Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 49 minutes
MPAA Rating: R
Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock
Written by: Joseph Stefano
(based on the novel PSYCHO by Robert Bloch)
Starring: Anthony Perkins, Vera Miles, John Gavin, Martin Balsam, John McIntire, Janet Leigh
The problem that comes with reviewing classic movies (of any genre) is that there isn’t much you can say that hasn’t already been said before. After all, PSYCHO is 53 years old at this point and it’s hard to even really process that for over fifty years audiences and critics alike have been raving about just how amazing Hitchcock’s horror masterpiece is. The film has earned every bit of praise that it’s ever received. Being named one of the scariest movies of all-time barely just scratches the surface of how incredible Hitchcock’s crowning achievement is.
For the kids who have never seen a black and white movie in their lives, PSYCHO begins with Marion Crane stealing 40 grand from the bank where she works. Leaving the city behind with a lot of stolen money in her bag, she finds herself becoming increasingly paranoid about possible suspicions from her employer and being seen as a criminal on the lam. Driving in a dark and stormy night, she comes across the Bates Motel and meets the nebbishy Norman Bates. Bates already seems a bit awkward, but it appears that he has a most unusual relationship with his domineering mother. I won’t reveal much more for fear of spoiling the plot for those few who haven’t indulged in this classic yet, but murder, suspense and the scariest shower you’ll ever see follows.
Hitchcock was a master of his craft. Everybody knows it and I challenge anyone to argue it. Regardless of his personal issues, he knew where to place a camera and how to tell a story. There is also a remarkable amount of dark humor sprinkled throughout the film that I never really noticed when I was younger. It’s cleverly placed and doesn’t lighten the tone of the film at all. It’s clear that Hitchcock was giving a wink and nudge to the viewer saying “See, I can still have my dry sense of humor placed in my scariest production.”
Janet Leigh and Vera Miles do well as the leading ladies. Anthony Perkins completely owns his role as Norman Bates though. His nervous ticks and awkward persona make him a bit weird. However, the audience finds themselves caring about him, especially in a scene involving disposing of certain evidence. The film’s breaking of taboos also was responsible for evolving the level of violence and risqué sexual behavior that we see in films these days. Some may see this as a bad thing, but it was the natural progression of the visual medium. There was not a bit of nudity in the shower scene, nor a bit of blade plunging into fake flesh. What we got was a series of carefully edited cuts that made us believe that we were watching a nude woman getting stabbed to death.
Then there’s the twist ending. One of the best surprises of all-time and nearly every twist ending to this day owes at least a bit to PSYCHO’s final moments. Even on repeat viewings, the film holds up perfectly. It’s still just as creepy, suspenseful, and frightening. I always get chills from the last monologue delivered and if you look carefully as the final scene dissolves to another, you will see something that scares the living daylights out of you. There isn’t really anything I can say about PSYCHO that hasn’t already been said before, but I don’t care. The purpose of this website is to celebrate the world of cinema. Classics or modern films, perfection is perfection. PSYCHO is a masterpiece!