Monday, 24 February 2014

Cutting Edges Film Review- Psycho(1960)

Psycho 1960 Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Sound, Camera shots and Narrative.

This Horror/Thriller is one of the most iconic films of Alfred Hitchcock's collection. The story unfolds after a woman goes missing last seen at the Bates Hotel, run by the mysterious duo Norman Bates(Anthony Perkins) and his controlling mother. Norman is shown as the most complex character in this nightmarish tale, yet he is first introduced as a somewhat innocent character victimised by his mother, but it is later revealed that he is psychotically unstable and that he becomes his dead mother by dressing in her clothes and changing personality. This is a perfect use of a plot twist, which changes the audience perception towards the character and keeps them intrigued by the narrative.
Image 2: Film still of Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins)
The one scene which stands out in this film and has been masterfully created, is the shower scene. Hitchcock originally envisioned this scene as being silent, due to Bernard Herrmann who incorporated the iconic screeching violin sound which gives tension and energy to the scene. Once hearing this Hitchcock immediately changed his mind.

Image 3: Silhouette from shower murder scene
The shower scene has over 90 splices in it, and did not involve Anthony Perkins at all. Contrary to popular belief it wasn't due to a scheduling conflict Perkins had for the Broadway musical 'Greenville' but actually a deliberate decision on Alfred Hitchcock's part. On this subject Perkins states "Hitchcock was very worried that the dual role and nature of Norman Bates would be exposed if I were to appear in that scene. I think it was the recognizability of my silhouette, which is rather slim and broad in the shoulder. That worried him." 

In this classic scene it was considered a shock and brutal, due the killing of main character Marion Crane, stabbed to death after the first 47 minutes of the film. All this is fulfilled with quick paced editing and camera placement, also the visuals and sounds of the stabbing was created by chocolate syrup and the sound of a knife stabbing into a watermelon.

Although Psycho is praised for its visuals, the audio was key to the films success as well. With the use of echoes and silence to create suspense and danger to the classic screeching violins. One example where the use of a sound can shock the audience just as much as the gruesome visuals, is the scene where the detective Arbogast goes upstairs in the house and a knife wielding elderly woman runs out of a room. It is the repeated use of the violins which resemble a scream, and make the scene more intense. But it was in this film that Hitchcock experimented with minimizing the use of sound, which was later seen and incorporated in his film Birds (1963).

Image 1:
Image 2: Film still of Norman Bates:

IMBD Psycho shower scene trivia:

Image 3: Silhouette from shower murder scene:


  1. Hi - please complete the survey and then leave a 'done it' comment on the ISS post: see link:

    Many thanks!

  2. Hi Sam,

    Couple of points here - please don't highlight your quotes! Light grey text on a white background is near enough impossible to read! Also, make sure that you reference the quote properly, directly after it. You need the author's surname and the year that the quote was made, in brackets. If you don't know the author, you use s.n. instead, and if you don't know the year, it is s.d. Ideally, your source should be reliable enough to furnish you with at least one of the componants :) Your bibliography and your image list should be separate, and I would encourage you to have another look at the referencing guide for full details of what needs to go in the bibliography -

    1. Hi,
      i'm having issues when i post the reviews as it automatically highlights when I copy and paste the quote, but I can't undo this. Thanks for the help, I just need to practice writing these a bit more.

    2. Hi Sam - use the 'Tx' button in the compose window to de-format any copy-pasted text - highlight the text you've pasted into the window and then select the 'Tx' button and that should sort the highlighting out.