The image of a shabby motel in the middle of nowhere, by-passed by any relevant roads and inhabited by disturbing, weird or antisocial characters. The brutal murder committed by a merciless lunatic wielding a broad kitchen knife accompanied by the nerve-wrecking sound of a screeching violin. Does this sound like a cliché? For a contemporary audience, it’s more than likely. In the last three or four decades we’ve had the chance to see numerous films utilizing the first motif, and we’ve all probably seen someone make the second gesture, always with the infamous screech involved. But when Psycho came out in 1960, none of this had the misfortune of being labeled as cliché. Given his career trajectory in terms of genre and themes, given the more than modest budget, given the fact that he was the only one who would even dare consider killing off his most bankable Hollywood star at the end of the film’s first act, Psycho completely caught everyone by surprise. More than half a century later, it is considered a turning point in the history of the horror genre, a brilliant psychological thriller soaked in quality dark humor and a landmark film that crept into film history books not only for its excellent screenplay written by Joseph Stefano, technical virtuosity or fine acting, but also for its role in the liberation of cinema. Made in the last years of the dying Production Code, it marked a new beginning in terms of what was acceptable for on-screen presentation. But most of all, Psycho was proof of Hitchcock’s versatile talents, his skill at toying with the audience’s expectations, his bravery in the form of pushing boundaries and going where other artists in the business were simply too timid or even unimaginative to go.
In order to fully understand the significance of the picture, one must consider the circumstances in which it was made. Upon his faithful assistant Peggy Robertson’s advice, Hitchcock read Robert Bloch’s novel of the same name and acquired the rights for less than ten grand. Paramount executives, however, refused to finance the movie. Even when the filmmaker offered to shoot the film in black and white and hire his Alfred Hitchcock Presents TV crew to lower the overall expenses, Paramount held their ground, finally agreeing when Hitchcock offered to personally finance Psycho if the studio agreed to distribute it. Trying to appease the stubborn people at Paramount, Hitchcock exchanged his usual directing fee for a 60 percent stake in the film negative, a risky move that eventually made him millions. A master of marketing and promotion, Hitchcock went to great lengths to attract the audience to the theater, but in fear of ruining their surprise and shock, he forbade his actors from promoting the movie on talk shows and TV. Instead, he insisted on a “no late admission” policy, which prompted moviegoers to stand in long lines and overall intensified the public’s interest in the film, unaware of all the delightful shocks Hitchcock had prepared. It’s not just about the horrifying twist near the end of the film: the fact that the lead actress, the biggest name on the opening credits, gets butchered in the infamous shower scene, after the viewers spent a solid half an hour getting to know her, utterly oblivious of the secondary nature of her role in the picture, means Hitchcock took a massive gamble that ultimately paid off.
To make the film’s budget as low as possible, as we’ve mentioned, Hitchcock hired a crew mostly comprised of his old TV collaborators, including cinematographer John L. Russell, first assistant director, set designer and script supervisor. Other vital positions were covered by Hitchcock’s frequent partners, such as the famous composer Bernard Herrmann, editor George Tomasini and title and storyboard designer Saul Bass. Due to his reputation, he managed to get actresses and actors for much less than their usual fees. The legend has it Janet Leigh agreed to make the picture without even inquiring about her potential salary. Leigh, along with Anthony Perkins, was a proven box-office draw and practically secured a wide audience for the movie. Vera Miles, Martin Balsam and John Gavin also joined in. The role of Saul Bass has been widely debated in the years that followed the film’s premiere. The legendary artist was hired to design the title sequence, but allegedly had a vital role in the most famous of all Hitchcock scenes: the shower murder. It’s claimed that Bass provided the storyboard for the scene, while rumors that Bass directed it himself were soon buried by reliable witnesses, like Leigh. Herrmann’s score, furthermore, is held in the highest regard and seen as a true masterpiece. Hitchcock initially didn’t even want any music both in the shower scene and in all motel-located scenes in general, but Herrmann convinced him to give him a shot. At the end, it was Hitchcock who claimed at least a third of the film’s appeal and effectiveness lay in Herrmann’s music.
