Plot: The shower scene in Psycho was a landmark moment in cinema, one that has inspired countless tributes, homages, and even parodies. The scene shocked audiences, who couldn’t believe what they had seen, even though Alfred Hitchcock’s approach meant they’d seen what they thought in the first place. In 78/52: Hitchcock’s Shower Scene, this immortal sequence is broken down frame by frame, discussed at length by a host of actors, directors, editors, composers, and others who share a passion for film and this incredible scene.
Entertainment Value: I know some will think an entire movie about a single scene is excessive, but for an iconic moment like Psycho’s shower scene, it is more than justified, I think. And in truth, while the movie does focus in on the tiniest details of the scene and every aspect of how it was created, it also covers the movie as a whole and provides a lot of cultural context. So don’t assume this is a dry, scholarly dissection, it might be technical at times, but the passion is so deep and the enthusiasm is so strong, it never feels dry in the least. This piece goes in depth, taking us down the road Hitchcock took to reach this point, the enormous risk Psycho seemed to be, the build up to the shower scene, then unleashes a wide scope of folks to share their insights, personal and professional, into why the scene is so iconic. The pace is brisk, but the insights are more than substantial and in the end, 78/52 offers a pretty exhaustive look into the scene’s creation and aftermath. The scene itself is shown often, in small bursts and often more than once, to highlight certain aspects and draw focus to important cuts or shots, the kind of stuff film buffs just devour.
In addition to the scene itself, as well as clips from other Hitchock films, the movie also shows us various tributes and parodies, as well as earlier scenes from cinema that had an impact on the shower scene itself. I especially appreciated a quick moment devoted to Gus Van Sant’s remake, in which it becomes clear that while you might be able to follow the blueprint, you simply can’t replicate the magic of the original. Hitchcock provides first hand observations and insights via archival materials, while interviews give us the views of numerous others, some who were directly involved and others who just have a deep love of the craftsmanship and artistry involved. Some of those interviewed include Guillermo del Toro, Richard Stanley, Peter Bogdanovich, Bret Easton Ellis, Elijah Wood, Eli Roth, Danny Elfman, and many others, all of whom share their personal love and professional admiration of the sequence. I also loved that Marli Renfro, Janet Leigh’s body double for the scene, shares her memories and candid anecdotes from the production shoot. I think the combination of first hand accounts and critical analysis make this a fantastic, insightful piece. If you’re a movie buff or just love the inside stories on the creative process, 78/52 is well worth a look.