"Psycho"

Hitchcock's creepy thriller about sex has imprinted itself on the psyche of two generations of moviegoers.


Bill Wyman
August 17, 2000 11:00PM (UTC)

"Psycho"
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Starring Janet Leigh, Anthony Perkins, Vera Miles, Martin Balsam and John Gavin
Universal; widescreen (1.85:1)
Special features: making-of documentary, original trailer, rerelease trailers, storyboards, much more

Another horror film about buildings and food. And Alfred Hitchcock's implacably sexual 1960 black-and-white shocker does it all in the manner of, as Norman Bates' perceptive mother puts it, "the cheap erotic fashion of men with cheap erotic minds!"

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The food is a Hitchcock fetish -- uneaten sandwiches and last suppers, each the setting for one gruesome tale after another. The architecture here is the cheap masonry of Phoenix; the prefab construction of the Bates Motel; the absurdist Gothic of the Bates family manse; and, most memorably, Janet Leigh's brassieres, extravagant constructions all, an ironic white during an afternoon liaison and then darkest black after she becomes a thief.

But of course this is really a movie about sex. We get afternoon adultery, a secretary whose mother gives her a tranquilizer on her wedding night and a leering nouveau riche cowboy -- all in the film's first 10 minutes, long before we even meet Norman himself, filmdom's most lovable voyeur.

The fabulous Universal "collector's edition" DVD includes a slew of features, from a newsreel to lobby cards to Saul Bass' shower-scene storyboards. Two features stand out. The first is Hitchcock's six-minute original theatrical trailer, a droll minor masterpiece of horror in itself. The second is an engrossing and sturdy 90-minute making-of documentary that does its best to explain how a low-budget ($800,000) shocker turned into an enormously profitable 110-minute classic whose frights -- just three scenes, perhaps a minute of true horror -- have imprinted themselves permanently on the psyche of two generations of moviegoers, all of them, as Hitchcock himself put it, "aroused by pure film."

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Bill Wyman

Bill Wyman is the former arts editor of Salon and National Public Radio.

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