129 of 138 people found the following review helpful
Alfred Hitchcock guarded the plot of PSYCHO against publicity, and in 1960 audiences came to the film without being able to anticipate the unexpected twists and turns of the plot. More than forty years later, the movie's fame is such that even those who have not seen it are often able to sketch the basic outline of the story in a few words. This demonstrates the film's fame; what demonstrates it quality, however, is the fact that even those who know the plot before seeing it are seldom disappointed.
Very loosely based on Robert Bloch's pulp novel, which was itself very loosely based on killer Ed Gein, PSYCHO presents us with the tale of Marion Crane (Janet Leigh)--who, in a moment of madness, steals forty-thousand dollars. Running scared, Marion checks into the out-of-the-way Bates Motel. And there, as the DVD production notes gracefully state, she becomes the most grossly inconvenienced hotel guest in cinema history.
The late 1950s and early 1960s saw a deluge of low budget and badly made films that commanded box office business via tawdry subject matter, and according to lore director Alfred Hitchcock was curious to see what might happen if he himself made such a film--but made it well. Working with a remarkable script and gifted cast and crew, the result was a masterpiece. Although it is often described as a horror film, PSYCHO is less horror than it is a study in paranoia and suspense, and certainly a lesson in the fact that one need not bother with graphic gore or big budgets to impress audiences.
Much of the film's success is in its detail. Joseph Stephano's script is memorable for its repetition of verbal motifs and its extremely disquieting tone; Bernard Herrman's famous all-strings score builds tremendously upon it. The simple yet meticulous sets communicate building unease, and the strangely flat, semi-documentary black and white cinematography has a voyeuristic edge that is extremely disturbing.
There are elements that can be justly criticized--moments at which the script sounds a false note or characterizations seem a bit artificial--but these small points fade against the overall power of Hitchcock's vision, a vision that here makes viewers squirm even when there seems nothing tangible on screen to squirm about. But in the end, this is the film for which Janet Leigh, Anthony Perkins, Vera Miles, and John Gavin will forever be remembered... and one of the several films that will forever be associated with one of the twentieth century's most masterful directors.
This DVD largely restores PSYCHO to its original form. Although the first few minutes of the print show wear and tear, for the most part it is remarkably pristine and (after years of pan and scan television broadcasts) is returned to its original ratio. While there is no audio commentary track, the DVD package includes the original trailer with Alfred Hitchcock, extensive production notes, and an extremely impressive documentary that includes numerous interviews, newsreel footage, production photographs, storyboards, and the like. Even if you have the film on VHS, you'll likely want to purchase the DVD. Strongly recommended.
GFT, Amazon Reviewer
117 of 134 people found the following review helpful
on January 21, 2005
This film is a great masterpiece of filmmaking! Perfect in every sense. It is Anthony Perkin's masterpiece as well....no other character in film history makes you cringe yet feel sorry for at the same time. It takes a special talent to do that and why he didn't get nominated for the Oscar much less win will never be understood!! Just as Vivien Leigh will always be Scarlett O'Hara, Judy Garland will always be Dorothy, Anthony Perkins will always be Norman Bates.
The rest of the cast is outstanding as well...notably Janet Leigh as the doomed Marion Crane. She deserved her Oscar nomination for her performance.
The DVD is loaded with a dandy of an extra "The Making of Psycho" plus additional trailers and bonus materials that make this edition well worth owning. Even without the extras though, this film would still be a masterpiece thanks to Hitchock, Stefano's screenplay, and Perkins' unparalleled acting!
29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on June 16, 2011
As always it is necessary to say what (which?) edition you are reviewing due to Amazon's policy of lumping all reviews of the movie in one batch.
The 50th Anniversary Blu Ray edition is wonderful. The special features make up the majority of this package because the original film (which looks great in Blu Ray) is very short. The Special Features include a long documentary on the making of the film and then lots of shorter detailed stuff, trailers, etc.
Psycho was made when Hitchcock was at the height of his Television career and it was his last film at Paramount. He wanted very much to do this after seeing a review of Robert Bloch's book and then reading the book. He wanted to make it for less than $1,000,000 (which was still a lot in those days) so he did it with his Television crew. He also to have at least one big star in it. Janet Leigh agreed to make the film without seeing a screenplay or even knowing what they would pay her; Hitchcock was so big in those days actors would do most anything to work with him. Anthony Perkins, who was not as big but still a major star, had agreed to do the film with as little information. In my opinion Perkins should have at least been nominated for an Oscar (he did receive the Best Actor Award from the International Board of Motion Picture Reviewers) for Psycho, but there you go.
