Psycho – Review (Spoiler Free)

This review is part of Film Police’s Hitchcock Appreciation month. There’s always great work going on at that site so please head on over and check it out some of the other posts here!

Psycho Film PosterThe curtains finally drew back, the lights dimmed, and I sat there having never seen Psycho (or indeed any Hitchcock film) before. It’s fair to say that I expected to be disappointed, that this film would ultimately not live up to its hype, and I had the uncomfortable feeling that I shouldn’t have paid out cash to come along to this re-release of a film that I knew next to nothing about. I was only aware of the fact that there was a shower scene, a knife, and some manic sounding violins – other than that I knew nothing, and that includes all of the twists and turns that run through this film. I feel the need now to stress that I’m recounting a memory from quite a while ago, it was at the beginning of my transition from casual film watcher, to the cinephile that I am now. This was a shift sparked primarily by two films; Psycho, and Pulp Fiction.

Of course once the film actually started I was introduced to Saul Bass’s title sequence; a simplistic design of bars cutting back and forth across the screen, disrupting and halving the text as they do so. It’s an intelligent way of underlining the film’s theme without resorting to information overload, or by being too abstract. However what really affected me here was the score played over the sequence; it is full of malice and threat, and the two combined cut straight to my gut, it in itself is unsettling and primal. It became on the spot my favourite title sequence of all time, and threw my preconceptions of the film aside. I was then made pretty much clueless as to what Psycho would throw at me, and now looking back I count myself as being incredibly lucky to have been in that highly unusual position.

psycho credits

When talking about Psycho it’s criminal not to acknowledge Hitchcock’s direction, and his ability to truly sense an audience’s expectations and the way in which to subvert them dramatically, and yet keep the audience hooked and tied into the film.  It’s a hard shot to call, but if I were to tentatively name the film which demonstrates his control and expertise at their best, as a director and a storyteller, Psycho would be the film I would choose. He is a master of his craft here, and it’s fantastic to watch.

Of course a review of Psycho has to also comment on Anthony Perkins. Everybody involved in the film gives a good performance, but he takes the bar set by the others and raises it so incredibly high. He transforms Norman Bates into a deeply complex character with some of the finest acting I think I have ever seen. His subtle nuances tell so very much, without ever truly telling us all that much at all. It’s a performance which gets better with every re-watch, and it is deservedly showered with praise.

Bates

The one and only criticism I have of the film is its ending. The way events play out are excellent, and the final couple of scenes are truly chilling, but we are subjected to an overly long and tedious explanatory section beforehand, and it’s unnecessary. It’s not enough to stop me giving this film a perfect score, but it’s vaguely irritating when we just want to keep going with the film’s tension and pace until the final frame.

Still though, Psycho left a lasting impression on me which truly shaped the course of my life. It may sound overly dramatic, but when the lights went up in that cinema I was set on a course to discover film in a whole new way; looking up classics, watching world cinema, familiarising myself with celebrated directors – just simply broadening my understanding of a medium which Psycho was largely responsible for me falling in love with. Endless words have been written on this film to the point where it felt meaningless to sit down and write my own thoughts, but hopefully, if nothing else, I have communicated something of my passion for this film, and just how much it means to me.

appdirector

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41 comments

  1. Nice write up matey 🙂

    1. Cheers man!

  2. This movie is truly genius. It’s probably my favorite Hitchcock too. Great review. I’ve heard from plenty of people that have the same problem with the ending. When I first watched it I didn’t even think a thing about. Perhaps it should have been edited, but its a great movie nonetheless.

    1. Thanks, I didn’t think too much about the ending when I first saw it either, it’s just on subsequent watches that I notice it. It’s certainly not a big issue, and on practically any other film I wouldn’t even mention it, but because Psycho is so incredibly well made it jumps out a little.

  3. Brilliant my friend. Great job and I can feel your passion for the film. Much more meaningful than my cruel April Fools joke.

    1. Thank you very much man – it was a hard one to write about!
      That April Fools got me well and good – I came across it the other day when looking around on your site, and it reminded me of just how much I freaked out when I saw it for the first time!

  4. One of the all-time best scary movies that is still great to watch around Halloween. Good review Rumsey.

    1. Or to watch anytime 😀
      Thanks!

  5. You’re so lucky you didn’t know anything about it going in! I knew all about it when I first saw, and it was still good that time, but when I went back I didn’t have the memories of being scared out of my mind that most people do. Great post!

    1. I know, it was an incredible position to be placed in. I was very grateful to all the people I went with who hadn’t previously discussed the movie in front of me! Also, just seeing it in a cinema is fantastic 🙂
      Thank you!

