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IB Film - Case Studies
Psycho
Director Alfred Hitchcock 

Released in 1960

Country: USA 

Genre: Suspense / thriller 

Synopsis: Marion Crane is unhappy in her job in Arizona real estate office and frustrated in her romance with hardware store manager Sam Loomis. One afternoon, Marion is given $40,000 in cash to be deposited in the bank. Minutes later, impulse has taken over and Marion takes off with the cash, hoping to leave Phoenix for good . 

 

 
Whenever anyone speaks about Psycho, the first images that come to mind are those of Janet Leigh being hacked to death in the shower. The scene is so famous that even people who have not seen the movie are aware of it. Bernard Herrmann's strident, discordant music has been used in countless other movies to denote the appearance of a "psycho." The brilliance of the scene lies in the editing. Those who go frame-by-frame through it will note how much is left to the imagination. We see a knife, blood (actually chocolate syrup), water, and a woman's naked body (with certain parts strategically concealed from the camera), but only briefly is the penetration of the blade into the flesh shown. The full horror of the murder is only hinted at on-screen. It takes the power of the viewer's imagination to fill in the blanks. (Presumably, that's the reason why so many of today's unimaginative movie-goers, who are accustomed to having a screenful of gore presented for their consumption, find Psycho tame.) It's not surprising that the movie generated a wave of shower phobia - some people, made aware of their vulnerability during a shower, started taking baths. (Janet Leigh is one such victim -- she claims that she never took a shower again after making the film.) By James Berardinelli 

Seeing the shower scene today, several things stand out. Unlike modern horror films, "Psycho" never shows the knife striking flesh. There are no wounds. There is blood, but not gallons of it. Hitchcock shot in black and white because he felt the audience could not stand so much blood in color (the 1998 Gus Van Sant remake specifically repudiates that theory). The slashing chords of Bernard Herrmann's soundtrack substitute for more grisly sound effects. The closing shots are not graphic but symbolic, as blood and water spin down the drain, and the camera cuts to a closeup, the same size, of Marion's unmoving eyeball. This remains the most effective slashing in movie history, suggesting that situation and artistry are more important than graphic details. By Roger Ebert

Yoon-Jee Kim

 
 

  

   

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