After spending the week watching the first season of Bates Motel (great show, by the way), it seemed only fitting to re-watch that series’ inspiration, Hitchcock’s classic Psycho. I had the Blu-ray sitting on the shelf since I bought it cheap on Amazon several months ago.
There’s nothing new that can be said about this movie; I am sure it’s all been done, frankly. After all, how many books, never mind internet pages, have been written about it, its themes and Freudian subtexts? For most people it’s Hitchcock’s best film, his signature piece and a game-changer for Hollywood and films in general (I’d agree with most of that, although my personal favourite of his remains the dark and endlessly fascinating Vertigo). There’s no doubt that its a classic, and a truly great movie.
Psycho has been so endlessly imitated and parodied, it must be rare for anyone to watch this film for the first time still innocent of its twists and genius conceits. There’s something rather sad about that; I can only imagine the impact this film had on the public back in 1960, but well recall how it shocked me as a kid watching it for the first time on tv (during a Christmas holiday season of his films on BBC2, I think). Its one of those films that, just when get comfortable thinking you watching a certain kind of film suddenly pulls the rug from under you and becomes something else. No-one ever forgets Psycho.
One thing I would note though is how astonishing the screenplay is. Its a work of manipulative genius, tuned to perfection. I’ve commented on this before, in that many modern films seem to get made with clearly unfinished scripts leaving all sorts of plot-holes and narrative problems. Film-makers like Hitchcock and Billy Wilder used to work so hard on their scripts, really nailing the film down on the page, thinking it through, before moving on to the actual shoot. Perhaps the genius and craft of Psycho is indeed in Hitchcock’s direction, but I’d rather be inclined to suggest its actually in that incredible script.