir Alfred Hitchcock's last film for Paramount Pictures. By the time principal photography started, Hitchcock had moved his offices to Universal Pictures, and this movie was shot on Universal's backlot. Universal owns the movie today as well, even though the Paramount Pictures logo is still on the movie.
Joseph Stefano was adamant about seeing a toilet on-screen to display realism. He also wanted to see it flush. Sir Alfred Hitchcock told him he had to "make it so" through his writing if he wanted to see it. Stefano wrote the scene in which Marion adds up the money, then flushes the paper down the toilet specifically so the toilet flushing was integral to the scene, and therefore irremovable. This was the first American movie (and possibly first fictional movie) ever to show a toilet flushing on-screen.
As part of publicity campaign prior to release of this movie, Sir Alfred Hitchcock said: "It has been rumored that 'Psycho' is so terrifying that it will scare some people speechless. Some of my men hopefully sent their wives to a screening. The women emerged badly shaken, but still vigorously vocal."
There are several references to birds in this movie: Marion's surname is Crane, Norman's hobby is stuffing birds, and Norman states that Marion eats like a bird. Sir Alfred Hitchcock's next movie was The Birds (1963).
Sir Alfred Hitchcock ran a deliciously droll and terse radio ad in the summer of 1960. In an era when sponsors used "Brand X" to describe their competitors' products, Hitchcock's voice said he wanted to compare his new movie with "Brand X". Then, the sound of a horse neighing and horse clippity-clop sounds. Hitchcock's voice said simply "Brand X is a western." "Now for my picture", followed by a loud scream. End of commercial.
The Bates house was largely modelled on an oil painting at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. The canvas is called "House by the Railroad" and was painted in 1925 by the iconic American artist Edward Hopper. That painting was the first one that was acquired by New York's Museum of Modern Art (in 1930). The architectural details, viewpoint, and austere sky is almost identical as seen in this movie.
According to biographers, Sir Alfred Hitchcock had a troubled relationship with his own domineering mother, who, like Mrs. Bates, forced him to stand at the foot of her bed and tell her everything that had happened to him, although the real relationship was not as disturbed as that seen in the movie.
Sir Alfred Hitchcock even had a canvas chair with "Mrs. Bates" written on the back prominently placed and displayed on the set throughout shooting. This further added to the enigma surrounding who was the actress playing Mrs. Bates.
Janet Leigh has said that when he cast her, Sir Alfred Hitchcock gave her the following charter: "I hired you because you are an actress. I will only direct you if A: you attempt to take more than your share of the pie, B: you don't take enough, or C: if you are having trouble motivating the necessary timed movement."
According to Stephen Rebello, author of "Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho", Sir Alfred Hitchcock was displeased with the performance of John Gavin (Sam Loomis) and referred to Gavin as "the stiff".
This movie only cost $800,000 to make, and earned more than $40 million. Sir Alfred Hitchcock used the crew from his television series Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955) to save time and money. In 1962, he exchanged the rights to the movie and his television series for a huge block of MCA's stock, becoming its third-largest stockholder).
The car dealership in the movie was actually Harry Maher's used car lot near Universal Studios. Since Ford Motor Company was a sponsor of Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955), the car lot's usual inventory was displaced in favor of shiny Fords, Edsels, and Mercurys.
In the novel, it is explained that Marion and Sam met on a cruise and fell in love, which is how their relationship became a long distance one, with Marion in Phoenix, Arizona, and Sam in Fairvale, California.
Shooting wrapped February 1, 1960, nine days over schedule. A rough cut was finished by April, at which point, Sir Alfred Hitchcock was convinced his "experiment" had failed. He was ready to cut the movie down to a television episode, but handed it to Bernard Herrmann to score. After he saw the completed movie with the music, he was very pleased.
When Sir Alfred Hitchcock was off due to illness, the crew shot the sequence of Arbogast inside the house going up the stairs. When Hitchcock saw the footage, he complimented those responsible but said the sequence had to be re-shot. Their version made it appear as if Arbogast was going up the stairs to commit a murder. Hitchcock re-shot the sequence.
