It’s time again for Catie Rhodes and I to break down another cinematic original and its remake. But this time we switched things up a little—Catie reviews the remake and I take on the original. I know, crazy… Anyway, this month we discuss Psycho.
First, let’s check in with Catie’s Homemade Summary that applies to both the 1960 and 1998 versions:
Marian Crane steals a large sum of money from her employer with plans of using it to help her and her boyfriend start a new life together. Her plans go awry when she checks into the Bates Motel and is killed in the shower.
Marian’s sister and a private investigator trace Marian to the Bates Motel. Will they find out what happened to Marian before the same thing happens to them?
Today, Psycho is known as one of the best Alfred Hitchcock films of all time, or at least one of the most popular. Everyone knows about Psycho. Everyone recognizes the names the Bates Motel and Norman Bates. Everyone thinks twice about taking showers in motel rooms. Everyone shivers just a bit when they see a motel vacancy sign. Right? Or is it just me?
Adapted from Robert Bloch’s novel and loosely based on the true crimes of Ed Gein (see Catie’s Freaky Friday post today!), Psycho received mixed reviews but eventually earned Academy Award nominations—that doesn’t happen for the thriller genre all that often. So what makes Psycho special?
As with any cinematic success, Psycho first attracts an audience with its cast, starring all young and beautiful actors: Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates, Janet Leigh as Marian Crane, Vera Miles as Lila Crane, and John Gavin as Sam Loomis. Next, we have the score—haunting and suspenseful music by Bernard Herrmann that raises the movie’s tension and impending violence. Just listen as we play the trailer:
Along with the score, Psycho raised the bar and was a bit ahead of its time with its heightened sexual element and violence. Heck, in watching the film again for the purpose of this post, I was shocked to hear the characters use the term “transvestite” when talking about Norman’s personalities. Today “transvestite” is socially acceptable, at least in the form of everyday conversation, but in 1960?
Before jumping into the most obvious reason as to why Psycho is and was such a successful suspense and horror film, let’s pay homage to some of the film’s fabOoolous dialogue—dialogue that not only left viewers on the edge of their seats, but specific lines with insight into the classic element of foreshadowing.
“Mother isn’t quite herself today.”
“A boy’s best friend is his mother.”
“A son is a poor substitute for a lover.”
“We all go a little mad sometimes.”
“We’re all in our private traps.”
Think about the overall story arc of Psycho, and then re-read these lines—all shared between Norman and Marian before the famous shower scene. Every single piece of the above dialogue hints at what viewers learn at the end of the film when the psychologist shares his findings with the rest of the characters following his interrogation of Norman.
And since we brought up the famous shower scene, this might be the number one reason why the 1960 version of Psycho is still relevant today. Queue Herrmann’s orchestra…
Viewers never see the knife actually stab Marian; the scene grabs a hold of the audience by the music, the screams, and the blood washing down the drain. Hitchcock adds dramatization by Marian’s pulling at the shower curtain and it ripping off ring by ring, and uses excellent cinematography, flashing from the bathtub drain to the close up of Marian’s lifeless eye. The movie may be over forty years old, but I truly appreciate the genius behind this scene—one little old scene.
Psycho is dark, literally and figuratively. Not only is the film black and white, the lighting scheme oftentimes shades the characters faces to where viewers only see their silhouettes and shadows. But this darkness launched Hitchcock’s film into the franchise world, with three sequels (Psycho II, Psycho III, and Psycho IV: The Beginning) all starring Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates, the 1998 remake directed by Gus Van Sant that Catie reviewed earlier this week, as well as other television and documentary pieces.
Speaking of the franchise, Anthony Perkins is just as recognizable today as the creepy Bates Motel and the two-story residence located behind it. He had a very successful career before his death in the ‘90s, was even nominated for an Academy Award for a different role, but he will forever be remembered as Norman Bates.
And before we go, let’s talk about the original “Scream Queen” Janet Leigh. Man, was she beautiful and not afraid to show off her sexuality. It wasn’t until watching Psycho for the I-don’t-know-what-time preparing for this post, that I recognized the similarities between Ms. Leigh and her daughter, Jamie Lee Curtis. The two practically mirror each other with their tight-lipped grins and expressions. It’s no wonder Jamie Lee took to slasher movies as well and followed in her mother’s footsteps as the modern-day “Scream Queen.”
If anyone hasn’t seen Hitchcock’s masterpiece, check it out at least once. For any AT&T U-verse customers, Psycho (1960) is currently available on Movieplex’s OnDemand films until August 1st.
What do you think? Have you seen either the original or the remake of Psycho? If you’ve seen both, which do you prefer and why? If you haven’t, do you want to? I’d love to hear from you!
Remember to stop by Catie’s blog discussing the original if you haven’t already.