Sunday, June 26, 2011


Title: Psycho
Year: 1960
Studio: Paramount Pictures
Screenplay: Joseph Stefano
Source Material: The novel by Robert Bloch
Running Time: 108 minutes
A black & white picture

Sunday 26th June, 12 noon
Ah, so we come to one of the most famous films of all time! I recall seeing this for the first time many moons ago. I had set the video for it and I remember switching on the TV late at night, just to see if it had finished and I caught the final few seconds. That irritated me somewhat. Ah, well.

I wasn't sure if I was going to make it this weekend as I had a rather busy social day yesterday and a bit too much wine last night. I was a tad hung-over this morning, but I managed to get through the movie unscathed as I think my body needed to just crash out a bit.

It's hard to believe I am so close to the end of this project and that I have been doing it for over a year. I'd feel better if I knew more than a handful of people were bothering to read it, but as I've said before, I'm really only writing it for my own amusement.

Norman Bates - Anthony Perkins
Lila Crane - Vera Miles
Sam Loomis - John Gavin
Milton Arbogast - Martin Balsam
Sheriff Chambers - John McIntire
Dr Richmond - Simon Oakland
George Lowery - Vaughn Taylor
Tom Cassidy - Frank Albertson
Mrs Chambers - Lurene Tuttle
Caroline - Pat Hitchcock
California Charlie - John Anderson
Cop - Mort Mills
Marion Crane - Janet Leigh




Sam Loomis and Marion Crane are entwined in some post-coital canoodling in a hotel room. Their love affair feels illicit due to the stresses Sam is under. They want to get married but he is concerned as he is still paying off his father's debts and also paying alimony to his ex-wife. If they had some money, he'd be more than happy to start a new life with Marion.
Marion's late lunch is over and she heads back to work.
Her boss, Mr Lowery, is still out with a client, Mr Cassidy, but they soon return. Mr Cassidy wants to pay $40,000 cash on a house for his daughter's wedding gift. Mr Lowery advises Marion to take the cash to the safe at the bank for over the weekend.
She places it carefully in her handbag and heads off early as she has a headache.

She does not go to the bank. Instead she heads straight home and packs her bags. She decides to drive to see Sam. On the way out of town, her boss sees her as she stops at a pedestrian crossing. She is plagued by thoughts of how people are going to react. The drive is weary and she soon tires. She pulls over to sleep for a while. However, it is dawn when she is awoken by a highway patrolman who is concerned by her rather suspicious nature. He lets her go but later, when she decides she needs to swap cars at California Charlie's car yard, he follows. She pressures California Charlie into helping her swap her old car for a new one and she gives him $700 on top. She is irked by the presence of the policeman and panics, nearly leaving without her luggage which has yet to be transferred from her old car.

She continues on with her drive, now concerned about the discussion Charlie will be having with the cop.
The rain is heavy and she is forced to pull over at the Bates Motel.
No one is around initially, so she honks her horn and a young man comes down from the big house to greet her. He says his name is Norman Bates. He lets her have a room - cabin 1 - but she signs in as Marie Samuels from Los Angeles. Norman invites her to have a bite to eat up at the house. She goes to unpack while he goes to prepare. While she sorts herself, the rain stops and she is able to hear voices coming from the big house. Norman is being berated by an older woman who is chastising him for flirting with the new guest.
Eventually, Norman comes down with a tray holding some sandwiches and a jug. He thinks it's better than taking her up to the house.
They eat in the parlour behind the office. Norman talks of his taxidermy hobby and also his mother. As they talk about human nature amongst other things, Marion begins to realise the error of her ways. She makes her excuses and leaves to get an early night. She plans to return to Phoenix the following day. She even tries to work out how to pay back the money she has since spent.

She takes a shower - as she undresses, she is unaware that Norman is watching through a spy hole connecting the parlour with her cabin - and Norman does not watch for long - he retreats back to the house.

Marion steps into the shower and feels relaxed with a weight off her shoulders knowing she has planned to do the right thing.

However, her plan will never be executed as a tall feminine figure enters the bathroom, draws back the shower curtain and plunges a kitchen knife into Marion's vulnerable body. Stabbing repeatedly at the naked victim, Marion's cries do nothing to prevent her demise.

The woman darts out of the crime scene and back up to the house. Norman is horrified when he sees the blood. He heads down to cabin 1 and discovers Marion's corpse. He wraps it in the shower curtain and mops up the mess in the bathroom. He puts Marion's body along with her belongings (and the $40,000) in the trunk of her car. He takes it to the nearby swamp and sinks it.