The film is about as 'bare bones' as it gets. Hitchcock made films for the public and did not care much what critics or 'film makers' thought. He wanted, more than anything, to have people enjoy his films.
Even though you know what's going to happen and the 'surprise' ending this film is still a hoot to watch. I still jumped at all the right moments and was very pleased at the end. I watched and enjoyed all the features; even the ones that are a bit repetitive. Highly recommended.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on November 26, 2010
On my 50" plasma this blu-ray is stunning to look at. It was almost like seeing "Psycho" again for the first time. It has been years since I've seen it in a theater, but this is one of the few discs I've ever seen that made me feel like a movie couldn't possibly have looked better than it does now. The picture on this blu-ray is state of the art and a pleasure to watch.
I do have one quibble and I realize that a lot of people are not going to agree with me on this. I highly recommend watching this movie with the original mono soundtrack. The 5.1 soundtrack is the aural equivalent of colorization. I am not completely opposed to punched up soundtracks. I have heard some that are subtle and effective, but not this one.
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on November 13, 2007
"Psycho" still holds up today because of a brilliant script, outstanding performances, top-notch direction, and a host of perfectly aligned elements that produced a masterpiece that is often copied, but never duplicated.
This film simply had everything going for it from eerie set designs to a gripping score, and from careful and clever photography to insightful characterizations. Hitchcock created believable characters that we care about in unbelievable circumstances that scare us because as unbelievable as the situations appear, there is still the element of "yeah, but it could happen." Sadly, in reality, events like this have happened as much as we so often can't believe the facts when we hear them (anyone remember Jeffery Dalhmer [sp]?).
The classic story of "Psycho" takes place mostly at a run-down motel next to a Gothic home that houses a socially inept momma's boy and his clingy demanding mother who sees no woman as good enough for her "boy" seems surreal, but somehow still possible. This psychological slasher film offers so much more than a lone deranged killer hacking away at unsuspecting victims. Here Norman Bates, an Oscar worthy performance by Anthony Perkins, falls for Marion Crane, played with great subtly by the stunning Janet Leigh (mother of Jamie Lee Curtis whom she co-starred with in the original The Fog), who has just robbed her boss and is now having second thoughts and using the Bates Motel to stop and rethink her actions. Norman's infatuation with Marion disturbs his controlling mother who later "visits" Leigh in one of horrorland's most thrilling and disturbing moments on film. Clever camera work and inspired direction go with the "less is more" approach that fools us into thinking we are seeing more than we actually are and we are happy to have it that way.
What follows is a great psychological thriller/mystery as the first victim's lover, her sister, the local sheriff, and a private detective attempt to figure out just what is going on at the Bates Motel. While the body count is nothing in comparison to today's slice and dice horror flicks, the killings in this film are nerve-shattering even by today's standards. The disorienting camera angles enhance every frame of this film that is years ahead of its time.
Unlike the slasher films of today with a crazed killer with no real identity to speak of and an even further detachment from reality or plausibility than anything in this film and a series of victims we care even less about than the killer, "Psycho" offers us sadly sympathetic victims and a villain much like the one in "The Phantom of the Opera." We are touched as much as revolted by the killer(s?) in this film. This is a thriller with surprising depth and insight.
I would be remiss if I failed to mention the terrific and all too brief moment with the psychologist in the film played by the always reliable and believable Simon Oakland (Lt. Shrank in West Side Story and Kolchak's harried boss in the short-lived TV-series Kolchak - The Night Stalker). You can't help but wish he had more screen time. He gives a brief but memorable moment in this film that many remember as much as the infamous shower scene.
SIDE NOTE: The much later sequels during the 1980's, Psycho II / Psycho III / Psycho IV - The Beginning (Triple Feature), to this masterpiece are actually not that bad and worth a viewing, including the remake, Psycho, that is a nearly shot for shot repeat of the original only in color and with more contemporary actors for today's audience. Do any of these films actually hold up in comparison to the original? Absolutely not, but by themselves and in comparison to most sequels, they are fairly good.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on February 23, 2012
Have you ever thought about upgrading a title in your movie collection because the newer version was remastered better? What about the extra features---like the commentary, background about the movie or director, outtakes, longer scenes, choosing of the cast members, etc?
I have to admit that PSYCHO was one of 5 Alfred Hitchcock Films I've never gotten tired of. But this current version is in a class by itself. IT'S EXCELLENT!
A great digital transfer has cleaned up this nearly 60 year old film!
