Site created 12/15/97.
review added: 4/19/00
Edition - 1960 (1998) - Universal
review by Dan Kelly of
The Digital Bits
Films of Alfred Hitchcock on DVD
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B/B/A+
Specs and Features
109 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), single-sided,
dual-layered (extra layer for supplements), Amaray keep case
packaging, The Making of Psycho
documentary, theatrical trailer, re-release trailers, newsreel
footage: The Release of Psycho,
the shower scene (with and without music), storyboards for the
shower scene by Saul Bass, Psycho
Archives (featuring production photographs, lobby cards,
posters and ad materials), production notes, cast and crew bios,
film-themed menu screens with sound, scene access (26 chapters),
languages: English and French (DD 2.0 mono), subtitles: Spanish,
"She just goes a
little mad sometimes. We all go a little mad sometimes. Haven't you?"
Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho is
a film held in such high regard by film fanatics around the world,
that nobody would dare remake it. Oops, let's rephrase that - nobody
should have dared to remade it. The film is a defining moment, not
only in horror cinema, but also in movie-making at large.
Psycho was based on the novel
by Robert Bloch, a horrific book inspired in part by the life of Ed
Gein, whose obsession with his mother and all things postmortem have
been documented in countless publications. Joseph Stefano's screen
adaptation stayed faithful to the book, but toned down a few of the
novel's more graphic passages to avoid a war with the censors.
In an Academy Award-nominated performance, Janet Leigh stars as
Marion, who, in a desperate bid to be with her out-of-town
boyfriend, flees town with $40,000 cash stolen from her employer.
During a heavy rainstorm, she's forced to pull off the highway and
checks into the Bates Motel for the night. It's there that she meets
Norman (Anthony Perkins), who is all too desperate for the company
of a woman. As they sit and talk, Marion reconsiders her motives and
at the last minute, has a change of heart and decides to return to
It's at this point in the movie that Hitchcock did the unthinkable.
Just as the audience is getting attached to the film's leading
character; she is brutally killed in one of cinema's most
recognizable moments. Asking the audience to shift their attention
from a very likable heroine (with whom people can identify) to a
very flawed, disagreeable human being was a risky move, but one that
ultimately paid off.
Most of the credit for that smooth transition lies with Anthony
Perkins. Here's an actor who was so completely able to lose himself
in this character, that it negatively affected the rest of his
career. Norman Bates was not necessarily a good person, but Perkins
was able to give such a sympathetic, genuine performance, that
audiences couldn't feel anything other than pity for him. His
performance is so good, that you can't hate him for what he's done.
You hope against hope that things aren't what they seem, and that
he's a better person than we're lead to believe.
The rest of the movie plays more along the lines of a crime story,
as Marion's family and a hard-nosed private investigator (Martin
Balsam) gather clues to solve the case of Marion's disappearance.
Hitchcock's trademark brand of suspense builds once again as they
start to discover Norman's secrets. He, in turn, becomes more
frantic and desperate to save himself and his beloved mother. The
movie's finale is still shocking and very scary, even if it is
slightly weakened by the over-explanation and simplification of
All things considered, the video presentation of
Psycho on DVD is pretty good.
Most of the film's image issues are based on the print used. The
print shows its age at times, and at certain points during the
movie, it is noticeably flawed. Minor scratches and pops show up
every now and then, but other than that things look pretty good. As
is the case with Universal's earlier Hitchcock releases,
Psycho is NOT enhanced for
anamorphic displays, and that's a shame. As for sound, the film's
original mono soundtrack is included and it's crisp and clear,
although the dialogue is a bit little subdued.
Universal deserves kudos for the extensive extras included on the
disc. The Making of Psycho is
a nice retrospective on the entire movie, from start to finish.
There are interviews with many of the principle cast and crew
(including Janet Leigh and Joseph Stefano), who all talk openly and
lovingly about entire process of making the film. The sessions with
Janet Leigh are particularly involving, and she talks a great deal
about shooting the now infamous shower scene. I miss the days when
Hollywood would spend money on advertising in mediums other than
television and theatrical trailers, and there are TONS of pictures
included here of lobby cards and posters created for
The trailers and newsreel footage (also available on the disc) are
fun. Hitchcock wanted to make sure that everyone seeing
Psycho didn't miss a single
development of the movie, so he made theater owners agree not to let
anyone into the theaters after the start of the movie. There are
banners stating so on a lot of the ad materials, as well as warnings
advising moviegoers not to reveal any of the movie's secrets to
those who have not yet seen it. And one of the more intriguing
features on this DVD allows you to see the shower scene with or
without the Bernard Herrmann's captivating score. Seeing it without
the music almost underscores the intensity of the scene, especially
when all you can hear is Marion taking her last breaths.
Psycho has endured for forty
years now and will likely persevere for many years to come. It's a
film that people know inside and out - one that can be identified by
just a few frames and which has inspired countless imitators. If
imitation is indeed the sincerest form of flattery, then Hitchcock
has many reasons to feel flattered. Psycho's
influence can be seen in many movies, both great (Halloween)
and horrible (any of the Psycho
sequels), but at the bare minimum, they all remind you of the same
thing - what an individual achievement Psycho
remains in cinema.
Films of Alfred Hitchcock on DVD