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Psycho

tn_psychoYou guys ever seen this one called PSYCHO? It’s Alfred Hitchcock’s take on PEEPING TOM. Good shit. Check it out.

The weird thing about watching PSYCHO is that after you’ve already seen it (which in my opinion you have) the biggest trick is already given away. I’m not talking about the ending, the solution to the mystery. I’m talking about the fact that about half of the movie is all mis-direction… Marion Crane is unhappy, so she takes off with $40,000 of her boss’s money. Is the cop onto her? Will her boss know where she went? Will she decide to give it back? In a normal Hitchcock movie it might be about the money, but we know it’s not about the money. The money is not even the mcmuffin, it’s the red herring. We know not to really get invested in this because there is a little matter of something that happens in a motel shower that makes the money irrelevant. We know that and we still watch it again and again.

But with this hindsight we can also notice other things going on: the talk of Marion having to turn her mother’s picture around when her boyfriend is there, her co-worker (played by Hitchcock’s daughter) talking about her mother calling to check up on her… everyone has a mother lingering in their life from afar, overseeing things. But not quite like Norman does.

mp_psychoWe’ve seen clips and photos and references and parodies of the shower scene almost as many times as we’ve seen Mickey Mouse, so it’s hard to get scared by it anymore. But when you see it in context it’s so much more. Most of its scare power has been squeezed out by familiarity, but it’s easy to forget that there’s more going on here before the stabbing. Forget about what’s about to happen and watch the look on Marion’s face as she cleans herself. She has decided to give the money back and she’s cleansing her soul. She feels good about it. And it’s actually her conversation with Norman that brought her to that decision. If he could just control these freaky urges he would’ve had a positive influence on her life, the dumb bastard.

On the latest fancy DVD of PSYCHO they included audio of Truffaut interviewing Hitchcock about PSYCHO. One thing Hitchcock says is that he’s very proud of the movie not for its content or acting but for it technical artistry, that for that it’s perfect. And he’s right, but what he’s missing is that without Anthony Perkins in that role it might not be the classic it is. He’s so perfect and so unlike other performances of the era. There’s nothing cliche about the way he plays crazy. He’s handsome, but skinny and a little weird. He’s awkward and sad, but also funny and likable. He’s even a little effiminate at times, which makes me wonder if that’s why Hitchcock wanted him for the role. If the stories are true then Perkins was hiding something himself. I suspect Hitchcock thought that would help. Or maybe he really didn’t give a shit about actors, like he claimed, and it was just a lucky coincidence.

At any rate, there’s something about that character that made him an American icon. I mean, as many great characters as Jimmy Stewart played for Hitchcock you never saw him coming back years later to show you the further adventures of that character, and I don’t think there was any demand for it. Although I guess I would’ve watched ROPE 2 and 3 where he solved other murder mysteries during what seems to be one continuous take.

My favorite acting in the movie is the way Norman nervously chews while being interrogated. He’s shot in profile and a little spot on his cheek keeps pulsating. It’s an obvious tell, but the funny thing is he doesn’t even know what he’s lying about. He thinks he’s covering up for something his mother did. He knows that’s bad but he has no idea how freaky the thing is that he’s actually hiding.

The book Psycho and the movie THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE were both loosely inspired by the real life killer Ed Gein, who dug up his mother’s body, killed some neighbors and ate parts of human bodies. CHAIN SAW rubs your nose in the gruesome horror show of it all, and takes advantage of how hard it is to understand what the fuck would make a human mind come up with that. I mean, nipple belts? I never. PSYCHO takes the other half of the coin, the side that kept it all hidden. Gein was not that much of a recluse, he knew people in town and they thought he was just a slow guy with a weird sense of humor. They had no idea.

Norman Bates is much more appealing. He seems like a nice guy, you feel sorry for him, even watching it knowing what he’s up to. He’s the killer but the movie lets us see him as a victim too, because he can’t control this other personality that he thinks is his mother. If he could control it he would. There wouldn’t be a problem here, and I’m sure he would do a good job of managing the motel. The Bates Motel would get pretty decent user reviews online, I think. “The manager even invited me up to his house for milk and sandwiches. Just a real friendly, family-run place, and quiet because it’s away from the freeway. I’d stay there again if ever visiting the greater Fairvale area.”

