Director: Alfred Hitchcock Cinematographer: John L. Russell
Having just enjoyed spectacular success with the lavishly scaled North by Northwest, with Psycho, Hitchcock surprisingly turned to a shooting schedule and black and white photography that was more commonly used in television. The grisly horror/thriller follows Marion Crane (Janet Leigh), who, while hiding at a motel after embezzling from her employer, encounters the the initially mild mannered motel owner, Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins). Unsettling and strange when compared to the director’s earlier romantic adventures, the film features a mix of brilliant montage, long mobile camera shots, complex characterisation and dramatic narrative shifts that play with the audience’s expectations. It’s here that Hitchcock’s collaboration with composer Bernard Herrmann arguably reaches its peak, particularly with one of cinema’s most acclaimed sequences, the famous shower scene. Derided at the time of release by critics who deemed it to have too much focus on the sort of seedy subject matter they thought was more at home in cheap horror, the film is now seen as one of Hithcock’s major works. Ultimately, while it’s sex and violence may seem tame and even predictable by 21st century standards, the film represents an important turning point in American film history as it brought such excesses into mainstream cinema but it was also such content, and particularly an increased tendency from Hitchcock towards violence against women, that would later cause a decline in his popularity.
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- No. 46 on The Pendragon Society’s 1000 Greatest Films of All-Time (2021)
- Anthony Perkin’s performance as Norman Bates was placed No. 26 on The Pendragon Society’s 100 Greatest Film Acting Performances of All-Time (2019)