The impact Psycho made on the filmmaking and filmgoing world of the sixties should be a topic for a completely separate article. In short, the most direct consequences would be the following. Even though the initial critical response was lukewarm, as the film was enthusiastically greeted by the audience and earned a fortune at the box office, the criticism also shifted, and the film garnered four Academy Award nominations, one of which was Hitchcock’s last as a director. Moreover, Robert Bloch, the author of the original novel, became a popular horror film screenwriter in the sixties, just like Anthony Perkins’ career was revived. Hitchcock, on the other hand, suddenly became known as a masterful horror director, even though Psycho was practically his first true effort in the genre. Most importantly for filmmaking in general, Psycho is considered by many to be the first slasher movie, and the success of this film spurred a whole series of slasher films in the near future, ultimately opening the door for the subgenre’s golden era, the extremely blood eighties. Nothing would give us more pleasure than being able to be among the people who first saw Psycho in 1960, but it’s more than satisfactory to return to this inspiring classic whenever we get the chance. Filmmaking genius can’t get outdated.
A monumentally important screenplay. Dear every screenwriter/filmmaker, read Joseph Stefano’s screenplay for Psycho [PDF]. (NOTE: For educational and research purposes only). The DVD/Blu-ray of the film is available at Amazon and other online retailers. Absolutely our highest recommendation.
Joseph Stefano has a long list of credits of various shapes and sizes (including his work as a songwriter), but he will always be fondly remembered by genre fans for two outstanding projects: he produced and wrote many episodes of the original version of the television show The Outer Limits, and he adapted the screenplay for the Alfred Hitchcock film Psycho from the novel by Robert Bloch. (Stefano’s screenplay was re-used, virtually word for word, in director Gus Van Sant’s 1998 remake of the film.) The man who adapted Robert Block’s novel discusses his contribution to Alfred Hitchcock’s classic film.
The idea excited Hitch. And I got the job. Killing the leading lady in the first 20 minutes had never been done before! Hitch suggested a name actress to play Marion because the bigger the star the more unbelievable it would be that we would kill her. From there, the writing was easy. The only difficulty was switching the audience’s sympathies to Norman after Marion’s death. Bloch’s book treats him as a kind of reprobate. When I discussed this with Hitch, he said, ‘Put that out of your mind and picture Tony Perkins.’ I knew then I could write the character. Hitch wasn’t always patient, but he was helpful and generous; he answered my questions gladly. Before I’d even written a word, we spent four weeks brainstorming the story, especially the shower scene. We talked about having Saul Bass do storyboards, and planned how to film the murder without actually seeing the knife enter the flesh. We were mainly concerned about nudity—how much could be shown in 1959 and how much would convey, without being gratuitous, the terror of being attacked naked and wet. —Interview: Psycho Screenwriter Joseph Stefano
In the fall of 1962, whilst The Birds was in post-production, François Truffaut carried out extensive interviews with Alfred Hitchcock at his offices at Universal Studios. The interviews were recorded to audio tape and the content eventually edited down into the ‘Hitchcock/Truffaut’ book. Buy Hitchcock by François Truffaut from Amazon.
Before talking about Psycho I would like to ask whether you have any theory in respect to the opening scene of your pictures. Some of them start out with an act of violence; others simply indicate the locale.
It all depends on what the purpose is. The opening of The Birds is an attempt to suggest the normal, complacent, everyday life in San Francisco. Sometimes I simply use a title to indicate that we’re in Phoenix or in San Francisco. It’s too easy, I know, but it’s economical. I’m torn between the need for economy and the wish to present a locale, even when it’s a familiar one, with more subtlety. After all, it’s no problem at all to present Paris with the Eiffel Tower in the background, or London with Big Ben on the horizon.
In pictures that don’t open up with violence, you almost invariably apply the same rule of exposition: From the farthest to the nearest. You show the city, then a building in the city, a room in that building. That’s the way Psycho begins.
In the opening of Psycho I wanted to say that we were in Phoenix, and we even spelled out the day and the time, but I only did that to lead up to a very important fact: that it was two-forty-three in the afternoon and this is the only time the poor girl has to go to bed with her lover. It suggests that she’s spent her whole lunch hour with him.