I’m telling you guys, watch PSYCHO. It has a real “mother” of an ending, but I won’t give it away. All I will say is that chick is no chick.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

This entry was posted on Friday, October 30th, 2009 at 12:49 am and is filed under Horror, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

54 Responses to “Psycho”

  1. “psycho” is one of my favorite all-time movies. i can’t say which i think is a better or more interesting picture, this or “vertigo,” but “psycho” is definitely the one i’m tempted to watch more often. i was kinda lucky because i first saw it as a kid, when i was about 11 and my mom rented it for us (which was pretty weird, actually, cause i wasn’t allowed to watch rated R movies until quite a bit later, and my mom was pretty strict about what i watched – in fact, when i mentioned to her recently that she had rented it for me at that age, she didn’t remember it and was shocked she had done such a thing – oops sorry for the somewhat lengthy aside about my mom, unnecessary but oddly appropriate).

    anyway, the point is i had some vague awareness of the shower scene and stuff just from pop-cultural osmosis, but i didn’t really know what was going to happen, and plus i was 11, so it scared the living poop out of me, as did the scene on the staris with the detective, and the final reveal in the basement. i have seen the movie many times since and as an adult; in fact, i have a habit of forcing my girlfriends to watch it, as i did with my current squeeze around halloween last year. and it’s like you said, vern, obviously it’s not gonna be as scary or surprising now when you watch it, but you can really enjoy it and marvel at the technical artistry (the superb cinematography, amazing score) and the fantastic performance by perkins, which, as you say, feels somehow totally modern, kind of like brando in “streetcar named desire” or jack lemmon in “the partment” – doesn’t feel like the stylized, dated acting of the era.

    and it would even be shocking now to set up a main protagonist in a movie that you have implicit sympathy for and set up a whole plot of conflict for her and then suddenly kill her off about halfway through the picture (though of course if a movie did that now, you would probly say they were just copying “psycho” – would still be a shock though, i think), but at the time it must have been absolutely mind-blowing.

    so once marion is offed, all of a sudden norman becomes the protagonist of the movie. and when you watch it now, you know he is the killer, but like you said you STILL sympathize with him. it’s kind of amazing.

    i love the scene where marion gets pulled over by the cop. when i watch the movie now as an adult, obviously i don’t get scared by the shower and other murder scenes anymore, so that scene where she gets pulled over has actually become the scariest scene for me in the movie. it’s so tense and creepy. i feel like that image of the cop in his sunglasses in the rearview mirror comes back to me in my nightmares.

    i have been thinking about depalma and watching some of his movies a lot lately, and i can’t think of anyone besides him and hitchcock who play with tension as epertly. obviously, depalma has been homaging hitchcock – and specifically “pshycho – for his whole career (“carrie” quotes the screeching violins from “psycho”). i saw an interview with depalma about the making of “carrie” on the dvd, and he was talking about the humorous parts of the movie, and he said that the humor is absolutely necessary in a horror or suspense movie in order to relieve the audience’s tension, and i think if you look back at hitchcock’s movies,, you find that all them have some humor in them, whether it’s simply in the dialogue, or a more abstract humor in the satirical voice of the structure of the film, if that makes sense (depalma’s movies are all satirical to some degree).

    oh, i also want to say that it may only be me, but i love the last scene in “psycho” with the weirdo psychologist explaining to everyone what the deal is with norman. i know it’s controversial and everyone hates it, but i feel like it gives the movie this unsettling and unsatisfying conclusion which suits it. the whole movie is about defying audience expectations. first you have your main girl that you like, then she gets suddenly murdered, then her sister and boyfriend whom you also like come looking for her, finally in the end they discovert that she’s been murdered, and you want them to have some kind of grief/closure, but you just get this weirdo, unlikable psychologist guy talking in dated 50’s psychobabble, supposedly explaining everything that ‘s happened, and there just like sitting there going “what the fuck?!” i dunno, i love it. then of course you get the great coda with norman and “his” interior monologue to close the flick.

    perfect movie.

  2. sorry for all the typos, my computer has this weird bug where i can only see half of the comments window i am typing in, so i have to type half of my comments without being able to see what i am writing.

  3. I love this film too, although of course I knew all the big shocks due to pop-culture osmosis. I like that you bought the acting thing up, as the first few times I was going on those Hitchcock/Truffaut interviews where Hitchcock talked about Psycho being pure cinema, so it wasn’t until I was a bit drunk and the movie was on tv that I really appreciated how good the acting is, especially the scene between Bates and the private detective. Perkins’ performance is something in itself to watch the whole movie for again; it’s very controlled yet relaxed, in that he does enough to let you see something aint right with young Norman, but reins it in enough that Norman remains a person.

