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Old 12-19-2009, 06:36 AM   #1
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Holland Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock)



Universal-Holland are set to release Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960) on April 25th. This Blu-ray release will be part of The Hitchcock Collection.

Roger Ebert:
Quote:
"It wasn't a message that stirred the audiences, nor was it a great performance...they were aroused by pure film."

So Alfred Hitchcock told Francois Truffaut about "Psycho," adding that it "belongs to filmmakers, to you and me." Hitchcock deliberately wanted "Psycho" to look like a cheap exploitation film. He shot it not with his usual expensive feature crew (which had just finished "North by Northwest") but with the crew he used for his television show. He filmed in black and white. Long passages contained no dialogue. His budget, $800,000, was cheap even by 1960 standards; the Bates Motel and mansion were built on the back lot at Universal. In its visceral feel, "Psycho" has more in common with noir quickies like "Detour" than with elegant Hitchcock thrillers like "Rear Window" or "Vertigo."

Yet no other Hitchcock film had a greater impact. "I was directing the viewers," the director told Truffaut in their book-length interview. "You might say I was playing them, like an organ." It was the most shocking film its original audience members had ever seen. "Do not reveal the surprises!" the ads shouted, and no moviegoer could have anticipated the surprises Hitchcock had in store--the murder of Marion (Janet Leigh), the apparent heroine, only a third of the way into the film, and the secret of Norman's mother. "Psycho" was promoted like a William Castle exploitation thriller. "It is required that you see 'Psycho' from the very beginning!" Hitchcock decreed, explaining, "the late-comers would have been waiting to see Janet Leigh after she had disappeared from the screen action."

These surprises are now widely known, and yet "Psycho" continues to work as a frightening, insinuating thriller. That's largely because of Hitchcock's artistry in two areas that are not as obvious: The setup of the Marion Crane story, and the relationship between Marion and Norman (Anthony Perkins). Both of these elements work because Hitchcock devotes his full attention and skill to treating them as if they will be developed for the entire picture.

The setup involves a theme that Hitchcock used again and again: The guilt of the ordinary person trapped in a criminal situation. Marion Crane does steal $40,000, but still she fits the Hitchcock mold of an innocent to crime. We see her first during an afternoon in a shabby hotel room with her divorced lover, Sam Loomis (John Gavin). He cannot marry her because of his alimony payments; they must meet in secret. When the money appears, it's attached to a slimy real estate customer (Frank Albertson) who insinuates that for money like that, Marion might be for sale. So Marion's motive is love, and her victim is a creep.

This is a completely adequate setup for a two-hour Hitchcock plot. It never for a moment feels like material manufactured to mislead us. And as Marion flees Phoenix on her way to Sam's home town of Fairvale, Calif., we get another favorite Hitchcock trademark, paranoia about the police. A highway patrolman (Mort Mills) wakes her from a roadside nap, questions her, and can almost see the envelope with the stolen money. She trades in her car for one with different plates, but at the dealership she's startled to see the same patrolman parked across the street, leaning against his squad car, arms folded, staring at her. Every first-time viewer believes this setup establishes a story line the movie will follow to the end.

Frightened, tired, perhaps already regretting her theft, Marion drives closer to Fairvale but is slowed by a violent rainstorm. She pulls into the Bates Motel, and begins her short, fateful association with Norman Bates. And here again Hitchcock's care with the scenes and dialog persuades us that Norman and Marion will be players for the rest of the film.

He does that during their long conversation in Norman's "parlor," where savage stuffed birds seem poised to swoop down and capture them as prey. Marion has overheard the voice of Norman's mother speaking sharply with him, and she gently suggests that Norman need not stay here in this dead end, a failing motel on a road that has been bypassed by the new interstate. She cares about Norman. She is also moved to rethink her own actions. And he is touched. So touched, he feels threatened by his feelings. And that is why he must kill her.

When Norman spies on Marion, Hitchcock said, most audience members read it as Peeping Tom behavior. Truffaut observed that the film's opening, with Marion in a bra and panties, underlines the later voyeurism. We have no idea murder is in store.