Sir Alfred Hitchcock was initially disappointed with the movie. He even disliked the shower scene and believed the movie would end up on a low budget drive-in double-bill. According to Bernard Herrmann, Hitchcock thought of editing it down for broadcast on his television show. Hitchcock did not conceive of music for the shower scene, but Herrmann did it anyway. After seeing the movie with its score, including the shower sequence, that he realized that the movie would work.
Screenwriter Joseph Stefano and director Sir Alfred Hitchcock deliberately layered-in certain risqué elements as a ruse to divert the censors from more crucial concerns, like the action that takes place in the bedroom in the beginning and the shower murder. The censors reviewed the script and censored the "unimportant" extra material and Hitchcock managed to sneak in his "important" material.
Among the major promotional items for this movie was a lengthy coming attractions trailer (filmed in several languages) of Sir Alfred Hitchcock taking the audience on a seemingly lighthearted tour of the house and motel. At the end, Hitchcock pulls open a shower curtain to reveal a close-up of a woman screaming. The actress is not Janet Leigh, but Vera Miles wearing a wig similar to Miss Leigh's hairstyle. The logo "Psycho" simultaneously comes onto the screen and cleverly covers Miss Miles' eyes so that the switch is not easily discernible.
Sir Alfred Hitchcock hated the infamous psychiatrist explanation scene done by Dr. Fred Richman (Simon Oakland) at the end of the movie. He felt the scene was boring, and the movie came to a grinding halt at that point. The scene has also been ripped to shreds by critics over the years as the worst scene in the movie, and one of Hitchcock's worst scenes ever. Hitchcock and viewers felt the scene was unnecessary, overly obvious, and too talky, slowing down the action and suspense of the rest of the movie. But there was strong pressure from the studios and powers-that-be that funded and distributed the movie to relieve the pressure from earlier scenes, and also to explain the action to less insightful audience members who might be confused by the big reveal at the ending, so the scene was kept in.
When Marion is having a conversation with Norman in his parlor, Norman says in reference to his mother: "She had to raise me all by herself after my father died. I was only five and it must have been quite a strain for her." Anthony Perkins (Norman) was his parents' only child, and he, like Norman, suffered the loss of his father when he was five-years-old. From then on, he was raised by his mother.
On CA 99, which eventually turns into Pacific Avenue near the Fife and Tacoma border in Washington, there are several older hotels along the strip. One of the former owners of one of the hotels is a horror movie buff, and puts on costume parties in his retirement. Being a fan of horror movies, he renamed his motel "Bates Motel." In April 2012, the hotel was torn down, but the hotel sign is still intact.
Sir Alfred Hitchcock strictly mandated, and even wrote into theater managers' contracts, that no one arriving after the start of each showing of this movie would be admitted into the theater until the beginning of the next showing. Advertising artwork deceived audiences into thinking that Janet Leigh was its star, and patrons arriving after her murder would wonder where she was. Newspaper advertisements cleverly piqued audience curiosity with such statements as "You MUST see 'Psycho' from the very beginning. No one, not even the President of the United States, not the theater manager's brother, not even the Queen of England (God bless her), will be allowed into the theater after the beginning of each showing of "Psycho". This is to allow you to enjoy "Psycho" more. By the way, after you see the film, please do not give away the ending. It's the only one we have." News cameras photographed audience members waiting in lines outside theaters to see this movie, creating tremendous curiosity about the movie, and adding extra publicity.
An early script had the following dialogue: Marion: "I'm going to spend the weekend in bed." Texas oilman: "Bed? Only playground that beats Las Vegas." (This discarded dialogue was resurrected for the Gus Van Sant remake Psycho (1998), but was subsequently cut.)
In Halloween: H20 (1998), Janet Leigh drove a 1950s car similar to Marion Crane's, which, when revealed, part of the Psycho theme is played. Director John Carpenter was inspired by Psycho when making Halloween (1978) and was quite excited when Leigh's daughter Jamie Lee Curtis auditioned and was cast. Leigh played Curtis' secretary.
Bernard Herrmann related how the shots of Marion driving away after taking the money looked very ordinary. Sir Alfred Hitchcock thought of having the soundtrack convey anxious voices in her head to add to the action and tension. Herrmann noted, however, that it still didn't work until he suggested bringing back the main title music. All in all, Hitchcock was delighted with Herrmann's very significant contribution to this movie, giving the composer an unusual amount of credit (for Hitchcock) and stating openly that "Thirty-three percent of the effect of Psycho was due to the music."
