Psycho (1960)


I’ll Lick the Stamps.

Time to add another classic horror film to my repertoire in the October Horrorthon.  This one came as a request, nay, a demand from my roommate Richurd.  He’s a big fan of the world famous director of this movie and was recently shocked and appalled to find that his world famous stuff-reviewer roommate has never seen a movie directed by this man.  I have, however, seen and reviewed the remake of this movie which I thought may have been good enough, but Richurd disagreed.  So, fulfilling both a request and a classic horror movie, as well as attempting to make up for the fact that I had never seen the classic original and instead decided to watch the much berated remake, I present you my review of the movie Psycho, based on a novel by Robert Bloch, written for the screen by Joseph Stefano, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, and starring Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, John Gavin, Vera Miles, Martin Balsam, John McIntire, and Simon Oakland.

A secretary named Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) steals some money from her boss to help her divorced boyfriend Sam Loomis (John Gavin) pay off his debts so that they can finally be together.  After stealing the money, she flees in her car to take the money to Sam.  On the way there, her nervous demeanor arouses the suspicions of a highway patrol officer who starts to follow her, causing her to switch her car out at a dealership to try to lose him.  Continuing on her way, she gets caught in a heavy downpour of rain and decides to pull into the Bates Motel for the night, finding that she is the only occupant.  She meets the owner of the Motel, a man named Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins), who is a shy, nice man who gets angry when you suggest he put his crazy mother in an institution.  Instead of dealing with that situation, Marion decides that she should go to the one place where she can truly be safe: the shower.

This is another classic movie that I feel like I was expected to like much more than I did.  But in this case, I’m pretty sure I already know the problem.  The problem with this movie is that it’s been around for so long and it’s been talked about so much that I could not help but know exactly what happens around every corner of this movie.  The only thing I would not have been able to tell you before watching the movie was that Marion stole some money from her boss, but I took care of learning about that part by watching the remake, which is almost exactly the same movie.  Everything else about the movie – the shower scene, the reveal about the mother at the end of the movie, etc. – was already well known to me before I even had any inkling to try to watch the movie.  That all being said, I have tried to divorce myself from that and I’ve reached the conclusion that the story of this movie is pretty good, and you may actually be able to get some enjoyment out of it if you somehow managed to make it through life without knowing how the movie ends.

Another problem that comes with the age of this movie is the look.  Now, I don’t think the look for the movie was bad or anything; it was just in black and white and I tend to get visually bored while watching them.  One thing that did get to me was reading the Wikipedia page for the film and seeing that that it is apparently famous for “bringing a new level of acceptable violence and sexuality” to films.  Obviously I realize that times were different back when this movie came out, but I did not watch this movie (or exist) when this movie came out.  I watched it in 2012, where sexuality in film has gone to the point where Chloë Sevigny is really sucking a dick on camera and violence is really close to filming autopsies, so it probably doesn’t have the same effect on me as it did back then.  Sexuality for this movie is Janet Leigh wearing a torpedo bra, which I actually found less sexual than her with her shirt on.  And violence is holding a knife in front of her stomach and darker water mixing with regular water and going down a drain.  I assume it was supposed to be blood, but I usually am able to distinguish something as blood by the color red.  I think I actually preferred the shower scene from the remake.  Perhaps it was because I think blood is more effective when it’s red, or perhaps I missed Anne Heche’s butthole.  Or perhaps being nitpicky.  Speaking of which, the music of the movie kept getting to me too.  At first, I kept trying to figure out where I had heard this music before, but I was never able to figure it out.  Then, it got on my nerves that the music was ramping up so heavy during a scene that was not as intense as the music would lead me to believe.  Janet Leigh is just driving in the rain.  You can calm down now.  Don’t try to convince me that she’s in peril when she’s doing something I almost fell asleep doing two days ago.

The performances in the movie were all pretty good.  Not a lot to complain about.  Janet Leigh was classy, hot, and portrayed her nervousness through the first half of the movie very well.  I would say that she didn’t make much of an impact in the latter half of the movie.  She was just dead weight.  Anthony Perkins was probably the most impressive person in this movie, but he also kind of played multiple characters.  He did a really good job of making that turn from the sweet guy to really angry, but I would say he does a really piss-poor job of covering up for murders.  I do a better job cleaning my bathroom than he did of cleaning a bathroom to cover up a murder.  Just a once over with a hand towel?  That’s what you’re gonna do, playboy?  I also thought he did a great job portraying Norman as being a terrible liar when his back was against the wall.  He was so bad at it that I was really hoping that the private detective that was questioning him would’ve walked out of the room and said, “I guess there’s nothing going on here.  Moving on!”  That would’ve been hilarious.  Also, did Norman do any research on that swamp to find out if it was indeed deep enough to conceal a car with a body in the trunk?  That would’ve been delightful if he pushed the car in and watched with a smug satisfaction until it stopped sinking with the whole trunk sticking out.

I can’t say that I was entirely impressed by Psycho, but I blame everyone who was not involved in the movie for it.  It’s all of their faults that I already knew everything about this movie before I started watching it.  I also blame the bulk of them for raising unrealistic expectations for this movie.  I blame my mother for not having me when she was 10 so I could’ve seen this movie when it came out.  And I also blame the Lumière brothers for not inventing the Autochrome early enough that color film would have been the norm at the time this movie was made so I had to imagine what shade of gray blood would be.  The movie itself is fine enough, but everything else ruined it for me.  Psycho gets “A son is a poor substitute for a lover” out of “We all go a little mad sometimes.”

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people.  Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense.  Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated.  You can also add me on FaceBook and Twitter.  Don’t forget to leave me some comments.  Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.

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