Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Writers: Joseph Stefano (screenplay), Robert Bloch (novel)
Stars: Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, Vera Miles
Release Date: September 8, 1960
A Phoenix secretary steals $40,000 from her employer’s client, goes on the run and checks into a remote motel run by a young man under the domination of his mother.
I was thirteen the first time I saw Psycho. This was before I learned that the blood was chocolate syrup and scared me shitless. I probably hadn’t seen this film in fifteen years, I hoped it would live up to my expectation, hoped it would translate, unlike the now comical The Birds. Hitchcock’s Psycho was suspenseful but didn’t have the same “I’m too scared to take a shower” appeal to it.
I’ve always kept an eye out for Alfred Hitchcock’s trademark cameos, In Psycho it takes place 4-6 minutes in depending on whether you count the credits. He stands with his back to the camera as Janet Leigh brushes past him.
At first one could think this story is about Marion Crane, a pretty girl on the run who chooses the wrong turn-off and definitely the wrong shower. In one moment we learn that it is not about Janet Leigh but about Norman Bates and his mommy issues. It is always the quiet ones you have to look out for.
Through out the movie Hitchcock keeps you guessing about the identity of Mother and what really goes on behind closed doors. It is not until the end do we learn what’s in the root cellar and even though I knew what to expect when her chair turned around I was still given a start.
Norman Bates is what makes the movie. He is the epitome of creepy but yet I couldn’t help but feel sorry for him. He is sick and Anthony Perkins excels at delivering this. Perkins is impeccable with his lines and expressions creating an eerie tone to the film.
It is what is said more than what is done that creeped me out more. In fact more than the shower scene this last dialogue is what does me in.
“It’s sad, when a mother has to speak the words that condemn her own son. But I couldn’t allow them to believe that I would commit murder. They’ll put him away now, as I should have years ago. He was always bad, and in the end he intended to tell them I killed those girls and that man… as if I could do anything but just sit and stare, like one of his stuffed birds. They know I can’t move a finger, and I won’t. I’ll just sit here and be quiet, just in case they do… suspect me. They’re probably watching me. Well, let them. Let them see what kind of a person I am. I’m not even going to swat that fly. I hope they are watching… they’ll see. They’ll see and they’ll know, and they’ll say, “Why, she wouldn’t even harm a fly…”
I think it is the idea that Norman doesn’t believe he has done anything wrong or out of the norm that gets to me.
Psycho stood up better than The Birds ever will but I think the terror of it has gone out the window, particularly when the remake was so gruesome. We are a bit jaded to that kind of thing. But I think there will always be people who either don’t know or care that Marion Crane’s blood is Hersey’s syrup and will always be a bit scared of someone who wouldn’t harm a fly.