Yes, everything you’ve heard is true. The score is a part of pop culture. The domestic conflict is well-known. But nothing shocks like the experience itself.
If you have not seen this movie, do yourself a favor. Stop reading thse comments, get up, take a shower, then GO GET THIS MOVIE. Buy it, don’t rent. You will not regret it.
“Psycho” is easily the best horror-thriller of all time. Nothing even comes close…maybe “Les Diaboliques” (1955) but not really.
“Psycho” has one of the best scripts you’ll ever find in a movie. The movie’s only shortcoming is that one of the characters seems to have little motivation in the first act of the movie but as the story progresses, you realize that Hitchcock (GENIUS! GENIUS! GENIUS!) in a stroke of genius has done this on purpose, because there is another character whose motivations are even more important. Vitally important. So important that you totally forget about anything else. I was lucky enough to have spent my life wisely avoiding any conversation regarding the plot of this movie until I was able to see it in full. Thank God I did! The movie has arguably the best mid-plot point and climactic twist in thriller history, and certainly the best-directed ending. The last few shots are chilling and leave a lingering horror in the viewer’s mind.
Just as good as the writing is Hitchcock’s direction, which is so outstanding that it defies explanation. Suffice it to say that this movie is probably the best directorial effort by film history’s best director. I was fortunate enough to see this movie at a big oldtime movie house during a Hitchcock revival. Janet Leigh, still radiant, spoke before the film and explained how Hitchcock’s genius was in his ability to 1) frighten without gore and 2) leave his indelible mark on the movie without overshadowing his actors (like the great Jean Renoir could never do). “Psycho” is clearly its own phenomenon, despite all the big-name talent involved.
Hitchcock does not disappoint by leaving out his trademark dark humor. His brilliance is in making a climax that is at once both scary and hilarious. When I saw it in the theatre the audience was both gasping in disbelief while falling-on-the-floor laughing.
One more thing…
Tony Perkins. Janet Leigh got much-deserved accolades for this film, but it is Perkins who gives what remains the single best performance by an actor in a horror movie. He is so understated that his brillance passes you by. He becomes the character. The sheer brillance of the role is evidenced by the ineptitude of the actors in Gus Van Sant’s 1998 (dear God make it stop!) shot-for-shot “remake.” Though the movies are nearly identical, Hitchcock’s is superior mostly because of the acting and the atmosphere (some of the creepiness is lost with color). This is made obvious by the initial conversation between Leigh’s character and Perkins, a pivotal scene. The brilliance of Perkins in the original shines even brighter when compared with the ruination in the remake even though the words and the shots were exactly the same. The crucial chemistry in this scene lacking in the remake gives everything away and mars our understanding of upcoming events. The fact that Perkins could never escape this role – his star stopped rising star as it had done in the 50s – proves that he played the part perhaps too well.
I keep using the word brilliant, but I cannot hide my enthusiasm for this movie. It is wholly unlike the overblown, overbudget, overlong fluff spewing all-too-often out of Hollywood today. “Psycho” is simple, well-crafted and just the right length.
Eleven-and-a-half out of ten stars.