Universal Studios presents the 1960 film “Psycho” by Alfred Hitchcock, adapted from the Robert Bloch novel by Joseph Stephano, and scored by Bernard Hermann. The film stars Anthony Perkins, Vera Miles, Janet Leigh, and a very creepy house. This film falling under the horror genre was based loosely on the novel of the same name which drew inspiration from real life serial killer Ed Gein, who has been the motivation for two other popular movies, “The Silence of the Lambs” and “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”. The budget for “Psycho” ran under one million dollars and was the last film on Alfred Hitchcock’s contract with Universal. The film was shot entirely on set at Universal studios except for an early shot of Marion Crane’s (Janet Leigh) vehicle parked on the side of the road when she was too tired to continue driving, as well as the car dealership. Due to the budget constraints the films crew were made up of mostly people who were working on the, “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” television show. The film is about a man named Norman Bates, who runs a motel owned by his family. Norman is a victim of his ill mothers love. His mother becomes violent when Norman’s attention has been detracted from her needs. This film is a study of character, suspense, and storytelling; all reasons this film is considered an American classic. This film is unique due to several factors: its presentation, it contained two different point of views (with an interpreted third point of view), and it has some of the most impressive camera work for its time.
“Psycho” contains many symbols and techniques that pushed the limit of acceptable filmmaking in the 1960’s. The violence had to be tamed in such a way that the audience would not be robbed of the experience. Hitchcock accomplished this by making the film in black and white. Not only did it aid him on the monetary front, but he felt the studio and the audience would be able to handle the graphic nature of the film with this technique. I’ve interpreted the use of black and white as a tool as to not draw attention away from the focal point of the scenes. Without visual distraction, the viewer becomes more attached to each character.
Another visual technique is the continuing motif of taxidermy. The characters discuss it briefly, there are some cutaway shots of the animals, but it is mostly left up to the viewer to infer the purpose of the visuals. The taxidermy is used to both foreshadow and symbol towards “mother”, and also a metaphor for Norman’s life. The blatant foreshadow is almost excused in the film because we are so infatuated with the dialogue in the parlour scene, which adds to its effectiveness. Meanwhile Norman is discussing in detail with Marion the tediousness of his life; he describes his daily routines about the bed sheets, and even admits to her that it is a routine that is hard to shake. He is empty inside as Norman Bates, much like the lifeless birds hanging on his wall. In comparison when he is “mother”, he isn’t lifeless but rather an overabundance of jealousy greed and dependence. A symbol that I think is extremely overlooked is the money wrapped in the newspaper. Clearly symbolizing an escape for the Marion Crane character, it is brilliant the way that Norman overlooks it. He is so driven by his mother that he discards his way out to please the other half of his personality.
All stories are developed first based on the point of view it is told from. Hitchcock has managed to tell the story from no less than three points of view. He first hired an established movie star to play the lead role. Janet Leigh captured the sly innocence of the Marion Crane character. The movie begins with her view of the predicament she is in and her opportunity to change that predicament. Hitchcock and Stephano purposely created the Crane character to lead the audience down a false path to enhance the shock value for the upcoming events. By dutifully grinding a slow moving story around the character, by the time Norman Bates comes along, the