It’s a nice touch because it establishes at once that this is an’ illicit affair.
It also allows the viewer to become a Peeping Tom.
Jean Douchet, a French film critic, made a witty comment on that scene. He wrote that since John Gavin is stripped to his waist, but Janet Leigh wears a brassiere, the scene is only satisfying to one half of the audience.
In truth, Janet Leigh should not have been wearing a brassiere. I can see nothing immoral about that scene and I get no special kick out of it. But the scene would have been more interesting if the girl’s bare breasts had been rubbing against the man’s chest.
I noticed that throughout the whole picture you tried to throw out red herrings to the viewers, and it occurred to me that the reason for that erotic opening was to mislead them again. The sex angle was raised so that later on the audience would think that Anthony Perkins is merely a voyeur. If I’m not mistaken, out of your fifty works, this is the only film showing a woman in a brassiere.
Well, one of the reasons for which I wanted to do the scene in that way was that the audiences are changing. It seems to me that the straightforward kissing scene would be looked down at by the younger viewers; they’d feel it was silly. I know that they themselves behave as John Gavin and Janet Leigh did. I think that nowadays you have to show them the way they themselves behave most of the time. Besides, I also wanted to give a visual impression of despair and solitude in that scene.
Yes, it occurred to me that Psycho was oriented toward a new generation of filmgoers. There were many things in that picture that you’d never done in your earlier films.
Absolutely. In fact, that’s also true in a technical sense for The Birds.
I’ve read the novel from which Psycho was taken, and one of the things that bothered me is that it cheats. For instance, there are passages like this: “Norman sat down beside his mother and they began a conversation.” Now, since she doesn’t exist, that’s obviously misleading, whereas the film narration is rigorously worked out to eliminate these discrepancies. What was it that attracted you to the novel?
I think that the thing that appealed to me and made me decide to do the picture was the suddenness of the murder in the shower, coming, as it were, out of the blue. That was about all.
The killing is pretty much like a rape. I believe the novel was based on a newspaper story.
It was the story of a man who kept his mother’s body in his house, somewhere in Wisconsin.
In Psycho there’s a whole arsenal of terror, which you generally avoid: the ghostly house.
The mysterious atmosphere is, to some extent, quite accidental. For instance, the actual locale of the events is in northern California, where that type of house is very common. They’re either called “California Gothic,” or, when they’re particularly awful, they’re called “California gingerbread.” I did not set out to reconstruct an old-fashioned Universal horror picture atmosphere. I simply wanted to be accurate, and there is no question but that both the house and the motel are authentic reproductions of the real thing. I chose that house and motel because I realized that if I had taken an ordinary low bungalow the effect wouldn’t have been the same. I felt that type of architecture would help the atmosphere of the yarn.
I must say that the architectural contrast between the vertical house and the horizontal motel is quite pleasing to the eye.
Definitely, that’s our composition: a vertical block and a horizontal block.
In that whole picture there isn’t a single character with whom a viewer might identify.
It wasn’t necessary. Even so, the audience was probably sorry for the poor girl at the time of her death. In fact, the first part of the story was a red herring. That was deliberate, you see, to detract the viewer’s attention in order to heighten the murder. We purposely made that beginning on the long side, with the bit about the theft and her escape, in order to get the audience absorbed with the question of whether she would or would not be caught. Even that business about the forty thousand dollars was milked to the very end so that the public might wonder what’s going to happen to the money. You know that the public always likes to be one jump ahead of the story; they like to feel they know what’s coming next. So you deliberately play upon this fact to control their thoughts. The more we go into the details of the girl’s journey, the more the audience becomes ab sorbed in her flight. That’s why so much is made of the motorcycle cop and the change of cars. When Anthony Perkins tells the girl of his life in the motel, and they exchange views, you still play upon the girl’s problem. It seems as if she’s decided to go back to Phoenix and give the money back, and it’s possible that the public anticipates by thinking, “Ah, this young man is influencing her to change her mind.” You turn the viewer in one direction and then in another; you keep him as far as possible from what’s actually going to happen. In the average production, Janet Leigh would have been given the other role. She would have played the sister who’s investigating. It’s rather unusual to kill the star in the first third of the film. I purposely killed the star so as to make the killing even more unexpected. As a matter of fact, that’s why I insisted that the audiences be kept out of the theaters once the picture had started, because the late-comers would have been waiting to see Janet Leigh after she has disappeared from the screen action. Psycho has a very interesting construction and that game with the audience was fascinating. I was directing the viewers. You might say I was playing them, like an organ.