Seeing the shower scene today, several things stand out. Unlike modern horror films, "Psycho" never shows the knife striking flesh. There are no wounds. There is blood, but not gallons of it. Hitchcock shot in black and white because he felt the audience could not stand so much blood in color (the 1998 Gus Van Sant remake specifically repudiates that theory). The slashing chords of Bernard Herrmann's soundtrack substitute for more grisly sound effects. The closing shots are not graphic but symbolic, as blood and water spin down the drain, and the camera cuts to a closeup, the same size, of Marion's unmoving eyeball. This remains the most effective slashing in movie history, suggesting that situation and artistry are more important than graphic details.

Perkins does an uncanny job of establishing the complex character of Norman, in a performance that has become a landmark. Perkins shows us there is something fundamentally wrong with Norman, and yet he has a young man's likability, jamming his hands into his jeans pockets, skipping onto the porch, grinning. Only when the conversation grows personal does he stammer and evade. At first he evokes our sympathy as well as Marion's.

The death of the heroine is followed by Norman's meticulous mopping-up of the death scene. Hitchcock is insidiously substituting protagonists. Marion is dead, but now (not consciously but in a deeper place) we identify with Norman--not because we could stab someone, but because, if we did, we would be consumed by fear and guilt, as he is. The sequence ends with the masterful shot of Bates pushing Marion's car (containing her body and the cash) into a swamp. The car sinks, then pauses. Norman watches intently. The car finally disappears under the surface.

Analyzing our feelings, we realize we wanted that car to sink, as much as Norman did. Before Sam Loomis reappears, teamed up with Marion's sister Lila (Vera Miles) to search for her, "Psycho" already has a new protagonist: Norman Bates. This is one of the most audacious substitutions in Hitchcock's long practice of leading and manipulating us. The rest of the film is effective melodrama, and there are two effective shocks. The private eye Arbogast (Martin Balsam) is murdered, in a shot that uses back-projection to seem to follow him down the stairs. And the secret of Norman's mother is revealed.

For thoughtful viewers, however, an equal surprise is still waiting. That is the mystery of why Hitchcock marred the ending of a masterpiece with a sequence that is grotesquely out of place. After the murders have been solved, there is an inexplicable scene during which a long-winded psychiatrist (Simon Oakland) lectures the assembled survivors on the causes of Norman's psychopathic behavior. This is an anticlimax taken almost to the point of parody.

If I were bold enough to reedit Hitchcock's film, I would include only the doctor's first explanation of Norman's dual personality: "Norman Bates no longer exists. He only half existed to begin with. And now, the other half has taken over, probably for all time." Then I would cut out everything else the psychiatrist says, and cut to the shots of Norman wrapped in the blanket while his mother's voice speaks ("It's sad when a mother has to speak the words that condemn her own son..."). Those edits, I submit, would have made "Psycho" very nearly perfect. I have never encountered a single convincing defense of the psychiatric blather; Truffaut tactfully avoids it in his famous interview.

What makes "Psycho" immortal, when so many films are already half-forgotten as we leave the theater, is that it connects directly with our fears: Our fears that we might impulsively commit a crime, our fears of the police, our fears of becoming the victim of a madman, and of course our fears of disappointing our mothers.
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Old 12-19-2009, 06:44 AM   #2
surfdude12 surfdude12 is offline
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just watched this for the first time a few weeks ago

incredible film, can't wait for it on Blu. as Ebert said, they may have spelled too much out at the end, but other than that, a masterpiece.
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Old 12-19-2009, 04:51 PM   #3
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I'm wary of this after the UK release of The 39 Steps. You'd think that any country who would do justice to one of Alfred Hitchcock's British-made films would be Britain, but I guess not.

