PSYCHO (1960) B/W widescreen 109m dir: Alfred Hitchcock
w/Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, Vera Miles, John Gavin, Martin Balsam, John McIntyre, Lurene Tuttle, Simon Oakland, Frank Albertson, Patricia Hitchcock
Alfred Hitchcock's macabre masterpiece broke all existing rules for horror films and their makers, set the standard for a generation of new ones, and kept uncounted numbers of filmgoers out of their showers. Even today, it remains unexcelled in its brilliant manipulation of audience expectations. Leigh plays a young secretary (look for the director's daughter as her office co-worker) who embezzles money from her firm and heads west, only to make an unplanned stop at the lonely Bates Motel. The outstanding score, comprised solely of the music and sounds made by stringed instruments, is by Hitchcock's frequent collaborator, Bernard Herrmann.
From Georges Sadoul's Dictionary of Films: "Psycho was a relatively low-budget film, produced in black and white with the methods used for shooting television serials [which the director had perfected on his television series, Alfred Hitchcock Presents]. However, the famous 45-second ... [shower] murder sequence alone took seven days to create. Hitchcock says that it was 'made with a great sense of amusement on my part. To me it's a fun picture. The processes through which we take he audience, you see, it's rather like taking them through the haunted house at the fairground.' Certainly, Psycho is Hitchcock's most visually involving film and his most successful in terms of audience participation. Even those critics unable to find profound poetry in Hitchcock's films accept this. For Robin Wood [A critic who recognized early on this "profound poetry," Wood wrote the first book in English on the director's work, Hitchcock's Films, originally published in 1965 and updated in 1989 by the author as Hitchcock's Films Revisited.], 'No film conveys --- to those not afraid to expose themselves fully to it --- a greater sense of desolation, yet it does so from an exceptionally mature and secure emotional viewpoint. And an essential part of this viewpoint is the detached sardonic humor. It enables the film to contemplate the ultimate horrors without hysteria.'"
In critic Robin Wood's book Hollywood: From Vietnam to Reagan, he identifies PSYCHO as the forerunner of the modern horror film because PSYCHO locates the seat of the horror as being within the family and because the monster is human. This is not true of the vast majority of previous horror films, such as THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI, NOSFERATU, or FRANKENSTEIN. Of course, innumerable films have tried to copy PSYCHO's cinematic and psychological intensity (including the almost shot-for-shot remake that Gus Van Sant made in 1998), but the film remains a unique and thrilling experience that is not to be missed.
PSYCHO was nominated for Oscars for Best Director, Supporting Actress (Janet Leigh), B&W Cinematography (John L. Russell), and B&W Art Direction (Joseph Hurley, Robert Clatworthy, and George Milo).