Today we have one of the most well respected films from one of cinema’s most well respected directors, Alfred Hitchcock. His first foray into horror cinema gave us one of the undeniable greats of the genre and created the slasher sub-genre…it is of course, 1960’s ‘Psycho’!!
There’s not a great deal to be said about Psycho that hasn’t already been said but the most important thing to realise when watching or talking about this great film is how game-changing it was. Not only did it (unknowingly) create the slasher sub-genre, possibly my favourite sub-genre in all of film but it gave us a narrative that was so unexpected and unheard of at the time that it’s still considered one of the best stories in cinema history.
The narrative starts when Marion Crane, played wonderfully by scream queen legend, Janet Leigh, an example of a trademark Hitchcock leading blonde, steals $40,000 from her boss and goes on the run. Whilst driving through the American southwest, she is seemingly pursued by a police officer which proves for a rather tense opening 20mins, especially when she changes her car at a garage. She ends up checking in at the iconic Bates Motel, whose proprietor, Norman has serious mother issues.
I won’t spoil the plot for those that may not have seen it but it is truly incredible…I’m sure most of you strongly agree with me.
Janet Leigh as Marion is excellent in her role, as are the members of the supporting cast, Martin Balsam as Detective Arbogast, Vera Miles as Lila Crane, Marion’s sister and John Gavin as Sam Loomis, Marion’s lover. An interesting bit of trivia for you now, in John Carpenter’s ‘Halloween’ (1978), widely considered one of, if not the best all-out slasher movie, which will appear later on our journey, the doctor, who goes after killer Michael Myers is named Sam Loomis, the exact name of Marion’s lover in Psycho. Janet Leigh, who plays Marion, is the mother of Jamie Lee Curtis who plays Laurie, the protagonist in Halloween.
As far as the cast goes though, it is undoubtable that Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates is the star of the show. The creepiness, intensity and loneliness he brings to the role are just stunning and it’s difficult to think of many better performances in any horror film. He was born to play this role.
Hitchcock himself, of course, deserves huge plaudits, as he does with all his films, for creating an atmosphere that changes from thrilling caper to dark horror mystery in the blink of an eye. The eeriness of the Bates Motel and its adjoining house are perfectly directed by the master of suspense and he keeps you on the edge of your seat for the majority of this film. The final act is so enthralling to watch, you’ll be talking about it for weeks…that is if you haven’t seen it of course, which I’m sure many of you have. Although, you can go back to Psycho many, many times and appreciate it more and more each time and that is the mark of a really great movie…one of the best horrors of all time.
One more high quality and important aspect to this film is the famous score by the legendary Bernard Herrmann which sets the tone of the film perfectly, as he does in all the films he scores. It perfectly adds to the chilling atmosphere of Psycho and is definitely one of the greatest scores in all of horror cinema.
It goes without saying that this is a must watch for any movie lover…not just horror lover, it’s one of the greats of all time and one I’m sure that you all know a bit about it, even if you haven’t seen it.
Tomorrow we come back over to Britain and talk about a 1963 anthology film, one with multiple short stories in one and one which stars Master’s Lee and Cushing. A rather light hearted horror in truth, but still with its quite dark, effective moments and an overall story that satisfies and entertains…certainly one for the lovers of British Horror.
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The Journey Continues Tomorrow