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USA 1960
Directed by
Alfred Hitchcock
109 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

Psycho (1960)

This stylish exercise in Gothic horror, based on Robert Bloch's novel of the same name and scripted by Hitchcock with Joseph Stefano, is one of the most iconic movies of all time albeit because of its infamous shower scene which has been quoted and appropriated innumerable times and which according to those who are into such things endows it 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 boyfriend in a hotel room after an lunch-break tryst.

The film was Hitchcock's greatest commercial success one that, ironically, was conceived by the director in emulation of the B-grade horror films that were so popular in the late 1950s complete with a gratuitous quasi-Freudian explanation of what we have seen by a psychiatrist (Simon Oakland).The latter, needless to say, is the film's weakest point. Indeed the first part of film, up to the shower scene. is much stronger than what comes after.

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 by 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 Marion's boyfriend (John Gavin) go to the motel where eventually Norman's terrible secret is revealed.

Bernard Herrmann’s atmospheric score (which Hitchcock said accounted for one third of the film's success) and Saul Bass's classic titles add to mix whilst Perkins' twitchily creepy incarnation of the mother-fixated psychopath eternally type-cast the actor. .




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