Film Review - Psycho - 1960
S P Oldham
I just watched another of the films listed in Wednesday Lee Friday’s ’15 Black and White Horror Movies That Are Scary as Hell,’ posted on ScreenRant on 2oth August 2016. Find it here: https://screenrant.com/scariest-black-and-white-horror-movies-ever-all-time/
I have just watched Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Psycho’ – starring Anthony Perkins and Janet Leigh. This is the last film on Wednesday Lee Friday’s list. It is ranked at Number 1 and quite right too!
It is hard to believe that there is anyone out there who has not heard of this film, even if they haven’t seen it. It is an enduring classic, the infamous ‘shower scene’ parodied, replicated and referred to on countless occasions by numerous people over the years. But just in case you haven’t seen it, haven’t seen all of it before (like me, until last night) or watched it so long ago you have forgotten it, I include this spoiler alert. If you genuinely don’t know the plot-line or the twist then stop reading right here and go watch the film!
In my humble opinion, this film is the best on this list by a country mile. The acting is great, the dialogue natural and realistic. As has been said many times before, by people far more qualified than me, Anthony Perkins is perfect for the part of Norman Bates. He is very likeable, with an innocent quality to him when playing the role of the beleaguered son.
I like that young secretary Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) has a change of heart after stealing $40,000 from a client of her boss and going on the run. She decides to go home, face the music and put things right. I like that she spent some of the money on a car, checking into Bates Motel before experiencing this change of heart, and is faced with the challenge of paying back the deficit, writing down the finances on a piece of paper. I also like that it was due to a seemingly innocuous conversation she had with Norman, of all people, that this epiphany takes place. All of this, to me, is realistic, things a ‘real’ person might do. A pity, of course, that she doesn’t make it out of the hotel alive.
The way the private investigator gently interrogates Norman, not really believing him, is also done well, in my view. Nothing heavy, nothing stereotyped about his approach, all perfectly feasible. I suppose what I am trying to say is I respect the fact that this film was extremely well done, making it all the more watchable and absorbing,
There are no annoying loose ends either. Everything comes together nicely, the penultimate scene in which the psychiatrist explains the mentality of Norman Bates being perhaps an obvious device, but nonetheless it works. At the time, the workings of such twisted minds were not as well known nor as understood as they are today, so I understood the need to explain explicitly in that scene.
I am really glad that the last word was given to Norman Bates – except of course he is not Norman Bates by the end of the film. His dead mother being the dominant personality, it is his mother’s thoughts we hear right at the end, her reasoning and defiance. Again, extremely well done.
This film is more a thriller than a horror, but the true story on which it is based is real-life horror in the extreme.
The character Norman Bates is based upon Ed Gein. This extremely disturbed individual made clothing, household items and accessories out of the body parts of dead people. Some of these body parts were from graverobbing, but Gein also committed at least two murders, and was suspected of killing his own brother.
He was raised in a radically repressive household, his father an alcoholic, his mother the dominant parent (just like Mrs Bates.) was a puritan with extreme views on lust and desire, amongst other things
For all that the reality was twisted and horrific, it is also fascinating. There is a wealth of information about Ed Gein online, but for starters, try this: https://www.biography.com/people/ed-gein-11291338
All in all, this film deserves the number one spot on this list. There is a reason why it is a classic movie. If you haven’t seen it, make sure you do, and if you have seen it, watch it again – it is well worth it.
S P Oldham