Psycho is a 1960 American horror thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock (The Birds; Frenzy) and starring Anthony Perkins, Vera Miles, John Gavin, and Janet Leigh.
The screenplay by Joseph Stefano is based on the 1959 novel of the same name by Robert Bloch. The novel was loosely inspired by the crimes of Wisconsin murderer and grave robber Ed Gein, who lived just 40 miles from Bloch.
The film depicts the encounter between a secretary, Marion Crane (Leigh), who goes to a secluded motel after embezzling money from her employer, and the motel’s disturbed owner and manager, Norman Bates (Perkins), and the aftermath of their encounter.
Psycho initially received mixed reviews, but outstanding box office returns prompted a re-review which was overwhelmingly positive and led to four Academy Award nominations. Psycho is now considered one of Hitchcock’s best films and is highly praised as a work of cinematic art by international critics.
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Psycho is often ranked among the greatest films of all time and is famous for bringing in a new level of acceptable violence and sexuality in films. After Hitchcock’s death in 1980, Universal Studios began producing follow-ups: two sequels, a prequel, a remake, and a television movie spin-off.
“Everything you have read, seen or heard about this film is probably true. Unfortunately, the “twist” ending has been parodied to death (no pun intended) and it, along with its iconic score, is part of the American pop culture landscape. However, if you have never seen Psycho, then you owe yourself a good scare. Behind Jaws and The Exorcist, Psycho is easily one of the best horror, thrillers or horror/thrillers of all time.” The Essential Films
” …by pushing an image of America as a trap-laden labyrinth populated by creepy cops and nice-as-pie psychopaths; and by implying that women (brace yourself now) actually use the toilet sometimes, Hitch helped pave the way for all the cultural earthquakes and moral rebalancing acts that the coming decade had to offer. And he did it all with a wink and a smile. Now that’s show business.” Tom Huddleston, Time Out
“Hitchcock’s low-budget, black-and-white shocker looks like a bad dream of crystalline clarity and detail, ushered in with crazed operatic intensity by Bernard Herrmann’s superb score. There are moments in which it appears to decelerate to a floating slo-mo: Arbogast (Martin Balsam) climbing the stairs; Marion’s sister Lila (Vera Miles) approaching Norman’s house, her eyes stark and terrified. And then Hitchcock will stamp hard on the accelerator pedal, most famously for the shower scene in which Marion (Janet Leigh) will meet her destiny.” The Guardian film blog
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The House by the Railroad by American painter Edward Hopper was the inspiration for the look of the Bates house
Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho by Stephen Rebello, Marion Boyars, 2012
The Moment of Psycho: How Alfred Hitchcock Taught America to Love Murder by David Thomson, Basic Books, 2010
Related: Bates Motel (2013 TV series)