  4. Rope is so awesome, I have to see it again

  5. I saw PSYCHO when I was maybe 8 years old, and I credit it as being the film that got me interested in horror movies, and in a way helped crystallize my love of movies in general. It was the first time a movie really got under my skin, affected me in a profound way that I didn’t realize a movie could do. (I’m a little embarrassed to say that for a year or two after, I got scared every time I used a shower that had a curtain. Seriously, every single time. I had to use my parents’ shower for a while because it had a sliding door.)

    I was scared and a little disturbed by it, but in a way that left me fascinated. I wanted more. At first I wanted to know more about the production, the actors, etc., I think as a way of confirming that PSYCHO was fiction and couldn’t really hurt me in any way. Eventually this lead to me wanting to see more movies like it, the rest is history, etc etc.

    Because I like hearing the thoughts all you fine folks that post here, does anybody else have a similar “gateway movie” into horror films, or films in general? I’m curious to hear what movie or movies gave others the hunger.

  6. This film is a work of art.

    So is Van Sant’s version.

  7. Vern, you should check out Marnie if you haven’t seen it yet.

  8. one of those movies where if i could erase memories from childhood, i would love to watch this again from scratch. i love the duality played out through the whole movie. shower scene marks the half-way point, cutting the movie thematically in two, the dual personalities of Norman. hell, even the title is split in two. pretty sure that’s a big part of why Hitchcock admired the technical achievements of this one.

    haven’t watched this front to back in years, going to have to do that again soon.

  9. The most underrated moment is the death of the detective. Everyone and their mothers knows Marion is getting offed in that shower, but no one mentions Arbogast’s death. The way he falls down those stairs? Masterful.

  10. Anthony Perkins also gives a great performance in Orson Welles’s THE TRIAL, an adaptation of the Kafka novel. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Welles film if it was just an adaptation of Kafka; there’s also some Dante in there, and some Dali. And webbed fingers.

    My gateway horror film: EYES WITOUT A FACE. Saw it on late night television when I was about 12 years old and was never the same afterward. To this day this film is responsible more than any other for
    so many of my aesthetic preferences.

    First “modern” horror was THE SHINING a year or so later. That one just scared the skit out of me. Of course, at that time in my life I was routinely scared by episodes of THE HULK, so take that for what it’s worth.

  11. Brendan,

    I’m with you on Arbogast’s death, I’ve always found that to be one of the most effective scenes. But it seems to have been lost on my generation. I’ve watched the movie with people my age before, and their typical reaction is to laugh. I don’t get it. My best guess is that younger audiences can’t distinguish between poorly made older movies, and well-made one with out-of-date special effects. The projection behind Arbogast is admittedly unconvincing when viewed today, but I think you have to take into consideration when the film was made. As it stands, I find the moment powerful in a heightened, nightmarish sort of way.

    I’ve also seen people laugh at VERTIGO when the woman is dropped off the bell tower and Stewert sees her body go by the window. I just don’t understand my generation.

  12. Jareth,

    Continuing the mother theme, my mom always used to tell me about how scary EYES WITHOUT A FACE was when I was a kid, how badly it freaked her out when she was young. I wrote her off because she scares easily, but then I finally saw it a few years ago and she was right, it’s damn eerie and unsettling.

    Always listen to your mother.

  13. Even decades after I first watched PSYCHO, it still has the power to scare the shit out of me. Maybe it’s because I have this complex about seeing my animus materializing–bad men in wigs do not sit well with me–but I cannot watch this movie alone. Just the ending shot of Norman, with that superimposed mother-skull smile and the car chain pulling out of his chest, keeps me up after I watch the movie. And that weird tilt of his head when he rushes into the fruit cellar in full mother gear? Gah.

    Virgin Gary mentioned how people generally hate the ending with the psychobabble, but, like him, I love it. The fact that the psychologist is distantly talking about Norman as if he’s just a “thing,” is chilling. It’s almost like Norman has become one of the mounted birds that he and Marion talk about in his parlor–something to be stuffed (or in Norman’s case, sedated) and studied. Works for me.

