Thursday 10 February 2011

Psycho review

Psycho - 1960
Director - Alfred Hitchcock

1) Psycho poster

Plot summary / review:

Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) is a devoted secretary working in a real estate office in Phoenix. She desperately wants to marry her out of town lover Sam Loomis (John Gavin), however, Sam feels he is unable to support her due to inherited debts and his own alimony payments.

2) Marion and Sam

Marion returns to work after spending her lunch break with Sam. Her boss Mr. Lowry (Vaughn Taylor), shortly after returns with a client, Cassidy (Frank Albertson), an arrogant show off who boasts about buying a house for his wife with cash. He gives Mr. Lowry $40,000 who in turn asks Marion to deposit the money in the bank. Marion obliges and requests after she has paid in the money that she can return home as she has a headache. Marion never goes to the bank, instead she packs a suitcase and steals the money and decides to drive through the night to Sams.

3) On the run

Marion is increasingly paranoid after her boss sees her leaving town. As she drives through the night she thinks about the conversations of the day and in the night pulls over to sleep. The next morning she is awoken by a police patrolman who checks her details but lets her go. She trades in her recognizable car in the next town and continues her journey. As the day turns to night, the weather begins to turn. In the pouring rain she stumbles upon a remote motel. At first it appears empty but she a shadowy figure of a woman in the window of the eerie house behind the motel. She honks her horn and a figure emerges from the house. The figure is Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins), a young man who runs the hotel for his dominating mother. Norman seems reserved but polite and proceeds to check in Marion, inviting her to the house for dinner later.

4) Marion and Norman.

Marion retires to her room and over hears Normans mother shouting at him, rejecting Marions invite to the house for tea. Norman returns with a tray of sandwiches and milk and invites Marion into the parlor behind the check in desk. The room is filled with stuffed birds, a passion of Normans who begins to show anxiety after Marion apologizes for getting him into trouble with his mother. She finishes her tea and heads back to her room for a shower before bed. In the films most famous scene, a shadowy figure of a woman enters the bathroom and pulls back the curtain and strikes Marion several times with a knife killing her.

5) Murder

The murderer hastily leaves and returns to the house. Norman is hear screaming "Mother, oh no, mother, blood, blood!" He runs out of the house and discovers Marions corpse. He uses the shower curtain to wrap her body and put it in the trunk of her car and dumps it in the swamp along with her possessions. Meanwhile, Marions sister Lila (Vera Miles) tracks down Sam at his hardware store in search of her sister. She is closely followed by Private Investigator Arbogast (Martin Balsam) who has been hired by Mr. Lowry to track down Marion and the missing money. After questioning Sam and Lila, Arbogast periodically investigates various motel managers in search of her. He arrives at the Bates motel and interviews Norman and correctly surmises she was there and that Norman, or his mother maybe hiding something. He leaves and reports his findings to Lila and Sam stating he will return to question the mother. Whilst in the house searching for Norman and his mother, Arbogast is killed by a woman wielding a knife jumping from behind a door.

When Arbogast fails to report back to Sam and Lila, they begin to get suspicious. They report to the local Sheriff who dismisses their concern and reveals that Normans mother committed suicide after killing her lover over 10 years ago. None the less, Sam and Lila investigate further and check into the motel under the guise of a married couple. Sam distracts Norman and allows Lila to search the house. She discovers a woman sitting in the basement, which turns out to be the rotting corpse of Normans mother. Norman tries to kill Lila dressed as his mother but is thwarted by Sam.

6) Normans mother

Sam and Lila are at the police station where Norman is being held. A psychiatrist emerges from his cell and explains to them that Norman suffers from a personality disorder. He reveals Norman murdered his mother and her lover and stole her corpse. To ease his guilt he developed a split personality, taking on the role of his mother. He could simultaneously be Norman and his mother, holding conversations between and sometimes the mother personality would take over completely. We cut to Norman sitting in his cell, his mothers voice dominating his thoughts, claiming she will show everyone who she really is someone who wouldn't even harm a fly. The movie closes with Marions car being dragged up from the swamp.

7) Mad Norman

Psycho is arguably Hitchcocks most famous movie. Endlessly parodied and imitated it is a landmark in cinema history. Made on a budget, it still encompasses Hitchcocks trademark close up shots, long takes and nerve shredding suspense. The opening act may seem overly long, but this only adds to the tension and suspense climaxing in the famous shower scene and shock reveal ending. " That's another little thing about this film. It does seem slowly paced for Mr. Hitchcock and given over to a lot of small detail. But when it does get her to the motel and apparently settled for the night, it turns out this isolated haven is, indeed, a haunted house." (Crowther, 1960).

Psycho is unquestionably a horror film coated in a character study of everyday people. The shower scene is rightly regarded as the pinnacle of the movie, however it is in the tense build up to the motel that makes the film feel conceivable. Particularly when Marion is spotted by her employer as she is driving out of town with the stolen money. "Those few seconds, brilliantly economical and tense, are simply more psychologically convincing and real than anything else in this baroque, inspired shocker." (Bradshaw, 2010).

Hitchcock has made a truly timeless movie in 'Psycho'. Not afraid to push the limits of what is and was sociably acceptable for the time with hints of his dark humor. Psycho re-defined the horror genre in a visually rich and detailed vision which manages to connect with everyday peoples fears. "Ostensibly a Grand Guignol thriller with Freudian undertones, it's a perfectly realised, visually rich, and chilling look at masculinity and schizophrenia that had more than a hand in redefining the role of the spectator in terms of mainstream cinema, most notably perhaps in the famous shower sequence which re-explored the nature of cinematic voyeurism." Wood, 2000).


Bradshaw, Peter. The Guardian review 1st April 2010 Accessed 08/02/11

Crowther, Bosley. New York Times review 17th June 1960 Accessed 08/02/11

Wood, David. BBC Review. 13th December 2000 Accessed 08/02/11


1) Psycho poster Accessed 08/02/11

2) Marion and Sam Accessed 08/02/11

3) On the run Accessed 08/02/11

4) Marion and Norman Accessed 08/02/11

5) Murder Accessed 08/02/11

6) Normans Mom Accessed 08/02/11

7) Mad Norman Accessed 08/02/11

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