Considered to be not only one of his best films, but also one of the best films of all time, Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 suspense/horror masterpiece Psycho stars Anthony Perkins & Janet Leigh. Although the film starts out in a hotel room somewhere in Phoenix, Arizona, it’s the Bates Motel as well as the Bates’ house where much of the film takes place.
The film starts out as we enter inside a hotel room in Phoenix, Arizona, where we find Marion Crane with her lover, Sam Loomis. When she leaves the hotel room to go back to work, her employer gives her $40,000 to put in a safe deposit box. Instead of doing so, she flees with the money headed to California. On the way there, the rain makes it harder & harder to see the road. As a result, she decides to check into the nearest motel, the Bates Motel. As she is in her room taking a shower, a silhouette image of what appears to be the mother of Norman Bates starts hacking away & stabs poor Marion Crane to death. A frantic Norman comes running into the room where he finds her lifeless body. In an attempt to cover it up, he wraps the body in the shower curtain, puts it in the trunk, & watches as he lets the car slowly sink into the swamp.
One aspect of the filmmaking which I thought was superb was the fact that this movie was shot in black & white instead of color. Supposedly, the reason why it was shot in black & white was because Hitchcock was trying to keep the budget under $1,000,000. I like black & white over color simply because color can get distracting & take away from the film. As the old saying goes, “less is more”. When it’s in black & white, you are more focused on the plot because there are no colors to distract you. When it’s in color, it doesn’t quite have that same effect. I also like black & white because it’s more eerie & more suspenseful than in color.
The other aspect of filmmaking which I thought was outstanding was the sound of the screeching violins, violas, & cellos. I thought it was way more effective using those sounds as opposed to a shower scene where all we hear is stabbing & yelling. In fact, I think that using sound for suspense was so effecive that is had an influence in the movies Jaws, Friday the 13th, & A Nightmare On Elm Street.
While I love this movie & have it ranked as one of my favorite films of all-time, I do have two complaints, & they are not against this film. One is the fact that they decided to make to sequels as well as a prequel. Now, I’m not necessarily saying that’s a bad thing as The Godfather trilogy was phenomenal. The thing is, when a sequel comes out, it’s expected to be just as good, if not better than its predecessor. In this case, Psycho was so good that trying to make a sequel to outdo the first would have been impossible. Second, apparently, for whatever reason, director Gus Van Sant decided to remake the film in 1998. Except for being shot in color & having different actors, the film is basically the same as Alfred Hitchcock’s version. I can understand if he was trying to make the film better, but why mess with a classic? As they say, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. In my opinion, Psycho is a movie that should stand alone. Unfortunately, now when you do a search, you’ll find 2 so-so sequels, a subpar prequel, & a lousy remake.