Start by watching the famous Hitchcock Trailer and the reissue trailer. How many of you reading this knew that they concluded with Vera Miles in the shower and not Janet Leigh? Once you've seen the restored version---continue on Disc 1 to Newsreel Footage about the Grand Premiere with Sir Alfred and members of the cast. There are 2 segments concerning the shower scene, posters, theatrical notes and quite a bit of behind-the-scenes info. You might want to revisit the film a 2nd time for Stephen Rebello's excellent commentary? [Stephen wrote the book: "Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of 'Psycho'"].
Disc 2 Begins with an excellent documentary on "The Making of Psycho". This is followed by "The Hitchcock Legacy", and one of the 30 minute 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents' entitled "Lamb To The Slaughter" which stars Barbara Bel Geddes. Even though I figured out the ending before the show was over, it proves that a good script, cast and direction never go out of style. [The cars in the episode are the one exception]. The only supplemental feature that I felt was weak was the interchange between Sir Alfred and Director, Francois Truffault. Hearing each others questions and answers through an interpretor became very annoying after awhile. Granted they both were legendary, but I found their interchange VERY DULL! Personally, I wish TCM & Universal had skipped this entire segment and given us a 2nd (or 3rd) Alfred Hitchcock Episode instead?
Overall...I liked it--especially the DVD cover shot of the creepy house behind the sign: BATES MOTEL! Booooooo!
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Psycho is required viewing in more ways than one. It literally was required for me recently in an American Cinema college class. But even more importantly, the film is required viewing for any person interested in watching the incredible techniques used by Hitchcock during this film. Even though I had watched Psycho several times before, it still had the ability to give me chills. Watching the movie as a student/critic, it was nice to understand the variety of techniques that Hitchcock used from a learned perspective. An incredible FIVE star film.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on March 11, 2000
Many things make this movie incredible and they are often rightfully touched upon: Hitch's cinemetography, the shower scene, the Oedipal overtones, its influence on the weaker slasher films to come, etc. But what I think seperates this movie from other horror or thriller flicks, is that the tension is really only created a couple of times by the usual prospect of someone jumping out and attacking the heroine or hero. This is why people that are used to slasher films often don't understand it. There are probably only three truly frieghtening scenes in this movie, but the entire movie is tense. Why? Because this is a movie about the tension created when people are lying and in danger of getting caught, and it builds, and builds and builds. Amazingly, The Master manipulates your emotions so that you sympathize with the person telling the lie. Recall the tense scene where Leigh buys the car and deceives the salesman and the police officer. Recall her deception of young Norman (who is deceiving all of us.) And incredibly we feel for Norman playing the dutiful son cleaning up the murder. We watch him as he squirms under the detectives interrogation. Then Hitchcock turns it up another notch when Sam Loomis and Vivien's sister pose as a couple and try and deceive Norman, who is lying himself. We, the audience, are in on both sides as they play their game of deception, wondering who will catch who first. We beautifully watch their nuiances, and mind games and as each party gets closer to the truth, the tension continues to rachet up.
Sure, there are knives and preserved cadavars, but the real terror of Psycho is the fear of being caught in a lie. That is its essense, that is what is so beautifully done.
30 of 39 people found the following review helpful
This film was listed 18th on the American Film Institute's 100greatest films of all time and I still think it was underrated. Fromthe memorable performances by Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh and Martin Balsam to the spooky black and white cinematography to Bernard Herrmann's often imitated but never duplicated score, Psycho is about as close to perfect as a film can get. The only possible way this movie could be improved would be to somehow replace the overacted hysterical performance by Vera Miles as Lila Crane with that of Julianne Moore -- the ONLY thing better about the remake. By the way, those of you who actually think Gus Van Sandt's remake is better than Hitch's original need psychiatric care more than Norman Bates. Those of you who are fans of the original and do not have a DVD player should plunk down $300 and buy one so you can see this DVD edition. It's spectacular! Besides the usual biographies on the cast and crew, theatrical trailers, and still photos, this DVD edition contains many more valuable nuggets like the inclusion of a version of the shower scene without music. This enables the viewer to both hear the sound effects more clearly and to appreciate what an enormous contribution Bernard Herrmann's great score made to Psycho. The documentary, likewise, is not just another boring rehash of facts everyone knows, but an extremely informative record of the film with dozens of fascinating interviews with, among others, Janet Leigh, Hilton Green, Joseph Stefano and Patricia Hitchcock. In addition, the DVD includes great still photos as well as Psycho posters from both