Wednesday, May 18, 2016

AFI Top 100, #18: "Psycho" (1960)

Movie Stats:
Released 1960 (USA)
American, in English
Director - Alfred Hitchcock
Stars - Janet Leigh, Anthony Perkins

Plot Summary:
After a series of bad decisions, Phoenix secretary Marion Crane (Leigh) finds herself at a remote hotel, whose owner, Norman Bates (Perkins), has a very dark secret.

Violence; gore; heavily implied sexy times.

Bad Stuff:
There’s an undercurrent of “bad women need to be punished” that makes me give it a bit of a side eye.

Psychologist Dr. Fred Richman (Simon Oakland) has only one scene, at the very end of the film, but man does he stink it up. I hated pretty much everything he said, and the way it was delivered. In particular, [SPOILER] when Marion’s sister Lila (Vera Miles) asked him if Norman killed Marion and Dr. Richman dramatically answered, “Yes … and no,” I was like, “Oh, STFU you insufferable prick.” [SPOILER]

Good Stuff:
A++ acting from Anthony Perkins.

Hitchcock did an excellent job of ramping up the tension slowly. This isn’t a “cheap scares” frightening movie (there are a few, but that’s not the main thrust of the film), which is my preference. I can imagine that when this movie came out, Marion’s fate must have been so shocking, because until that scene in the study with the stuffed birds, it seemed like the story was going in a much different direction.

Great soundtrack.

The Verdict:
I think this movie suffers greatly from having come out 56 years ago. I can’t imagine that nowadays, most people reach adulthood without knowing what the twists are, even if they haven’t seen the movie. I know that I knew the twists before I ever saw it, and I saw it for the first time 20 years ago. It’s definitely an instance where spoilers actually spoil it. So I try to think about how different and titillating it must have been back in 1960. I think it’s a great film, regardless of spoilers. It’s just difficult to get that full impact of it. Anyway, I think the story was innovative and original, the soundtrack was excellent, and performances were great. It definitely earned all the praise it’s been given over the years.

I give it 4.25 stars.


Patricia said...

I watched it for the first time knowing the spoilers and I found myself reverse confused. What was up with this lady and the money? No one had ever said anything about that.

Even knowing the spoilers, I really liked this movie. And I enjoyed the frame-by-frame Gus Van Sant remake. Mostly because it was so superfluous. :-)

balyien said...

I totally forgot there was a remake! I'll tuck that info away from my potential "movie remake" project.

I saw this movie last year as part of the LA Conservancy's movies-in-old-LA-theaters series. It was the first time I'd seen it in 20 years and I'd completely forgotten the whole part that doesn't take place at the hotel. And it's the majority of the film! So I was confused too. Of course, I never got around to writing the review and tucking it away to post at a later date, so I had to watch it again in order to post this.