  14. Dan,
    re: modern audience laughing during the classics
    Sorry if this part goes off topic, but I used to teach 8th graders, and I had a showing of GONE WITH THE WIND once (using it as a platform to discuss Civil War-era truths and untruths. And because I find the movie highly entertaining.). When the dad falls off the horse and dies, the room broke out in laughter. That freaked me out, so I stopped the film and asked them why they thought it was funny. Now, this was a seminar class, so you’d think they’d be able to develop some good answers. Nope. I chalked it up to them being 8th graders and having experienced violence, for the most part, via things like Transformers robots smacking the crap out of each other. But I grew up watching goofy movies, too, and I didn’t laugh when Jenny died during FOREST GUMP (Yes, I was in a theater where a bunch of kids thought that was hilarious.).

    Back to PSYCHO–I was teaching at the time Van Sant’s re-do came out, and the students who saw it thought it was really, really lame. I was like, “But…but…but…” I wanted to tell them to watch the original, but I didn’t want to hear them ripping that apart, too. : (

  15. Wickedeve,

    I feel for you, that is harsh, although at least you can chalk it up to those kids being young, they still have time to broaden their horizons and sharpen their tastes. I saw 20-year-old-ish college students laughing at Hitchcock and it broke my heart.

    That FORREST GUMP thing is pretty fucked up, though. Kids laughed at that? Holy shit.

  16. Dan Prestwich – Although to my tastes the surgery sequences in EYES WITHOUT A FACE are still really good, what really gets under my skin in the despair and regret that permeate the film.

    Wickedeve – Did you ever see the PSYCHO sequels? I haven’t seen them, so I’d be curious to know the response from someone who was so deeply affected by the original.

  17. Man, I hate it when today’s kids laugh at the wrong things. And it’s even worse when I complain about it on several other message boards and there is always at least one who tries to apologize this behaviour with bullshit like:”They laugh because it’s a psychological reaction. Laughter reliefs them from the tension.”
    Well, that might be right to a degree, but come on, there is a difference between a relieveing: “Wow, teehee, oh shit” and the “BUAAAHAAAHAAA, oh my god, this is so funny!” that we are forced to witness everytime these days.

  18. I was lucky enough to see this movie when I was 10 at a summer camp! They also showed us Young Frankenstein. Cool counselors.

    So Psycho was fresh to me and one of the most violent things I’d eve seen. Its an old-man trope now, but there is something to be said for the internet and contemporary horror desensitizing the youth of today. Can you imagine if you watched House of 1000 Corpses and then this at age 10? You’d be totally fucked up and then bored.

  19. Jareth,

    Of course you are correct. EYES WITHOUT A FACE would just be a geek show if the surgical scenes were the main focus. It’s the Doctor’s desperate obsession and Christiane’s melancholy that give the film its power.

    I can’t speak for Wickedeve, but I come down in favor of PSYCHOs 2 and 3. 2 is a very entertaining blend of Hitchcockian homage and 80’s slasher movie tropes and excesses, directed by Richard Franklin, the guy who did ROAD GAMES.

    Perkins directed part 3, and although I don’t think he’s as skilled as Franklin (and obviously both directors are a far cry from Hitchcock), it’s still a surprising amount of darkly comic, somewhat over-the-top fun. Both films do a good job of acknowledging that they couldn’t possible be as good as the original, and instead aim for having fun by playing with our expectations.

    I can’t speak for the 4th one, but as I recall it was directed by Mick Garris, and bless his horror movie loving heart, but I don’t think he’s ever made anything that was any good.

  20. CJ HOLDEN OMG UZ OLD!!!11!! INTERNETZ FUR KIDZ!!!1! OLD FLIX SUK LOL!!

    Just kidding, bud.

    I found myself on the flip side of the coin recently: at PARANORMAL ACTIVITY the kids in the theatre were totally freaking out in the most verbal possible way. Admittedly, I’m sure a lot of this was just the typical adolescent need to live your entire life as if you’re on stage, but some of them were genuinely freaked out by things that left me cold, like the moving door or the late night visit to the swing-chair thing.

  21. Dan Prestwich – Apparently when EYES WITHOUT A FACE failed to live up to financial expectations, some marketing genius decided it should be re-named for stateside distribution. The new title was: THE HORROR CHAMBER OF DOCTOR FASUTUS. Titles don’t get any more geek show than that. In fact, I like the title a lot, just not for this particular film.

    I’m glad to hear your relatively positive reviews of the PSYCHO sequels. I know
    Vern wrote in their defence as well at some point.