Parts of the house were built by cannibalizing several stock-unit sections including a tower from the house in Harvey (1950). The house was the most expensive set of the movie, but came to a mere fifteen thousand dollars.
This movie was first scheduled to air on U.S. network television in the fall of 1966. Just before it would have aired, however, Valerie Percy, the daughter of then-U.S. Senate candidate Charles H. Percy (U.S. Senator, R-Illinois: 1967 to 1985), was stabbed to death, apparently by an intruder, in a murder that, as of 2019, remains unsolved. It was deemed prudent, under the circumstances, to postpone the scheduled airing. Ultimately, this movie was not shown on U.S. network television until 1970, following a highly successful theatrical re-release in 1969. At that time, Universal Pictures released it on the syndication market, where it quickly became a popular staple on local late night horror movie showings.
During pre-production, Sir Alfred Hitchcock said to the press that he was considering Helen Hayes for the part of Mother. This was obviously a ruse, but several actresses wrote to Hitchcock requesting auditions.
One of the reasons why Sir Alfred Hitchcock wanted to make this movie in black-and-white is because Hitchcock loved the French horror movie Diabolique (1955), which was made in black-and-white. Diabolique (1955) was based on Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac's novel "Celle qui n'était plus" (She Who Was No More). Hitchcock attempted to buy the rights to this novel in 1950s. But Director Henri-Georges Clouzot bought the movie rights to the original novel. Clouzot reportedly beat Hitchcock by only a matter of a few hours.
The theatrical trailer shows Sir Alfred Hitchcock giving a partial tour of the set located on the Universal Studios backlot. It ends with a tour of the famous bathroom and Sir Alfred Hitchcock pulling the shower curtain revealing the screaming Vera Miles. (Vera Miles was the stand-in for Janet Leigh because Leigh was not available.
Although disputed, it is claimed that graphic designer and title director Saul Bass directed the shower sequence. Bass certainly storyboarded the scene, but there is disagreement about the level of direction by Sir Alfred Hitchcock, and how much credit can be afforded by Bass for the construction of this iconic scene. Janet Leigh flat-out denies this claim, saying that Hitchcock directed the sequence one hundred percent.
According to Alfred Hitchcock, "Psycho" was originally intended to be a comedy. Speaking with the TV program Monitor in July 1964: "I once made a movie, rather tongue-in-cheek, called "Psycho." The content was, I felt, rather amusing and it was a big joke. I was horrified to find some people took it seriously. It was intended to make people scream and yell and so forth - but no more than screaming and yelling on a switchback railway. So you mustn't go too far because you want them to get off the railway giggling with pleasure."
Sir Alfred Hitchcock always preferred to film indoors on a soundstage, and only the distant shots of the Bates Mansion were shot outside on the backlot. To accomplish this, and allow for an exterior to interior dolly shot, a second, duplicate, mansion exterior consisting only of the front porch was constructed on the soundstage and the cut from exterior, backlot, set to interior soundstage can clearly be seen as Lila approaches, visible in the difference in the lighting when the camera cuts from her back to the porch and front door once she gets close.
During filming, this movie was referred to as "Production 9401" or "Wimpy". The latter name came from Second Unit Cameraman Rex Wimpy, who appeared on clapboards and production sheets, and some on-the-set stills for this movie.
The look of the tall vertical mansion on the hill contrasted with the low, long motel was a deliberate composition choice. Yet Sir Alfred Hitchcock said it wasn't his intention to create a mysterious atmosphere with the big Gothic house, but to re-create the kind of older architecture that existed in the Northern California setting of the story.
Director Sir Alfred Hitchcock and Director of Photography John L. Russell regularly used two cameras to get most of the shots in this movie, rather than resetting to get different angles, a common practice in television, but rare for theatrical movies.
As well as changing the character of Norman Bates, another variation on the novel is that the movie expands the opening chapters of the book, going into greater detail about Marion absconding with $40,000.
Sir Alfred Hitchcock had previously cast Vera Miles in The Wrong Man (1956). He wanted to cast her in Vertigo (1958), but she had to turn it down due to pregnancy. Miles was not happy making this movie, and felt that Hitchcock was punishing her by giving her an unflattering wardrobe that made her look matronly, never mind that it was designed by the famous Hollywood designer Edith Head. For her work, Miles received $100,700 per week.
