Thursday, 9 February 2012

Psycho (1960) Review



Film Poster
Psycho is a horror suspense film directed by Alfred Hitchcock. The film stars Janet Leigh and Anthony Perkins as Marion Crane and Norman Bates. The film is loosely inspired on the murder crimes and grave robberies of Ed Gein. The film tells the life and death story of Marion Crane who runs off with a large quantity of money to hide in a secluded motel where she meets the disturbed owner and manager, Norman Bates.
Set in 1960, the film was shot in black and white as Hitchcock wanted the film to be “as realistic” as possible. This included the costumes that Marion had to wear, the camera lenses which gives the view similar to a human’s view and the infamous idea of having a shot of a toilet flushing. It was also in the era of strict censorship in films. “With Psycho, Hitchcock dabbled in cinematic taboos, pushing the censorship envelope. For example, this was the first American motion picture to feature a toilet being flushed (most movies of the era didn't even acknowledge the existence of toilets). Also, Janet Leigh is shown in her underwear on more than one occasion, and, during the famous shower scene, it's possible to see hints of flesh. The script also features a man speaking the word "transvestite" - a line that survived in the film only after a Herculean struggle on Stefano's part. “ (Berardinelli, 1998) Because of this, the film was not shown in some areas until few years later until the censorship laws have lifted.
The film mostly experimented different camera angles that are seen from a human’s view. This included the change of camera lens which is more noticeable in the scene where Norman looks into the next room through the walls with holes. These included medium and close up shots and there are also at times where the camera positions itself where the prop appears to “intimidate” the character. An example of this would be the scene where Marion haves a sandwich in Norman’s office where he explains about his disturbing hobby of taxidermy on birds. The placement of the stuffed birds (especially the eagle) and the low key lighting gives of the impression that Norman is being watched-by his mother.
Stuffed Eagle and low camera angle giving the feeling that Norman's being watched
For the infamous shower scene, a total of 90 edits were made which did not include Perkins but a body double. This scene has become famous due to the quick rapid shots between Marion’s face and the knife along with sounds of stabbing flesh and the high pitched discordant staccato sounds of violins. “Psycho, however, is much more than a mere exercise in audience control. With the help of Bernard Herrmann’s jagged, strings-only score, the audience is led on a journey into the psychological abyss. Littered with Freudian symbolism, Hitchcock’s imagery is both suffocating and schizophrenic.” (Total film, 1998)The silhouette of Norman coming into the scene before stabbing Marion was also restricted information as not to reveal the true identify of Norman Bates.
The mother-possessed Norman
The strange personalities of Norman and his mother are disturbing as most of the time, it is Norman who does the speaking on “behalf” of his mother. Through the course of the film, it is revealed that Norman was in a battle of his persona and his mother’s.  This even includes the idea of Norman dressing up as his mother and wears the wig. A back story was given as to how Norman became this way and the relationship between him and his mother. “Hitchcock uses the old plea that nobody give out the ending -- "It's the only one we have." This will be abided by bere, but it must be said that the central force throughout the feature is a mother who is a homicidal maniac. This is unusual because she happens to be physically defunct, has been for some years. But she lives on in the person of her son.” (Variety, 1960) The use of editing is effectively used at the end of the film to show the mother existing in his son as overlay image of the skeletal mother's head ontop of Norman's face.
The overlay of now Mother - Norman Bates
List of Illustrations:
Gray, B (2011) Film Poster (online):
Hitchcock, A (1960) Stuffed Eagle and low camera angle giving the feeling that Norman's being watched (online):
Monsterett, Cookie (2010) The mother-possessed Norman (online):
Amber,s (2010) The overlay of now Mother - Norman Bates (online):

Bibliography:
Berardinelli, J (1998) Psycho (1960) (online):
Total Film (1998) Psycho (online):
Variety Film (1960) Psycho (online):


1 comment :