A Review of Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Psycho’

Norman Bates:

We’re all in our private traps, clamped in them, and none of us can get out. We scratch and claw, but only at the air, only at each other, and for all of it, we never budge an inch.

Marion Crane:

Sometimes…we deliberately step into those traps.

Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) a secretary from Phoenix steps into her own private trap when she steals $40,000 from her employer’s client. With this new found wealth she hopes to start a new life with her lover Sam Loomis (John Gavin). While on the run she checks into The Bates’ Motel, 10 miles away from her lovers home in Fairvale, CA. While at the motel she meets its odd owner Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins), a wounded young man under his mother’s grip. However, not everything surrounding the Bates is as it seems.

“We all go a little mad sometimes” – Norman Bates

The handsome Anthony Perkins’ portrayal of Norman Bates is fantastic. Bates awkwardness never feels charming or cute and effectively makes his character off-putting. Norman is clearly uneasy around his guest Marion Crane because of his attraction to her. This is made clear when he spies on Crane as she undresses through a hole in the wall(“Peeping Tom” anyone?) 

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Marion Crane:

A man should have a hobby

Norman Bates character is based off real-life serial killer Ed Gein(a.k.a The Butcher of Plainfield who made furniture and clothing out of his victims flesh. He even worked on a “woman suit” so that “…he could become his mother—to literally crawl into her skin.”) so it makes sense that his hobby would be taxidermy. Bates doesn’t enjoy stuffing just any ol’ creature and focuses his skills only on birds. He even says that he thinks that only birds look good when stuffed because they are passive, and in his eyes, Marion Crane is like a bird; passive, fragile, beautiful

SUSPENSE! Within The Unknown…

His social anxieties reinforce his position as the outsider. Whenever his character is within the frame everyone watching is one edge. The movie being filmed in beautiful black and white enhances the overall tone by making the atmosphere feel darker and more sinister.

A lot of extreme close-ups are used throughout the movie and it throws things off balance visually distorting the audience. The visual techniques used may be simple but they are very effective at heightening tension. Bernard Herman’s sinister musical scoring enhances the already present tension and unease felt while watching this masterpiece. Now I talk a lot about the intensity of this film but what is it that makes it so suspenseful? Well, the answer to that would be uncertainty. 

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Unnamed Woman: 

Insect or Man death should always be painless.  

In the film’s iconic shower scene our the leading lady is killed off in the middle of the movie. In her final moments, she was naked and vulnerable; she became like one of Norman’s stuffed birds: dead, docile, passive. While the film might be nearly 6 decades old and mentioned often within pop-culture it still manages to surprise and shock first-time viewers. With our heroine now dead what happens next is more uncertain than it had been before. Believe me, nothing keeps you at the edge of your seat more than the anticipation of what’s to come. 

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