(Check out the list so far)
The Movie: Psycho (1960)
One Sentence Plot Summary: In a movie loaded with twists and turns, we learn Norman Bates has gone a little mad and been able to hide it well because he runs a hotel that has no guests.
Why It’s on the List: This is a great horror film, one of the most influential ever made. It stands along with The Exorcist and Get Out as an unforgettable experience. The tricky thing about this movie is its structure. It’s really three distinct movies. In part one, our focus is on Janet Leigh’s Marion Crane. Her death had to be a huge shock in 1960, and it’s still a scene that plays dramatically well. A lot of the focus in part two is on Norman Bates and his increasingly suspicious behavior around the detective. Part three is about Lila Crane and Sam Loomis trying to find out what happened to their sister/lover.
There are some tremendous moments of tension. What plays interestingly in 2020 is the way a cop pretty much follows and stalks Marion despite the only evidence of her malfeasance being she “acted strangely.” Marion may have stolen 40,000 dollars (in 1960 that’s an extraordinary amount of money), but the officer’s behavior is abhorrent. Hitchock correctly never had a lot of respect for law enforcement. This has been bared out in a number of movies.
It’s fascinating that a psychiatrist character who was never seen before the waning moments of this movie basically explains how Norman and his mother were existing together in one mind. This is a time where Hitchcock did a lot of telling and not showing. Unlike so many of the movies on this list, the look and feel is totally unique, especially given two potential main characters are killed in the first hour, and the person who makes the big discovery isn’t introduced until there are 45 minutes left.
*This movie provided the blueprint for the cross dressed murderer, a transphobic trope that would be used by many a movie and television show in the ensuing years.
MVP: Bernard Herrman’s score for this movie is one of the best ever, and it starts right from the opening credits and carries us up to and after the murder. Hermann’s “The Murder” is one of the most iconic pieces of music in any movie, regardless of genre or time period. The pulsating score throughout adds to the tension. Hitchcock is a great visual stylist, and that still stands here in a movie that’s black and white. However, I think this score really makes the movie work.
Best Performance: Anthony Perkins is able to straddle the line between a clean cut American boy and a murderer. It’s unfortunate what happened after, both that he got typecasted and died when the AIDS epidemic was at its zenith. Hopkins gives a tremendous performance and could have easily played a lot of different roles in another time period. I’d imagine he’s have a hell of a career in this era of peak content because of how in-demand actors are these days. This was not a movie with as much starpower as other Hitchcock films, but Perkins still really stands out.
Best Quote: “It’s not like my mother is a maniac or a raving thing. She just goes a little mad sometimes. We all go a little mad sometimes. Haven’t you?” – Norman Bates
Is there a sequel? There are two sequels that I’ve never seen and seem like a cash grab for Anthony Hopkins (who was terribly typecast in this role) than anything else. A prequel television series has gotten positive reviews, but I have not seen it.