Plot: Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) works in a real estate office and is dissatisfied with her lot in life, from her job to her love life. She has a strong work ethic and is a valued part of the office, but the money isn’t great and meanwhile, her boyfriend Sam (John Gavin) isn’t her dream man, to say the least. In a routine day at the office, a high roller comes into the office and as part of a business deal, lays down forty thousand dollars in cash. The large sum makes the office nervous, so Marion is tasked to head to the bank and deposit to avoid any potential issues. But once she has the cash in hand, Marion sees a real chance to have a better life and she decides to steal the money, heading out of town to hide before she starts fresh. The guilt and paranoia set in quickly however, so Marion pulls over to rest and think through her situation, at an isolated roadside venue known as the Bates Motel.
Entertainment Value: The masterpiece that launched an entire genre, Psycho is a landmark picture that terrified audiences, broke taboos, and influenced generation after generation of filmmakers. The narrative seems like a simple, straight forward drama at first, with Janet Leigh as the lead as a woman who steals some cash and goes on the run, but of course, that isn’t the case. To kill off your lead early in the movie, especially one with the profile of Leigh, was an incredible approach that stunned viewers and even now, comes across as a bold choice. Once we arrive at Bates Motel, the movie settles in as what it really is, a tense and effective horror/thriller driven by one man’s deep mental illness. Anthony Perkins shines in his role as Norman, able to shift between his sweet, naive side, quiet menace, and homicidal outbursts, while never feeling over the top or melodramatic. I also love Martin Balsam as the detective, such an interesting, memorable performance there. Janet Leigh, John Gavin, and Vera Miles also turn in great work, so it is a tremendous cast. This is an immortal classic, one of the most influential films of all time and a lock for any cinephile’s collection.
No nakedness. A little blood, but not much. But to a lot of those who have seen Psycho, those might not seem like true statements. I have heard numerous viewers claim the movie is violent and shows skin, within the shower scene in specific. Of course, the scene has no nudity and we never see the knife do damage, but thanks to Hitchcock’s meticulous methods, it sure seems like we see both. The shower scene is a truly iconic moment in cinema and even has a feature length documentary dedicated to it, the terrific 78/52. But the illusions of naked flesh and graphic violence are just that, illusions crafted by a movie master. The dialogue is excellent and has a lot of memorable lines spread across the characters, with Norman and Detective Arbogast with the lion’s share of the peppiest moments. I think any conversation Normal has with anyone tends to be interesting and filled with little oddities, but his exchanges with Arbogast are so much fun to eavesdrop on. As for craziness, the movie took some bold risks at the time and is filled with colorful, eccentric moments, so while perhaps not as shocking as it once was, Psycho still packs a punch.
Overall Insanity: 5/10