Non Canon Review: Psycho (1960)

MAY 21, 2008


When I saw that my beloved New Beverly would be screening Pyscho, I knew what I had to do: go see it. But before that, I had to get the night off of work, because there was no way in hell I would miss it. See, I had serious atoning to do, because not only had I never seen the film in the theater, I had seen the goddamn remake TWICE in such a matter. The first time is one thing - I was curious. But why in the name of Christ would I subject myself to that monstrosity a second time?*

Psycho is also one of the first DVDs I watched once I bought a home theater (I love irony – it’s a goddamn mono film), and at the same time, the first full beer I ever consumed (I was out of hard lemonades, which is all I drank until that point). Yes, anyone who knows my age and has a familiarity with when the film was released on DVD now knows I somehow went all through high school without drinking a beer. But let’s stay on subject.

Hitchcock’s film is, quite simply, a masterpiece. You all know that. But what you DON’T know, possibly, is how suspenseful it still is after a half dozen or so viewings. I know everything that’s gonna happen, but some sequences still make me feel nervous, such as the first scene between Norman and Arbogast. Watching Norman screw up his story still carries an incredible amount of “Oh shit!”, making me feel uncomfortable still to this day, a feat most movies can’t even reach on my first viewing, let alone my 6th or so (more if you count three views** of the shot for shot remake). And even knowing perfectly well that he is the killer, his ‘discovery’ of Marion and subsequent cleanup is also still quite suspenseful (oh no, a car!).

It’s also a hilarious film, something I always forget (I actually don’t think I have watched it all the way through since that time with the (non)surround sound and beer – two elements I recreated last night). I love the other broad at the beginning who assumes that the business man didn’t bother flirting with her just because she had a wedding ring on, and not that, no offense, she’s nowhere near as hot as Janet Leigh. And Norman’s pleased little smile when the car finally submerges is classic. Also, the Sheriff’s wife has the most ridiculous look on her face during the entire scene where Loomis and Lila go see them in their home.

I also love the completely tactless shrink at the end of the movie. “Did he kill my sister?” Lila asks. “Yes,” he says, as if she was asking if it was raining. But then he says “And no!”, which, if it were me, would sound like he meant my beloved sibling wasn’t dead after all. Jerk.

Another oddly puzzling thing – what’s with everyone getting out of their cars on the passenger side? When Marion does it when she first arrives at the motel, it’s one thing – it’s raining and the passenger side is closer to the sheltered porch (she gets soaked anyway). But why does Arbogast do it?

Man, if you don’t like this movie, you simply just don’t like horror movies. The shower scene may not be as effective anymore (and on that note, since Janet Leigh is billed under just about everyone else, it’s a wonder her death was such a shock. If you’re the “And...” cast member in a horror movie, you’re either the old professorial character with all the answers, or you’re dead!), but the movie as a whole is just wonderful in both technical and creative terms. And when Gus Van Sant goes to hell, I hope Satan cockpunches him twice as much as anyone else for his horrendous remake stinking up its legacy.

What say you?

*Answer: a really cute girl. One I never hooked up with anyway. Double waste of time!
** I actually watched the remake again on DVD, with commentary, to see if they explained themselves in a manner I could accept. They did not.


  1. Great review, I wish I knew who the girl was...

  2. Yo! I like psycho a great deal, and saw it a year ago in a theater here in Budapest. But what the fuck's going on with that long explanation about Norman Bates' psychology at the end? It drags on and on and on... I'd like to think it was intentionally humorous, but I'm sure it wasn't. And, as usual, the driving scenes are horrible...

  3. Holy Methodical Madness Batman!!!!

    This movie sure is one of those films where you just can't stand to miss something! i in fact had rewind like the half the movie just so I wouldn't go out of my mind not knowing!!!

    This movie's methodical style makes it suspenseful, when other movies using the same technique are just plain boring! And I must say that for a true horror fan there's not a dull moment in the entire movie!!!

    And the end was priceless, Norman thinking in his mother's voice and smiling towards the camera when it starts to fade and you see his mother's skull replace his own features...that's just creepy!!!!!

    Loved this movie, and I definately need to watch it again soon!

  4. That girl who you were referring to is Alfred Hitchcock's Daughter, Pat.

  5. Well, I think it's safe to say that Psycho's legacy is still in tact, regardless of the atrocious remake. I mean, if someone is asked "Hey, have you see Psycho," most folks, thankfully, will think you're referring to the original. If they don't, then yes, cockpunching should ensue.

  6. why doesn't bloody-disgusting have Psycho on its database? It's a classic and should be added to the site.

  7. This is a really late comment, but the incredibly long scene at the end is something Hitchcock used a lot, what I was taught as a "recapitulation scene". It's where characters in the film stop to talk about what has happened, summing up details the audience may have missed or are important enough to hear again. For viewers back then, everything must have been such a mind rape that they needed a refreshment of what had happened, and the psychological issues involved (The fact that this was the first time a toilet was shown on-screen puts this in perspective). Now, we've seen so much messed-up stuff that we understand people are crazy, and some of us are crossdressers. It happens.

  8. I love horror films but Psycho really was lost on me. Maybe it's my age (I'm 19) or my lack of knowledge of cinematography but then again I immensely enjoyed Peeping Tom from the same year, so maybe I should rewatch it and see if my perspective's changed.


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