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Psycho
Year:
1960
Country:
USA
Genre:
Thriller, Mystery, Horror
IMDB rating:
8.6
Director:
Alfred Hitchcock
Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates
Vera Miles as Lila Crane
John Gavin as Sam Loomis
Martin Balsam as Milton Arbogast
John McIntire as Deputy Sheriff Al Chambers
Simon Oakland as Dr. Fred Richmond
Vaughn Taylor as George Lowery
Frank Albertson as Tom Cassidy
Lurene Tuttle as Mrs. Chambers
Patricia Hitchcock as Caroline
John Anderson as California Charlie
Mort Mills as Highway Patrol Officer
Storyline: 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 Marion is trusted to bank $40,000 by her employer. Seeing the opportunity to take the money and start a new life, Marion leaves town and heads towards Sam's California store. Tired after the long drive and caught in a storm, she gets off the main highway and pulls into The Bates Motel. The motel is managed by a quiet young man called Norman who seems to be dominated by his mother.
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Reviews
Cleaning Up After Mom
During the Mid Eighties I attended a science fiction convention in Manhattan and the feature attraction there was Anthony Perkins. There was Mr. Perkins, the celebrated Norman Bates of Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho among all the Trekkies and Doctor Who fans, etc. I think he looked on it as an opportunity to promote the succeeding Psycho films.

Tony Perkins was clearly ill at ease among the Sci-Fi crowd. People like the Star Trek cast members know what to expect at these gatherings and act accordingly. Perkins did not really know how to handle the banter, he was in my estimation a serious guy who must have thought he was in a freak show. I asked him about appearing in Friendly Persuasion with Gary Cooper and I told him that that was my favorite role he did. He looked grateful that someone knew he did something besides Norman Bates.

But for better or worse, Norman Bates became his career role and it's what we remember Anthony Perkins for. He does create an indelible impression on the screen with Alfred Hitchcock's direction as the shy mother fixated man running a flea bag motel in an area where a new super highway has taken all the potential business.

Psycho has a simple plot. Janet Leigh on an impulse embezzles $40,000 in cash from her employer and goes on the run. She winds up in the Bates motel run by Norman and his mother. Later on private detective Martin Balsam goes after her as well. And finally John Gavin as Leigh's boy friend and Vera Miles as her sister go looking for the both of them.

Simple enough, but Alfred Hitchcock creates a mood of terror and suspense that lingers long after you've seen the film. My favorite shot of the film is not Leigh's legendary shower stabbing, but of Martin Balsam being knocked down and falling down that flight of stairs and then being stabbed to death. The camera work showing Balsam falling backwards is the most terrifying part of Psycho.

Though Anthony Perkins did so many other good things, the average cinema fan will tell you 99 out of 100 times that Norman Bates is the role he remembers Perkins for. So Perkins went with the flow.

It was repetitious for him, but a treat for fans.
2006-10-18
My favorite movie...
I think this is one of the best films ever made. It's a true classic. I have seen it over 20 times and I find something new in it every time I see it and it never gets boring. I'm really disappointed that they chose to remake it. But 50 years from now, people will remember the original and not the remake. A lot of people these days will be turned off by the movie because it's old and in black and white, but everyone should see. It's a technical marvel, Hitchcock was a wizard with the camera. There are also terrific performances by Janet Leigh and Anthony Perkins. This movie basically started the whole slasher film genre that John Carpenter kick-started in 1978 with Halloween. In addition to being a great movie, it's also one of the most influential ever made. Look at films like Brian DePalmas's Dressed to Kill and Halloween if you don't believe me.
1998-11-03
They cannot make it better!
This movie kept me on the edge of my seat, and made me afraid of the shower. And the music in this movie was incredibly intense. I don't think they can improve on this movie. We don't need to see more of the gory details to know what is happening.
1998-11-29
A classic essential cinema!
"Psycho" is the most astounding, daring, and successful scary film ever made... Hitchcock uses pure cinema to arouse audience emotions...