Except for some shots filmed on backroads in Southern California (the scenes of Marion fleeing Phoenix), this movie was filmed on the backlot at Universal Studios. According to various sources, Paramount Pictures either had no space available, or refused to give Sir Alfred Hitchcock any. At any rate, he was happy to work at Universal Pictures, where his crew regularly worked on his television series.
Bernard Herrmann wrote the main title theme before Saul Bass created the opening credit sequence. Bass animated it to the music, creating the stabbing, wrenching look in which the credits are ripped in half.
In 2006, Scottish artist Douglas Gordon created an art installation consisting of a twenty-four-hour slow-motion version of this movie. It was titled "24-Hour Psycho", and played at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
The claim that Sir Alfred Hitchcock and Joseph Stefano originally conceived the film with a jazz score instead of Bernard Herrmann's miniature string orchestra is disputed by Herrmann's daughter Dorothy. In Susan King's interview with Dorothy Herrmann (2011), Dorothy revealed that Hitchcock cut down expenses for this movie. Hitchcock used very inexpensive actors and actresses, and he used a string orchestra in order to save money.
In the novel, Norman is described as being in his forties, short, overweight, and homely. However, Sir Alfred Hitchcock wanted audiences to be able to like and sympathize with the character, so he decided to make him more of a "boy next door" and cast Anthony Perkins, an actor in his twenties who was tall, thin, and handsome.
On February 8, 1960, exactly one week after he finished this movie, Sir Alfred Hitchcock directed Startime (1959) season one, episode twenty-seven, "Incident at a Corner", that also featured Vera Miles, and much of the same crew that worked on this movie.
Director Alexander Payne said he couldn't imagine this movie being made in color, because it's far more chilling in black-and-white, but it was remade in color as Psycho (1998), to universal disapproval.
A false story has circulated that George Reeves was hired to play detective Milton Arbogast and filmed a few of his scenes with the rest of the cast just a week before his death. There is no truth to this rumor whatsoever. Reeves died on June 16, 1959, almost two months before Sir Alfred Hitchcock decided to make this movie, and exactly one year before the June 16, 1960 date when this movie had its world premiere in New York City. Work on the script began in October, 1959, four months after Reeves' death. Filming began in November, 1959, five months after Reeves' death. At the time of Reeves' death, Hitchcock was on a world tour promoting North by Northwest (1959). (Source: "The Dark Side of Genius: The Life of Alfred Hitchcock," by Donald Spoto.) George Reeves did not live long enough to even know a movie of "Psycho" was planned, much less appear in it.
This movie is said to be heavily influenced by Henri-George Clouzot's Diabolique (1955). Diabolique (1955) was also a lurid, black-and-white crime story/film noir, with sharply drawn characters, a misogynistic overtone, and loads of suspense, focusing on a grisly murder scene in its middle, and a shock twist at the end. But whereas this movie had a shocking shower murder scene, Diabolique (1955) had a shocking bathtub murder scene. This movie's shower scene is said to be a ripoff of Diabolique (1955)'s bathtub scene, or certainly influenced by it.
To achieve the effect of the water coming out of the shower head and streaming down past the camera on all sides, Sir Alfred Hitchcock had a huge shower head made to order and shot with his camera very close to it.
In the television series Bates Motel (2013), based on characters from this movie, during season five, episode four, "Hidden", Norman Bates is standing in the office eating candy corn while the Sheriff looks at the registry book. A tribute to the scene in this movie where Norman eats candy corn, while Arbogast is looking at the same book.
"Mother", or Norma Bates, is played by several actors and actresses in the movie, including Anthony Perkins. Several people contributed to her shrieking harpy hag voice, and there was a deliberate attempt to age her up, make her older, since Sir Alfred Hitchcock wanted this to be an apocryphal voice of Norman's own conscience and inner demons. Realistically, Norma Bates would be about fifty, since Norman in the movie is only about twenty-six, but you can hear from the voice of the actors and actresses playing her that she is supposed to be a sexagenarian, which is possible if she gave birth to Norman when she was in her mid to late thirties.
