Psycho (1960)

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Written by Joseph Stefano

Psycho is a great film and Alfred Hitchcock is a great director. These two statements are fairly true, otherwise there wouldn’t be a Hitchcocktober at my theater showing 60 year old films from some British dude. I also use the “fairly true” bit based on the couple behind me who, before the movie started, were having that senseless conversation about how the Oscars are never right and awarding certain films Best Pitcure in weak years seems lame because it puts it in the category with other great films where it doesn’t deserve. But don’t get me started into that whole debacle. Movies are subjective, never objective, blah, blah, blah [insert argument]. Even Psycho has people on either side of the fence, mostly because of the ending of the film. Lucky for me, I was able to steal away for the midnight screening of the film, as it truly is one of Hitchcock’s masterpieces and demands to be seen on the big screen if possible (and from the very beginning of course!).

Psycho is perfect in too many ways. I first would like to recognize the marvelous Bernard Herrmann, whose collaborations with Hitch have netted some of the greatest scores. The one here above all others I think. Who doesn’t know the score to this film? And it matches the tension so well. I just love how big it gets. No shame coming out right to the foreground. Sometimes when a score is this good it can’t afford to hide in the background. But really, this wouldn’t be a masterpiece if just all the elements were great (which they are). It is a masterpiece because of the progression of the story. Kill off the lead character and star of the film 40 minutes in, even as she is giving an awesome performance? Let’s do it. Hitchcock manages to create his only real horror film, but makes it stand out even more simply by adding in that wonderful thriller punch he carried his whole career.

From the very first shot, Psycho is Hitch’s most visually stunning film. There are so many great shots in the film I can’t help but be amazed by what is accomplished here. The surrealness of Arbogast falling down the stairs is always the one shot that forever is etched in my memory. For others it is the shower scene, and with good reason. There are great shots to be had throughout. And Anthony Perkins really delivers an amazing performance here, drawing in the audience with his nice guy naivete. Sure the ending takes a little bit out of it and I don’t care for the psychologist monologue much, but the actual resolution, the facts of the closing, are just as strong as the rest of the film, just get rid of that talking head and you might very well have a Top 5 film of all time. As it is, Pyscho is just another masterpiece in Hitch’s filmography, and perhaps my favorite of his, though picking a favorite Hitchcock is a bit like picking your favorite child. You sort of just love ’em all the same, just for different reasons.

**** – Masterpiece

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