For the first forty minutes he cautiously builds up sympathy and audience identification with a troubled fugitive, a young estate secretary Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) who wants to marry Sam Loomis (John Gavin) but neither can afford it... Entrusted, by a wealthy customer, with $40,000 to put in a safe deposit box in a bank, she succumbs to temptation and steals the money in order to start a new life with her lover... So the motive is love!

We begin to feel the tension when she's spotted – leaving Phoenix, Arizona – by her boss who thinks she remains in bed with a headache... Then, when she pulls off the highway to take a nap and is awaken by a suspicious patrolman – in disturbing dark glasses – who trails her... Hitchcock's trademark— paranoia about the police is here at his best...

Frightened and tired by a violent rainstorm, she stops at Bates Motel and has a small talk with a twitchy cordial motel keeper Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins-in an outstanding performance), an attractive shy young man who seems uneasy around her and can't even bring himself to pronounce the world bathroom...

The movie turns dark and claustrophobic when she overheard the voice of Norman's mother speaking sharply with her son, and after she learns Norman's strong devotion to his irritable mother...

Alone in the room, she strips to shower… Safe and relaxing, the hot air rises as the water cascades over her… Suddenly she turns at a sound, her eyes dilate with horror and her repeated screams rend the air as a hand from nowhere holding a long knife plunges it repeatedly into her body… Her blood, mingling with the water, flushes down the drain in one of the most terrifying images of modern cinema…

No one who saw the film will forget the shock effect of that scene... Not only because of its terrifying realism, with the blood gushing and swirling on the shower floor; but also because Leigh was a sympathetic and star figure… Although she had stolen, we felt involved with her (as we were involved with Marnie); we wanted her to get away; and here, with two-thirds of the film still to got we watched helplessly as the life and the beauty and the hopes were butchered out of her…

The movie is only off one third when Hitchcock's spiral close-up of her unmoving eyeball reveals the nightmare... But the movie does really begin after her murder because once she is killed, we never stop thinking about her...

With Marion Crane gone, our attention is shift to the sensitive Norman with a passion for birds and mother... They are very close and he guards her jealousy...

As three people began to investigate, our sympathies were subtly maneuvered to the good-looking young man who, it seemed, must try to protect a homicidal mother… We see him distraught, cleaning up and disposing of Marion's car, with her body and cash, into a swamp...

We have no reason to think that he himself have done the dirty work... So could his crippled old mother be the vicious murderer? Or do we have some other reason to suspect that Norman's abusive mother does not exist? We heard the old woman talking constantly to him and we see Norman carrying her to the cellar... Or is it another Hitchcock's trick? But the knife comes out again striking and killing... The high angle shot shows perfectly her mad menacing rush from her bedroom...

