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USA 1960
Directed by
Alfred Hitchcock
109 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

Psycho (1960)

Although Psycho is not Hitchcock’s best film, this stylish exercise in Gothic horror, based on Robert Bloch's novel of the same name and scripted by Hitcock with Joseph Stefano, is one of the most iconic movies of all time and is, not that I know much about these things, credited with the dubious honour of being the first slasher film (it was also for its day unusually sexually candid, in particular the opening scene with Marion and her married boyfriend in a hotel room after an lunchh-break tryst. The film was Hitchcock's greatest commercial success that, ironically, was conceived by the director in emulation of the cheaply-made horror films that were so popular in the late 1950s complete with an gratuitous quasi-Freudain explanation of what we have seen by a psychiatrist (Simon Oakland).The latter, needless to say, is the film's weakest point.

In many ways the low-fi production values help to keep the focus on the unfolding creepiness as we follow the twisted goings-on at a motel run by Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) where Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) a thief on the run turns up with a wad of money only to reach a grisly end at Norman's hand.  A private investigator (Martin Balsam) hired by the people Marion stole the money from tracks her down to the Bates' motel. When he doesn't return Marion's sister (Vera Miles) and married boyfriend (John Gavin) go to the motel where eventually Norman's terrible secret is revealed.

The film has been quoted and appropriated innumerable times, particularly the infamous shower scene and  Bernard Herrmann’s atmospheric score (which Hitchcock said accounted for one third of the film's and eternally type-cast Perkins for his twitchily creepy incarnation of the mother-fixated Bates.

 

 

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