In his famous interviews with Hitchcock, Truffaut, who was a fan of the movie, commented that the scenes with the sheriff were a letdown. Hitchcock replied: "The sheriff's intervention comes under the heading of what we have discussed many times before: "Why don't they go to the police?". I've always replied: "They don't go to the police because it's dull." Here is a perfect example of what happens when they go to the police".
According to the opening title cards, the action of this movie begins on Friday, December 11. Extrapolating from the production and release dates, one can determine that the year was 1959, as December 11 fell on a Friday that year.
This was the last movie Sir Alfred Hitchcock made for Paramount Pictures. To avoid interference by studio executives, he shot it on the Universal Pictures lot, where he had already moved his offices in order to produce Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955). Universal Pictures would later get the distribution rights to the movie as well.
Norman's parlor features many stuffed birds, several of whom are associated with wisdom or intelligence, including an owl and a crow. Less noticed is a hoopoe, a striking striped bird native to Eurasia and Africa, that Norman rests his hand upon during the calm portion of his conversation with Marion. Hoopoes are common in Middle Eastern and African folklore, and are characterized as being wise, much like owls. On the other hand, pheasants like the one behind him in the same scene are thought to be fairly stupid, suggesting the split nature of Norman's personality. This seems intentional, given the recurring bird motifs throughout the movie.
Michael Powell directed the infamous movie Peeping Tom (1960), which has been called the "British version of Psycho" by critics. This is ironic, because this movie was directed by an Englishman. But Peeping Tom (1960) concerns itself with English characters and takes place in Britain, whereas this movie takes place in the U.S. and concerns itself with Americans. The only British character in this movie is Caroline. She plays Marion's co-worker at the beginning of the movie, and was played by Patricia Hitchcock, Sir Alfred's daughter.
Sam Loomis' last name is an obvious tongue-in-cheek reference to the Loomis armored truck company. This grimly humorous allusion is due to Marion Crane's stealing a large sum of money that she had been entrusted with as a courier, just as the operators of a Loomis truck are tasked with honorably transporting large sums of currency to various destinations.
People talk about Halloween (1978) being the daddy of all slasher films, and Psycho being the granddaddy, but there's a much longer history of slashers in film, going almost all the way back to the silent era. First came the golden age movies like M (1931), Thirteen Women (1932), and And Then There Were None (1945), the original slasher movies. Then there were classic age slashers, films from the 1950s and 1960s such as Psycho (1960) and Diabolique (1955), which would help create the prototype for slashers as well. Then there were modern slashers, starting in the late 1960s in Italy with Dario Argento, Mario Bava and the Gallo movies; these pushed the envelope for gore in the modern era with movies like A Bay of Blood (1971). The next group of slashers, after Gallo in the 1960s, would be the American modern slashers, starting with The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) and Black Christmas (1974); both followed by the seminal classic slasher Halloween (1978); and finally Friday the 13th (1980). The period after that would be the post-modern slashers, starting with Scream (1996).
The sequel to this movie, Psycho II (1983), received surprisingly good reviews; 61% of the reviewers on Rotten Tomatoes liked it. It's funny how all the critics say it cannot hold a candle to the original. They seem to forget that the original was highly controversial upon its release, and many critics hated it. It is only in retrospect that the film has become almost universally beloved and is now considered one of the best horror movies ever made.
While Psycho is now considered one of the best movies ever made; and its sequel Psycho II (1983) also got good reviews; the 1998 shot-by-shot color remake by Gus Van Sant is almost universally seen as one of the worst movies ever made.
Jamie Lee Curtis, Janet Leigh's daughter, was born in 1958; right before Psycho started pre-production. Curtis would grow up to be cinema's top Scream Queen in part because her mom was in this movie. Irwin Yablans, John Carpenter and Debra Hill, who all did the casting for Halloween (1978), admitted they chose Curtis in part because of the stunt casting aspect of her being Leigh's daughter; and this would then tie Halloween together with Psycho in the public's mind. Curtis would go on to star in The Fog (1980), Prom Night (1980), Terror Train (1980), and Halloween II (1981); more horror movies (of different franchises) than any other actress in Hollywood.