Hitchcock's version is definitive, a terrifying insinuating thriller with only two sudden and vicious murders... A classic essential cinema with his rich, vivid and effective imagery in the use of light and shadow; his voyeurism when Perkins spies on Leigh in a black bra (The first time he shows a lady disrobed); his 'metaphysical vertigo' in the overhead shot as Norman drags his mother down to the cellar...
2005-10-14
Hitchcock did it all in this one.
When Psycho came out, the horror industry of movies was merely monsters, zombies, werewolves, and vampires. So when Psycho hit screens, the audience was finally introduced to psychological thrillers. It hit with such a huge bang that the audience was shocked...with fear and suspense. Psycho created what the thriller genre is today. It sliced through clique monster movies and changed it forever. Still today when you look at Norman Bates and his extremely freaky look when you see him watching the inspector's car sinking into the swamp sends chills down my spine. And when Marion Crane met her bloody demise in the middle of the movie, Hitchcock proved to everyone that this movie is different, different from every other movie you have ever seen. The cinematography in this movie is fabulous, the music is marvelously freaky, the acting is magnificent, the story is exceptional, and everything else about the movie is great. Too bad the sequels and the new remake was complete trash.
2000-01-19
OG horror
Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho is a god tier horror movie and I'd say its probably the best example of classic horror. The story has at this point been told and remixed 1000 different ways over the years but because of Alfred's understanding of human fear and his incredible skill as a director no other film maker can come close to creating as captivating of a psychopath as the infamous Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins). I love the symbolism in the very last scene where Norman sits alone in the chair and claims he'd never hurt a fly. Very clever and unorthodox camera angles keep the viewer on the edge of their seat while watching this film especially during the scenes where Norman attacks his victims and the famous shrieking sound effect begins to play. If you have never seen this movie and enjoy horror movies it is definitely worth watching. Even though compared to current film it may seem dated because of the lack of special effects and computer animation the rawness and great use of music and sound effects by Hitchcock make this slasher flick stand the test of time.
2013-04-02
Hitchcock's "Crazy" Film!
One of my favorites and I think Hitchcock's best film. Made relatively low-budget with his TV-show crew, this movie has haunted me for years and not because of the shower scene. Actually, the best scene is just prior to the shower scene and it's in the parlor with Norman and Marion. The only human connection moment in the film that doesn't show selfishness or ulterior motives. Quiet and full of info, as the camera looms over them, this scene is masterful in writing and acting. Perkins gave his best performance as the timid and lonely Mr. Bates who really is clueless. Janet Leigh is perfectly cast as the sexy, intelligent woman in over her head. The rest of the cast is top-notch and this film should have cleaned up at the Oscars in '60, but was considered too creepy for most folks.

A 10 out of 10. Best performance = Perkins. Brilliant editing and cinematography (b/w) with The Bates Motel a wonderful set. This film is highly undervalued and I don't consider it a horror film. Dashed illusions, loss of essence, and money-will-fix-it attitude while suspicions fly all over the place. Great stuff!
2005-05-16
Legendary, in both a good and a bad way
Not much to be said about this that hasn't been said before. Only the second Hitchcock film I've ever seen, and so far there isn't a single positive thing that's been said about him that I can disagree with. Calling someone 'The Master' is terminology that I would usually frown upon as being too dismissive of other greatly talented people, but after witnessing the directing, the cinematography, the subtle performances, the inimitable atmosphere and the quiet genius of this masterpiece, I find myself forced to agree. The notorious shower scene manages to be shocking, brutal and understated all at once, and its infamy on the pages of motion picture history is well-deserved. Anthony Perkins is subtly explosive, like a match waiting to be struck. He plays Bates with a boyish, grinning charm that generally belies his chilling insanity. Also worthy of mention is Bernard Herrmann's incredible score, possibly one of the best I've ever heard.

In a curious way, the one thing I find disagreeable about this movie is, indeed, its legend. I cannot imagine how much I would have enjoyed it had I not known any of the plot twists beforehand, and could have gone into it unknowingly. Still, perhaps somewhat paradoxically, the legend is completely due, because this film's merit becomes obvious when you consider that first-time viewers of my generation (I'm 21 years old), who have become inundated with the blood, gore and overblown special effects of today's blockbusters, can still find its subtle ingenuity chilling and scary in equal measure. Beautiful. 10/10
2000-11-27
A Hitchcock masterpiece—thanks to Bernard Herrmann
"Psycho" ranks second on a list of Alfred Hitchcock's four masterpieces, following "Vertigo" and followed by "North by Northwest" and "Rear Window," which ranks number four only because it lacks a Bernard Herrmann score. While Hitch's camera is always the best feature of his films, Herrmann is the artist who puts three of them over the top and into the realm of true greatness—setting them beyond such near-great movies as "Notorious" and "Strangers on a Train," which both had good scores, but nothing like the sublime and haunting music of this film. There is no underestimating Hitchcock, nor the work of Janet Leigh and Anthony Perkins, who play the film's two main characters; but without Herrmann this could not have been a great movie.