the U.S. and foreign releases. The DVD edition even includes Saul Bass' original storyboards for the shower scene (for those of you who are wondering, Janet Leigh, in the documentary, states rather emphatically that Hitchcock, and not Saul Bass, directed the shower scene). In short, if you are a fan of this great movie, you must get the DVD version -- you're missing out on so much with just the VHS tape. Finally, to all those people who gave Psycho a negative review, no one is saying that Rosemary's Baby, Night of the Living Dead, Halloween, etc. are not great horror films, but NONE of the them would have been made without Psycho! George Romero has stated very clearly that the final scene in Night of the Living Dead is an homage to the fruit cellar sequence in Psycho. Stephen King, one of the greatest horror writers of all time, has stated numerous times that Psycho is one of the greatest, if not THE greatest horror films of all time. Perhaps the thing that galls me the most, however, are the reviews that state that Psycho is not scary because it doesn't reach the level of gore seen in modern horror films. That's simply disgusting! You don't have to have eyeballs being ripped out, brains being splattered on walls and guts being spilled all over the floor to make a great horror film! Alfred Hitchcock had the great intelligence to realize that you did not need to stick the camera inside someone's guts to frighten. Not once in the course of Psycho do you actually see the knife penetrate flesh. Instead of splattering us with gore, Hitchcock leaves enough to the imagination to let our minds fill in the missing details. It's sad that so many movie fans these days are so desensitized to graphic violence and so lacking in imagination that they have to have gore spilling all over their screen in order to be scared. Thankfully positive reviews of this film seem to outnumber the negative reviews by a wide margin. Alfred Hitchcock was a genius -- one of the greatest, if not THE greatest director of all time -- and nowhere is that genius more evident than in Psycho.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
The 2008 special edition of Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho" brings to modern audiences the spine-chilling thrills of the original plus a great deal more. The digitally remastered print is impeccable and enables viewers to appreciate the set design; the chiaroscuro lighting in which sharp contrasts between light and dark add to the atmosphere of impending doom; and the amazing performances of the leads and the supporting cast. The brilliant Anthony Perkins fully inhabits Norman Bates's character and, for reasons that defy understanding, did not receive an Academy Award nomination as best actor. Also snubbed by the Academy was Bernard Hermann, whose iconic score was played entirely on stringed instruments. Every scene featuring Hermann's music is enhanced by it, especially the famous shower sequence that had audiences in 1960 screaming their heads off. The wonderful Janet Leigh was nominated for her believable portrayal of Marion Crane, an ordinary woman desperate to make a life for herself with the hunky John Gavin. Martin Balsam, a savvy character actor, is a private detective hired to track down Marion when she disappears. Vera Miles, Crane's sister, Lila, aggressively pursues any clue that will help her find Marion. Ultimately, however, Perkins's performance is the one that everyone remembers. His stuttering speech, darting eyes, birdlike movements, ghoulish taxidermy hobby, nervous munching, and references to his overbearing mother all combine to create a character for the ages.
Everything about this movie is carefully thought out and beautifully realized. Hitchcock planned every frame in advance, hired a talented and creative screenwriter, Joseph Stefano, a wonderful cinematographer, John Russell, and a skilled film editor, George Tomasini. The cast and crew worked tirelessly to put Hitchcock's vision on the screen. The shower scene alone took seven days to complete. The result is a terrifying and mesmerizing film that explores such themes as voyeurism, dysfunctional relationships, bad choices that wreck our lives, and the secrets and lies that entrap even the most average people.
The extras are eye-opening. They include informative feature commentary delivered by Stephen Rebello, author of "Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho." Rebello helps us appreciate Hitchcock's ability to get around the stringent censorship code, his groundbreaking use of camera angles, and his juxtaposition of wry humor and horrific violence. In addition, the late Janet Leigh tells us how much she loved working with "Mr. Hitchcock," whom she respected greatly; she was happy to do whatever he asked of her. Stefano found Hitchcock to be warm and approachable, not at all a cold and forbidding auteur. We also hear from Hitchcock's daughter, Pat, and his assistant director, who notes Hitchcock's close attention to every detail, including lighting, set design, and special effects. In addition, there is archival footage of hundreds of people waiting on long lines to get into the film when it was first released, since no one was admitted after the show began. This gimmick inflamed people's curiosity and helped make "Psycho" a box office bonanza. Hitchcock's legacy is discussed by such luminaries as Martin Scorsese, who admits that he has frequently paid homage to Hitchcock, whom he considers to be one of the most imitated directors of all time. This superb two-disc set is a must-see for fans of "Psycho." Just one bit of advice: Don't watch it while you are in the house alone.