Multiple characters in Halloween (1978) are inspired by this movie. Jamie Lee Curtis was cast as the heroine in this movie, based on the casting of her mother, Janet Leigh, in Psycho. Dr. Sam Loomis is directly named after John Gavin's character, the boyfriend to Marion in this movie. The name of Marion Chambers, the nurse in Halloween, is inspired by Marion and Judge Chambers. Billy Loomis, the killer from Scream (1996), was also inspired by Sam Loomis in Psycho. Also, Bates High School in Carrie (1976) is inspired by Norman Bates in Psycho.
This movie passes the Bechdel test. There are more than two female characters with names; Caroline, Lila, and Marion; and two of them have conversations about something beside men; Caroline and Lila talk about working at the bank.
Jeanette Nolan's husband John McIntire played Sheriff Chambers in this film. Jeannette Nolan (who did some voice-work for Norma Bates and for screams in this film) also played some roles in Alfred Hitchcock's show "Alfred Hitchcock Presents." One of the episodes was "The Right Kind of House."
This movie stars Janet Leigh, Vera Miles, and John Gavin all starred on episodes of Fantasy Island (1977). They all also starred on episodes of The Love Boat (1977) as well, along with Ted Knight, who makes an appearance at the end of this movie as the guard who brings Norman a blanket, and who also starred in an episode of The Love Boat (1977) as Gunner Norquist, a rival of Captain Stubbing (Gavin MacLeod) (much like he was a rival of Gavin MacLeod on Mary Tyler Moore (1970)).
When someone churns their arm up and down, miming a killer holding a knife and stabbing, and makes the "Dweet! Dweet! Dweet!" sound, mimicking Bernard Hermann's Psycho score; that has become the universal gesture that someone they have walked by or encountered is crazy. (Or Psycho as the movie suggests. )
The Partridge Family (1970) mother Shirley Jones auditioned for, and almost got, the part of Marion Crane. If she had won the role of Marion, who knows if she would have been offered a wholesome family sitcom ten years later. She might have been seen as too controversial to star in such a show if she had previously starred in one of the most infamous slasher films ever.
At the time of the movie's release, the population of Phoenix was 439,170, up three hundred eleven percent from the 1950 census of 106,818. In 1960, Phoenix was the twenty-ninth largest city in the United States (up from the ninety-ninth largest city in 1950). In 2017, the population of Phoenix was 1,615,017, making it the fifth most populous city in the United States.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
Sir Alfred Hitchcock received several letters from ophthalmologists who noted that Janet Leigh's eyes were still contracted during the extreme close-ups after her character's death. The pupils of a true corpse dilate after death. They told Hitchcock he could achieve a proper dead-eye effect by using belladonna drops. Hitchcock did so in all of his later movies.
The ending involves a superimposition of three elements that many people fail to notice. The last shot of Norman Bates' face has a still frame of a human skull superimposed on it, almost subliminally. The skull is that of Mother. This then dissolves into the shot of the chain pulling the car with Marion's body out of the swamp. The chain is placed so that it appears to be moving through where Norman/Mother's heart would be, symbolically showing that the two are tied together.
Norman's mother was voiced by Paul Jasmin, Virginia Gregg, and Jeanette Nolan. Nolan provided some of the screams when Lila discovers the corpse of Mrs. Bates. The three voices were thoroughly mixed, except for the last speech, which is all Gregg's.
Contrary to a widely told tale, Sir Alfred Hitchcock did not arrange for the water to suddenly go ice-cold during the shower scene to elicit an effective scream from Janet Leigh. This urban legend appears to have originated with Universal Studios tour guides making up an interesting thing to tell tourists as they passed the "Psycho" house, one of the most popular attractions on the lot. Janet Leigh said that the crew took great care to keep the water warm, and filming of the scene took an entire week.
The shot of Arbogast falling backward down the stairs was a process shot of Martin Balsam sitting stationary and waving his arms, as if losing his balance, in front of a screen projecting a previously filmed dolly shot moving down the stairs.
The shower scene has over ninety splices in it, and did not involve Anthony Perkins at all. Contrary to popular belief, it wasn't due to a scheduling conflict Perkins had for the Broadway musical "Greenwillow", but actually a deliberate decision on Sir Alfred Hitchcock's part. On this subject, Perkins states "Hitchcock was very worried that the dual role and nature of Norman Bates would be exposed if I were to appear in that scene. I think it was the recognizability of my silhouette, which is rather slim and broad in the shoulder. That worried him."
