I recently saw PSYCHO (1960) directed, of course, by Alfred Hitchcock in its entirety for the first time in years. Most people rightfully consider it a classic in both horror and suspense but without the shock ending (and was it really that shocking?) and its every scene analyzed, is it still frightening?

So while it's fresh in my mind, here are my thoughts:

  • The film itself is visually disturbing. The voyeuristic camera either follows the characters or acts as their eyes, almost daring us to watch further and jumping with fear for what may or may not happen.
  • While the acting is almost subdued, both Anthony Perkins and Janet Leigh are very good.
  • Given that Janet Leigh is shown in her underwear three times plus the shower scene, it's easy to believe the stories about Hitchcock. But instead of sexual desire, they invoke feelings of guilt and uneasiness.
  • The "affair" that Marion Crane (Leigh) is in that provokes all this is certainly movie morality as both are single!
  • The $40,000 that Marion steals seems to be the macguffin of the film but it has nothing to do with her death except by causing her to stay at the motel.
  • The shower scene has sparked a million parodies but also caused a million nightmares! How more vulnerable could a person get?
  • There is no way a person could spend five minutes with Norman Bates and not realize that there are some vacancies in his motel!
  • Speaking of the motel, if Norman's mother died ten years ago when he was fifteen, has he been running the motel all that time alone?
  • Sometimes Norman appears to have teleportation powers like when the private investigator is killed!
  • Thankfully there's a swamp behind the motel! Wonder what else is lurking beneath its surface?
  • Mother is quite the assailant yet Norman is defeated fairly easily.
  • So no one in town every heard Norman speak about his mother in the present tense in ten years?

I'm sure that I will think up some more points but all in all, Psycho deserves its reputation and no sequel or prequel can diminish it. It is definitely one of Hitchcock's best and an iconic film.

What are your opinions of Psycho from your first viewing to now?

Please don't be shy. Mother hates that!

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  • So no one in town every heard Norman speak about his mother in the present tense in ten years?

That's an interesting point. However, I have known people to speak of deceased loved ones as though they were still alive. Presumably, he tried to be careful, and if he messed up once in a while, it's a long hike between  "Sometimes Norman speaks as though his mother was still alive" and "Norman's nuttier than squirrel s**t and has his mother's body in the cellar".

Granted all that...except Norman kept his mother's body in her bedroom and sometimes had her looking out the window. Marion, Arbogast (Martin Balsam-the p.i.) and Sam Loomis (John Gavin-the boyfriend) all see her so it doesn't seem like a rare event.

Now the explanation is that they opened a new highway so no one goes by the motel anymore. But how long ago had that happened? If years, how was the motel still open? Even if there were few guests, he would still need supplies and maintenance. 

The Baron said:

  • So no one in town every heard Norman speak about his mother in the present tense in ten years?

That's an interesting point. However, I have known people to speak of deceased loved ones as though they were still alive. Presumably, he tried to be careful, and if he messed up once in a while, it's a long hike between  "Sometimes Norman speaks as though his mother was still alive" and "Norman's nuttier than squirrel s**t and has his mother's body in the cellar".


Philip Portelli said:

Granted all that...except Norman kept his mother's body in her bedroom and sometimes had her looking out the window. Marion, Arbogast (Martin Balsam-the p.i.) and Sam Loomis (John Gavin-the boyfriend) all see her so it doesn't seem like a rare event.

Now the explanation is that they opened a new highway so no one goes by the motel anymore. But how long ago had that happened? If years, how was the motel still open? Even if there were few guests, he would still need supplies and maintenance. 

The Baron said:

  • So no one in town every heard Norman speak about his mother in the present tense in ten years?

That's an interesting point. However, I have known people to speak of deceased loved ones as though they were still alive. Presumably, he tried to be careful, and if he messed up once in a while, it's a long hike between  "Sometimes Norman speaks as though his mother was still alive" and "Norman's nuttier than squirrel s**t and has his mother's body in the cellar".

More seriously, I think we'd find that most movies - even great ones-  don't hold up to minute examination.

The "affair" that Marion Crane (Leigh) is in that provokes all this is certainly movie morality as both are single!

This 1960 movie is pre-sexual-revolution. Anyone not married was thought to be having an affair if they slept together. What actually provokes Marion to take the money is the fact that she and Sam "can't afford to get married" (Sam has debts she wants to pay off) and that the $40,000 belongs to a client who has sexually harassed her, I think over a period of time.

The $40,000 that Marion steals seems to be the macguffin of the film but it has nothing to do with her death except by causing her to stay at the motel.

It is cute. Everyone seeing the movie for the first time expects the money to be important to the story. After Marion's disappearance, Sam and her sister Lila suspect that Norman may have taken the money.

There is no way a person could spend five minutes with Norman Bates and not realize that there are some vacancies in his motel!

I think this is colored by everyone today knowing Norman is the "Psycho." Anthony Perkins had been a boy-next-door type in his previous movies. Norman is a nice-looking, clean-cut 1960 guy who is awkward and shy, but not threatening. Until he peeps through hole at Marion his behavior isn't noticeably bad.

Thankfully there's a swamp behind the motel! Wonder what else is lurking beneath its surface?

I think that was alluded to in the film. Without finding my copy of the book, the Wiki entry about the book says: "At the police station, Sam talks to a psychiatrist who had examined Bates, while the county highway crew is out dredging the swamp to uncover the automobiles, revealing the bodies of Mary (Marion in the movie) and Arbogast; a media frenzy imagines countless additional victims to be uncovered if the swamp is further drained, but 'the newspaper writers didn't have to foot the bill for such a project.'"

(When they found Marion's car, if they checked carefully and found the money, the a-hole client could probably recover his loss. Even if the money, closer to rag material than paper, was seriously damaged the Treasury Dept could replace the bills.) 

Psycho is the only movie to cause me to jump out of my seat while watching at home. I was in high school at the time. I was watching alone while the rest of the family was busy elsewhere in the house. It was early evening, lights on, not a spooky atmosphere in the least. At the films climax, when Lila discovers Mother in the cellar and is then attacked, I literally jumped out of my seat and yelled "What is that!". Fortunately, no one else in the family saw this rather embarrassing reaction happen.

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