Here’s Alex from Alex Raphael for a review of probably Hitchcock’s most famous movie, Psycho for our Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon.
Thanks Alex for this great review!
When you are discussing Psycho, you are not merely reviewing a film but a phenomenon. Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece continues to shock, amaze and enthrall audiences over 50 years since it was released amidst a wave of notorious publicity. It is not just a horror film, able to terrify audiences without the use of the supernatural or special effects. It is not just a story about a man’s disturbing relationship with his mother, with an underlying social commentary on voyeurism. Or even a film taking the groundbreaking view of killing off its leading character halfway through the film. Quite simply, it is all this and more.
Based on the Robert Bloch novel published the previous year, Psycho tells of a young woman, Marion Crane (Janet Leigh), on the run from the police after stealing $40,000 from her employer. Having committed the crime on a whim, Crane is desperate to get away and after a tense run in with a policeman, deliberately changes her car at a dealership to help avoid detection. Through the lashing rain and darkness she spots the Bates Motel sign, and faced with few options, decides to spend the night. And that’s where her troubles really begin.
The Mother in Psycho, who doesn’t appear for most of the film, touches upon a fundamental family relationship that can impact long into adult life. The shy and socially awkward son Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) struggles to communicate with the attractive Crane. But the issue of his mother is never far from his mind, especially as she appears to dominate every aspect of his life. Crane decides to return home, admit her guilt and give back the money. But of course she decides to have a shower first…
Psycho is a film that even those that haven’t seen it will be aware of, even if only by the “string shrieks” that are referenced all the time in popular culture. The film broke the rules both on and off screen. Hitchcock’s studio Paramount refused to finance the film, and even rejected a limited budget offer, leading the director to sacrifice his directing fee for a stake in the film. He instead called upon his regular crew from his ‘Alfred Hitchcock Presents’ television series to help him make the film. Perhaps mindful of how the outrageously controversial (but now cult classic) Peeping Tom had been savaged by critics affecting its general release, Hitchcock banned critics from seeing Psycho before audiences, and took the unprecedented step of getting cinemas to prevent viewers from entering if they had arrived late.
The silver screen is filled with terrifying villains. Everyone from the cannibalistic Hannibal Lecter, gruesome Freddie Krueger and chainsawing Leatherface to the tormented Joker. But there is only one Mother. And despite the prequels, sequels and remake, there will only ever be one Psycho.