Psycho is one of my all-time favorite movies, but I was too young to fully appreciate it the first time I saw it. I found it interesting, but not at all “scary” per se (as I had been led to expect). I saw my first three Alfred Hitchcock movies right around the same time: Psycho and The Birds both on television, and The Family Plot, his last, at the theater. I don’t remember where The Family Plot fell in sequence, but I know I saw The Birds before I saw Psycho. I didn’t quite get the point of The Birds, and I have never seen The Family Plot a second time, so I guess one could say that Psycho was my favorite by default. I love absolutely every frame of it now.
I guess you all know there is going to be a new movie about the making of Psycho opening November 23. That’s one reason for this thread at this time. Another is it’s Halloween (season) and it ties in with the other horror movies series I am in the process of watching or plan to watch soon.
I watched an interview with Jonathan Frid recently in which he discussed the subtle kind of horror movies he most enjoys. He was very disdainful of Psycho specifically. (He couldn’t remember the title of the film, but it was pretty obvious which one he was talking about.) He admitted he never went to see it, and all he really knew about it was the infamous shower scene. That’s too bad, because it’s really more of a suspenseful intellectual thriller than it is a horror film.
I wish it would have been pitched to me that way, too.
PSYCHO II: I love sequels to movies filmed and set years later and starring the original cast. Psycho II is less a work of art than the original, but it is a good, updating of the original nevertheless. It continues the story of Norman Bates in a believable manner, and is quite a good little mystery in its own right. It holds up to repeated viewings, too, once one knows everything that’s going on and who is really responsible for what. There’s a bit of an EYKIW at the end required to make it all work, but it’s presented in a logical and believable manner.
PSYCHO III: The last time I watched this series, I came away with the impression that Psycho III was cheesier than its predecessors, almost a parody of itself. But I watched it again last night, and my opinion improved. Yes, it’s more in the vein of a modern horror film (with lots of blood, gore and graphic violence) than it is a psychological thriller, but it holds up on its own much better than I had remembered. It overturns the EYKIW of the previous movie, but even that was done in a believable manner, perfectly in keeping with the mythos of the series and its own internal logic.
Norman Bates scared me as a kid more than Frankenstein, Dracula and the Wolf Man combined!
I do remember a TV special where Anthony Perkins says he was doing a play when they shot the shower scene so he REALLY didn't do it!
Up in Dorney Park, in Allentown, PA, they used to have a walk-thru haunted house attraction called "The Whacky Shack" that, at the point where I was old enough to get into horror movies (about 11-12) I came to view as a celebration of all things sick & perverse. They had all kinds of twisted things in there. A man hanging by his arms in a dungeon who came hurtling at you while a police siren blared. A buzzard picking at a disembodied eyeball while a recording of "I Ain't Got Nobody" (no body) played on a loop. A glass case half filled with water in which a decomposing corpse was covered in tarantulas. A man being stretched on a rack while a foot-long rat sat on his chest. A laboratory in which Frankenstein's monster came to life on a table.
And near the end, something that made me wonder... a rocking chair, seen from the back, in which on old woman sat. You'd walk by this, turn the corner, then walk by another window, and see the same set-up from the other side. OH! It was the skeleton of an old woman in the chair.
I didn't see PSYCHO until the early 80's. I actually had the ending BLOWN for me before the fact by a PBS documentary about Alfred Hitchcock which had the monstrous stupidity to show the climax of the film, when the rocking chair spun around. (GRRRRRRRRRRR) Either right then, or, when I saw the movie a few months later, I realized that all those years before, "The Whacky Shack" had had Norman Bates' mother on display! The attraction was torn down decades ago, following a FIRE set by some stupid kids in the haunted house at Great Adventure (in central NJ), which resulted in the fire safety codes being drastically upgraded. Parents were too dumb to teach their kids common sense anymore, so everyone had to suffer. "The Whacky Shack" was so big and complex in design (it took about 15 minutes to walk thru that thing), it was physically impossible to "upgrade" it to coform to the new codes.
Oddly enough, I saw Brian DePalma's DRESSED TO KILL when it came out-- several years before I first saw PSYCHO. As a result, while I saw the influence of Stanley KLubrick's camera-work, I did NOT recognize Alfred Hitchcock in the story end of it. I also wound up seeing BODY DOUBLE quite a few years before VERTIGO. I remember when I was watching VERTIGO, on its 2nd theatrical reissue (when they "restored" the film), getting to one point and thinking, "So THAT's what DePalma was doing!"
