If you are like me, you have heard about Psycho for your entire life. It came out just over 50 years ago, and is undoubtedly one of cinema’s most famous films. It is definitely the most known film from horror-legend Alfred Hitchcock, and is often seen as the epitome of his work. Yet, despite all of this I don’t know many people who have seen it. Many of my peers simply know the famous shower scene, a few will know that the blood is maple syrup, and the rest have either just seen the Vince Vaughn remake or are content never seeing it in full. When I started my collection, I was ecstatic to get this film. and see if it held up to the astounding build-up that surrounded it. Also, if it didn’t go unsaid, SPOILERS.
For those who are unaware, Psycho is acclaimed throughout the cinematic world for being a “rule breaker.” As with every art form, there are certain unspoken rules in play when it comes to portraying an engaging story. One of these rules is “Don’t kill off the main character before the third act,” which is usually accepted unanimously throughout cinema. Yet, it seems the people behind Psycho never got that memo. The first half of the film follows Marion Crane as she embezzles money, goes on the run, and finds shady lodging at the Bates Motel. (Quick aside: Janet Leigh gives a great performance and fully embodies this troubled character perfectly. Marion is a wonderful character and is oddly complex for that period, as we are supposed to sympathize with her while she steals and lies.) Then, she is brutally killed in the famous shower scene, and the second half of the film is devoted to Marion’s ex-lover, Sam Loomis, and sister, Lilia, trying to deduce what happened to Marion. It is this odd jump in POV that makes the film so worth while. It is also what gives the shower scene such an immediate and tremendous effect, even though it is one of the most famous scenes in cinema history you never see it coming. I distinctly remember thinking to myself “The shower scene? Now?” the first time I saw it.
Of course, everyone in the film delivers a great performance. It is by far Anthony Perkins’ best film. He makes the demented character of Norman Bates entirely his own. I truly love his performance and for more about it see here. Admittedly, Lilia and Sam are far less complex of characters when compared to Norman and Marion. Sadly, the twist is so known these days, and has been redone so many times, it is no longer startling or interesting. It all amounts to one final scene where they reveal Perkins wearing the dress, and the shock of the moment is almost entirely gone.
All in all, this is an amazing film. If you are a fan of horror, thrillers, mysteries, or famous films, you will love this. If you don’t like black-and-white and old-school acting, you are better off with the remake. I truly enjoyed enjoyed the film, and I hope you do too.
– Screen Rat