Plot: Phoenix secretary Marion Crane (Leigh), on the lam after stealing $40,000 from her employer in order to run away with her boyfriend, Sam Loomis (Gavin), is overcome by exhaustion during a heavy rainstorm. Traveling on the back roads to avoid the police, she stops for the night at the ramshackle Bates Motel and meets the polite but highly strung proprietor Norman Bates (Perkins), a young man with an interest in taxidermy and a difficult relationship with his mother.
Reviewed527 words (Est. Reading Time 2m 38s)
When looking for something to watch for this week’s #TBT Review, I realized I had never seen a film directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Since so many of his films are classics and must-see icons of the film industry, I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to take a peek. So, when I came across the classic Psycho, I knew I’d found my film.
But, would this classic film still stand up today? Or would viewers be bored these days by it’s slower pace?
The cast of Psycho is well-known, these days. Anthony Perkins plays Norman Bates so well, exuding a boyish charm even while it’s obvious he is a bit mentally unstable. It’s a strong performance, and a lot of why the film has become the classic that it has. Just like Anthony Hopkins in The Silence of the Lambs (1991), or Jack Nicholson in Batman (1989), this film is led by its strong villain, and viewers will find themselves sympathizing with him even while instinctively knowing that something isn’t quite right.
While Norman Bates is really the star of Psycho, he doesn’t show up until later on in the film, leaving the beginning in the very capable hands of Janet Leigh. Again, she does a solid job in her role, bringing a vivaciousness to the role that lots of older films seem to lack. She certainly is comfortable in front of the cameras, and viewers will stick around with her until Norman Bates puts in an appearance.
The rest of the cast is decent as well, but none of them can quite match up to either Leigh or Perkins. Still, since Leigh and Perkins are so strong, the rest of the cast being a bit weaker actually helps Psycho. That way, they can carry out their roles without distracting the viewer from who is really important.
Alfred Hitchcock, with his brand of suspense thrillers, set the film industry on edge when he started directing pictures, and Psycho is a prime example. While everyone watching the film these days already knows the surprise twist (thus causing them to view the entire film in a different light), it still manages to keep the viewer’s attention throughout. Thankfully, due to Hitchcock’s careful editing, the deaths are still just as powerful as ever, and since there aren’t really any special effects to deteriorate, the viewer – after adjusting to the black-and-white picture – never once has any reason to pull away from the film’s story.
Hitchcock definitely knew what he was doing. Casting not one, but two leading characters most likely helped cement this film in the annals of movie history. With its strong storytelling, iconic performances from both Janet Leigh and Anthony Perkins, and Hitchcock’s masterful directing, it’s no wonder that Psycho is a must-see film. Even today, when the viewer already knows the surprise twist, they can’t help but be engrossed by the film, and should be satisfied with the end result.
Can’t get enough of Norman Bates? Don’t worry, there is a lot more to see, as the film has spawned two sequels (Psycho II and Psycho III), a shot-by-shot remake (Psycho) and inspired a disturbing TV series (“Bates Motel” (TV)).