  6. That “Explanatory Section” – pretty sure I know the one you’re talking about. You have to remember though, this was 1960. The sixties had barely barely begun, it was practically still the late 50s. People just had no concept about things like this. I think Hitch thought people needed that…

    Anyways, I forgive that part. And of course, I’m in total agreement that the rest is sheer awesomeness. LOL 😉

    1. Yeah I think that that part should be there, largely for the reason you just said, but I still believe that it could use a trim!
      Really though I’m nit picking with a complaint like that, the rest is indeed sheer awesomeness 😀

  7. I’m very jealous you got to see this in theaters.

    I prefer Vertigo and Rear Window over Psycho, but it still is an amazing movie and one of Hitchcock’s best. Nice review.

    1. Thank you, it was awesome in the theatre I have to say!
      Vertigo comes close for me, and I can understand you preferring Rear Window, but neither can beat Psycho in my eyes. They are all excellent films though!

  8. Great review. I absolutely love Psycho, definitely in my Hitchcock top 3.

    1. Thank you, do you know what the other two would be?

      1. I reckon probably Rear Window and Strangers on a Train. Vertigo would be a consideration though. I’ve not seen them all though so can’t know for sure!

        1. That’s interesting, I haven’t actually seen Strangers on a Train yet even though I keep meaning to. I would imagine Vertigo would be up there for me as well.

  9. Psycho is one of my all-time favorite movies. I’ve enjoyed watching it since I was a boy. There’s something so complete about the movie. The lighting, Hitchcock’s direction, the feel. So much to gain from this movie. I mentioned the lighting. I think it’s the perfectly lit movie. Dark when it needs to be dark, and bright when we need to feel like we haven’t seen everything. Such a great movie. Thanks for your review!

    1. No, thank you! I know exactly what you mean about it feeling so complete. Each time I go back to it I seem to pick up on a new detail and how well it has been handled. It’s just an amazingly well made film.

  10. […] Pines. Mr Rumsey’s Film Related Musings may not give out scores, but his passionate review of Psycho this week was nothing less than perfect. Let’s not forget Nick from The Cinematic […]

  11. Great post, buddy!

    “It may sound overly dramatic, but when the lights went up in that cinema I was set on a course to discover film in a whole new way; looking up classics, watching world cinema, familiarising myself with celebrated directors – just simply broadening my understanding of a medium which Psycho was largely responsible for me falling in love with”

    That’s what happened to me with Kill Bill.

    1. Thanks man! I can understand Kill Bill causing that reaction. For me though the first time I saw it I didn’t think that much of it, now I love Kill Bill and rank it as one of my all time favourite films, but it wasn’t the case at first.

      1. Hey, at least you came around to it 🙂 Glad you did!

  12. Natalie P · · Reply

    Good review 🙂 As almost always with your blog, I should probably watch this film haha!

    1. Thanks Natalie, you absoloutely should!

  13. Excellent write up of a classic film.

    1. Thank you very much buddy!

  14. Aww dude, you never told me the movie meant that much to you. Seeing it in Cinema City was my idea, you know.

    1. Well if it was your idea then I owe quite a lot to you! Thank you!

  15. Wish I’d seen this at the cinema. And you know what? I even quite like the shot-for-shot colour remake. As for the opening credits music, I also like the “remix” they did for Reanimator. Although, obviously the original is the best.

    Good review. Pretty amazing that you went into it spoiler free.

    1. Oh yeah, seeing it in the cinema was pretty incredible! I still haven’t watched the colour remake, I really should just so I know my opinion of it but I can never bring myself to rent it. It’s encouraging that you ‘quite like’ it.
      Thank you, I was so lucky!

  16. A masterpiece. Although the last bit with the therapist/doctor was really stupid haha.

    1. Yeah it does kill the film’s momentum somewhat! Still though, as you said it’s a masterpiece and is one of my all time favourite films.

      1. My second favourite Hitchcock film. Rebecca is my No.1

        1. Rebecca is a great film! No other Hitchcock comes as close to perfection in my eyes though as Psycho does 🙂

  17. Great review, one of my favorite movies. Did The Place Beyond the Pines make you think about this movie a bit? I immediately had that connection….

    1. Thank you, Oh yeah definitely! I was instantly reminded of Psycho when watching it.

  18. Hey, I enjoyed your post.

    Have you heard of the French director Francois Truffaut? He directed some of the big ‘new wave’ films in the 60s, most notably ‘Les quatre cents coups’ (‘The 400 blows’). If you like Hitchcock, there’s this amazing book called ‘Hitchcock/Truffaut’ put together in 1967. It’s basically a dialogue between these two great directors; Truffaut interviewed Hitchcock for a total of 500 hours, and complied the best parts of their conversations in this book. It’s worth checking out if you’re interested in either/both of these directors.

    One interesting way of thinking about Hitchcock films is by dividing them into two categories – the ‘experimental films’ (Psycho, Rope, Lifeboat etc) and the ‘classic hitchcockian’ (Vertigo, Strangers on a Train, Dial M for Murder etc). While Hitchcock is a true ‘auteur’, with an unmistakable style, I found this categorisation useful to think about when discussing his vast body of work.

    Cait x

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