Retro Review: Psycho

By: Emily Kellas

Rating: 10 out of 10

Mommy issues are one thing but Alfred Hitchcock takes it to an entirely different level with his classic 1963 thriller, Psycho. Psycho is perhaps Hitchcock’s most widely known, and popular film within his extensive catalogue, and rightfully so. Psycho changed the course of the American thriller, while simultaneously cementing Hitchcock’s already illustrious legend. Catapulting the talents of Anthony Perkins, and Janet Leigh this classic is just as frightening today as it was during it’s mysterious, and publicity filled premiere.

Marion Crane (Leigh) is bored, and fairly desperate to be with her lover, Sam, who is to tied down by his alimony payments to settle with Marion. When she is entrusted to deposit a large sum of money from a client at work, something within her psyche snaps. She takes the money and makes a run for it. Paranoid she drives west towards Sam’s store in California. One rainy night she decides to stop at a small motel to rest, the Bates Motel. Run by Norman Bates (Perkins), a shy young man who seems to be unwillingly devoted to his overbearing, and degrading mother.

Now for those who haven’t seen the film I don’t want to spoil anything for you so that is where the plot summary will end, but where your twisted time at the Bates Motel begins.

With any Hitchcock film one must begin by talking about the editing, angles, effects, and the way all seamlessly come together to create a truly unique experience. Psycho is a showcase for all of the classic “Hitchcockian” themes, continuing his social study of psychological idea’s and complexities. Two themes that remain prevalent throughout and add such depth and layer to a story that could have simply been a slasher film, the relationships between men and women, and the uncomfortable presence of a mother figure . As with many of his films he uses the “dolly shot” technique (a technique he created) as well as quick shots, angles, and layers of sound. These techniques help to emphasize all of the important themes that Hitchcock focuses his highly morbid eye on.

Hitchcock always got great performances out of his actors although not always through traditional means. But for this film Janet Leigh and Anthony Perkins gave the performances of their lives. Anthony Perkins gives Norman Bates sensitivity, and a coy school boy shyness that not only makes the audience sympathetic to his situation, but also question his sanity. Janet Leigh gave what many believe one of the most iconic performances by a Hitchcock actress, and is in some of the most legendary scenes in film history. Leigh is able to evoke, just as Perkins did, both sympathy, and distrust in Marion Crane for audiences.

I could go on, and in the past I have, but the film is so strong that it speaks for itself. As my favorite Alfred Hitchcock film, it continues to stand the test of time. Every time I watch it I am just as enthralled, and thrilled as the first time I saw it sitting in my darkened living room at midnight. Psycho combines all of the incredible elements of a Hitchcock film that, wildly enough, people can connect with. I have never rated a film as a 10 out of 10, but with Psycho I would be completely amiss if I were to give it any lower than such a score. It is sheer brilliance and has inspired generations of filmmakers and audiences to push the boundaries of acceptability. Although every time I take a shower now I … well you’ll just have to see the film.

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