Iconic Hitchcock film Psycho is still a shocker


Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
(U.S, 1960)

Review by Angus Luff

Watching classic and iconic films with imagery, dialogue and music that almost everyone on the planet knows is an interesting experience. All of us know the music from The Wizard of Oz or the classic quotes from The Godfather, but when we actually sit down and re-watch these classic films, we find them surprising, as the iconic parts sometimes don’t make up what the film really is. Sometimes I like to pretend that I’m watching a film for the first time and have no knowledge of what I’m watching, that I don’t know the dialogue or any of the twists. I think that can definitely improve the experience of watching these classic pictures.

Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) is sick of the way life has been going for her. She can only see her lover, Sam Loomis (John Gavin) during lunch breaks as he cannot get married because most of his money goes toward alimony. One day, Marion sees the chance to start a new life with Sam. She decides to steal $40,000 from her employer’s client. While on her way to meet Sam, she stops at the Bates Motel and encounters Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins), the owner of the motel. He seems normal, but there is something mysterious and disturbing behind his otherwise joyful personality.

Psycho is a very iconic film. I don’t think there is anyone out there who isn’t familiar with the famous shocking shower scene, the brilliant score by Bernard Herrmann and the classic closing monologue. Doing a synopsis of the film seems redundant because this film is so well known, but watching it now, I think we have taken for granted how great it is. Everything about it is inventive; it’s very outside the box. The film plays with your expectations by making you think the film is going one way before it goes in the completely opposite direction. This film would have been new and fresh when it first came out, but watching it now, we’ve been worn out by Hitchcock’s excellent and fresh directing choices.

Psycho is certainly bold with its choices. It’s in black and white while other films at the time were in colour. It was quite violent for its time, killing off its main character at the halfway point – I usually wouldn’t spoil a film like that, but we all know that happens! To watch this when it first came out in the theatre would have been insane. There are some dated moments, however, especially the ending exposition that completely removes all of the tension and mystery of Norman Bates. But watching it today without trying to think about the expectations and iconic moments, just trying to take in the film as a whole, it’s a true shocker.

Psycho is brilliant. Its directing is sharp and focused, and the acting is solid. The music is especially hypnotizing, and its pacing and tone do exactly what they set out to do. It truly is one of those classic films that can never be beat; it’s sometimes imitated but never replicated. I know that saying all of this is redundant because so many others over so many years have sung the praises of Psycho. But for movie fans today who know the twists and refuse to watch it because they feel they “pretty much have seen it already,” I suggest you give it a watch. You might get something new out of something so old. The film is streaming now on Netflix.

Running time: 1 hour 49 minutes
Rated 18A
Streaming on Netflix

Angus Luff is a student at Glebe Collegiate. He grew up in the Glebe and is obsessed with movies.

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