I guess PSYCHO shares that with MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS in being a mystery I was never able to see "cold" the first time. I'll never know if my appreciation for either film might have been different if I'd been able to see either of them, NOT knowing what was coming.
Amazingly, both my Dad and I, who watched PSYCHO II together our first time, liked the 2nd film BETTER than the 1st one! PSYCHO II was up against a lot when it was made. It had to "compete" with the memory of the original (and most people dismissed it purely because it could "never live up to the Hitchcock film"). It was also having to "compete" with the mountain of slasher films that came out in the wake of HALLOWEEN. (It's remarkable they restrained themselves so much in the onscreen violence department-- it's only when Norman is getting stabbed in the hands that it started to get really nasty that way.) And, it had to "compete" with William Castle & Robert Bloch's STRAIT-JACKET, which had almost the identical plot, 20 years earlier!!! (Woman kills husband with axe, spends 10 years in an asylum. Gets out... axe murders commence. Guess who's doing them? WRONG!) Incredibly, it succeeded against all these "obstacles".
It continues to amaze me how intelligent, and sensitive, and complex PSYCHO II is.
I was just saying the other day how I saw actor Robert Loggia on a TARZAN episode, and on looking him up, realized I had 4 of his films IN A ROW on tape-- TRAIL OF THE PINK PANTHER, PSYCHO II, CURSE OF THE PINK PANTHER, and SCARFACE. I think PSYCHO II is the only time I've seen him play a sympathetic character, as the psychiatrist who's really trying to help the poor guy.
Then there's Dennis Franz, who wound up playing 2 different cops on HILL STREET BLUES (the nerve of some casting directors). His "Norman Buntz" became my favorite character on the show (until "Tina Russo" turned up a year later). What a scuzz-bag he was in PSYCHO II. "Heyyyyy!! PSYCHO!!!" You were so happy to see him get killed in there.
And then there's Meg Tilly. OH man. I found her INTENSELY attractive the first time I saw the film. Which made what happened all the more tragic. On re-watching the film, however, I have to say... her character wasn't too bright, was she?
The real "horror" of the film is that, for most of the movie, most people think Norman's still crazy-- but he isn't. Then, at the end of the film, the cop congratulates him for being okay... but, just then... HE ISN'T!!! The film ends with the story coming full-circle to how things were at the beginning of the 1st film. AAAAAAUGH!!!
You know... when I heard they were gonna do PSYCHO III, I realized, before they ever did it, it would almost have to be an "updated remake" of the original. And it was! And, as sick & perverted as the world had become by then... poor Norman didn't have a chance.
Charles Edward Pogue, who write PSYCHO III (as well as both Ian Richardson Sherlock Holmes films-- a magnificent pair, and 2 of my all-time favorites) said in an interview in SCARLET STREET magazine, that he wrote PSYCHO III just so he could "fix" the problem created by the ending of PSYCHO II, which he deeply resented! What's funny is, while he accomplished what he set out to do, AS YOU SAID, it all fit perfectly within the series "internal logic".
I highly reccomend PSYCHO IV: THE BEGINNING. I just knew, before the fact, that if they wanted to avoid pointless repetition, they really only had 2 choices for a story. They'd either have to cure Norman-- or KILL him. Either way, it HAD to be the last one.
I recently watched BATES MOTEL, the TV movie that was intended as a pilot for a possible spin-off series, which would feature different people's lives being affected by renting rooms in the place. It's universally lambasted, but I found it actually quite interesting, despite its premise. The thing is, "continuity" wise, it and PSYCHO IV exist in different "universes" (so to speak).
You know one thing I keep wondering-- especially about PSYCHO II-- which I have never gotten a satisfactory answer for? Was the Bates house a full, complete building? Because of all the inter-related shots and movement of action, and some of the complicated camera-angles, I don't see how they could have done that film UNLESS it was a real house they were shooting in and around. I know it's common to shoot interiors on a soundstage rather than on a location, but I'm not sure that's what they did there. Anybody know?
Psycho is the only movie that ever made me jump out of my seat. I saw it for the first time on TV when I was in high school. Even with my parents in the next room, I literally (and I do mean literally) jumped up off the couch at the discovery of "Mrs Bates" and "Mothers" attack at the films climax. I have managed to stay in my seat on subsequent viewings but I still consider it one of the creepiest movies ever made.
I haven't done it in years, but the Universal Studios tour in Los Angeles is on the studio lot. The original Bates house and motel are on the tour. I would assume the motel isn't complete inside except for the lobby and the room where the murder occurred. The house might be, as it looks like an actual old house that may have been relocated there. It is complete from all vantage points from the tram. They don't let visitors actually walk up to it. I would assume that the interiors involving the staircase were filmed there. Pretty sure the root cellar scene was a sound stage. I've never read about these details of filming.