    I’m not really a purist, and a bad sequel doesn’t ruin the original for me, but I easily fall into that “why bother?” attitude. So few sequels attract real talent with something to say about the original (like Cameron on ALIENS) or expand faithfully on the concepts (like NORIKO’S DINNER TABLE does on SUICIDE CIRCLE). It’s easy to get discouraged.

  22. Psycho is a masterpiece, no question. It brought horror out of the fog-shrouded Victorian past and into the billboard-littered present and made scaring the shit out of the audience with no pretense to social niceties or Hollywood formula a priority of the genre. That said, I actually enjoy Psycho II more. Not because it’s a better movie by any stretch of the imagination, but because it’s got more Norman. I’m not gonna lie, I love Norman Bates. He’s just the cuddliest serial killer there is. Anthony Perkins was so damned sympathetic in that role that you’re actually pulling for him to hold his shit together. It takes some powerful acting to make this gorehound hope that people DON’T get murdered.

    By the way, I have no such affection for the Norman of the books. He’s a prissy, unlikeable asshole. It’s Perkins who made the character what he is. That’s why I can’t bear to watch Vince Vaughn butcher him. I tried, but as soon as Vaughn opened his mouth with that horrendous accent, I was out of there.

    Okay, fine, I did watch the shower scene, but just for purposes of boobage. I kind of have a weird thing for Anne Heche. I like ’em crazy. Sue me.

  23. Off topic here, but can anyone recommend a good Dracula flick? Not vampires, mind you. I only want Dracula. I’ve seen Nosferatu, Bela Lugosi Dracula, 1958 Hammer Dracula with Christopher Lee, Andy Warhol’s porno Dracula, Shadow of the Vampire, Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stroker’s Dracula, and Mel Brooks’ Dracula: Dead and Loving It. I guess that last one isn’t really a classic in any right, but it’s not bad as far as Leslie Neilson movies go and figured I better mention it for the sake of completion.

  24. Have you seen Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu remake? They actually get to call him Dracula this time. It has some of the creepiest and most beautiful vampire imagery I’ve ever seen.

  25. Just to prove I’m not completely out of the loop: Saw Paranormal Activity-Bleagh. Waste of time. And that’s coming from a guy who really liked The Blair Witch Project. Psycho is a masterpiece. I was lucky enough to see most of it when I was still really young, but I think that the shower scene’s become so embedded in our consciousness that the detective falling down the stairs is the scariest part now. I’m gonna watch Eyes Without a Face soon here. It’s on my list. Looking forward to it.

  26. Thanks Majestyk. I’ll try to find it.

  27. What about the 1970’s Dracula with Frank Langella, directed by John Badham?

    And btw, I think that “Dead & Loving It” is Mel Brooks’ most underrated movie. It’s definitely not on par with his real masterpieces in terms of good jokes (although it has some and Peter MacNicol just steals every scene he’s in), but I love how Brooks was able to create a real vampire movie atmosphere. My sister even said that this one was more atmospheric than Coppola’s Dracula! (And I agree with her. As much as I love Coppola’s vision, it feels too often like a bad trip.)

  28. My favorite vampire film is Dreyer’s VAMPYR, but I’ll admit I like it more for the vampire effects and the weird point-of-view shots than for the plot. to put it politely, the film is a bit goofy in places.

    Of course, if you hadn’t mentioned Murnau’s NOSFERATU I wouldn’t have made this suggestion. Like NOSFERATU or THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC or METROPOLOS, VAMPYR requires concentration to absorb the dated film techniques. I tend to think of it not so much as a film but as a Max Ernst painting come to life.

    Of course, it’s not a Dracula film.

  29. Dan, you said,”I saw 20-year-old-ish college students laughing at Hitchcock and it broke my heart.”
    I think I might’ve wanted to get out my red pen and mark all over them.

    And, “That FORREST GUMP thing is pretty fucked up, though. Kids laughed at that? Holy shit.”
    I know! But along the lines of what CJ noted, I wondered if they weren’t sure how else to react to such a sad thing. Also, maybe they’re trying to impress the people they’re with, like, “Hear me laugh! Nothing affects me! I am the coolest!” It’s the whole “legend tripping” thing. I used to go real haunted places with my friends and we’d scream and act like idiots around each other, and it was all about displaying how brave we were. Today, it could be that laughing at death in movies is the new haunted house.