Despite his reputation for cultivating extended working relationships with his leading ladies, after observing the reception of this movie, Sir Alfred Hitchcock reluctantly told Janet Leigh that they could never work together again, as she would always be remembered for her on-screen death as Marion Crane.
Despite the fact that the entire movie is in black-and-white, several viewers vividly (and specifically) recall the "red" blood as it swirled down the shower drain. Obviously, this could not be true, not just for the fact of the black-and-white film, but the blood was actually Bosco chocolate syrup. Although theatrical movies were produced in color at the time, newsreels were shown in black-and-white. Filming the movie in black-and-white might have made it seem less gory, but it also might have seemed more real to viewers at the time, who were used to seeing the news in black-and-white. Perhaps by coincidence, Dr. Richard Thorndyke (Mel Brooks) is "stabbed' by a rolled up newspaper in High Anxiety (1977).
At the end of the shower scene, the first few seconds of the camera pull-back from Janet Leigh's face is a freeze-frame. Sir Alfred Hitchcock did this because, while viewing the rushes, his wife noticed the pulse in Leigh's neck throbbing.
The MPAA objected to the use of the term "transvestite" to describe Norman Bates in the final wrap-up. They insisted it be removed until Joseph Stefano proved to them it was a clinical psychology term. They thought he was trying to get one over on them and place a vulgarity in the picture.
Because he was working with a low budget, Sir Alfred Hitchcock did not want to use top marquee names, with the exception of Janet Leigh. But he hired her because he knew audiences would be shocked to see a star of her stature killed off early in the movie. (There is a slight giveaway in the credits, however, where instead of first billing, her name appears last as "And Janet Leigh as Marion Crane.") She was paid twenty-five thousand dollars for the role.
Marli Renfro was paid four hundred dollars as Janet Leigh's body double for some shots (according to some reports, she was only used for the scene of Marion's body being wrapped in the shower curtain). Although Leigh said for many years that there was never anyone actually naked in the shower, she admitted late in her life that Renfro did some shots nude. She also mentioned in her autobiography that she was nude in some scenes as the flesh-colored moleskin was washed away from her breasts. "What to do? ...To spoil the so-far successful shot and be modest? Or get it over with and be immodest. I opted for immodesty."
Sir Alfred Hitchcock was very uneasy about the morphing of Norman's face into Mother's at the end of the movie. He sent out three different versions of the movie during its initial release. The first version included the ending seen on all prints today, the second contained no morphing at all, and the third contained the trick at the end, yet also included it at an earlier point in the movie. When Sam Loomis (John Gavin) comes back to the Bates Motel to look for Arbogast, there is a zooming shot of Norman standing by the swamp, looking very sinister. The third version of the movie included the subtle morphing of Norman's face into Mother's at this moment.
Marli Renfro, the unbilled nude model who doubled for Janet Leigh in portions of the murder sequence, was featured as a Playboy cover girl on the September 1960 issue while this movie was still in theaters. Quite appropriately, she was pictured on the cover taking a shower.
In the Collector's Edition DVD documentary, Janet Leigh says that a nude body double was used in portions of the shower scene. The DVD notes include a quote from Sir Alfred Hitchcock, in an interview with François Truffaut, in which he says the same thing.
Sir Alfred Hitchcock paid Title Sequence Designer Saul Bass (also credited as "Pictorial Consultant") two thousand dollars to draw storyboards for the scene where Arbogast is killed at the stairs. Bass was excited about the movie, and asked Hitchcock for the opportunity. Hitchcock discarded his work because the shots showed Arbogast's feet slowly going up the stairs and this prepared the audience for a shock. Hitch wanted it to be a surprise, and that's why he filmed Arbogast in a completely natural way.
Bernard Herrmann had written a cue for the climax where Mrs. Bates is revealed to be a skeleton, and Norman the true killer. However, on the advice of Sir Alfred Hitchcock, Herrmann re-used the theme from the shower scene. The alternate cue can be heard on the 1997 album conducted by Joel McNeely and performed by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra.
The version on Blu-ray is an edited version of the movie. It is missing a shot from the shower undressing scene, a lingering close up of bloody hands, and additional thrusts of the knife for the killing inside the house. Despite this, the Blu-ray is rated R.
