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movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Psycho

Starring: Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Rated: R
RunTime: 109 Minutes
Release Date: March 1960
Genres: Classic, Drama, Horror, Suspense

*Also starring: Vera Miles, John Gavin, Martin Balsam, John McIntire, Simon Oakland, John Anderson, Frank Albertson

Reviewer Roundup
1.  Dustin Putman review follows movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review
2.  Dragan Antulov read the review movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review
3.  Brian Koller read the review movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewvideo review
4.  Jerry Saravia read the review ---

Review by Dustin Putman
3 stars out of 4

From the master of suspense, "Psycho," is Alfred Hitchcock's most well-known, and widely considered, best film, a great feat for a relatively low-budget horror picture. It terrified audiences in 1960, and surprisingly, still holds up very well today. When I first viewed the entire film about four years ago, it really did scare me, and with my most recent viewing, it is still a powerful, unforgettable experience.

"Psycho," starts off from the point-of-view of Marion Crane (Janet Leigh), a young banker who, on her lunch breaks, often meets her long-time boyfriend, Sam Loomis (John Gavin), in a hotel room. Desperate to break free and be with him, she steals $40,000 in cash and goes on the lam, only to stop at the backwoods Bates Motel for the night, where, as everyone knows, she meets her ill-fated demise by being stabbed to death in the shower by a mysterious female figure. When the motel manager, Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins), whose invalid mother is always looking out the bedroom window of the house overlooking the motel, discovers Marion, he desperately disposes of the body by putting her in the trunk of her car and driving it into a nearby swamp. After missing for a week, Marion's older sister, Lila (Vera Miles), grows concerned and enlists the aid of both Sam and the police detective, Arbogast (Martin Balsam), to investigate the disappearance.

At the time of its release, "Psycho," was a highly courageous and explicit film, dealing with brutal murder, risque (in 1960) sexual situations, and the ideas of the Oedipal complex and transvesticism. In today's times, these elements are not nearly as shocking, but Hitchcock's "Psycho," is still a masterful, outstanding motion picture, and one of the best horror films I have ever seen, next to 1978's "Halloween."

The screenplay, by Joseph Stefano, which is also closely being used for the recent remake by Gus Van Sant, is way ahead of its time in both its dialogue and surprising construction. For those unfamiliar with the shower scene, it would come as a huge surprise that the character of Marion, who has been the main character from the start, dies within the first hour. There are two murder set-pieces in, "Psycho," and they are both dazzlingly executed. Without giving it away, the sequence with Arbogast on the staircase remains one of my favorite moments in any horror picture, old or new. The first time I saw it, I actually jumped in my seat, which is almost unthinkable for a film that was made in 1960. All other horror movies, prior to, "Psycho," are simply not scary in today's time because audiences have become more adept to handle violence.

The character of the occasionally charming, partly threatening Norman Bates will always be associated with the late, great Anthony Perkins, who never had a role as memorable as this one, and he is perfect. Janet Leigh is outstanding as the film's anticlimactic heroine, and all of her early scenes, although not dealing with a horror aspect, manage to vibrantly come alive, thanks to her, and a scene involving a policeman, and another at a car dealership, are genuinely suspenseful.

The cinematography, which was nominated for an Oscar, consists of some of the most stylish black-and-white photography I have seen. It adds a great deal of atmosphere, foreboding, and mystery that might have very well been lost in color. And the flawless, eerie music score by Bernard Herrmann, which has been largely ripped-off since, is one of the most well-known scores in motion picture history. I simply could not imagine, "Psycho," without that music, with its striking orchestral chords that are able to send a shiver up your spine just listening to them. Again, no horror film score has been able to match it, besides John Carpenter's in "Halloween."

Alfred Hitchcock's, "Psycho," is a masterpiece in all senses of the word. As a horror film, it is a horrifying study in terror, and as film in general, it is a brilliant study in style and mood, as well as the darkest regions of a person's psyche. The fact that it holds up just as perfectly nearly forty years after it was made is a testament to Hitchcock's well-earned title, "The Master of Suspense." He was a "master," in more than one sense of the word, too.

Copyright 1998 Dustin Putman

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