Psycho, Hitchcock, Paramount Pictures, 1960.
Alfred Hitchcock’s classic 1960 film Psycho was on the curriculum of my Cultural Studies class in college. I remember clearly discussing it’s impact on both cinema and pop-culture and the feminism theory surrounding the movie (maybe it’s own article).
The ambiance, the lighting and the score create a sense of discomfort at all times like few others have before or since. If anything, this film proves that you don’t need an astronomical budget to scare people and to be relevant. Although I always found a certain charm to black and white movies, Psycho is anything but charming.
Decades later, the acting in Psycho retains fervor and remains splendid. Lead Anthony Perkins is brilliant in the role of troubled Norman Bates. The psychological aspects and nuances of the character come across splendidly. His facial expressions and manners convey personality disorders and traits effectively. Janet Leigh is classy and formidable in the role of Marion Crane. The supporting cast is almost equally as good bringing the story to life.
Some scenes from Psycho stand out and are permanently etched into Pop Culture. The shower scene being the most obvious example. It’s scary not because it’s graphic, but because of the reality of it. You’re at your most vulnerable in the shower and Psycho plays with that very fragile reality.
Or what about the scenes where Norman talks to mother? The uncomfortable setting in which in happens, in an over-the-hill view, allows the viewers to use their own imaginations. And what about the great reveal at the end?
The character of mother is fascinating. The implications and story behind her lead to an intriguing development. Her and Norman make for an interesting case of psychological study. Split and double personality disorders aren’t easily explained and Psycho does a eloquent job at accomplishing the task. The way the backstory and facts were deconstructed was pure brilliance and only added depth to the characters and story.
The movies only serves to cement Hitchcock’s status and legend. Psycho is truly unparalleled remaining important and relevant today on top of being a great piece of cinema.
Hitchcock’s masterpiece? Quite probable. Does it still shock audiences like it did back in the 1960’s? Of course not, but it doesn’t make it any less unsettling, even to generations desensitized by the amount of gore and buckets of blood they consume.
Psycho succeeds on a deeper level because it allows viewers to integrate their own subconscious and fears into the film instead of being shown graphic scenes and visuals intended to scare. A classic recommendation? Yes, but also required viewing for any cinephile, regardless of genre.