I admired that picture enormously, but I felt a letdown during the two scenes with the sheriff.
The sheriff’s intervention comes under the heading of what we have discussed many times before: “Why don’t they go to the police?” I’ve always replied, “They don’t go to the police because it’s dull.” Here is a perfect example of what happens when they go to the police.
Still, the action picks up again almost immediately after that. One intriguing aspect is the way the picture makes the viewer constantly switch loyalties. At the beginning he hopes that Janet Leigh won’t be caught. The murder is very shocking, but as soon as Perkins wipes away the traces of the killing, we begin to side with him, to hope that he won’t be found out. Later on, when we learn from the sheriff that Perkins’ mother has been dead for eight years, we again change sides and are against Perkins, but this time, it’s sheer curiosity. The viewer’s emotions are not exactly wholesome.
This brings us back to the emotions of Peeping Tom audiences. We had some of that in Dial M for Murder.
That’s right. When Milland was late in phoning his wife and the killer looked as if he might walk out of the apartment without killing Grace Kelly. The audience reaction there was to hope he’d hang on for another few minutes.
It’s a general rule. Earlier, we talked about the fact that when a burglar goes into a room, all the time he’s going through the drawers, the public is generally anxious for him. When Perkins is looking at the car sinking in the pond, even though he’s burying a body, when the car stops sinking for a moment, the public is thinking, “I hope it goes all the way down!” It’s a natural instinct.
But in most of your films the audience reaction is more innocent because they are concerned for a man who is wrongly suspected of a crime. Whereas in Psycho one begins by being scared for a girl who’s a thief, and later on one is scared for a killer, and, finally, when one learns that this killer has a secret, one hopes he will be caught just in order to get the full story!
I doubt whether the identification is that close.
It isn’t necessarily identification, but the viewer becomes attached to Perkins because of the care with which he wipes away all the traces of his crime. It’s tantamount to admiring someone for a job well done. I understand that in addition to the main titles, Saul Bass also did some sketches for the picture.
He did only one scene, but I didn’t use his montage. He was supposed to do the titles, but since he was interested in the picture, I let him layout the sequence of the detective going up the stairs, just before he is stabbed. One day during the shooting I came down with a temperature, and since I couldn’t come to the studio, I told the cameraman and my assistant that they could use Saul Bass’s drawings. Only the part showing him going up the stairs, before the killing. There was a shot of his hand on the rail, and of feet seen in profile, going up through the bars of the balustrade. When I looked at the rushes of the scene, I found it was no good, and that was an interesting revelation for me, because as that sequence was cut, it wasn’t an innocent person but a sinister man who was going up those stairs. Those cuts would have been perfectly all right if they were showing a killer, but they were in conflict with the whole spirit ot the scene. Bear in mind that we had gone to a lot of trouble to prepare the audience for this scene: we had established a mystery woman in the house; we had established the fact that this mystery woman had come down and slashed a woman to pieces under her shower. All the elements that would convey suspense to the detective’s journey upstairs had gone before and we there fore needed a simple statement. We needed to show a staircase and a man going up that stair case in a very simple way.
I suppose that the original rushes of that scene helped you to determine just the right expression. In French we would say that “he arrived like a flower,” which implies, of course, that he was ready to be plucked.
