Saturday, October 31, 2009


Here's the first in a new series highlighting my all-time favorite films....

Scary movies are to Halloween like carols are to Christmas.  Each year, the classics are trotted out and are played repeatedly. 

To me, nothing has ever surpassed the perfectly delicious thrills of Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 shocker, "Psycho".

It's hard to imagine the film's original impact.  In the film's first release, audiences were forbidden to enter theaters ten minutes after the film began.  After the excitement of the famous credit sequence by Saul Bass, viewers were then presented with a languid opening scene of sexual frankness that was new to American movie screens. Immediately, expectations were thwarted and audiences were thrown off balance.  As the storyline followed Marion Crane's desperate attempts to escape her mundane life to run off with her lover, viewers were led in one direction, only to be detoured again with the introduction of the soft-spoken, iconic Norman Bates, and his enigmatic Mother....

"Psycho" contains, still, one of the most surprising sequences of suspense and terror ever committed to film...afterward, the horror sets in when we realize that we have lost a familiar character, who was about to salvage her life from a terrible mistake, and now must shift our focus, and our identification, with an unstable, dangerous Norman.

All the while we are teased by the brilliant Bernard Herrmann score, composed for, and played ONLY on, strings.....

Hitchcock styled this film on the look of his Alfred Hitchcock Presents TV series, using the same crew and equipment.  (For trivia buffs, look for the episode called "An Unlocked Window"  ..about an old house, a thunderstorm, and a murderer stalking nurses.)

For her role, Janet Leigh received a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress...and an Oscar nomination.  Hitchcock received a Directing nod as well.

The experience of "Psycho" is akin to wrapping up in a blanket while a storm rages outside.  You relish the chill but appreciate the this case, of Hitchkock's sure touch.


  1. Ah, the good old days of masterful film directors and great stories! Psycho wasn't just a great film, it was, like so many of Hitch's flicks, an experience to remember. Nothing comes close in comparison to other films. The devil is in the details, and in this case things like the acting, the music, the camera angles, the tempo and the mood of the film kept us on the edge of our seats. Watching movies about crazies wearing hockey masks while butchering teenagers you have to feel a bit sad for how far studios have strayed from artistic masterpieces like Psycho in their quest for commercial success.

  2. Tom,
    I loved this movie since I was a kid, sneaking up at night to watch on our little black and white TV after I was forbidden to see it. Wow, what a thrill!
    Yes, it is disturbing to see the grotesque ways horror films today must startle an audience. Too bad, because I think if young audiences developed a taste for work with the intelligence and style of a "Psycho", they would flock to more.
    Or am I being naive?

  3. Thanks for the comments the other day. We both seem to have done Psycho rewatches for Halloween. It's so wacky Psycho picked up four Oscar nominations without ones for Film Editing or Original Score since that's what works best about it after the direction.

  4. Adam,
    Thanks for dropping by! Yes, Oscars often miss the obvious. I enjoy your reviews and will stop by more in the days to come.