Wednesday, June 16, 2010


I suppose I have to say something about the single most influential Horror movie ever made, considering it is the film's 50th Anniversary.

Not many 50 year-old movies still hold up, let alone 50 year-old horror movies. And trust me, there were some awesome horror movies released the same year: Roger Corman's The Fall of the House of Usher; Ingmar Bergman's The Virgin Spring (Wes Craven's inspiration for Last House on the Left); The Village of the Damned and The Innocents were all released the same year.

But it was Hitchcock's experiment in low-budget, artistic filmmaking that caught the world's attention and changed movie-going habits forever. Of course, none of those other movies had a half-naked John Gavin, either...

The last time I seriously sat down to watch Psycho was at least 10 years and with my then significant other, R. R was almost as big a movie buff as I was, though I did introduce him to The 5000 Fingers... and he nearly tore my arm off when we went to see The Blair Witch Project. We were curled up on the love seat in my living room, and came to the conclusion that Psycho is as perfect a movie as you might find. Turning convention on its ear and requiring audiences to see the movie from the beginning caused a sensation in June of 1960 and Hitchcock's most well-known and most widely seen film would go on to influence filmmakers from Tobe Hooper to Brian DePalma, while putting an all-too human face on a genre that had previously been dominated by supernatural elements.

If you've never seen it, you should (and What the Hell???!!???). If it has been awhile, see it again. Then watch it again and look for all the things that less-talented folks have emulated, ever since.

I did learn two things about the movie that I didn't know before: It was the first time a toilet was seen on screen, and budgetary concerns forced composer Bernard Herrmann to score the film using only stringed instruments, resulting in one of the most famous music cues in film history. Both the toilet and score can be best appreciated in this exceptionally well-known (and certainly over-blogged) sequence:

See what 47 separate edits, sound FX and chocolate syrup can do for your movie?

Of course, if you're anything like Uncle P (and Lord help you, if you are), you love Hitch and satirical send-ups... Mel Brooks takes on the Master's greatest films in 1977's High Anxiety and mostly nails it in one of his last funny movies:

Oh, Madeline Kahn, how I miss you!

Personally, I can't think of a more influential horror movie, ever. Often copied (the less said about Gus van Sant's execrable 1998 remake, the better) in structure and pacing, but never quite matched, Psycho is one of those films forever enmeshed in the 20th Century Pop Culture psyche. It may have ruined Anthony Perkins career, but it set the stage for an entire genre which still endures. How many films do you know that hold that claim?

More, anon.

No comments: