Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Starring: Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, John Gavin, Vera Miles
Running time: 109mins
From the moment the titles start to the opening scene where we pan across the skyline you can feel the quality. Then if you remember that this film was released in 1960 it becomes even more impressive. I’m a fan of Saul Bass’s style across the other movie opening titles (North by Northwest, Anatomy of a Murder, Vertigo) and that style linked to the jaunty, disorienting music gives you the sense of being about to see something that isn’t right, something off kilter.
First of all we meet Marion and her lover Sam, in a lunchtime tryst before he returns back to his hometown. They long to be together but circumstances are keeping them apart. Marion goes back to work where she is chatted up by an obnoxious middle aged businessman who is buying a house through the firm that she works for. She is given $40,000 to deposit in the bank over the weekend before the business is concluded on Monday morning. The money, however, never makes it to the bank and so the excitement really begins…..
Marion takes off from Phoenix to meet up with Sam in California to start a new life together, free of the situations that were keeping them apart. Before she can make it to Fairvale she gets caught in a rain downpour during the night and opts to stop at the next motel overnight until the rain passes. This happens to be the Bates Motel, once proud and busy, now only frequented by people taking the less direct route, which isn’t many.
On checking in to the motel we meet Norman Bates, played by Anthony Perkins. Norman is a young man and he acts young too, nervous and awkward. But during their conversation an edge shows when talking about his mother, who resides in the looming house on the hill, a powerful presence in Norman’s life.
In a very bold move we see the main character, Marion, killed off before the hour mark has passed. As emotive and famous as this scene is I feel it has lost a bit of it’s edge in this day and age of gore splattered killing, but it is still a masterful scene.
From this moment the film changes tack and moves into an investigation. Marion’s sister turns up and confronts Sam and enlists the help of a private detective to work out what happened to Marion. The investigation works hard at trying to uncover the truth and it does all come out eventually, but not in the way that you expect. It is a wonderful moment when you realise what has been happening all along.
Psycho is beautifully shot, even in black and white it comes across really well. There are two tremendous close ups of eyes in here which took my breath away with the detail and the composition.
It is a classic of the genre, not as violent as some films these days but it is still a working horror film no doubt and Anthony Perkins is masterful as the young Norman.
Horror Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Overall Rating: ★★★★☆