Sunday, October 31, 2010

Canon Movie Review: Psycho

Since it is Halloween weekend, I have decided to watch a few horror films and review them. When I told my brother Ben about wanting to watch some horror movies this weekend, he suggested a few, and the only one I could remember was the 1960 Alfred Hitchcock film Psycho. While I debated watching the 1998 remake instead, I decided against it and watched the original, which was probably the smart thing to do. The Hitchcock version of Psycho is considered to be not only one of the greatest horror films of all time, but one of the greatest movies period. The movie stars Janet Leigh, Anthony Perkins, Vera Miles, John Gavin, and Mitchell's main villian, Martin Balsam. Psycho was nominated for four Academy Awards, although it did not win any and was not even nominated for best picture. The plot is as follows: an officeworker named Marion Crane (Leigh) is asked to take $40,000 to the bank before leaving for the weekend. Instead of taking it to the bank, she takes it for herself in the hopes of paying her boyfriend Sam Loomis (Gavin) debts so they can wed and live happily ever after. While on here way to meet Sam, a driving rainstorm forces Marion to pull over and stop at the Bates Motel, which proves to be a bad idea. A few notes about this film, and there are SPOILERS ahead.

- If you didn't know better and watched the first 20 minutes or so of this movie, you might think that this movie will be solely about Marion's theft of the money and her attempts to avoid the law. Heck, the whole first part of this movie is all about establishing Marion's character, explaining the motives behind her actions and making her relatable to the audience so the impact of her demise will be felt all the much more.

- During the first part of the film, Marion is suspected by a local cop of something because she fell asleep in her car on the side of the road and acted as if she was in a major hurry, which she was. After the cop follows her to a car lot and watches her drive off with a new car, he becomes more suspicious and starts to question the car dealer. After that, the cop is never shown again, which leaves a rather big plot point unfinished. Normally, this type of thing bothers me, but in this case, well it does bother me a little. I mean, wouldn't it be normal for the PI Arbogast (Balsam) to check with the police forces along Marion's route to see if they had seen her? Or to check where her car might have been? At the very least, we could have got a 30 second scene of Arbogast asking the cop about her whereabouts. Then again, perhaps I'm being a bit too picky.

- While Norman Bates is truly a 'psycho', Marion seemed to go off the deep end herself for a while. After ten years of working at the same office, she all of a sudden goes off and steals 40 grand and takes off to California, all in the hopes of marrying Sam, throwing away her previous life in the hopes of achieving something just a little better. As it turns out, Marion realized her mistake and had planned on returning the money back to the bank on Sunday, thanks in large part to her conversation with the one and only Norman Bates. How ironic, as Norman basically convinced Marion to save her own life only to take it just hours later.

- For its time, Psycho was a very controversial film, what with a naked woman being stabbed to death in a shower and all. One of the most controversial aspects of the film was the use of the word transvestite. Today, that word is tossed around in movies like baseballs are tossed around in the World Series but back then, it was a very big deal. Just goes to show how much things have changed over the years.

- In a film full of top-notch performances, nobody's performance comes close to Anthony Perkins' portrayal of Norman Bates. Perkins did such a great job of portraying Bates that it ended up hurting his career, as he ended up being typecast as a psychotic of some sort. But, as Vince Vaughn proved in the 1998 remake, not everyone can pull off the multi-faceted role of Norman Bates, and very few actors, if any, could have made Norman so psychotic and yet sympathetic the way Perkins does in this film. In contrast, although most of the actors did a fine job, John Gavin's portrayal of Sam Loomis is kind of dull, as he portrays Sam as a one-dimensional bore. Hitchcock himself has been rumored to be upset with Gavin in this movie, and to be honest, I can kind of see why.

At the end of the day, there may have been better movies than Psycho, but you can count on one hand the number of films that had the impact on the movie industry that Psycho had. From its revolutionary cinematography to it's profound use of blood to the haunting score to the establishment of a regular human like Norman Bates as the embodiment of terror, there have been hundreds of films that have borrowed from Psycho in some way. This is the original 'slasher' film, so to speak, and it's also a darn good film. Overall, I'd give Psycho an 8.8 out of 10. Well, thanks for reading, and if you have any thoughts about Psycho or my review, or you have an idea for a future review, then share those either by leaving a comment or by sending me an e-mail at

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