For those of you who missed the boat completely, or simply could use a recap, Psycho is the tale of Marion Crane (Janet Leigh), a young secretary in a hot romance with her divorced, and poor, lover Sam (John Gavin). They want to be together, but lack of funds keeps them frustratingly exactly where they are, in the work-a-day world of 1960 Phoenix. However, when Marion is given the tempting duty of stowing forty-thousand of her boss' dollars in a safe deposit box one Friday, Marion's future's so bright she's gotta wear shades... she's gotta wear shades!
On her way to a bright tomorrow, Marion stops at the now infamous "Bates Motel", run by young, handsome and repressed Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins, in case you just woke up from a Coma). Norman's innocent good looks and whipped personality (due to an overbearing mother who... goes a little Mad sometimes) seem non-threatening enough for our heroine, so imagine her surprise when she comes face to naked face with mom!
What follows is Norman's consistent covering for his mother as Marion's boss, boyfriend and sister seek to track her down. But who is really wearing the pants in the Bates Family, and what happens when the gang and their hired Private Investigator get a little too close to the shocking truth?
You want to talk about surprise twist endings, Psycho's got one to turn M. Night Shyamalan on his ear! That's not even to mention the surprise twist denouement which still has audiences reeling forty-five years after the fact!
One would expect nothing less from the brilliant directorial mind of Alfred Hitchcock, but it's not simply Hitchcock that shapes this one into the undeniable classic that it is. Janet Leigh's acting and genre-creating scream have been the model that every scream queen since (including that daughter of hers) has followed as best they could. Perkins is brilliant as Norman Bates, playing the boy-next-door to a teddy-bear brilliance, only to show a cold smile when the world around him changes to a twisted nightmare. Supporting characters like Vera Miles' Lila Crane and Martin Balsam's P.I. Milton Arbogast add a canny realism to the receding proceedings.
Though the tricks have been used and reused to the point that they no longer feel new, Hitch's camera work is especially groundbreaking, using blue-screens, rapid MTV cuts and a choregraphed score to build tension while refusing to let it release! His well-orchestrated tapestry of psychosis still makes the audience as uncomfortable as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs, especially as the provincial turns to the pathological.
Still, storytelling has changed, though I'm not saying it's at all for the better. Writer Joseph Stefano tacks on an ending that attempts to spoon-feed an explanation for all of this in a way that isn't so needed in this day of Court TV and Daily announcements on BTK. Many of the characterizations feel like riffs on Leave it to Beaver, which actually serves to make the outcome all the more horrific. Being two half-movies stitched together in the middle like a celluloid Frankenstein Monster, a new viewer might feel disconcerted when the slow embezzlement mystery becomes a shocking Serial Killer tale, but for the detailed mind, this is a classic thriller worth your attention. In short, a downside is... Psycho shows its age... and looking at the current crop of American Cheese in the Cineplex, an upside is that Psycho shows its age!
Truly, though, this is a five-star film, and Hitch's use of what you don't see, and the omnipresent red herring still make this an unequalled suspense triumph!
Top to bottom, left to right, Psycho is a disturbing delight, with killer acting, deadly precise directing, and writing that remains loyal to the horrific Robert Bloch's original novel! It still feels new because it's never been topped. Five stars out of Five for Psycho! Haven't seen it? Do! I've left this spoiler free for your enjoyment! Haven't seen it for a while? Come on, do it again, do it again, do it again! This is the shock to beat, and it just might surprise you all over again! So until my mother starts giving me advice that goes far beyond the financial and familial... I'll see you in the next chocolate syrup-smeared reel!
who is solely responsible for his views and for the Mother Jokes he still tells!
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