On the other hand, the US DVDs of all his non Public Domain films have usually been excellent, and North by Northwest is supposedly a tremendous release.
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Old 12-19-2009, 05:01 PM   #4
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What else is in the Hitchcock collection? Was thinking of getting North By Northwest but if all his classics are included, then I might as well wait and not waste money by double dipping.
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Old 12-19-2009, 05:08 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kobe8byrant View Post
What else is in the Hitchcock collection? Was thinking of getting North By Northwest but if all his classics are included, then I might as well wait and not waste money by double dipping.
North by Northwest is owned by Warner not Universal, so there would be no double-dip here.

According to this site. Vertigo and The Birds are also among the Hitchcock Collection, but dates are not provided.

If you browse carefully you may find other interesting titles.
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Old 12-19-2009, 05:31 PM   #6
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this should be an awesome release

this is the first I've heard of it though-- is it a US release?
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Old 12-20-2009, 09:56 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AKORIS View Post
this is the first I've heard of it though-- is it a US release?
No - the Netherlands, as the OP stated.
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Old 12-20-2009, 10:39 PM   #8
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well well well.
Universal may be finally starting to do something constructive.
I remember when the HD DVD was rumored to be coming soon.
Guess this makes sense for the 50th anniversary.
obviously a US release will be coming because I don't see Holland being the only country to just happen to get this seminal masterpiece in it's golden anniversary year.
so anyway, though it's been an epic wait, GREAT NEWS!!!!
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Old 12-20-2009, 10:49 PM   #9
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Finally! A must buy!
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Old 12-20-2009, 10:53 PM   #10
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Awesome to hear, I love this movie, Rear Window, and Strangers on a Train!! Wish those had release dates also!
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Old 12-20-2009, 11:00 PM   #11
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One of my favorite films, probably seen it around 25 times. But I've never seen it in blu! lol

Hope there is a domestic release with all the special features on the newest DVD edition.
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Old 02-03-2010, 11:08 AM   #12
4LOM 4LOM is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by McCrutchy View Post
I'm wary of this after the UK release of The 39 Steps. You'd think that any country who would do justice to one of Alfred Hitchcock's British-made films would be Britain, but I guess not.
What's wrong with the British Blu-ray of "The 39 Steps"? ITV have the best surviving elements of this movie in their archive and presented them in HD. There are some minor issues with compression, but overall it's a good presentation of what's possible with these elements.
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Old 02-03-2010, 11:23 AM   #13
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Looking forward to this.
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Old 02-03-2010, 04:55 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 4LOM View Post
What's wrong with the British Blu-ray of "The 39 Steps"? ITV have the best surviving elements of this movie in their archive and presented them in HD. There are some minor issues with compression, but overall it's a good presentation of what's possible with these elements.
Pro-bassoonist's review was none too kind to the disc, and I believe that those who own the Criterion DVD need not bother with it as it seems such an underwhelming presentation on every front.

Instead, I'll likely pick up the Criterion DVD during the next Barnes and Noble 50% off sale.
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Old 02-03-2010, 05:10 PM   #15
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please be region free or please release a us version sooon!!!
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Old 02-03-2010, 10:16 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Blufan11 View Post
please be region free or please release a us version sooon!!!
The trouble with waiting for a US release from Universal is that it may well turn out to be a flipper (that's if flippers bother you of course).
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Old 02-04-2010, 12:19 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bruce Morrison View Post
The trouble with waiting for a US release from Universal is that it may well turn out to be a flipper (that's if flippers bother you of course).
yuck you're right especially with those 4 new universal blus announced on flippers as well. I just want to get rid of my psycho DVD and I would love to have hitchcock films on blu I hope they get nice transfers and again reallllly hope they are region freeee ):
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Old 02-04-2010, 12:33 PM   #18
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Funny on how this is my least favorite of the Hitchcock movies I am glad however that more releases are coming
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Old 02-05-2010, 12:12 PM   #19
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Finally! will all the collection be relesse individually?
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Old 02-05-2010, 05:54 PM   #20
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It's unclear when and if Psycho will be released. Unversal has deleted the info on their Dutch website.
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