Psycho is in my opinion, the greatest film Alfred Hitchcock ever directed. This is the peak of Hitchcock filmmaking. There was no way I’d miss out on seeing such a classic. Even if the shocking twist is one of the most well known in movie history. By this point, everyone should know about the infamous shower scene. One of the most iconic moments in horror movie history. One of the many reasons Psycho influenced the slasher genre. If there’s any movie I wish I could have seen unspoiled at the time of its release, it would be Psycho. Rather than seeing popular scenes in pieces, before watching in full. I can only imagine how 1960’s audiences reacted to it.
Like most of Alfred Hitchcock’s best remembered work, Psycho was made later in his career. It was based on a book published 1 year prior to the film’s release. Due to the edgy material in the book, Hitchcock had to get creative. Like most of the best horror movies, Psycho was made with a low budget. Hence the use of black & white at a time when color was common. In order to preserve the twist, Hitchcock shot a vague unusually upbeat set tour trailer and demanded that nobody be seated after the movie started. Good thing the internet didn’t exist…
Marion Crane takes a shower
Psycho was a major game changer. Most of the violent, sexual, or risque material was practically unheard of in American films at the time. You can immediately tell based on the opening. Which depicts an unmarried couple sharing a bed with the woman in a bra. The blonde woman in question is pioneer scream queen Janet Leigh. Mother of future scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis. Leigh plays “lead” character Marion Crane. Like all great Hitchcock movies, we’re lead astray by a false sense of security. As Marion and her boyfriend Sam Loomis discuss his debt and how they’ll ever be able to get married. A lot of time is spent on Marion’s decision to steal $40,000 from a client at her real-estate job. It’s there Alfred Hitchcock makes his all important cameo. The suspense builds as Marion is spotted by her boss, stopped by a police officer, and trades her car in at a dealership. All of which is just as engaging as what follows.
Marion ends up at the all too ominous Bates Motel. A secluded motel with a creepy looking house on a hill right next door. The very innocent looking Anthony Perkins plays Norman Bates. The proprietor who lives with his controlling mother. Norman awkwardly flirts with Marion and they discuss his off-putting taxidermied bird collection and the mental state of his dear mother. It’s here that the most iconic lines, “A boy’s best friend is his mother” and “We all go a little mad sometimes” are dropped. Marion is inspired to return the money, unbeknownst that Norman is peeping through a hole in another iconic shot. Along with disrobing, this is the first film to show a toilet being flushed. Something that’s far too important to be cut out.
Now the moment we’ve all been waiting for. Marion takes a shower and is greeted by a shadowy figure who stabs her multiple times. Everything about the scene is perfect. From the angles to the quick cuts. It’s so well shot that your mind tricks you into thinking you’re seeing more violence and nudity then you actually are. Chocolate syrup was famously used for blood. One of the major benefits of shooting in black & white. The scene is only enhanced by its famous screechy violin theme. The official theme is ominous as well. Needless to say a shower is the worst place to find yourself cornered by a killer. You’re completely vulnerable and there’s nowhere to run. So now the lead character who we’ve come to know after nearly an hour of screen time is dead.
All attention is shifted to Marion’s equally blonde sister Lila Crane played by Vera Miles. Lila teams up with Sam in order to find her, but not before the new lead Private Investigator Arbogast is introduced. He questions an increasingly frantic Norman and attempts to see his mother. Just like before, Arbogast is another false lead who’s killed by mother Bates. People don’t talk about it as much, but being killed at the top of the stairs is just as terrifying. Lila and Sam investigate, only to find conflicting stories given by the local sheriff. They check into Bates Motel and discover an unflushed piece of evidence in the toilet.
As Lila attempts to find Mrs. Bates, the second big twist is revealed. That she’d been dead the entire time and that Norman and “Mother” are one and the same. Cross-dressing was just as risque a topic to cover back then. In the final shot, Norman is consumed by his mother and unable to harm a fly. Psycho broke so much new ground in 1960. Pivotal moments and themes have been imitated many times since its release. So it’s hard to believe Psycho didn’t win any Oscars. Even without them, Psycho is a psychological masterpiece that forever ruined taking showers.
“She wouldn’t even harm a fly”
Followed by: Psycho II