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Friday, 11 February 2011

Film Review - Psycho (1960)

Fig. 1 Psycho Film Poster

Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 low budget black and white shocker "Psycho" is one of those great achievements in the horror genre. "Producer-director Alfred Hitchcock took the familiar horror movie clichés and reused them in a new, contemporary setting. Although a realistic tale the approach to filming is full blown Gothic" (Biodrowski,2008) .

Fig. 2 Psycho Film Still

In the first shot we see Janet Leigh as Marion Crane, in a lunchtime rendezvous with her boyfriend Sam, in a hotel room during her lunchtime. She is just your ordinary women with ordinary expectations of getting married. But she is unable to marry him because of financial difficulties that Sam has from his divorce. As the audience, we watch as she struggles with the temptation and then giving in to it, stealing the money from a customer at her place of work. Hitchcock turns our stomach into knots with fear as we watch Marion makes everything wrong, from being sharp with the police officer to being blunt with the car salesman. With everything she is thinking, the guilt seems to seep out of her pores. Hitchcock also adds voiceovers of what Marion is thinking, about what people may or may not be saying about her, what the car salesman tells the police officer, what her sister is saying, what her boss is saying.

 Fig. 3 Psycho Film Still

Her escape route leads her to the Bates’ Motel, where she finds the friendly and nervous proprietor Norman Bates. Norman seems like a nice guy, a little weird, but he doesn’t suspect Marion of anything. Reflecting on what she has done, Marion decides that she must give the money back. Then, 48 minutes into the film, Hitchcock decided that his main character will be killed off, with one hour still left in the film. Marion is murdered when a figure sneaks into her motel room and stabs her to death while she is in the shower. Norman goes into Marion’s room and finds her dead. Horrified Norman cleans up the mess, getting rid of the body and her belongings, in order to protect his mother from the police. Marion sister Lila turns up at Sam’s place of work looking for her sister, to tell her to if she has the money give it back. But Sam has not seen or heard from her and they both start to worry about the whereabouts of Marion.

Fig. 4 Psycho Film Still

A private investigator named Milton Arbogast who has been employed by Marian’s employer to investigate the loss of the money and to search for Marion. So that he can return the money to his boss he follows her trail to the Bates’ Motel. Arbogast believes that Marion is hiding out there somewhere because of the weird behaviour Norman had towards him. After he phones Lila with his suspicions, he returns to the Bates’ mansion where he is stabbed to death on the stairs. After no word from the Arbogast, Sam and Lila go searching for Marion. So while Sam distracts Norman at the motel, Lila sneaks into the mansion to find out the truth about his mother. Who Arbogast told her he believed he saw at the window and Norman told Arbogast she was upstairs, but according to the Sheriff, Normans mother died 10 year before. Norman becomes suspicious and knocks out Sam and head to the house. Lila searches the basement to find the corpse of Mrs. Bates. Suddenly Norman appears behind her dressed as his mother. Fortunately, Sam arrives in time to stop her/him for killing Lila. After Normans arrest, at the police station, a psychiatrist explains that Norman murdered his mother in a jealous rage, but his guilt obsessed mind, blocked out the memory. The only way to keep her alive was to take her place. The film ends with Norman in his cell. With his own personality completely submerged with his mothers. The film ends with the voice of his mother echoing through his head.

"Psycho" came very late in Hitchcock’s career and at that stage where he was continuously looking for new challenges. "The age is the important factor. At that age, it would not be expected for an artist of Hitchcock’s stature and popularity to make such radical change of direction." (Anderson,2008) It was Hitchcock’s directing that made "Psycho" the film to re-invented cinema. Cinema, as an industry, has come to rely on certain rules and to this day taken then for granted. In this case he asked himself if he could still make a film work if he killed of it main heroine within the first 48 minutes. Breaking one of the basic rules of cinema, that you cannot kill your protagonist halfway into the story. Breaking this rule, Hitchcock demonstrated power and bravery no one had seen since the beginning of motion picture.

Fig. 5 Psycho Film Still

Hitchcock also experimented with creating a heroine who at first is unsympathetic. She is on the run after stealing some money from her employer and ironically allowing the audience to feel much more closer to her when she find herself in danger. Shattering that old stereotype of a pure and fragile heroine because at first she seems to have the upper hand, making her murder all that more shocking when it happens. Hitchcock also hauntingly shot "Psycho" in black and white though he always wished he could have made the film in colour. But the use of black and white is as much a character in the film and the superb use of light and shadow and the eventual effect is much creepier in black and white

"In many ways, "Psycho" laid the groundwork for the modern slashes film." (Justice,2005) It established the victim Marion Crane as a daring, sexy female who in many ways threatens the patriarchal status quo. She sleeps was a married man in the middle of his divorce, steals from her place of work, escapes the police and befriends a creepy male loner. The film defined the slasher as Norman Bates a confused young man with several psychological problems. The film also added to this type of genre of film by making the killer’s only motivation something that was psychological and could only be understood by them.

Fig. 6 Psycho Film Still

Figure 2. Psycho (1960) Psycho Film Still. (Accessed on 10/02/2011)Figure 3. Psycho (1960) Psycho Film Still. (Accessed on 10/02/2011)Figure 4. Psycho (1960) Psycho Film Still.  (Accessed on 10/02/2011)Figure 5. Psycho (1960) Psycho Film Still. (Accessed on 10/02/2011)

Figure 6. Psycho (1960) Psycho Film Still. (Accessed on 10/02/2011)
List of Illustrations

Figure 1. Psycho (1960) Psycho Film Poster. (Accessed on 10/02/2011)
Anderson, Jeffrey M (2008) Psycho (1960). (Accessed on 10/02/2011)

Biodrowski, Steve (2008) Psycho (1960) – Horror Film Review. (Accessed on 10/02/2011)Justice, Chris (2005) Psycho (1960). (Accessed om 10/02/2011)Chris (2005) Psycho (1960). http://classiccom/reviews/psycho_1960 (Accessed om 10/02/2011)

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