It wasn’t exactly impassivity; it was more like complacency. Anyway, I used a single shot of Arbogast coming up the stairs, and when he got to the top step, I deliberately placed the camera very high for two reasons. The first was so that I could shoot down on top of the mother, because if I’d shown her back, it might have looked as if I was deliberately concealing her face and the audience would have been leery. I used that high angle in order not to give the impression that I was trying to avoid showing her. But the main reason for raising the camera so high was to get the contrast between the long shot and the close-up of the big head as the knife came down at him. It was like music, you see, the high shot with the violins, and suddenly the big head with the brass instruments clashing. In the high shot the mother dashes out and I cut into the movement of the knife sweeping down. Then I went over to the close-up on Arbogast. We put a plastic tube on his face with hemoglobin, and as the knife came up to it, we pulled a string releasing the blood on his face down the line we had traced in advance. Then he fell back on the stairway.
I was rather intrigued by that fall backward. He doesn’t actually fall. His feet aren’t shown, but the feeling one gets is that he’s going down the stairs backward, brushing each step with the tip of his foot, like a dancer.
That’s the impression we were after. Do you know how we got that?
I realize you wanted to stretch out the action, but I don’t know how you did it.
We did it by process. First I did a separate dolly shot down the stairway, without the man. Then we sat him in a special chair in which he was in a fixed position in front of the transparency screen showing the stairs. Then we shot the chair, and Arbogast simply threw his arms up, waving them as if he’d lost his balance.
It’s extremely effective. Later on in the picture you use another very high shot to show Perkins taking his mother to the cellar.
I raised the camera when Perkins was going upstairs. He goes into the room and we don’t see him, but we hear him say, “Mother, I’ve got to take you down to the cellar. They’re snooping around.” And then you see him take her down to the cellar. I didn’t want to cut, when he carries her down, to a high shot be cause the audience would have been suspicious as to why the camera has suddenly jumped away. So I had a hanging camera follow Perkins up the stairs, and when he went into the room 1 continued going up without a cut. As the camera got up on top of the door, the camera turned and looked back down the stairs again. Meanwhile, I had an argument take place be tween the son and his mother to distract the audience and take their minds off what the camera was doing. In this way the camera was above Perkins again as he carried his mother down and the public hadn’t noticed a thing. It was rather exciting to use the camera to deceive the audience.
The stabbing of Janet Leigh was very well done also.
It took us seven days to shoot that scene, and there were seventy camera setups for forty-five seconds of footage. We had a torso specially made up for that scene, with the blood that was supposed to spurt away from the knife, but I didn’t use it. I used a live girl instead, a naked model who stood in for Janet Leigh. We only showed Miss Leigh’s hands, shoulders, and head. All the rest was the stand-in. Naturally, the knife never touched the body; it was all done in the montage. I shot some of it in slow motion so as to cover the breasts. The slow shots were not accelerated later on because they were in serted in the montage so as to give an impression of normal speed.
It’s an exceptionally violent scene.
This is the most violent scene of the picture. As the film unfolds, there is less violence because the harrowing memory of this initial killing carries over to the suspenseful passages that come later.
Yet, even better than the killing, in the sense of its harmony, is the scene in which Perkins handles the mop and broom to clean away any traces of the crime. The whole construction of the picture suggests a sort of scale of the abnormal. First there is a scene of adultery, then a theft, then one crime followed by another, and, finally, psychopathy. Each passage puts us on a higher note of the scale. Isn’t that so?
I suppose so, but you know that to me Janet Leigh is playing the role of a perfectly ordinary bourgeoise.
But she does lead us in the direction of the abnormal, toward Perkins and his stuffed birds.
I was quite intrigued with them: they were like symbols. Obviously Perkins is interested in taxidermy since he’d filled his own mother with sawdust. But the owl, for instance, has another connotation. Owls belong to the night world; they are watchers, and this appeals to Perkins’ masochism. He knows the birds and he knows that they’re watching him all the time. He can see his own guilt reflected in their knowing eyes.
Would you say that Psycho is an experimental film?
Possibly. My main satisfaction is that the film had an effect on the audiences, and I consider that very important. I don’t care about the subject matter; I don’t care about the acting; but I do care about the pieces of film and the photography and the soundtrack and all of the technical ingredients that made the audience scream. I feel it’s tremendously satisfying for us to be able to use the cinematic art to achieve something of a mass emotion. And with Psycho we most definitely achieved this. It wasn’t a message that stirred the audiences, nor was it a great performance or their enjoyment of the novel. They were aroused by pure film.
