Friday, September 25, 2009

Friday Flashbacks: Psycho

Psycho 1960
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Writer: Joseph Stefano
Starring Janet Leigh, Anthony Perkins, Vera Miles, John Gavin, Martin Balsam, John McIntire and Simon Oakland

When one says psycho, the first thing that comes to most peoples minds is Norman Bates, it has made such a indelible impression in our brains that we cannot think of slasher films in the horror genre without this film being one of the first films that comes to mind. It is still a film that every time I watch, that I still get goosebumps. The sense of doom that pervades this film just permeates throughout your entire core while you are experiencing this film. It just shows what a master of the craft Hitchcock was that his film can still hit all your nerves in just the right way, no matter how many times you see it. This is just a case of everything coming together perfectly to make one of the greatest horror films ever made.
The plot basics are this, Marion Crane (Leigh) is a bank secretary who is in love with Sam Loomis (Gavin) a Hardware store owner and has financial issues so they are unable to get married and Marion wants that to change. She goes to work and a situation comes up where she gets her hands on 40,000 dollars and instead of depositing it, she runs off with it. She comes to her senses and plans to return the money, but she is tired and finds a motel on a little use highway and stops for the evening before she decides to go back and face the results of her action. The motel is run by a slightly bizarre and sheltered young man, Norman Bates (Perkins) who lives at a house behind the motel with his invalid mother. Marion has a light dinner with Norman and they have a strange conversation and she then leaves to her room to take a shower and the mother attacks her in the shower and brutally kills her in the shower and Norman discovers the body and cleans it up. Soon, Marion is noticed missing and a private investigator (Balsam) comes to investigate and meets a bad end as well. This leads to Marion's sister Lila (Miles) and Sam come to investigate themselves and it all ends with a rather shocking twist ending.
This is a film that still amazes me every time I see it. Hitchcock does a excellent job setting up the story, for the first 3rd of the film you just think it is a personal drama. But, then he pulls the carpet out from under you and it is now a murder mystery. The shower scene is probably one of the most famous film scenes and it still amazes me how well it works. The script by Stefano based on Robert Bloch's book is very tightly written with great emphasis on the character and some great dialogue for the character of Norman Bates. The acting is great, especially Perkins as Bates, he really commands the screen with his presence every moment he is on screen. Leigh is also quite good and you really feel for her during her predicament and you are quite shocked and saddened when she is killed. The SFX are great for the time, the blood in the shower scene feels very realistic. I cannot finish talking about the film without mentioning the score by Bernard Herrmann, his score is evocative and chilling. When you hear the first few chords you know that this will be a creepy film and the music cues all the dastardly acts that happen in the film. This is one of the best horror films and for me Hitchcock's best film.
This one gets 5 out of 5

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