Is there a better way to open our Sixth Annual Minneapolis, Minnesota Alfred Hitchcock Film Festival at the Riverview Theater than with Psycho? Probably not.
Psycho review by Trylon volunteer Caty Rent.
Psycho was based on a novel by pulp novelist Robert Bloch. The novel was loosely inspired by Wisconsin serial killer Ed Gein, who, it might be argued, also inspired Buffalo Bill in the Silence of the Lambs. Psycho is regarded as one of the most quintessential Hitchcock films, and it deserves all the acclaim and recognition that it has been receiving for over fifty years. The sparse amount of characters and small areas of plot development unfold into sheer terror by the end.
When it first debuted in 1960, there was a Special Presentation Policy that declared Psycho should be viewed from the very beginning. Bold signs proclaimed, “No one, but no one, will be admitted in the theatre after the start of the performance!” The showtimes were listed exactly to the minute. Long lines circling America’s theaters and smash box office numbers proved these tactics worthwhile.
Shot with a low budget in black and white, Psycho at first feels a little more like the television series, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, probably because much of the crew for Psycho also worked on the show. Hitchcock felt comfortable working with them and they weren’t as expensive as some of the crews he had worked with in the past.
Janet Leigh plays Marion Crane, a woman who is trapped in one of the moral dilemmas of most career girls for the time. Crane has a man she’d like to marry but can’t afford to. She has an opportunity to steal a large sum of money from her employer and doesn’t resist the temptation–instead, Marion takes the cash and heads for her boyfriend.
Eventually Crane finds herself driving in heavy rain and needs to find a place for the night. She finds a little spot far removed from the main highway. Even though it is the setting for most of the film, the Bates Motel almost seems like a character itself. Twelve cabins, twelve vacancies. Norman Bates, played masterfully by Anthony Perkins, is the astute, peculiar, and charming manager of Bates Motel.
Crane and Bates have a pretty long conversation, within it we find out that Norman enjoys to do taxidermy on birds and that he was raised alone by his Mother since he was five. One of Norman’s lines specifically stands out: “We’re all in our private traps, clamped in them, and none of us can ever get out. We scratch and claw, but only at the air; only at each other and for all of it we never budge an inch.” During the chat, it is apparent that Crane has changed her mind and wants to return the stolen money.
They abruptly part ways and Crane decides to take a shower. Although gory for the time, her shocking murder was still mostly left to the viewer’s imagination. The full naked body or brutality is never really shown, which is one of the Hitchcock devices; some things are much more shocking when left unseen. The shower scene from Psycho is one of the parts that everyone seems to remember. Fun fact, the fake blood used was actually just chocolate. It worked better for a nice contrast with the black and white film.
Caty Rent pretty much lives coffee and is obsessed with the Batman.
Psycho, opening the Sixth Annual Hitchcock Film Festival, screens only once, at 7:00 at the Riverview Theater. Purchase tickets here.