We continue with our horror movie theme in honor of Halloween with the Hitchcock classic, Psycho. We delve into some of the mythology of the movie plus give our usual insights and banter into the filmmaking and the characters. Finally, Chad watched Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge and Brian now knows about Pol Pot.
Warning: Spoilers, adult humor, and harsh language ahead. Listen at your own risk.
2DudeReview - Episode 2: Psycho
- Discuss site, Twitter, etc.
II. First Impressions of Psycho
III. Origin & tidbits
- Psycho was based on Robert Block's 1959 novel "Psycho" which was loosely inspired by Ed Gein (Wisconsin murder and grave robber). Both Gein and Bates were solitary, lived in rural towns, made a shrine to a dead dominant mother, and dressed in women's clothes.
- Paramount pictures initially rejected the book as a premise of a movie.
- Hitchcock's assistant Peggy Robertson showed him the book and he acquired the rights for $9500 and reportedly ordered Robertson to buy copies to preserve the novel's surprises
- Paramount still didn't want much to do with it and refused to give Hitchcock his usual budget. The compromise was Hitchcock would do it inexpensive using black and white and his crew from his TV show. Black and white was also used to keep the shower scene from getting too gory. Also, he would finance the project through his Shamley production and Paramount would just have to distribute it. He forego his fee and took a 60% stake in it.
- Paramount found the book too repulsive.
- Paramount did distribute the film but ended up selling all their rights to Universal after Hitchcock sold his Shamley Productions to MCA (Universal's parent company).
- Because of the lower budget, composer Bernard Herrmann wrote for a string orchestra instead of a full symphony. Hitchcock later remarked, "33% of the effect of Psycho was due to the music."
- A writer for Hitchcock's TV show, James P. Cavanagh, wrote the screenplay. Hitchcock didn't like that one and used Joseph Stefano.
- Stefano went on to cowrite The Outer Limits TV show.
- It was shot on a tight budget of $807,000. It earned over $40 million.
- It was filmed in under three months. Filming started in the morning and finished by six at the latest on Thursdays so Hitchcock and his wife could dine at Chasen's. Chasen's was a restaurant for Hollywood elite. Ronald Reagan proposed to his wife there. Hitchcock, Jimmy Stewart, Groucho Marx, and Frank Sinatra all had their own booths there. It closed in 1995.
- Stefano did make some changes: he eliminated Bates' drinking which, in turn, removed Bates becoming his mother as part of a drunken stupor. He also removed Bates being into the occult, porn, and spirtualism. He expands Marions life to half the movie and opens with it instead of focusing on Bates first.
- In 1992, the US Library of Congress deemed the film "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry.
- In movie, Lila Crane opens a book in Norman's room with a blank cover. In the book these are "pathologically pornographic" illustrations. Stefano didn't want the scene to be overdone and elected to go with the blank pages instead.
- They changed Marion's name from Mary since there was a real Mary Crane in Phoenix.
- Removed a romantic relationship that started in the book between Sam and Lila since they felt that would cheapen the story.
- In the book Sam explains Norman's mental illness to Lila but Stefano changed it to the psychiatrist for the movie, in part because he was going through therapy dealing with his issues with his mother.
- The novel is more violent than the film.
- In the novel Marion is beheaded in the shower not just stabbed.
- Marion's white 1957 Ford sedan is the same car (owned by Universal) that the Cleaver family drove on Leave It to Beaver (1957).
- The original Bates motel was built on the same stage as The Phantom of the Opera. It is still there as a part of Universal Studios Hollywood.
- Because of his reputation, Hitchcock was able to cast Janet Leigh for a quarter of her regular cost. She was his first choice and she agreed having only read the novel without even asking about money.
- Considered for the role of Marion were Eva Marie Saint, Lee Remick, Angie Dickinson,Piper Laurie, Martha Hyer, Hope Lange, Shirley Jones, and Lana Turner.
- Leigh was a big box office draw but her role in Psycho was her most iconic. She won a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress and nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.
- She said the shower scene was so traumatic she went to great lengths to avoid showers the rest of her life.
- Speaking of the shower scene. That scene required 77 different angles and includes 50 cuts. The sound of the stabbing was stabbing a melon and the blood was chocolate syrup.