Yes, that’s true.
That’s why I take pride in the fact that Psycho, more than any of my other pictures, is a film that belongs to film-makers, to you and me. I can’t get a real appreciation of the picture in the terms we’re using now. People will say, “It was a terrible film to make. The subject was horrible, the people were small, there were no characters in it.” I know all of this, but I also know that the construction of the story and the way in which it was told caused audiences all over the world to react and become emotional.
Yes, emotional and even physical.
Emotional. I don’t care whether it looked like a small or a large picture. I didn’t start off to make an important movie. I thought I could have fun with this subject and this situation. The picture cost eight hundred thousand dollars. It was an experiment in this sense: Could I make a feature film under the same conditions as a television show? I used a complete television unit to shoot it very quickly. The only place where I digressed was when I slowed down the murder scene, the cleaning-up scene, and the other scenes that indicated anything that required time. All of the rest was handled in the same way that they do it in television.
I know that you produced Psycho yourself. How did you make out with it?
Psycho cost us no more than eight hundred thousand dollars to make. It has grossed some fifteen million dollars to date.
That’s fantastic! Would you say this was your greatest hit to date?
Yes. And that’s what I’d like you to do—a picture that would gross millions of dollars throughout the world! It’s an area of film-making in which it’s more important for you to be pleased with the technique than with the content. It’s the kind of picture in which the camera takes over. Of course, since critics are more concerned with the scenario, it won’t necessarily get you the best notices, but you have to design your film just as Shakespeare did his plays—for an audience.
That reminds me that Psycho is particularly universal because it’s a half-silent movie; there are at least two reels with no dialogue at all. And that also simplified all the problems of subtitling and dubbing.
Do you know that in Thailand they use no subtitles or dubbing? They shut off the sound and a man stands somewhere near the screen and interprets all the roles, using different voices.
ONE LONG OPENING TAKE
As originally scripted, the opening shots of Psycho were intended to be one long, continuous take. Courtesy of the Margaret Herrick Library, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
PRODUCTION CODE MEMO
The censorship issues with Psycho are legendary including the fate of Marion (originally named Mary), as seen in this Production Code memo. Courtesy of the Margaret Herrick Library, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
This Psycho production sketch indicates the sinister, suffocating atmosphere to be found in the Bates household. Courtesy of the Margaret Herrick Library, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Saul Bass reunited with Hitchcock for the opening titles for Psycho, as well as crafting these storyboards for the shower sequence. Courtesy of the Margaret Herrick Library, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
It is one of the most notorious scenes ever filmed. Vashi Nedomansky edited the Saul Bass storyboards next to the final film version of Psycho. “It’s quite clear that the Saul Bass storyboards were followed explicitly to create the indelible images that made this spectacular scene.”
The research for Psycho included this grisly memo about the condition of an embalmed body, which figures in the film’s twist ending. Courtesy of the Margaret Herrick Library, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Janet Leigh and John Gavin share a steamy clinch while filming the eyebrow-raising opening of Psycho. Courtesy of the Margaret Herrick Library, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
The true nature of Mrs. Bates was kept heavily under wraps by Alfred Hitchcock during the production and promotion of Psycho. Courtesy of the Margaret Herrick Library, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
How effective was Bernard Herrmann’s score for Psycho? Here’s what one viewer had to say about it. Courtesy of the Margaret Herrick Library, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Did you catch the medical goof in the Psycho shower scene? This eagle-eyed physician did and brought it to Mr. Hitchcock’s attention. Courtesy of the Margaret Herrick Library, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
A master of marketing and promotion, Hitchcock hanging the “o” of Psycho.
In this fairly typical Hitchcock interview from 1960, the director adjusts his tie and sits down for a brisk promotional session for Psycho, describing the plot with typical drollery and running through some of his greatest soundbite hits: the oft-told story about how he was imprisoned briefly as a child at his father’s request, qualifying his statement that actors should be treated like cattle (“You mean you want to make them larger cattle than they are?”), and whether he’s ever wanted to be an actor himself (“Nothing so low as that”). —Filmmaker Magazine
Various theories have been put forth regarding the origins of Psycho’s Bates Mansion. Author James Michener once claimed that it was based on a Victorian-era, reportedly haunted, house in Kent, Ohio. Another rumor maintains that it was based on the Hotel McCray of Santa Cruz, California. Wrong and wrong. The fact of the matter is that the architecture is more-or-less original. Continue reading at Alfred Hitchcock Geek.
