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This article is about the novel and the movies based on it. "Psycho" is usually a slang abbreviation of "psychopath".

Robert Bloch's pulp novel Psycho was made into a black-and-white feature film in 1960 by Alfred Hitchcock. The affecting, subtly humorous screenplay was written by Joseph Stefano, who later went on to be the producer of (and frequent episode writer for) the pioneering mid-1960s science fiction television series The Outer Limits. In 1998 a remake was directed by Gus van Sant, for which he was awarded a Golden Raspberries Award.

The book had Mary Crane from Dallas, Texas as the leading lady. Since a real Mary Crane exists, Alfred Hitchcock changed her into Marion Crane from Phoenix, Arizona. The first movie starred Janet Leigh, Anthony Perkins, Martin Balsam, John Gavin, Vera Miles, and Simon Oakland.



The movie's first scene takes place in a cheap hotel room and shows Marion Crane (Leigh) and her boyfriend Sam Loomis (Gavin) in their undergarments after a Friday afternoon tryst. Marion returns to work and receives $40,000 in cash from her boss to deposit at the bank. Instead of depositing the money she leaves town with it with the intention of asking Sam to marry her. Just across the state line in California, she trades her car and some cash with a new car because she believes she is being followed; on the way back to Phoenix she misses a turnoff and eventually ends up on a nearly-deserted road. This road was originally the main route, so it has an old motel on it. She stops in at the Bates motel, run by Norman Bates (Perkins) because it is raining and she keeps drowsing off.

Although the motel receives few visitors, Norman keeps it open to give him some relief from taking care of his ill mother. Norman's other hobby is taxidermy: birds are his favorite subject.

It turns out that Bates' mother is not ill physically, but mentally. She stabs Marion to death in the famous shower scene (with its now trademark score by Bernard Herrmann, featuring the screeching violins). Unlike Mary from the novel, Marion is not decapitated in the scene. Bates is horrified when he finds the corpse, but cleans up as if he has done this several times before.

The rest of the film deals with the search for Marion. Marion's sister Lila (Miles) and boyfriend hire a private detective, Milton Arbogast (Balsam), to find her. Arbogast traces her to the Bates Motel and eventually meets the same fate as Marion. Lila and Sam next go to the motel to follow up when the private detective disappears. Lila goes up to the basement of the Bates' adjacent home only to find the corpse of Bates' mother. Only at that moment is the killer revealed to be Norman Bates himself (cross-dressed in his mother's clothing, complete with wig).

At the end of the film a forensic psychiatrist (Oakland) explains to Lila, Sam and the police that Bates' mother is really dead and that Bates periodically assumes her personality; the dominant half of his personality is his re-imagining of his mother. The Bates personality has no idea that his mother is dead, so has no knowledge of "her" crimes. The last scene shows Bates totally taken over by his "mother."

Psycho in film history

Psycho is often seen as a turning point in film history, representing the shift from Classical to the more experimental "Post-Classical" film. Psycho's unconventional storytelling and stylized photography and editing show the influence of the French New Wave and the European art films that Hitchcock admired.

One example of the radicalism of Psycho is its storyline: by repeatedly setting up protagonists and then killing them off, Hitchcock plays on audience expectations of Classical storylines, which are then violated.

The most original and influential moment in the film is the "shower scene", which became iconic in pop culture because it was one of the most terrifying scenes ever filmed. Part of its effect was due to the use of startling editing techniques borrowed from the Soviet Montage filmmakers, and to Bernard Herrman's bizarre but effective musical score.

Psycho is an example of the types of film that appeared in the 1960s after the erosion of the Production Code. It was unprecedented in its depiction of sexuality and violence (in addition, it was the first film ever to depict a flushing toilet onscreen). Its box office success helped propel Hollywood toward more graphic displays of previous censorsed themes.

Psycho is often considered to be the first of the slasher movie genre.

In the advertising campaign in its original run, Hitchcock told movie theater owners not to allow seating after the movie began. This was so the surprises of the film would remain surprises. Previously, people entered the movie theater whenever they showed up and left whenever they wanted; after Psycho, movie theaters quickly began adopting a policy of setting specific times for showing films and (generally) not letting people in afterwards.

Sequels and remakes

  • The film spawned four sequels: Psycho II (1983), Psycho III (1986), and Psycho IV: The Beginning (1990); the latter was a TV movie. Anthony Perkins returned to his role in all three sequels, and Vera Miles returned to hers in Psycho II. Psycho IV was written by Joseph Stefano, who wrote the original film. The sequels are generally considered weak and unimaginative in comparison to the original.
  • Bates Motel (1987) is a TV movie in which the motel is taken over by a new, equally psychotic owner.
  • In 1998, Gus Van Sant remade Psycho. The remake is in colour and features a different cast, but aside from this it is a virtually shot for shot remake that copies Hitchcock's camera movements and editing. A few small changes are introduced to make explicit the original movie's sexual subtext. Anne Heche plays Marion Crane, with Vince Vaughn as Norman, William H. Macy as Arbogast, Viggo Mortensen as Sam Loomis, Julianne Moore as Lila Crane, and Robert Forster as the psychiatrist.


  • Robert Bloch lived in Weyauwega, Wisconson, close to Ed Gein's stalking grounds in 1957, when the Gein murders were discovered. The idea that "the man next door may be a monster unsuspected even in the gossip-ridden microcosm of small-town life" [1] ( took root in Bloch's subconscious at that time. Bloch states that he did not realize "how closely the imaginary character I'd created resembled the real Ed Gein both in overt act and apparent motivation" until years later.
  • Psycho was the first film to introduce a single main character and then kill her halfway into the film - a rather shocking turn of events in 1960, with no apparent indication of where the story might go afterwards.
  • Psycho was the first film to show a toilet being flushed onscreen.
  • Although there is little visible gore portrayed on the screen, the infamous "shower scene" is often regarded as one of the most frightening sequences in cinema history.
  • To test the scare factor of the "mother's corpse" prop, Hitchcock placed it in Janet Leigh's dressing room and listened for how loud she screamed when she discovered it.
  • Chocolate sauce, which shows up better than stage blood on black-and-white film, was used as the blood for the infamous shower scene. A knife, wielded by Hitchcock himself, plunging into a melon was the source of the sound effect.
  • Psycho is consistently in the top 25 on the Internet Movie Database's list of top 250 films, was #18 on American Film Institute's 100 Years, 100 Movies and #1 on its 100 Years, 100 Thrills, and has been deemed "culturally significant" by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.
  • In 1966, CBS had planned to air Psycho. However, the September 18 murder of Valerie Percy, 21, one of the twin daughters of then-U.S. Senator Charles H. Percy (R, Il) days before its scheduled airing caused CBS to cancel this plan. Valerie was killed at night at home by an unknown intruder with a hammer and a knife. Despite a US$50,000 reward and an international investigation, the case is still unsolved. Her killing remains a mystery.
  • In 1993, the video-artist Douglas Gordon exhibited a version of Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 film which was slowed down so that it lasted for 24 hours.
  • In order to get Psycho made, Hitchcock had to put up the cash himself.

External links

Template:Alfred Hitchcock's films

de:Psycho fr:Psychose (film) it:Psyco sv:Psycho


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