The next week, Lila Crane, Marion's sister, goes to visit Sam Loomis in Fairvale at his hardware store. She is severely worried about Marion's whereabouts and considers that Sam might know - but he doesn't. A private detective named Arbogast arrives and starts asking questions. He spends a few days searching hotels and motels around the district. Eventually, after a long search, he comes across the Bates Motel.
He interviews Norman who seems edgy and reluctant to pass on information. Arbogast figures that Marion used Marie Samuels as an alias and goes to phone Lila to tell of his suspicions. He says he is going to return to the house to speak to Norman's mother and will return to Fairvale within an hour.

Back at the motel, Arbogast finds the place deserted. He walks up to the house and lets himself in. He ascends the stairs but as he reaches the top, a woman leaps out of one of the bedrooms and plunges a knife into his chest. Blood splatters on his face and he topples backwards down the stairs. The woman follows him down and throws herself on top of him and finishes him off.

Sam and Lila are very concerned three hours later when Arbogast has not returned. Sam intends to follow him. When he arrives, no one is there. Norman is at the swamp disposing of more evidence for his mother.

Sam heads back to Fairvale and he and Lila go to see the Sheriff. They tell of the whole story - including the stolen money - and the Sheriff is perplexed by the statements about the old woman at the house.
He says Mrs Bates died ten years ago.

The nest day, having met the Sheriff and his wife outside church, Sam and Lila decide to do their own investigating. They head out to the motel and pose as a married couple. Norman gives them cabin 10 but they snoop around cabin 1. They find a shower with no curtain and a piece of paper indicating sums regarding $40,000!
Sam goes to keep Norman occupied whilst Lila heads up to the house. Sam talks with Norman and Lila finds Mrs Bates' room - it is full of antiques and there's an indentation on the bed where she sleeps. Lila also finds Norman's room - full of childhood toys. As she heads back downstairs, Norman has grown suspicious. He hits Sam on the head and heads to the house. Lila sees him coming and hides down the stairs toward the cellar. Norman rushes in and heads immediately up to his mother's room.
Lila, out of curiosity, descends to the cellar. There she sees the old woman sitting with her back towards the door. Lila steps forward and touches the old woman's shoulder. The woman's body swivels in the chair and Lila sees the face of a woman - one that has long been dead, No eyes in the socket, no flesh around the mouth. She screams and then she hears someone coming down the stairs. In strides Norman, dressed in a wig and dress, clutching a knife. As he races forward, Sam appears from behind, grabbing Norman and restraining him. The wig falls off and Norman collapses.

At the county court house, Lila and Sam are recovering from their ordeal. A psychiatrist explains the nature of Norman's mind and about how he had murdered his mother ten years ago and then, through guilt, kept the idea of her alive, ultimately integrating her personality into his own.

Norman is alone in a cell with a blanket. His mother has taken over, perhaps permanently... she knows she had to confess Norman's sins. It was what she had to do, but she knows they'll look at her and know that she is innocent as she would never even harm a fly...


Great Lines

Norman: "12 cabins, 12 vacancies!"


Norman: "A hobby's supposed to pass the time, not fill it"


Norman: "A boy's best friend is his mother."


Marion: "Wouldn't it be better if you put her... some place?"

Norman: "You mean an institution? A madhouse? People always call a madhouse 'some place', don't they?"


Norman: "We all go a little mad sometimes."


Norman: "Mother, oh God, mother! Blood... blood!!"


Norman: "She might have fooled me, but she didn't fool my mother."


Sheriff Chambers: "If the woman up there is Mrs Bates, who's that woman buried out in Greenlawn Cemetary?"


Norma Bates (on how others will view her): "Why, she wouldn't even harm a fly..."

Anthony Perkins gives (in my opinion) one of cinema's finest and nuanced performances. Every line he delivers, every stutter, every twitch, is perfection.

Martin Balsam gives a confident and naturalistic performance as Arbogast and both Janet Leigh and Vera Miles are beautifully cast as sisters.

I have an enormous fondness for Patricia Hitchcock; partly because of her comic timing, her understated beauty and (mainly) because of her wonderful role in Strangers on a Train. Here she has a smaller role as Caroline, Marion's work colleague and although she does not get a huge amount of screen-time, she delivers every line brilliantly.

John Gavin is hot. enough said.

A lot of trivia about the film has been discussed for the past 50 years so I shan't spend time on noting that the blood was chocolate sauce or talk about the sequels and the bizarre remake. (I really admire Psycho II by the way!)

What I will mention though is the frequent use of crane shots throughout. These longer takes are so utterly fantastic to watch - they draw you in completely. The two best are the one immediately following the murder and the other when Norman is talking to his mother prior to taking her downstairs to the cellar. Fantastic.

My Verdict
Sometimes the film is better than the book. Psycho is proof of this.
It almost loses a mark for the rather long-winded explanation from the psychiatrist at the end, but the rest of the film is sublime, so I shall be forgiving.

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