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I have a confession to make. I never actually watched  Alfred Hitchcock‘s Psycho before, although I knew a bit about it. I knew or thought I knew that it all happened at the Bates Motel. I had heard of the famous shower scene and seen cuts from and parodies of it. I knew that Norman Bates was the real killer and that his mother was dead and that’s about it. It’s not that I had avoided watching it, I had seen several other Hitchcock movies (one of my favorite is The Birds which my next post will be about). I had just never got around to it. So I watched Psycho for the first time from a rather unique perspective.

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The first thing I noticed was what a nice guy Norman Bates seemed to be. He seemed so friendly and sincere. That is until he revealed his little secret behind the painting.

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The second thing I noticed was how much he believed in the whole “mother” charade. (Well, no, the second thing I noticed was the whole bird thing, as I said one of my favorites.) He seemed truly shocked to find the murder scene, as if he had never seen it before, and it couldn’t have been a “show” because no one else was around.

Psycho with birdPsycho after murder

Seeing the complete shower scene for the first time was impressive. I knew pretty much what to expect, but the quick flash cuts and Janet Leigh‘s acting skills made me see why it has become such a classic. I watched the Steven Soderbergh mash up of  the original shower scene with Gus Van Sant‘s  remake and the thing that stood out to me was that Leigh did a much better job of acting the scene. As they were both sliding down the wall, Leigh’s eyes still held a little life in them and the reach out was a natural grasp for help, but Anne Heche‘s eyes are already dead and when her hand reaches out there is no reason for it except someone told her to.

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Jason Zinoman pointed out that many of the horror directors that followed Hitchcock felt that he had ruined the movie with the explanatory scene at the end of the film. I saw the film before reading Zinoman’s comments, but I too felt there was something off about the scene. It just didn’t fit with the rest of the movie. It reminded of a mystery when the detective calls everyone together to explain how he knows who-done-it. I appreciated a lot of the information presented in that scene, like Bates’ Oedipus Complex,  the fact that he had killed his mother, and the reason that he was so convincing in the “mother” charade. But it did seem like a cheating way to go about it.

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I could do a whole other blog posting about Hitchcock’s directorial choices including the car that almost doesn’t sink, the groundbreaking camera angles, the special effect rigs, whether the stab in the shower scene was shot backwards (this guy makes a strong point 8 frames),

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and the eerie correlation between Marion and Norman, but perhaps that would be saying too much.

psycho drive  psycho_shot5l

psycho-title-sequence psycho shift

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