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Friday, February 08, 2013

Going Psycho over Hitchcock


To order to get into the mood for Oscar season,I decided to dive in and read Stephen Rebello's Alfred Hitchcock and the making of Psycho,which was the basis for the potential Academy Award contending film Hitchcock. While that movie didn't get as many nominations as hoped for(more on that as we go along),the book has plenty to offer anyone interested in not only the legendary filmmaker but the art of putting together a ground breaking genre piece.

The creation of Psycho is incredibly though,starting with the terrible crimes of Ed Gein that inspired Robert Bloch's chilling novel that was picked up by Hitchcock and adapted for the screen with Joseph Stefano. Hitchcock wound up financing the film's production costs(with a distribution deal made with the studios upon completion)and he used a good number of crew members from his TV anthology series,Alfred Hitchcock Presents,due to their being used to working at a faster pace than regular film folk.

Rebello really makes the whole process engaging to follow,even the technical details such as how to position the cameras during crucial shots and the painstaking hours of editing,to which Mrs. Hitchcock lent her very capable eye to:




The success of Psycho took everyone by surprise,even Hitchcock himself. Critics,for the most part,were dismissive in their reviews due to being peeved about not having advance screenings held for them. Hitchcock's promos for the film took a page or two out of the B movie playbook by having movie theaters not admit ticket holders after the start of the movie,a strategy that worked big time.

Despite those negative write-ups,the film took on a life of it's own with audiences and eventually the critics followed suit. Keeping the viewing public as much in the dark as possible about the special shocks and twists in the story line was no easy task but Hitchcock managed to pull that off nicely:




Over the years,Psycho has been declared Hitchcock's definitive film and it's one that left quite an indelible mark on pop culture. It's the type of film that even those who haven't seen it can quickly understand any references to it,such as the iconic shower scene or lines like "A boy's best friend is his mother."

Rebello's book does talk about the impact of Psycho on film makers and viewers,along with mention of the sequels made later on(thankfully,no coverage of the misguided Gus Van Sant remake comes up). Some about this story still resonates with horror fans,which is perhaps why another attempt to create a TV show out of the Psycho legend is due to arrive on cable TV this season.

Unlike the earlier 1987 version,this rendition of Bates Motel places a young Norman Bates and his mother at the start of their strange connection to hotel management and maternal love. How well that's going to turn out is debatable but I suspect enough people will check in for a few episodes,due to the revived interest in the original film:




As for the making of the movie film,Hitchcock was expected to earn a few Oscar nominations,particularly for Anthony Hopkins as the man himself and Helen Mirren as Alma,the wife and film making partner in crime. It only received one in the Best Make-up category. One of the reasons for that could be the comparisons made to HBO's The Girl,which showcased the troubled relationship between the director and Tippi Hedren,his leading lady for his post Psycho film,The Birds and Marnie.

Also,both films depict the less than appealing side of the director's nature,a factor that caused a bit of an uproar amongst critics and Hitchcock fans. Regardless,if Hitchcock the movie pays as much of the proper tribute owned to Psycho as Rebello's book does,it is well worth seeing(and I plan to,once it's out on DVD).In the meantime,I'll be watching Psycho this weekend with a newer appreciation and understanding of what makes this taut chiller thriller tick.

No matter how many remakes and reboots can be churned out,there's no getting away from the deliriously dark charms of the first modern day cinematic boogey man of the twentieth century,Norman Bates. Without him,there wouldn't be the likes of Freddy,Jason,Hannibal or Jigsaw. You could say he's the type of fella that any motherly movie maniac would be proud of:










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