Release Year: 1960
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Writers: Joseph Stefano, Robert Bloch (novel)
Starring: Janet Leigh, Anthony Perkins, Vera Miles, John Gavin, Martin Balsam, John McIntire, Simon Oakland
Rating: 4 Oscar nominations: Best Director, Best Actress (Janes Leigh), Best Cinematography – Black & White, Best Art Direction – Black & White. Won 1 Golden Globe: Best Actress (Janes Leigh)
Moviegeek Sunday Classic #81, week 53 2016
A secretary steals $40,000 from her employer, goes on the run, and checks into a motel run by a young man dominated by his mother.
Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho is one of the most iconic and well-known thrillers, one which continues to impress first time viewers 55 years after its release. Hitchcock was adamant to make the film and wavered his fee in exchange for 60 per cent of the film’s net profit, a deal the studio was happy to make because they thought the film would flop (quite contrarily, the deal made him millions). Not only the film’s subject matter was controversial but the film featured several surprises not normally bestowed upon cinema goers – most famously perhaps is the fact that this is the first American movie to show a flushing toilet. As can be expected with Hitchcock behind the camera, the film is a technical masterpiece, the slow build of suspense and, of course, the iconic shower scene, is chilling and masterfully done. Hitchcock credited a third of the movie to Hermann’s music and who doesn’t recognise the iconic violin score, which not only complements but elevates the movie to another level. But the main contributer to a Psycho’s success is its cast. Janet Leigh (Touch of Evil, 1958) as the unfortunate Marion Crane is one of Hitchcock’s most memorable blondes and manages to have our sympathies despite the fact that she starts the movie by stealing a lot of money (albeit from an obnoxious man) in order to marry her impoverished lover. John Gavin (Spartacus, 1960) as the boyfriend and Vera Miles (The Wrong Man, 1956) as the sister provide excellent support, and Martin Balsam (12 Angry Men, 1957) is great as the wonderfully named Arbogast. The prize, however, goes to Anthony Perkins (The Trial, 1962) without whom Psycho would not have gone down in movie history the way it has. His boyish looks and towering but slendrer frame, together with his eerie ability to look incredibly sinister one moment and then crack a smile and look completely harmless.
Psycho’s twist is perhaps so famous that few people can enjoy the experience of seeing it for the first time without knowing what to expect – but I do hope there are still a few left. However, the movie is so good in all other aspects that it doesn’t really matter whether one knows the outcome or not; there is still plenty here to enjoy. The only drawback is perhaps the explanatory scene at the end in which the pschiatrist does lay it on pretty thick while obviously enjoying the limelight (that final shot though!), but it does not even scratch the coating on this complete masterpiece.
The original 6½ minutes teaser trailer from 1960:
Alfred Hitchcock was so pleased with the score composed by Bernard Hermann that he doubled his salary.
The shower scene was originally meant to be silent but composer Bernard Hermann went ahead and wrote music for it anyway. When Hitchcock first saw the scene with music added he changed his mind instantly.
Hitchcock bought the rights to the novel from writer Robert Bloch for $9,000 dollars and then bought as many copies as he could find to try and keep the ending secret.
Hitchcock cameo: 4 minutes into the film wearing a cowboy hat outside of Marion Crane’s office.