[pullquote cite=”” type=”left, right”][amazon text=Amazon&template=carousel&chan=That Film Guy&asin=B003BEDT78][/pullquote] Alfred Hitchcock is one of the most influential and culturally significant directors of all time. His canon of work, including classics such as North by Northwest, Rear Window and Vertigo are still held in high regard decades after they were released. His greatest work however has to be the chilling horror, Psycho. Upon release, despite mixed reviews, Psycho was a huge commercial success causing many reviewers to reassess their initial opinions. Such has been the support for the film that in 1992 was chosen to be preserved by the Library of Congress at The National Film Registry.
Marion Crane (Janet Leigh), needing money for marriage to her lover Sam Loomis (the surname which was later used by Skeet Ulrich in Scream), steals from her employee and goes on the run. After a brief run-in with a police officer, Marion gets back on the road but is forced to stop due to bad weather and stay in the Bates Motel. The motel is run by Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins), who lives in the house overlooking the lot with his mother. After a night with the apparently shy Bates, Marion begins to suspect that everything is not as it seems.
Psycho is one of the most discussed and analysed films of all time and often appears in undergraduate film courses at universities. Hitchcock’s eye for detail and incredible use of camera shots and at the time original visions for how to achieve an emotion through use of the lens establishes him as one of the most important directors of all time and Psycho is his most successful film. The idea of a social outcast, tied to his elderly mother, living in the middle of no where is an incredibly chilling idea for a film and Hitchcock uses his incredible sense of space and timing to create a claustrophobic and constantly intimidating atmosphere.
The most famous scene in the whole film (and one of the most parodied scenes in all of film) is the now infamous shower scene. Occurring about halfway through the film, Janet Leigh’s character takes a shower when she is violently attacked and stabbed to death, her blood swirling around the plug hole before the scene finishes. It took Hitchcock one week of shooting, 90 individual shots and 70 camera angles to create the illusion of the death of the films’ main character, which seeing as the film only took 6 weeks to shoot is an incredible fact.
The censors had real trouble cutting the scene, because Hitchcock very carefully never shows nudity or actual skin piecing and instead implies it with the host of shots and angles. It is a masterpiece from one the greats of film-making. Instead the censors went after the preceding shot where Marion tears up a note and flushes it down the toilet. The shot of the water swirling (foreshadowing what is to come) was the first time that the inside of a toilet was ever shown on film and the censors chose to attack this scene because they were unable to criticise the actual murder.
Psycho stands the test of time and it one of the most recognisable and iconic films not only within the horror genre, but in films in general.