Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Psycho (1960) Review

Hitchcock's Psycho 1960 poster
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Stars: Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh
Genre: Horror, Mystery, Thriller

Everyone knows about Psycho. One of the great Alfred Hitchcock's most recognizable films. It's a classic, but does it deserve to be? Fuck yes, it does. But I'll still be the first to point out its many flaws.

The film is about a woman who steals $40,000 and goes to run off with her secret boyfriend. But, she gets more than she bargained for when she becomes entangled with a psychotic killer that leads to a string of mysteries.

First off I must point out this film's historical significance. Psycho pushed the limits of the amount of sex and violence that could be shown in a Hollywood film, and hell, in film in general. It practically invented the slasher genre and helped shape the not only the horror genre, but all of film as we know it. Hitchcock must be respected for this. He could have continued on making typical Hitchcock films, that were of course good but just more of the same. Instead he did something different. When production company after production company turned him down for funding and doubted his success, did he give up? No, he wrote the checks himself. That, ladies and gentleman, is a fucking passionate man.

In this film Hitchcock got back to the basics. He had a much smaller budget and thus had to do things a bit differently than he was used to. He had to use his own crew from his television show, Alfred Hitchcock Presents. He had to shoot the film fast and with limited supplies and cast/crew. Hitchcock's films had been shot in color long before Psycho, but here, due to budget, it had to be shot in black and white.

I just love that Alfred Hitchcock himself, the most popular and respected and successful director of his time, and arguably of all time, even had to struggle to make a film because his idea was so rebellious that no one wanted to support him.

Psycho truly is a revolutionary film.

Norman Bates' parlor in Psycho

As expected from a Hitchcock film, the dialogue here is excellent. Most of the suspense lies in the conversations. Norman Bates trying to lie to a detective provides incredible amounts of tension and is nearly nerve-racking. It's not very often when a film's dialogue is just as intense as any action scene. Amazing.

And the Norman Bates character really steals the show. Played to perfection by Anthony Perkins, Bates is definitely one of the greatest characters put to the screen. Slightly based on Ed Gein, but he really is a completely unique character. He can be odd, quirky, comforting, nice, evil, scary; he's a character with tons of dimensions all fitted together seamlessly.

Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates in Psycho

There's tons of memorable scenes in here. Of course the shower scene being the most recognizable. From the opening to Bates' last line of the film, it's all very superb. In fact, the last line of the film is probably my favorite part.

The film's atmosphere is really great, and complimented by a great soundtrack. I'm glad the film was shot in black and white because I feel it definitely helps the atmosphere. I love the Gothic look to the Bates home.

The plot is fairly good, well-crafted at least. There are some cheesy parts. Like the stair falling scene or even the shower scene may seem a bit silly by today's standards. But that isn't really a big deal.

I would have liked if the characters were more developed. The only really memorable character here is Norman Bates and perhaps the girl. I just think the others felt a bit generic and could have benefited from a bit more development.

The Bates house in Psycho

I don't mind the conclusion to the film, but I hate the ending. Allow me to elaborate. When the end climax happens, it's great. When we get the last murder and the twist at the end, fabulous. But when the psychoanalyst comes on screen and basically explains the entire film to us as if we're children, that's just a major no no for film. I mean, he literally comes out and explains it as if it were an analysis of the film...in the film. It's stupid. Last scene with the psychoanalyst shouldn't have been there.

Psycho may be the most important Hitchcock film, but quite honestly I don't think it's the best Hitchcock film.

Janet Leigh in the shower in Psycho

A very important film and a very enjoyable film. But without the great character and performance of Norman Bates or the historical significance, this film would have a significantly lower score.

4/5 stars

Purchase Psycho on Amazon: Blu-Ray - DVD - Stream - Hitchcock Essentials Collection
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