The horrifying part for the original audience was that the apparent star of the movie is killed relatively early. After that they didn't know what to expect. I agree with you about various media carelessly giving away endings to movies without any spoiler warnings. It doesn't matter how old a movie is, someone hasn't seen it yet. Psycho and Citizen Kane are constantly given away. The worst I’ve seen was the written description of the movie The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, which gave away the end of the movie while mentioning the cast.
*****SPOILERS!!!!!***** Honestly-- DO NOT READ this unless you've seen these films!
MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS -- "The only movie where ********* did it."
(My best friend did this to me, then said, "It came out 10 years ago-- I assumed you MUST have seen it by now!")
I like to say the following about DEATH ON THE NILE:
"The killer was the only one who couldn't possibly have done it."
Of course, there's a line in EVIL UNDER THE SUN which goes like this...
"Oh-- OH!! I see what you mean. You mean-- NOBODY did it!" "And yet... we still have-- a body."
(my favorite Maggie Smith film)
"The house might be, as it looks like an actual old house that may have been relocated there. It is complete from all vantage points from the tram. They don't let visitors actually walk up to it. I would assume that the interiors involving the staircase were filmed there. Pretty sure the root cellar scene was a sound stage. I've never read about these details of filming."
I can believe it about the root cellar. Might have been too awkward to film down there. But the rest of the house-- as I said, specifically in PSYCHO II-- it feels like they almost had to have done it "on location". Otherwise, I think, there might have been too much special effects camera-work editing involved to make it worthwhile. There's one particular shot, when the camera focuses tight on Norman, trapped in the 3rd floor attic. And in ONE unbroken boom shot, the camera swings all the way down to the entrance of the cellar. Kind of just to let you know, whatever goes on down there, Norman was NOT involved. PSYCHO II may be the only movie so relentlessly downbeat that I can honestly say I love. The writing, directing, acting, everything.
I wondered about the remake of PSYCHO. The staircase bannister was completely different-- no "art" at all in the design. It made me think the house had been burned in the previous film, and at least parts of it may have had to be rebuilt. (Unless they rebuilt the entire house just for the remake...?)
Of course, I kinda wonder about al the major renovations to the motel in BATES MOTEL, which are not reflected in PSYCHO IV (different continuity).
All children should see Psycho and Citizen Kane ASAP in their lives before some schmuck ruins it for them. (I would put The Man who Shot Liberty Valance on the list as well, but I haven’t seen that one spoiled quite as often… as Citizen Kane especially.)
I have seen the house, too, on a tour of the Universal Studios lot. I remember the guide said that it was just a hollow frame and was on wheels so that it could be moved to location easily. I assume the interiors were shot on a soundstage.
I have seen Psycho IV, once, and plan to watch it for a second time tonight. Will post my thoughts here tomorrow.
"I have seen the house, too, on a tour of the Universal Studios lot. I remember the guide said that it was just a hollow frame and was on wheels so that it could be moved to location easily."
This still doesn't answer the question. The house as it exists NOW may be a hollow shell. But was it in the movies? Whenever I watch PSYCHO II, I find it hard to believe it was anything other than done on location with a "real" house.
"before some schmuck ruins it for them"
I got annoyed recently when I saw the "Sneak Previews" segment that promoted BUCKAROO BANZAI. The clip they showed not only did NOT in any way reflect the tone or feel of the movie, it also BLEW a major plot mystery. I mean, really... the studio just had no idea how to promote that film, did they?
Jeff of Earth-J said:
All children should see Psycho and Citizen Kane ASAP in their lives before some schmuck ruins it for them.
If you are going to mentally scar the youth of America with such a program, you should force them to watch the Crying Game while you are at it.
I got another one for you... THE BIG SLEEP. Now, to be fair, when you hear this movie's name, most people think of Bogart & Bacall. And as legend has it, NOBODY has ever been able to figure the film out (unless they've seen it multiple times, or read the book, or both.)
But for me... I think of Robert Mitchum. I saw it in a theatre. It was my introuction to both Mitchum AND Marlowe! And, as complex as it was... I never got lost. I actually was able to follow it (probably because it actually followed the book, almost page per page). So when the ending came... WHOA!!!!! Oh, MAN... you do NOT wanna tell someone how this thing ends.
You know, what's hilarious is, if you have seen the remake, or read the book (or both, as in my case), the Bogart film is STILL confusing! : )