Can you imagine my surprise upon finding out that my American Themes class was going to be dedicated to the study of American horror movies this semester? This is just perfect, especially since Halloween is coming round the bend pretty soon. And what was the first movie we had to watch for class? If you guessed Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, you would be correct!
Marion Crane (Janet Leigh), an office secretary, sees an opportunity and takes it. What is this opportunity? Stealing $40,000 from her employer. As she is driving with the money to meet her boyfriend in California, she stops at the Bates Motel to rest and meets the awkward, lanky, momma’s boy Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins).
Hitchcock had this thing where he loved to control and manipulate his audience. Some of the ways he did this were:
- By not allowing people who showed up late in to see the movie.
- The whole beginning of the movie, basically.
If you’ve never seen Psycho and don’t know anything at all about it, chances are you’ll think this movie is about a woman who steals $40,000 and is on the run. But then OH MY GOD Janet Leigh is murdered a half-hour into the movie and the $40,000 is completely unimportant to any aspect of the plot now! This is actually pretty amazing, when you think about it and how it completely shocked audiences in 1960.
For the small part that she has in the movie, Janet Leigh is great. I mean, come on, that shower scene is completely iconic now!
Anthony Perkins was creepy as Norman Bates. The ironic thing about this is that apparently before he made this movie, he was considered a teen heartthrob. After the movie, he was type casted as Norman Bates, which was unfortunate. However he made the character a film icon.
I have to give a nod out to Bernard Herrmann because this movie wouldn’t have had the effect that it did on people without his score. It adds to the atmosphere of the movie and literally screams at you. It was also one of my favorite aspects of this movie.
The shower scene speaks for itself. The silence that endures afterwards is eerie and unnerving.
The parlor scene before that with Marion and Norman is one of my favorites to! Anthony Perkins is great in this scene. It’s very creepy with all the shots of the taxidermy birds (it’s worth mentioning that all those birds just so happen to prey on other animals). There’s also a portrait of “The Rape of Lucretia” and behind that is a peephole that Norman looks through into Marion’s room, which lends to the whole voyeuristic aspect of the movie. Perkins is very creepy in this scene when his character starts talking about his mother. There’s so much involved here and it creates a lot of suspense. It’s definitely one of my favorites.
One thing that I could do without is the scene at the end of the movie where the doctor’s are explaining Norman’s condition. To me it was too long and took away from the atmosphere of the movie. A very brief explanation and then a cut to Norman at the very end of the movie would’ve sufficed.
Speaking of the end of the movie, the scene with Norman wrapped in the blanket and “Mother’s” voice over, it is also one of my favorites in the movie. Every time I watch it, I can’t take my eyes off of the screen. And that smile that he gives us at the end- so unnerving!
Bottom line is that Psycho is a classic and it’s been an influence to horror (specifically slasher movies) to this day. If you haven’t had a chance to see it, what are you waiting for?