    Jareth asked, “Did you ever see the PSYCHO sequels? I haven’t seen them, so I’d be curious to know the response from someone who was so deeply affected by the original.”
    Yup. It’s been a long, long time though, so I’m due for another round, but I liked them a lot. I even saw the HBO or Showtime one with Elliott from ET as Norman Bates. I just love the tone and setting in general, and Norman is a Greek tragedy to me. Maybe I should’ve told you that even before I saw the original PSYCHO, I caught sight of the house during a Universal Studios tour. I begged my mom to tell me the story, so I was freaked even before I saw the movie. There’s just something primal and disturbing about the Bates house, Norman, mother, and wigs. Brrrrr.

  30. We watched some Psycho clips for a class and I was surprised how many people were laughing. Guess I’m just old fashioned. But then everyone seemed freaked out by the violence in Bonnie and Clyde. I don’t know what the hell is going on with people these days.

  31. Wickedeve,

    Weirdly enough, I also saw the PSYCHO house on the studio tour before I saw the movie, and it made me curious to see it. I wonder how many other kids were introduced to PSYCHO the same way?

  32. That shot of the Bates house is magnificent. If something can scare you as a still photo, you know you’re doing something right.

    Norman Bates as Greek tragedy? Interesting. More of an Oedipus than an Icarus, I figure.

  33. Nicely put, as always, Vern. As someone noted abovethread, the death of Arbogast is the thing that still spooks me, even after years of rewatching, film school dissections, Madtv parodies, etc. There’s something about the timing of the killer bolting out of the upstairs door that just seems … off, somehow.

  34. As far as I’m concerned, the only shot that rivals the one where Arbogast gets it is the rollerskating nun shot from Exorcist III.

  35. The PSYCHO sequels are really surprisingly good. Not just good for slasher sequels, but good pictures in general. OK maybe part 4 is a bit iffy, but #2 and #3 kick ass sorts of ass, with #3 director Perkins going totally arty.

    Someone earlier brought up that cop scene, and that illustrated how Hitchcock absolutelyed HATED cops. Unless I’m wrong, he never made a movie where the cops were competent or goodie or responsible, accountable authority.

    And since we’re recommending Hitchcock, hey Vern check out FRENZY, his next-to-last movie. Its like Hitchcock finally liberated with the death of the old censor codes…and able to get his freak on.

  36. Frenzy is possibly my favorite Hitchcock movie, except for maybe Rear Window, and that’s just because I love that huge indoor neighborhood set. I love it when people try to say that violence in movies is bad “because Hitchcock didn’t need it.” Bullshit. As soon as society allowed him to have tits and blood in his movies, he put ’em in there. Hitch was no paragon of restraint. He was just born in a repressed era. In his heart of hearts, he was a sick fuck just like the rest of us.

  37. Neat thing about FRENZY is how energetic it seems. I mean, Hitchcock was old when he made this, and even though the film features numerous familiar tropes, it seems really fresh. No doubt filming on location helped. You really feel the desperation of being “the wrong man” in this film.

  38. I like that FRENZY milks as much suspense out of the situation of the killer as the ostensible hero. There’s the great scene with the body in the potato truck, where he has to recover an item before the police can find the corpse and link it to him. And it’s great, because this is all from the killer’s perspective, and it’s fucking TENSE! Hitch is playing with the audience by crafting a scene so effective we are kind of forced to root for this asshole rapist killer to actually succeed in evading justice, and scared that he’ll get caught! How great is that?!

  39. It’s one of the all-time great movies until Janet Leigh dies (spoiler). Then it goes downhill faster than a boulder tied to a cannonball tied to the back of a brakeless truck.

  40. You can’t just say something like that without explaining it. That’s like saying that Dirty Harry was awesome until Clint pulled out the Magnum.

  41. The opener, Vern, made me urine my pants, man.

  42. Hitchcock gave Linda Blair a doll in a coffin made to look like her mother as her birthday present. What a great guy.

  43. By the way, if you’re in Seattle, they’re showing it at Benaroya Hall with the Seattle Symphony playing the soundtrack live. It should be pretty awesome, that’s how I’m seeing it tomorrow.

  44. Mr. Subtlety: How great is that? I’ll tell you how great that is: with ten years at his disposal to study FRENZY, great advances in technology at his disposal, and no small amount of talent of his own, Polanski couldn’t come close to instilling that kind of tension in his homage film FRANTIC.

