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  • Gareth Crook

Psycho (1960)

Last night we did The Birds, tonight it’s Psycho. I always think of these two being connected, it must be because I discovered them close to one another as they’ve nothing in common. Psycho has that edge that The Birds doesn’t really bother with, largely I suspect because of the shower scene and the abundance of stabby stuff. It’s a much smaller cast and simpler in its aesthetic, also black and white. I adore the black and white though, I can’t imagine it in colour, one of the many reasons the remake was unwatchable. It starts of course with Saul Bass’ cool tiles, maybe only rivalled by North by Northwest in Hitchcock films. Saul Bass is a genius. I’ll admit I’d forgotten quite a lot of the early scenes, the scary policeman, the voice over exposition as Marion Crane leaves the city in her car, on the run with her ill gotten gains. It’s all about the motel and the house though isn’t it, but as we get there that fateful stormy night and as much as I love the shower scene, it’s Arbogast’s interrogation of Norman that always felt more of a pivotal scene, as Norman gets caught in his lie and his (or his mother’s) crime begins to unravel. The tension built with the noir P.I. and his death scene on the stairs I always thought was cooler than the shower... although credit to the shower, Tomasini’s cutting is superb. I’d forgotten also quite how much happens away from the Bates Motel with Marion’s sister and boyfriend trying to find her and the money she stole, but again this all just helps to make the pacing work as well as it does. Psycho always feels dumbed down to Janet Leigh’s famous demise and Bernard Herrmann’s groundbreaking score, but there’s so much more going on and I love Anthony Perkins’ performance. Hitchcock characters can often feel a bit flat, all surface, the lights are on, but Perkins as Norman is genuinely creepy and nails pretty much every scene... apart from maybe that last one as he bursts into the basement with his mum’s frock on. Psycho is far from Hitch at his best, but it’s still a gripping watch. It had Ella switching from “It’s not that scary” in the shower, to “Oh my God, don’t go in the basement!!” for Mother’s big corpse reveal. Not shocking by today’s standards sadly, but every bit the timeless classic.



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