This is one of the best horror/thriller films I've ever seen, and scared me almost as much as the Pit and the Pendulum (Vincent Price). This may be maybe because I saw it when quite young, when obviously the effect would have been that much more, but in fact despite being in black and white, I still think it is still a masterpiece on its own, yet to be equaled. NK
Movie poster featuring Janet Leigh
Phoenix officeworker Marion Crane is fed up with the way life has treated her. She has to meet her lover Sam in lunch breaks and they cannot get married because Sam has to give most of his money away in alimony.
One Friday, December the eleventh, Mr. Cassidy, a rich oil tycoon, comes to the office to give Lowery $40,000 to buy a house for his daughter's wedding present. Marion is trusted to bank $40,000 by her employer. Without really thinking, the temptation is just too much and she seizes the opportunity to take the money and start a new life in a moments madness.
Marion leaves town and heads towards Sam's California store. As night falls and a torrential rain obscures the road ahead of her, Marion turns off the main highway. Exhausted from the long drive and the stress of her criminal act, she decides to spend the night at the desolate Bates Motel. The motel is run by Norman Bates, a peculiar young man who appears to be dominated by his invalid mother. After Norman fixes her a light sandwich dinner,
Marion goes back to her room where she settles down for a relaxing hot shower after her long day's journey. The remoteness of the motel suit her purposes perfectly. The only sounds heard are the chirping of the crickets, the splashing of the water, and her humming contentedly as the hot needles of water caress her aching shoulders.
Unfortunately for her, Norman Bates has seen her undressing through a peep hole and enjoyed the view. Norman is actually leading a double life as dual personalities, where each character is unaware of the other. He had murdered his mother and her lover in a jealous rage, then denied the crime to himself, and carried on ever since thinking as his mother would and reacting to his other side as the submissive son.
Psycho thriller movie starring Anthony Perkins
as Norman Bates
In his mind hi mother is a homicidal maniac, who will go to any lengths to keep her son away from loose women. Of course all women appear loose to her. She storms into Marion's room whiles she is blissfully showering and stabs her repeatedly through the shower curtain.
Norman rushes in after her mother and hides the crime. He tidies the room and disposes of the car, Marion and the stolen money in a nearby swamp.
Some time later, a detective is hired by Marion's sister to try and find out what happened. He is butchered by Mrs Bates. Shortly after, Sam and Marion's sister pay the lonely Motel as visit and try to speak with Mrs bates. They find her in the cellar - a withered corpse, sitting in a rocking chair. Norman is arrested by the Sheriff and the film closes with a close up on Norman, dressed as Mrs Bates, thinking like Mrs Bates and studying a fly. Clearly, Norman has lost his mind.
Hitchcock did most of the promotion on his own, forbidding Leigh and Perkins from making the usual television, radio, and print interviews for fear of them revealing the plot. Even critics were not given private screenings but rather had to see the film with the general public, which, despite possibly affecting their reviews, certainly preserved the plot.
The film's original trailer features a jovial Hitchcock taking the viewer on a tour of the set, and almost giving away plot details before stopping himself. It is "tracked" with Bernard Herrmann's Psycho theme, but also jovial music from Hitchcock's comedy The Trouble With Harry; most of Hitchcock's dialogue is post-synchronized. The trailer was made after completion of the film, and since Janet Leigh was no longer available for filming, Hitchcock had Vera Miles don a blonde wig and scream loudly as he pulled the shower curtain back in the bathroom sequence of the preview. Since the title, "Psycho," instantly covers most of the screen, the switch went unnoticed by audiences for years. However a freeze-frame analysis clearly reveals that it is Vera Miles and not Janet Leigh in the shower during the trailer. The most controversial move was Hitchcock's "no late admission" policy for the film, which was abnormal for the time. It was not entirely original as Clouzot had done the same in France for Les Diaboliques. Hitchcock thought that if people entered the theater late and never saw the star actress Janet Leigh, they would feel cheated. At first theater owners were up in arms claiming that they would lose business, but after the first day the owners enjoyed long lines of people waiting to see the film.
The film was so successful that it was reissued to theaters in 1965. A year later CBS purchased the television rights for $450,000. CBS planned to screen the film during fall, but three days prior Valerie Percy, the daughter of an Illinois senatorial politician candidate, was murdered. As her parents slept mere feet away, she was stabbed a dozen times with a double-edged knife. In light of the murder, CBS agreed to postpone the screening, but in the end Psycho was never shown. Following another successful theatrical reissue in 1969, the film finally made its way to television in one of Universal's syndicated programming packages for local stations in 1970. Psycho was aired for twenty years in this format, then leased to cable for two years before returning to syndication as part of the "List of a Lifetime" package.
Psycho house on hill and Norman Bates
According to Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho, the censor board for the Hays Office (later the MPAA) wrangled with Hitchcock because some censors insisted they could see one of Janet Leigh's breasts. Hitchcock held onto the print for several days, left it untouched, and resubmitted it for approval. Astoundingly, each of the censors reversed their positions—those who had previously seen the breast now did not, and those who had not, now did. They passed the film after the director removed one shot that showed the buttocks of Leigh's stand-in. The board was also upset by the racy opening, so Hitchcock said that if they let him keep the shower scene he would reshoot the opening with them on the set. Since they did not show up for the reshoot, the opening stayed.
Another cause of concern for the censors was that Marion was shown flushing a toilet, with its contents (torn-up paper) fully visible. In film and TV at that time a toilet was never seen, let alone heard. This tradition became so well-known that later shows like All in the Family and Sanford and Son added a laugh track every time a flushing sound was heard.
Internationally, Hitchcock was forced to make minor changes to the film, mostly to the shower scene. Notably Britain objected to the shot of Norman washing blood from his hands and in Singapore, though the shower scene was left untouched, the murder of Arbogast and a shot of Mother's corpse were removed.
Psycho, shower scene Mrs Bates stabbing
Interpretation or coincidence
The film often features shadows, mirrors, windows, and, less so, water. The shadows are present from the very first scene where the blinds make bars on Marion and Sam as they peer out the window. The stuffed birds' shadows loom over Marion as she eats, and Mother is only seen in shadows until the very end. More subtly, backlighting turns the rakes in the hardware store into talons above Vera Miles's head.
Mirrors reflect: Marion as she packs, her eyes as she checks the rear-view mirror, her face in the policeman's sunglasses, her hands as she counts out the money in the car dealership's bathroom. A motel window serves as a mirror by reflecting Marion and Norman together. Hitchcock shoots through Marion's windshield and the telephone booth, when Arbogast phones Sam and Lila. The heavy downpour can be seen as foreshadowing of the shower, and it letting up can be seen as a symbol of Marion making up her mind to return to Phoenix.
There are coded references to birds. Marion's last name is Crane, and she is from Phoenix. Norman's hobby is stuffing birds, and he comments that Marion eats like a bird.
Psycho movie poster featuring Alfred Hitchcock
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