The opening scene is the best place to appreciate both Herrmann and Hitchcock. Joseph Stefano's script is extremely well-structured and it was his idea to make Marion Crane the story's main character, before switching over forty minutes later to Norman Bates. (In the original novel, Robert Bloch dispatches Mary Crane much sooner.) But his dialogue is often stilted, and the opening scene, where Marion and Sam Loomis (John Gavin) share a lunchtime tryst in a cheap hotel, is badly written. The fault is made worse by Gavin, whose performance is stiff and awkward throughout, nowhere more than here. Yet this scene is among the glories of the movie, with the camera, the music and Janet Leigh's performance all giving it an aching poignancy that haunts our minds long after the film is over. Our sense of Marion's longing and frustration, which could not be conveyed by Leigh alone, is necessary for us to understand why she commits the rash act of stealing money from her boss's client. Watch how much is conveyed to us by the camera when Marion suddenly rises from the bed. Listen how much is conveyed by Herrmann's music when Sam spreads out his hands in mock-surrender and says, "All right." The scene as written would seem unworkable in other hands; in the hands of Herrmann and Hitchcock (and Leigh) it becomes masterly.

Gus Van Sant's remake, a fascinating failure, helps us appreciate many things about this film, including the performances—even, perversely, the performances of Gavin and Vera Miles, who plays Marion's sister, Lila. Gavin is incompetent and Miles is thoroughly competent, but both have the same effect on us: we don't care about them. Or rather, we would be bored by them if they were doing anything other than solving the mystery of Marion's disappearance. Viggo Mortensen and Julianne Moore give these bland characters more dimension, and in doing so, annoy us with their distracting personalities. Characters that are deliberately featureless often excite our imaginations more than ones that are full of tedious quirks. As is so often true with old movies, their "faults" prove to be virtues when remakes attempt to correct them.

Oddly, I vividly remember everything about the Van Sant film, except for Vince Vaughn's performance as Norman Bates; I only remember that at the time I thought it was excellent. Anne Heche, by contrast, was memorably awful, especially in the one scene that enhances our appreciation of Janet Leigh. When Marion is in her apartment alone (and without any monologue), packing her things and worrying about her mad plan, Leigh conveys all the anxiety in her decision with a minimum of affectation. But Heche not only makes the putrid decision to play the scene as if she is half-amused by her own craziness; she conveys this idea with the maximum of overplaying, as if she were compensating for her lack of dialogue with broad gestures and eye-rolling. Leigh shows us how she feels; Heche announces it over a megaphone.

Anthony Perkins' performance as Norman Bates is among the most memorable ever recorded on film. He is sympathetic and frightening; innocent and malign; horrifyingly unlike us and even more horrifyingly like us. Stefano gives him the best lines; and Hitchcock's camera is preternaturally adept at drawing us into his world when necessary and then coldly keeping us distant when needed. Yet with all this, how much more than a satisfying thriller with a clever trick ending could "Psycho" have been without Herrmann's score to help it transcend itself? Could Norman Bates have haunted us as much with a merely excellent score, like the ones for "Strangers on a Train" and "Frenzy"? Neither Bloch nor Stefano is Shakespeare, and Norman Bates does not live on the page, as Macbeth, Edmund and Iago do. Could Norman Bates, like Shakespeare's characters, live for four-hundred more years? If he survives, it will have been the joint genius of Perkins, Hitchcock and Bernard Herrmann that rendered him, and his story, an immortal nightmare.
2006-12-07
Technical excellence, at it‘s best.
Ever wonder what the movie history would be like, if the "genius" of Hitchcock, were never brought to silver screen? Aside from the story line, the cast, and the acting, the highest point of this film, to myself, is the camera direction. Being a past film and tv school grad', all I can say is, this one is a masterpiece. The angles and the way he let's the camera, lead or suggest to the viewer, the next scene,is alone, among the best direction of any movie. To see what I‘m saying, when next shown, turn the volume off, and just let the camera , under his direction, tell you the story. I believe one will get a different understanding of this film, and a greater appreciation of the director.
2000-01-16
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