‘THE CUT BECOMES A WEAPON’
A look at how Hitchcock uses editing. When does he cut?
The shower scene comprises of 78 shots edited into a 45 second segment and took 7 days to complete. Martin Scorsese analyses Hitchcock’s editing in Psycho.
Once you’ve sort of mined the classics and they become like logos that you see everywhere, the beauty of Hitchcock’s work is that the more subtle moments are even more powerful and more lasting, I think, ultimately, in the less bravura scenes in pictures like Psycho. In Psycho we have two or three very strong bravura moments which, of course, are the shower scene, the killing of Martin Balsam, the shocking ending… But the sequences that continually give me inspiration are the sequences in which she’s driving. The camera is very, very dead center on her, it’s very precise. And when you see her point of view, it’s dead center. It isn’t slightly off, that’s a big difference. These are very specific shots and they exist in almost an abstract way. You know, here it’s stripped down black and white. It’s like a dream, and yet you’re still awake. And you know with that music, too, that something terrible is going to happen to her. But it can’t because she’s the lead of the film. Come on, she stole 40,000 dollars, she’s on the lam, she’s running away, that’s the plot of the picture, let’s see what happens. So I was one of the ones who bought that completely. We were up there that night at the Mayfair Theater, it was called. And that was one of the first films I ever saw that said, Please do not reveal the ending. We were yelling at people as they were coming out of the theater, saying, What happens, what happens? Don’t ask, don’t ask, we’re not saying. We were all laughing and running. It was like a circus… a circus. —Martin Scorsese
A retrospective on the entire movie, from start to finish. There are interviews with many of the principle cast and crew (including Janet Leigh and Joseph Stefano), who all talk openly and lovingly about entire process of making the film. The sessions with Janet Leigh are particularly involving, and she talks a great deal about shooting the now infamous shower scene.
THE SOUND OF HITCHCOCK
Join Academy Award-winning sound designers as they reveal how Alfred Hitchcock employed sound to make audience members leap from their seats in fright or crawl under them from excruciating suspense.
PURE CINEMA: THROUGH THE EYES OF HITCHCOCK
Director Martin Scorsese is our guide into the power and mastery of Hitchcock’s visual style, breaking down landmark sequences from Vertigo, The Birds and Psycho.
IN THE MASTER’S SHADOW: HITCHCOCK’S LEGACY
Martin Scorsese, Guillermo del Toro, William Friedkin and many others celebrate the enduring legacy of the man many consider the greatest filmmaker the medium has yet produced. Discover why Alfred Hitchcock’s movies thrill audiences and inspire filmmakers, who continue to employ his cinematic techniques to this day.
BERNARD HERRMANN: HITCHCOCK’S MAESTRO
Bernard Herrmann was perhaps the preeminent film composer of the 20th century. Holding a significant fan base throughout the years, he is one of the most talked about film composers, the subject of many discussions and scholarly papers. He worked with legendary filmmakers such as Orson Welles, Alfred Hitchcock, Ray Harryhausen, and composed historic films such as Citizen Kane, Vertigo and Psycho. His unique music certainly commanded attention, whether or not you are a serious fan of the music. It certainly was interesting and imaginative music that held substantial dramatic impact. —The Nature of Bernard Herrmann’s Music
An illuminating portrait of one of Alfred Hitchcock’s most important collaborators, film composer Bernard Herrmann.
SAUL BASS: TITLE CHAMP
Directors Martin Scorsese, Guillermo del Toro and others pay tribute to Saul Bass, who revolutionized the art of movie titles.
Here are several photos taken behind-the-scenes during production of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. Production still photographers: Eugene Cook, Bill Craemer & Jeanloup Sieff © Shamley Productions, Paramount Pictures. Courtesy of the Margaret Herrick Library, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
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