By Tamara Bew (Cornwall, England, UK)
The beauty of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho is that it’s still remarkably entertaining fifty-eight years after its original release. It puts horror movies today to shame on multiple different levels. You really are never going to find a horror film quite like this one. Based on the best-selling novel of the same name by Bernard Herrmann. Hitchcock bought as many copies of the novel as he could in order to keep the ending of the film a secret to audiences. On December 11th, secretary Marion Crane (Leigh) embezzles $40,000 and flees to Arizona, however when she finds herself falling asleep at the wheel throughout her journey, she stops off at Bates Motel on the highway. Getting a little bit more than she bargained for, she soon finds herself in the arms of Norma Bates.
Anthony Perkins stars as Norman Bates, a man living under the delusion of his ill mother. Together, they own Bates Motel. Younger viewers may be more familiar with the hit show Bates Motel starring Freddie Highmore and Vera Farmiga. The show is primarily a backstory for Psycho, really diving into the relationship and the psychology between Norma and Norman Bates. You don’t necessarily have to watch them in that order to understand the film. The film has a magnificent twist that will catch you out time and time again. The novel was inspired by the true story of Ed Gein, a serial killer who would go onto to become the inspiration for Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Silence of the Lambs, the novel and the film however, are two very different things. This is simply Hitchcock’s adaptation of the novel.
So what is it that possesses Marion Crane to steal $40,000? Does she honestly think she’s not going to get caught? I love the narration that is used during her getaway. Everyone that Marion comes into contact with is suspicious that she’s up to something. Janet Leigh expresses a tremendous amount of emotion through her eyes. Her eyes tell you that she’s desperate, frightened and keeping a dark secret. Norman Bates too, is keeping a dark secret. The beauty of Perkins’s performance is that he’s able to stay charismatic at the darkest of times. Covering up his mother’s tracks as if nothing has happened. This adds a lot of mystery to him and his mother. Who are they? Why is she so controlling of him?
Alfred Hitchcock’s choice to shoot the film in black and white was a smart move. It adds a real sense of mystery to the story. Hitchcock believed the film would be very gory if shot in colour. Despite it being one of the best horror movies of all time, it almost, to some degree falls more into the thriller category, by today’s standards anyway. It really hits you from a psychological standpoint. The set design is spectacular. Bates Motel is still sat in the Universal lot at Universal Studios. Although a great deal of the motel is not shown throughout the film, you always have that underlying curiosity of what is going on in other rooms. The lighting is excellent and almost gives audiences the impression that the story takes place at dusk. It’s captivating and tells so much of the story on its own.
Composer Bernard Hermann delivers a magnificent score that works tremendously well alongside the storyline. Sharp and precise, most will be familiar with the famous “murder scene” score. Terrifying and straight to the point, there’s no denying that the score would be able to tell the story without the use of any dialogue purely on its own. Creative and expressive, the score alone brings fear to audiences. It’s very unlikely that you’ll find another horror movie that will give you the same emotional impact as this one does. Extremely impressive, and without a doubt one of the best films in cinematic history. Alfred Hitchcock is a sensation!