|"She just goes a little mad sometimes. We all go a little mad sometimes. Haven't you?"|
|Time: 109 mins.|
Academy Award nominations for Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, Best Director and Best Supporting Actress (Leigh).
I will never forget the first time I saw PSYCHO. I was about 14-years-old and vacuuming the family living room. The television was on, turned to the 4 o'clock monster movie. I thought I was old enough to handle it. My father thought otherwise, warning me that I'd have nightmares if I watched it. Of course, I didn't listen. I was a teenager. I wish I had. It is one of the scariest movie I have ever seen in my entire life. Still. It's a toss up between PSYCHO and the original HALLOWEEN over which has caused me more sleepless nights. JAWS may have kept me out of the ocean, but PSYCHO has affected my adult habits more than I'd like to admit. Hell, I took baths for months after the first viewing. It still comes to mind when I walk up certain staircases. Like there's going to be a crazed lunatic dressed up as his mother waiting for me with a butcher knife at the top. I know in my mind I'm being unreasonable, but that doesn't stop my heart from racing.
As most people know, this is a story about a young man and his mother, who does not like guests. Which is kind of a problem since they run a 12-room motel. Janet Leigh stars as a woman of questionable moral character that steals $25,000 from her company. A fearsome rainstorm forces her to check into the Bates Motel. She took the money in order to start a new life. Once alone in the motel she begins to have second thoughts, though is desperate not to get caught. She gets her wish in spades. We are led to believe that Norman's mother viciously murders Leigh in the shower in a fit of jealous rage. It is Norman's duty to clean up the mess and pretend the incident never happened. The audience wishes it never did as well.
The shower scene is one of the most famous sequences ever captured on film for two reasons: as violent as it is you never see the knife go into Leigh's body and it was the first time in film history that a major movie star was brutally killed off in the first 30 minutes of the movie. No director had ever dared betray his audience in such a way before. I wish I could have been at one of those original screenings. I have never encountered such a thrilling, unexpected moment in any movie I've seen to date. THE SIXTH SENSE comes closest, though I figured out the surprise about a half hour before the end. I guess THE CRYING GAME would be a close second for shear audacity. The surprise in that film is just as shocking, though not as deadly.
As much as she would have hoped, Leigh's disappearance does not go unnoticed. The Bates Motel becomes a very popular place, much to Mother's dismay. Not many of the guests escape her wrath. I won't ruin the ending for those of you who have never seen the film or are planning to see the upcoming remake, but it's one I certainly didn't expect and one far more creepy than most horror movies come up with. After this brilliantly creepy performance, Anthony Perkins could never shake the Norman Bates stereotype, which was unfortunate for his career, but great for the audience. Just thinking about Norman makes my skin crawl. He may not have wanted this role to be his legacy, but at least he'll always be remembered.
If want the bejesus scared out of you, rent this movie. Your life will never be the same. Unfortunately, much of the plot and scenes from the film are already common knowledge, so you may not find it as scary as I did, and still do for that matter. The less you know, the creepier it will be. When it comes to manipulating an audience, there's no one better than Hitchcock. He's a master of story and camera movement, creating unique characters and unforgettable moments. No matter how unsettling this film is, it draws you in and refuses to let go. I shiver in excitement and dread at the thought of seeing it again. It's just one of those movies that you never forget.