A new feature from me this time around, with a very simple concept: I take a film I love and break down the best bits of it for your information or entertainment (possibly both) and rate the film overall. Be warned, these articles will contain SPOILERS if you haven’t seen the movie, so you may wanna go see the film before you read the piece.
This week: the horror/thriller classic from Alfred Hitchcock, “Psycho”. Released in 1960, this is undoubtedly THE Hitchcock film and set a standard for what was to be expected from this popular genre. A truly brilliant movie, with stand-out performances and so many ‘movie moments’.
It revolutionised how audiences were treated and what could be deemed ‘acceptable’ on screen in terms of violence, deviant behaviour and sexuality, all whilst retaining a class and sophistication all it’s own. And to prove just how treasured a film it was, in 1992 the US Library of Congress declared it be preserved in the National Film Registry. Not bad for a picture many studios wouldn’t touch!
Marion on the run
When Marion flees Phoenix with the $40,000, it’s a tense trip. The encounter with the police officer who finds her asleep at the side of the road, the hurried exchange of cars and the projected voices in her head of how things may be playing out back home are all great moments. It’s a different, physical and psychological way of progressing the story and you see a broken innocence to Janet Leigh’s character.
Norman Bates makes dinner for Marion Crane in the parlour
Anthony Perkins’ portrayal of Norman Bates is one of my favourites in any film I’ve sat down to watch. He acts with a shy, nervous exterior that gives way to an imprisoned, frustrated inner self, one that throws an audiences feelings on the character everywhere. I love the hints of darkness that Norman shows in the parlour, and of that uneasy moment when Marion suggests Mother be institutionalised. And it also has that great line…”we all go a little mad sometimes”.
The shower scene
It’s undoubtedly one of THE most prolific scenes ever committed to film. You’ll never take a shower the same way again. Just watch it and you’ll see why it’s so good at doing what it does. Norman’s clean-up is also an unsettling moment.
Arbogast takes a tumble
When Martin Balsam (as Detective Milton Arbogast) arrives at the Bates Motel to investigate the disappearance of Janet Leigh’s stunning beauty, you have to know it won’t end well. Great cinematography in the sequence where Mother comes across the landing and stabs Arbogast, and the camera follows the doomed detective down the stairs to his death. Putting it into the context of what people had seen when this film was released: it’s a great bit of innovation.
Lila meets ‘Mrs Bates’
This is THE twist of all twists. Lila (Vera Miles) is hiding from a now rumbled and murderous Norman Bates, taking refuge in the fruit cellar (where Norman has hidden Mother earlier in the film, much to ‘her’ dislike). And there’s Mrs Bates sat in the chair…in a manner of speaking. Brilliant OMG moment.
The police station ending
So the revelation has been made, Lila happens across the desiccated corpse of Mrs Bates, Norman storms in in full regalia as ‘Mother’, knife in hand, and is stopped by Sam before being arrested and handed over the police. The police station scene sees an actual psychological explanation given for Norman Bates and is, in its own way, a terrifying confirmation of what the audience has glimpsed at. The narration from Mrs Bates as the camera closes in on a smiling Norman at the end is chilling.
If you haven’t already seen Psycho, it is truly all sorts of brilliant. Highly recommend it for fans of film, Hitchcock, suspense, thrillers…whatever!
(It really is THAT good)