Immediately prior to the closing sequence of Norman Bates in his jail cell, as the camera moves down the hallway to where police have confined him, the uniformed guard at the cell door is Ted Knight, best remembered as pompous, dim-witted news anchor Ted Baxter on The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970), and also the uptight judge who was Rodney Dangerfield's adversary in Caddyshack (1980).
During post-production, Sir Alfred Hitchcock had several wrangles with the censors over scenes they considered objectionable, including the opening scene (with Marion in bed in her bra after obviously having had an afternoon tryst with Sam), the suggested nudity and brutality of the shower sequence, and both the visual and aural depiction of a toilet. He managed to mostly get his own way, however, although he later said the opening scene should have featured Janet Leigh's bare breasts.
Bernard Herrmann composed the cue "The Swamp" for the scene where Marion's car is sinking in the swamp. But Sir Alfred Hitchcock told Herrmann not to use the swamp cue in order to increase the suspense and the tension through silence. So the swamp cue wasn't used in the movie.
According to Stephen Rebello, the Hays Office censors requested changes to the shower scene. Some believed they had caught a brief glimpse of one of Janet Leigh's breasts. (Rebello confirms that "there are definitely a couple of frames showing a bare breast and nipple.") Sir Alfred Hitchcock waited several days and sent the movie back unedited. This time, it passed the censors' inspection. For the "couple of frames" in question, Marion's head is turned from the camera, so it's not clear whether the breast belongs to Leigh. Leigh maintained: "It was me the whole time in that shower, except for the time when he's wrapping the body in the shower curtain." But Robert Graysmith claims that Leigh's body double, Marli Renfro, was used for some of the shower scene shots as well.
The shower scene was originally written to see only the knife-wielding hand of the murderer. Sir Alfred Hitchcock suggested to Saul Bass, who was storyboarding the sequence, several angles that would capture screenwriter Joseph Stefano's description of "an impression of a knife slashing, as if tearing at the very screen, ripping the film."
In the book, Norman is about forty. In the movie, he is about twenty-six. Sir Alfred Hitchcock deliberately aged him down to make him seem less predator and creep-like, and more like a put upon victimized man-boy, to elicit audience sympathy for him, and to make the ending reveal when he turns out to be the killer more shocking.
Vera Miles' Lila Crane character is heroic in this movie and villainous in Psycho II (1983). In this movie, her stubbornness and refusal to give up investigating her sister's disappearance is what winds up solving the mystery and stopping the killer in his tracks. In the sequel, she is hellbent on avenging her sister's death, and her actions wind up causing the killing spree in the first place.
According to Psycho IV: The Beginning (1990), the two previously unidentified women whom Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) killed were Holly (Sharen Camille) and Gloria (Bobbi Evors). Holly, whom he killed on July 4, 1951, was a teenage girl who tried to have sex with him, thereby earning the wrath of "Mother". Norman killed Gloria, an older woman, for the same reason.
Martin Balsam plays the heroic and tragic private investigator Milton Arbogast in this movie, Norman Bates' second victim in the movie. Martin Balsam also played a serial killer on The Twilight Zone (1959) season four, episode thirteen, "The New Exhibit". He played a museum employee who takes home and is made to take care of wax figures of a variety of serial killers throughout history (Jack the Ripper). The character turns out to be a serial killer by the episode's end, and he talks to the other wax figures in the episode; much like Norman Bates does in this movie.
Hitchcock's earlier film Vertigo (1958) contains many "echoes" of this movie: prolonged sequences of sedately driving a car through the countryside; a receptionist gestures at some keys on a key rack, which indicates the empty rooms; the leading lady writes a note, only to rip the paper to pieces; a special sequence designed by Saul Bass features a huge close-up of a woman's eye, then zooms out again; the leading lady is killed about halfway through the movie; a detective and his female associate visit a local retail store to make inquiries; watched from above, the detective climbs a carpeted staircase up to a landing, to seek a lady who isn't there; a dead woman is dramatically revealed; and a doctor gives his expert opinion on the psychosis which ails the leading man.
Marion and Norman have voiced over interior monologues in their heads: Marion imagines various people commenting about her theft at the beginning, and Norman talks to himself in his mother persona at the ending.