PSYCHO - 1960
Paramount Pictures / Universal Pictures
Rating: : Argentina: 16 / Australia: M / Chile: 18 / Finland: K-16
/ France: -12 / France: -16 / Norway: 15 / Norway: 16 / Sweden:
15 / Switzerland: 16 / UK: 15 / USA: R / West Germany: 16
"It's 22 years later, and Norman Bates is coming home."
the ominous words spoken at the end of the PSYCHO II's trailer in late
1982. I was twelve at the time, and by some mysterious accident (early
bedtime, probably), had never seen the original PSYCHO.
I did not even know precisely who Norman Bates was, just that he was a
horror movie character. However, I was intrigued by the trailer and felt
compelled to see the film it advertised. As luck would have it, a local
television station aired the original PSYCHO to coincide with its sequel's theatrical release. So, sitting in front
of the tube with popcorn bucket in hand, I learned the secrets of the
Bates Motel and the reasons for Norman's 22 year "vacation".
Volumes have been written on Alfred Hitchcock's PSYCHO.
James Naremore's FILMGUIDE TO PSYCHO, a tidy academic analysis, is one
that springs to mind. Also, Stephen Rebello wrote an excellent, exhaustive
book called ALFRED HITCHCOCK AND THE MAKING OF PSYCHO, which leaves no
stone unturned. And it seems no text book on Hitchcock, or I daresay,
on filmmaking itself, is complete without at least mention of PSYCHO.
For those who wish to look, there exists a cornucopia of resources offering
every viewpoint and trivial tidbit imaginable on Hitchcock's black sheep.
So what is there left to say?
To the seasoned yet literate horror film buff, not a whole lot; but what of the few that
have not been anointed? It is feasible to believe that many such people
exist. After all, forty years have passed since PSYCHO hit the screens and a whole new generation of popcorn toting moviegoers
traverse the red carpet. I, for one, can vouch that I have met many people
that have never, ever seen the original PSYCHO, in part or in its entirety. There still exist people in Western society
who will be completely fooled by the trickery of the first third of the
film. People who are for the first time hearing Sheriff Chambers (John McIntire) enunciating, "Ar-BO-Gaaast!!" People who know nothing of the skeletons in Norman's closet. And I envy them.
I envy them because that very first viewing was a revelation. Nevermind that I had
to watch it on TV, with my sister's kids' toys scattered all over the
floor. The fact remains that I tuned into PSYCHO with little or no knowledge
its secrets. And it was, for me anyway, a lot like seeing JAWS for the
first time. By the time Anthony Perkins grinned into the camera, his face
lap-dissolving into a skull, I was dazed. I knew, even at eleven years
old, I had witnessed a milestone of cinema that opened a door to years
With the invention of DVD's, that discovery has continued. And for those interested
in PSYCHO, it gives us something new to talk about as well.
At first sight, it's not extraordinary. The "Collector's Edition" DVD of PSYCHO comes in a plastic "keep case" with a little information pamphlet inside, featuring pictures from the film and commentary from the principal cast
members. On the DVD itself, the menus are stylish and easy to navigate.
Each menu and sub menu page features a snippet from the soundtrack by
Bernard Herrmann. The backgrounds for each menu page are publicity stills
from the film.
You will first want to view the film itself. The transfer to DVD is immaculate.
Never has a black and white picture looked so rich and glorious. True,
there are a few signs of age here and there, visible due to the high resolution,
but they detract from the viewing experience not a wit. Only the opening
credits show the most visible signs of age and deterioration.
PSYCHO, the collector's edition, is formatted for widescreen, but it wasn't shot
that way. Hitchcock shot it with his TV crew from ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS
in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio and then matted it for theatrical release. When
it was shown on TV years later, it returned to its original aspect ratio.
Did Hitchcock anticipate this? Because the composition of each shot is
such that, even without the matting, no film crew or boom mikes are visible.
The result was a slight increase in information at the top and bottom
of the screen. With the film "restored" to its theatrical widescreen state,
very slight information is masked at the top and bottom of the screen.
No matter, though. It still looks great and, because it's the way original
audiences saw it, I do not mind the letterboxing (the black bars at the
top and bottom of the screen) in the slightest.
After the movie, you will find a wealth of bonus materials that, by themselves,
are worth the cost of the disc.
Firstly, there is a documentary called THE MAKING OF PSYCHO. Unlike most so-called
DVD documentaries revealed to be only mere "featurettes" lasting ten or
fifteen minutes, this one has some true substance. It is 90 minutes long,
conveniently separated by 26 chapters, and packed with interviews and
The DVD sports
the original theatrical trailer, which will blow PSYCHO fans out of the water. Rather than just a montage of scenes, or a voice
intoning promises of more horror than you can shake a stick at, it's a
tour by Alfred Hitchcock. The master of the macabre himself walks about
the grounds of the motel, takes a stroll up to the house, all the while
dropping coy hints of what the movie is about. He treats the tour as if
he's the docent at a crime scene ("I see they cleaned
all this up - you should have SEEN the blood"), where something
"oh, it's too horrible to describe" occurred. The trailer is almost seven
minutes long, and, thanks to the master's dark humor it's a hoot.
the menu at leisure to find still more supplemental materials (I'm
a sucker for "extra stuff"). The newsreel footage is worth looking
at, as are production photos, lobby cards, storyboards for the shower
scene, and much more. Oh, and the shower scene itself, with AND without music, allowing the viewer to see (and hear)
how much of a difference is made by the addition of Bernhard Hermann's
shrieking violins. Try it yourself when you get the DVD. You will be surprised.
Truly, this "collector's edition" was made with the collector in mind. I look back
on the wasteland of my teen years, back when VHS tape was ruler and king.
I feel sorry for the James of that time; that James knew not what a DVD
was, but yearned for it just the same. That James would have gotten so
much more use out of this collector's edition of PSYCHO than I have, because the interest burned brighter in those days. So now
that I've sold you on the DVD, let me say one more thing. Don't see PSYCHO another time until you get a hold of this DVD. And if you haven't seen PSYCHO, then I hope you will soon, and don't settle for anything less on that
glorious first viewing than the collector's edition of PSYCHO on DVD.
PSYCHO, the collector's edition in widescreen on DVD, gets five ShriekGirls.
This review copyright 2001 E.C.McMullen Jr.
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in pre-production for making PSYCHO, Alfred Hitchcock was already
set to make THE BIRDS (which was released
He decided on PSYCHO screenwriter Joseph Stefano (who later turned it down due to his own lack of interest) and
during post production work, chose PSYCHO music man Bernard
Herrmann (although, ultimately, there was
no music in THE BIRDS).
are tons of bird references throughout PSYCHO including:
Norman Bates middle name is Francis, patron saint of birds.
hobby is taxidermy and he stuffs birds.
The movie begins in Phoenix, Arizona.
Janet Leigh's character of Marion, likewise that of Vera Miles who plays
her sister, Lila, has the last name of Crane. The kind of bird that
Norman would kill.
Stuffed birds decorate the parlor of the Bates Motel and make Marion uncomfortable.
Norman tells Marion that she "eats like a bird."
Norman chides Marion darkly when he speaks of people who, "cluck their
tongues and shake their heads."
Pictures of birds in Marion's hotel room.
Norman knocks a picture of a bird off the wall when he enters the shower,
right after the Shower Scene.
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