Psycho (1960)

(I’m on holiday right now celebrating my 30th Birthday! To fill the void whilst I’m away I’m posting some old movie reviews that I wrote for the blog I had before I started Often Off Topic. I’ll be back in early September.)

psycho-movie-review-poster-1960October is coming to an end, but I felt like I still had enough nerves in me to go out with a bang. I started a modern classic, It Follows, and thought, why not end with a classic? That sparked me to check the IMDB Top 250 list which I’ve largely ignored for a few months, and on there spotted a movie I knew I needed to see. Psycho! I don’t know the time limit on spoiler alerts, but I’m going to discuss the entire plot in this post, so beware.

I’m fairly certain I’m not the only person out there who has never watched Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960), but everyone in the world knows about that famous shower scene. I’ve seen it parodied countless times, most notably in National Lampoon’s Vacation when Clark scares Ellen with a banana whilst she’s showering. In fact, if you check out the references section on IMDB, it has over 1,000! That’s pretty impressive.

So the funny thing is, despite this movie being 56 years old, I actually didn’t have a clue what it was about! All I really knew was that it ended with our heroine being tragically murdered whilst having a shower. Turns out, I was even wrong about that.

Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) is fed up with her life. She has to meet her partner in secret, and they aren’t able to get married because he’s had to give up his money in alimony. When tasked at work to deliver $40,000 in cash to the bank, Marion uses the opportunity to run away and start a new life. When the weather takes a turn for the worse, she is forced to spend the night at Bates Motel, a deserted little place ran by an oddball by the name Norman (Anthony Perkins) who is dominated by his mother.

I can count the number of black and white movies I’ve seen on one hand, they’ve never really had much appeal to me. That said, I’ve enjoyed each one I have seen! I think what makes them great is that there’s no glitz and glamour to distract me, the focus is on storytelling, and the storytelling in Psycho is spot on. The first half an hour or so is dedicated to building up Marion’s character, showing us why she’s taking such drastic measures. It also builds up suspense in a very successful way, when Marion is stopped by the police and the whole ordeal at the car garage, I was on the edge of my seat.

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Shock number 1 for me was when that pivotal scene happened only halfway through the movie. Shock number 2 was that it was Norman’s mother that did the deed, rather than Norman himself. I’d always thought it was him! The scene was still difficult to watch, despite knowing what was coming. I can’t imagine the reaction when it was first released. If only time travel were real!

The second half of the movie turns into a crime-solving story, as more clues are thrown out, and more questions raised about Norman and his mother. The moment when it’s revealed that Norman’s mother had been dead for 10 years gave me goosebumps. But who was it in the window upstairs?! The final scenes got too suspenseful for me, I hid behind my blanket, poking my head out every now and again, but what an ending!

This movie is a huge two-finger salute to the trailers of these days that give the entire story away. Almost the whole of Psycho was a complete surprise to me, despite it being one of the most famous movies of all time. Not my genre at all, but a bloody fantastic watch. Is the Bates Motel show worth a watch? I’m tempted.

4 thoughts on “Psycho (1960)

  1. My girlfriend and I saw this in theaters earlier this year. I had seen it before but seeing it on the big screen was absolutely fantastic! A bit predictable by today’s standards but Hitchcock was a masterful film-maker. On another note, I only watched a few episodes of Bates Motel and I absolutely hated it. A shallow, forgettable show that seemingly only uses its Psycho roots for easy attention. But I know some people really liked it.

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  2. It such a great film and surprised me as well! Despite the movie being so old I had never even heard about the twist at the end.
    I watched a couple of episodes of Bates Motel when it aired on German TV and thought it was quite good. Definitely want to go back at some point to watch the entire thing.

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  3. Pingback: Top 100 Movie Review: #18 – Psycho (1960) – The Top 100 Reviews

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