Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960)

 Figure 1. Psycho Poster

Psycho has an impressive yet misleading story. As Carr says in his review “The brilliance begins with the story, which was adapted upon and improved over Robert Bloch’s original novel. It’s a very simple story that still holds up today with some of the more twisted realities of people’s psychoses.” (Carr, S.D). The story starts with Marion stealing a large sum of money and driving away in her car, various things happen along the way until she reaches the Bates Motel. This is where the story takes a turn and really gets interesting.

Psycho is an extremely manipulative film, every part of is purposeful and pieced together marvellously. As Gibron says in his review “the director laid the fear right at your own front door - in the most private and vulnerable of places within said home.” (Gibron, 2010), as Gibron mentions Hitchcock cleverly creates suspense in a place which otherwise should be inviting and free of harm. When we are first introduced to Norman Bates we are shown a kind and considerate man who runs the Motel but it’s not until later on that we start to discover that he is not what he seems. The suspicion of course starts when the real tension arrives in the shower scene when someone brutally murders Marion in the shower stabbing her with a knife. It’s then that we realise that the Motel and the house are not safe places for the characters to be and immediately worry for their wellbeing. This is shown excellently in a later scene in which Marions sister approaches the house to speak with Normans mother. The scene is comprised of shots of the sister walking to the house from the front and from the behind, this composition of shots makes the audience wait a little bit longer and ultimately feel tense.

Figure 2. Shower still

As mentioned earlier the shower scene is a heavily important part of the film. Kermode mentions in his review that “Dispute still rages as to the provenance and power of Psycho's notorious shower sequence, which has become perhaps the most iconic murder scene in the history of cinema.” (Kermode, 2010). This scene can mostly be called iconic because of the modern way in which it was made, even today over 50 years later the scene still feels heavily modern. The scene is a montage of various shots implying that Marion is being stabbed, this however works amazingly in Hitchcocks favour, not showing every detail and using a moderate amount of violence means that an audience can elaborate in their head how bad the murder is which can be a lot scarier. It’s also an unexpected turn of events as Marion was a lead character most of the way through, this clever decision for her to meet a grizzly end shocks the audience massively.

Figure 3. Norman Bates

Norman Bates is an extremely interesting character within the film. It’s clear from the start that he has a strong attachment to his mother and Vasquez Jr mentions this in his review saying that “There are many Freudian themes present within Bates, who has a bit of an Oedipus complex and longing for his mother he aches to stay loyal to, but doesn’t dare leave her side.” (Vasquez Jr, 2013). When you look at the film you can see little hints of Bates possessing motherlike qualities in his attempt to stay close with his dead mother even when he’s not pretending to be her. As shown in figure 3 when Marion arrives at the Motel he brings her food and water and begins caring for her almost like a mother would. This could suggest that Bates in his attempt to feel close to his mother has picked up her mannerisms in his own personality. Also later in the film we see another sign that Bates is holding onto the past. As Marions sister is exploring the house there's a room full of old toys, this could symbolise Bate’s desperation to be his Mothers child again.

Psycho is a film that was ahead of it’s time, extremely modern and manipulative with impressive camera work it’s a gorgeous film that can quite easily be enjoyed by even todays audience.


Vasquez Jr. F (2013) http://cinema-crazed.com/blog/2013/10/23/psycho-1960/ (Accessed on 23/01/15)

Illustration list

Hitchcock, A (1960) Figure 1. Psycho Poster https://johneaves.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/psycho-theatrical-release-poster-1960.jpg (Accessed on 23/01/15)
Hitchcock, A (1960)  Figure 2. Shower still http://www.filmcaptures.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Psycho_26.jpg (Accessed on 23/01/15)

Hitchcock, A (1960) Figure 3. Norman Bates http://application.denofgeek.com/pics/film/psycho/02.jpg (Accessed on 23/01/15)


  1. Hey Kayleigh :) Okay, so as the content of this review is good, I'm going to be a Mr Nitpick :)

    1) quotes should always be in italics
    2) look again at your use of apostrophes - for example Bate's depression should be *Bates' depression* and Normans mother should be *Norman's mother*
    3)You've got a quote in there you don't really use: you introduce the idea of a 'dispute' around the shower scene (i.e. did Hitchcock or Saul Bass storyboard it...) but you don't then refer to the thing you introduce; always be sure that when you use a quote, you know why you're using it and that you use it entirely - if you only want to make the point that the shower scene is iconic, don't include the other bit.

    See - Mr Nitpick! But your reviews are good and engagingly written, so I'm just polishing really...

  2. Ahh, Phil beat me to it :(
    Yes Kayleigh... just a few bits and pieces to iron out really, as Phil has mentioned above. Generally though, a very thoughtful review :)
    PS @Phil... *Bates' DESPERATION* ;)