    If you were asking that as a rhetorical question, disregard the above lines.

  45. Vern,

    Nice review and nice insights. But as a whole, it seemed like a different writing style and a different mood. Not sure if that was intentional or something I am making up as I write this. I read your review this morning and somehow or another, it stuck in my brain, not for the insights, but for the tone. Anyway, seemed a little different.

    As for Hitchcock and Jareth mentioning Dreyer’s Vampyr. A lot of similarities. That shot in Vampyr where the shadows match up perfectly with the real life. Classic. Same thing goes for Hitchcock. His ideas may not always be the most novel, but his execution is flawless. With regards to Psycho, the shot where he does the overhead at the top of the stairs and into the wall above the doorway, holy shit. Flawless. That is the language of film which few have ever mastered. Hell, most have never came close.

    Hitchcock remains the consummate master of suspense. Vertigo is definitely one of the most mesmerizing examples. But for a non-crazy sort of film, watch Notorious to watch the sheer fucking brilliance of making the most mundane suspenseful. Of course, Rebecca may be one of the first great “Haunted House” films that wasn’t a haunted house film.

    Oh, the joys that Hitchcock hath wrought.

  46. Jareth – to give FRANTIC credit, the opening 15 minutes are great with a jetlagged Ford, half-awake looking for his wife in his room, the hallway, the hotel lobby, even outside. That was inspiring. The rest becomes fodder.

    Loudabagel – I thought that was Melanie Griffith? Also allegedly, Hitchcock tried to put his moves on her mother Tippi Hedren. Too bad Tippi wasn’t into fat bald old British guys.

  47. Vern, how about a review of Perkins in CRIMES OF PASSION, that Ken Russel flick with Kathleen turner?!

  48. yeah, i saw an interview with tippi hedren where she said hitchcock blatantly pursued her and their (working) relationship became kind of soured when she refused.

    speaking of tippi hedren and hitchcock, i second recommending MARNIE to anyone who hasn’t seen it. her performance in that and THE BIRDS are really good, and similarly to perkins in PSYCHO feel really contemporary compared to other acting of the era.

    but that’s one of the (many) great things about hitchcock. his movies seem so much more contemporary than other movies of the era. their tone is so non-condescending, and despite the censorship of the times they seem so unapologetically ADULT. the very first shot of PSYCHO has the camera zooming into a hotel window where janet leigh, still in her bra, is just finishing up a secret twist with her boyfriend, who, if i’m not mistaken, is still married to someone else. in other movies of the era, these characters would instantly be coded as BAD, but in hitchcock they are just normal, sympathetic adults. and in all his movies the characters are flawed in a way that seems realistic and his movies are not judgemental about them. billy wilder’s movies also have a similar contemporary feel and adult sensibility, though obviously not as dark.

  49. secret twist = secret tryst

  50. RRA – That’s true, the first 15 minutes of FRANTIC are exemplary.

  51. I like FRANTIC well enough, but yeah, more FUGITIVE than FRENZY. Classy and successful enough, but… not quite to that next level.

    As for Hitch and Tippi… supposedly he directed her in MARNIE through intermediaries, since they weren’t on speaking terms. Weirdly, the movie is still pretty great, I think one of his most underappreciated films. Which may just suggest Hitch wasn’t exaggerating about how little he liked (or cared about) directing actors. I love in Trouffout’s interview, Hitch mentions that if he made PSYCHO at the end of his career, he would have made the opening sequence a topless scene ‘not for any purient reasons, of course — just because I’d be interested in the interaction between the breast and his chest’. Riiiiiight.

  52. Hitch was just a dirty old sadist. God bless him.

  53. I believe the politically correct term is “Catholic”

  54. One of my top five movies, and I may have seen it more times than any other film. The Bates home is so creepy and foreboding. A long way to get up there and an even longer way to get back. I recall trying to watch part 2 a few years ago and not really digging it. SPOILER: I think the part when Lila gets stabbed through the mouth with a clever seemed like a bit much–like they’d compromised the Hitchockian thing in favor of the slasher gore that was in vogue. Great ending though. So grim, creepy, and unflinching. Also brutal, but much classier than the Lila death. Part 3 I think went over the edge into the trashy Skinemax/slasher terriotory. Part 4 was kind of a prequel/flashbacky movie, and although I think it was reasonably well done, the the whole prequel stuff always feels a bit empty to me.

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