- There are contradictory reports on whether everything shot in the shower was Leigh or a body double. Leigh does say that the myth that ice water was used to make her screams more realistic was false.
- Leigh and Hitchcock both disclosed that the scene was metaphorical for Marion deciding to return to Phoenix and come clean about stealing the money.
- Alfred Hitchcock received several letters from ophthalmologists who noted that Janet Leigh's eyes were still contracted during the extreme closeups after her character's death. The pupils of a true corpse dilate after death. They told Hitchcock he could achieve a proper dead-eye effect by using belladonna drops. Hitchcock did so in all his later films.
- Also, in the beginning we see Marion in a white bra because she was to be seen as angelic but after she steals the money she is in a black bra. Same with her purse. It is white before she stole it but black after.
- Perkins was another big draw at the box office having won a Golden Globe for New Star of the Year - Actor and for a nomination for an academy award for his film Friendly Persuasion in 1956.
- His performance as Norman Bates won him Best Actor Award from the International Board of Motion Picture Reviewers.
- Both the lead roles were given freedom to interpret their roles. That led to Perkin's candy corn habit shown in the film.
- Nearly the whole film was shot with 50 mm lenses on 35 mm cameras which closely resembled human vision and immersed the audience more.
- On the first day of filming Hitchcock made everyone raise their right hand and swear not to divulge any of the plot. I guess this is before non-disclosure agreements.
- The opening shot was an aerial shot that was to close in on Marion and Sam but the helicopter they used to grab the shot was too shaky for it to be used.
- In one shot, you can see Christmas decorations so instead of reshooting, Hitchcock added the date graphic "Friday, December 4th".
- Assistant Director Hilton A Green went out to find locations to shoot. He found a woman he imagined Marion's character to be and photographed her entire wardrobe. Hitchcock then required the costume designer not deviate from the photographs.
- The look of the Bates house was based off the Edward Hopper painting "The House by the Railroad."
- Throughout filming, Hitchcock would hide the "mother corpse" in Leigh's dressing room.
- Hitchcock was forced to do some uncharacteristic reshoots for this film to get some of the scenes right, including the shower scene and the audience's first glimpse at the real Mrs. Bates.
- Hitchcock does have a cameo. He is seen outside the window of Marion's office with a stetson hat. He chose this scene so he can be in a scene with his daughter who plays one of Marion's colleagues.
- After the production code started to go away, Psycho was one of the movies that was able to get away with more violence and sex than usual. For example, seeing Marion and Sam in bed with Marion in a bras was taboo since they weren't married. The censors originally fought with Hitchcock claiming they could see Marion's breast. They eventually reversed that decision. They were upset about the opening scene and Hitchcock told them he would change it if he could keep the shower scene - and they can be on the set when he did. They agreed but never showed so Hitchcock kept the original opening. Hitchcock did have to remove a butt shot from the film from Leigh's body double. Also, this was the first time that they showed a toilet with toilet paper in it being flushed in a mainstream film. The censors weren't a fan of that either. The censors also didn't like the term transvestite and made Stefano prove it was an actual psychiatric term.
- Hitchcock also required a "no late admission" policy which angered theaters. They reversed their decision when the lines for the movie got long since no one wanted to be late. As part of this, they had a soundtrack that played in the lobby that would annouce, "ten minutes until Psycho time," "five minutes until Psycho time," etc.
- The film was a hit and CBS bought the rights for TV. When they were about to show it, Illinois senate candidate Charles Percy's daughter was murdered. She was stabbed a dozen times with a double-edge knife while her parents slept a few feet away. They were about to air it again but then the Apollo 1 fire happened killing all three of the crew members and CBS decided to scrap showing Psycho. It was reissued to theaters in 1969 and finally made it to TV in 1967.
- Walt Disney refused to let Hitchcock film at Disneyland later in his career because he made, "that disgusting movie, Psycho."
- The trailer was six-and-a-half minutes long.
- After the film's release Alfred Hitchcock received an angry letter from the father of a girl who refused to have a bath after seeing Diabolique (1955) and now refused to shower after seeing this film. Hitchcock sent a note back simply saying, "Send her to the dry cleaners."
IV. Mention next film, Halloween, plus reiterate the Web site and social media feeds