"Psycho" (1961) DVD, Blu-ray Movie Review

11/04/2010 Posted by Admin

"Psycho" (1961)

DVD, Blu-ray Movie Review

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, Written By Joseph Stefano (screenplay), Robert Bloch (novel), Unrated, 109-minutes.

By our guest blogger, Matthew Schimkowitz

Writing something new about Alfred Hitchcock’s "Psycho" is nearly impossible at this point. The film, generally considered one of Hitchcock’s best, has undergone analysis and criticism, won fans the world over, broke box-office records, and continues to remain relevant to filmmaking today.  And there’s a simple reason for this: It’s nearly perfect.

Hitchcock’s exploration of the maniacal instills tension in the viewer through his off-kilter directing style, an anxiety-inducing score, and some brilliantly subtle performances from its leads.

For those who have yet to see "Psycho," the film breaks off into two halves, the first following Miss Marion Crane, secretary and hopeless romantic, who in an effort to better her situation, steals a large sum of money from her boss and skips town. She ends up at the Bates Motel, where she meets the proprietor, Norman Bates. Norman invites Marion to dinner and presents himself as a strange, yet seemingly harmless young man.

Afterwards, in one the film’s most memorable and famous scenes, Marion decides to take a shower, where she is brutally stabbed to death by Norman’s mother.

The rest of the film delves deeper into Norman's idiosyncrasies as Marion’s friends and family confront him about her whereabouts.

Marion’s robbery and escape establishes much of the film’s paranoia. Hitchcock’s focus on her money handling makes her run-ins with the law, or even just a quick glance from her boss, incredibly nerve racking.

Initially, Anthony Perkins' Bates is  strangely inviting. His initial calm demeanor – achieved through incessant chewing and smiling – welcome both Marion and the viewer to the motel.  But when implicated, his stuttered frustration reveals enough to raise the tension. It’s a case of will he or won’t he be caught, and it’s as exciting as any action movie.

His performance, coupled by Hitchcock’s direction, leaves much to the imagination. For instance, when Janet Leigh's Marion is slaughtered, nothing much is shown onscreen. The genius is that Hitchcock cuts the scene in such a way that he leaves its explicitness for us to imagine.

It was a shrewd move because his restraint is one of reasons the movie is so interesting. Norman Bates’ relationship with his mother is one to be studied.  It's free of judgments, because the director wanted his audience to see into the mind of the killer.  Through the brilliant frenzy that is "Psycho," he succeeded.

Grade: A

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