Psycho Is 50
Happy 50th to Psycho
Today is the 50th anniversary of the premiere of the film thriller “Psycho”.
Initial reviews of Hitchcock’s film were mixed, but audiences were thrilled, so to speak, and it wound up being nominated for four Academy Awards – for best director, best supporting actress, best cinematography, and best art direction and set decoration.
The movie tells the story of Marion Crane, a secretary who has embezzled money from her employer, and Norman Bates, proprietor of an isolated motel where Marion takes refuge. After conversation with Bates, Marion decides to come clean, return the money, and start life fresh with her boyfriend. She showers, as if to wash away her guilt, and, in an unforgettable scene of powerful intensity, is viciously stabbed. The rest of the film is about the effort of her boyfriend and sister to find the killer.
Paramount, who had contracted with Hitchcock for several films, did not want him to make “Psycho” because they found the story repulsive. They claimed their facilities were scheduled for other projects, so Hitchcock bought the film rights anonymously through an agent, gave up his directing fee for 60 percent ownership of the negative, got the actors and crew for reduced salaries, filmed in black and white, and produced it himself on a very low budget.
“Psycho” broke new ground in telling a brutal story and killing off the star before the midpoint of the movie, thereby eliminating all romantic potential early on. “Psycho” was the first to show a flushing toilet, something the censors wanted Hitchcock to remove. They also objected to using the word “transvestite” until the screenwriter proved with a dictionary that the word did not refer to sexual behavior.
Hitchcock was a master of promotion. To preserve the shock of the story, he tried to buy up all copies of the novel. He forbade the stars, Janet Leigh and Anthony Perkins, from appearing on television or radio or giving newspaper or magazine interviews, and he would not hold private advance screenings for movie critics. Also, controversially, Hitchcock insisted on no late admissions to the theatre, an unusual move in 1960. Theatre owners were not happy about this, until they saw the long lines of moviegoers arriving on time to see the movie. The result was a moneymaker for Alfred Hitchcock—he became a multimillionaire and acquired a significant share of stock in Universal, Paramount’s parent company.
The influence of “Psycho” was both immediate and long lasting. Millions stopped taking showers, including the star Janet Leigh, after seeing the movie. It led to sequels, a prequel, remakes, and a tv show, and inspired a new genre of “slasher” films. It is regarded as one of Hitchcock’s best movies, indeed one of the best movies of all time, a classic of cinematic artistry.
“Psycho” is based on the novel by Robert Bloch which is based on the true story of Wisconsin serial killer Ed Gein.
“Psycho” is available at the Library in both DVD and VHS. Bloch’s novel is also available, along with other horror tales he wrote, including “The Night of the Ripper” and “Lori”.
Among other Hitchcock movies in the Library’s collection are “Dial M for Murder”, “The Birds”, “The Man Who Knew Too Much”, “North by Northwest”, “Rebecca”, and “To Catch A Thief”.
Have you seen this classic movie? If you saw it when it came out in 1960, have you viewed it since? If so, has it affected you differently with subsequent viewings? We are really curious—let us know.
If you dare to watch “Psycho” or other Hitchcock films, or read a biography of the masterful Hitchcock, visit us at www.tcplweb.org or call 988-2541 today.