Psycho (1960)

5 Stars

Psycho (1960)

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After stealing some money from her boss, a secretary decides to run away to her lover. When the weather forces her to stop at a motel run by a young man and his mother, things start to take a turn for the worse


The girlfriend and I have spent the past couple of weeks catching up on the first two series of Bates Motel, the US TV series. It depicts the story of how "normal" teenage Norman Bates became the infamous character from Psycho.

Prior to watching Bates Motel, I had never seen Psycho, so once we finished the second season we decided to chronologically skip future series and move straight into Alfred Hitchcock's masterpiece. The girlfriend declared she had seen it "about 8 times" already.

Being more than 50 years on since it was released, the shower scene, its most famous quotes, the swivel chair scene and even the flushing toilet have become cinematic legend - so much so that I already began by wondering how much was left to see.

Interestingly, for a Psycho first-time viewer, there was still much to learn.

Having heard the soundtrack in countless parodies it is easy to think that Psycho revolves solely around a series of jump scares based on the chilling four note monotone string chords. However, this isn't true - Bernard Herrmann's acclaimed score is perfectly matched with Hitchcock's suspenseful direction. Like Jaws some twenty years later (for which Spielberg must have drawn inspiration from this film), the tension is encapsulated in very few notes but is only played where it needs to be.

It is also very easy to imagine that the shower scene is the most shocking moment but on this you would only be partly right. The brutality of the scene is indeed surprising, but more interesting is the fact that Hitchcock gave Marion a whole back story including a developing relationship with Norman before killing her off within a few moments of their meeting.

Also interesting is that it never occurred to me that the film was shot in black and white for a reason other than the film's age. Not only did it prevent the over-glorification of the shower scene, but it enabled Hitchcock to test himself. Paramount were famously skeptical of the film's storyline and gave Hitchcock a budget far below contemporary standards. As a result, Hitchcock was almost testing to see if it was possible to create an A-list film on a B-list budget. It was as though he could foreshadow how his slasher genre would become some 50 years later.

Disappointingly, the only part of Psycho that dragged was its ending. Whether Hitchcock was trying to raise awareness of Norman's psychiatric condition, or whether science has moved on and we are now more educated on the likes of schizophrenia is up for some debate. Either way, the psychologist's monologue overstates a obvious point.

Regardless though, like all cinematic classics, Psycho will continue to live on in parodies. However, it still worth visiting Hitchcock's source material before trying to draw your own conclusions.

Review by on . Film Rating: 5/5