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Psycho (1960) - Film Review

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by TheOnlyFiona (subscribe)
In real life, I do discuss food exactly like how I write in my food review articles. As always my food reviews are scored only on what I've tried and the service expected of that type of establishment.
Published March 28th 2013
Even Hitchcock pales in comparison to the source material
Any cinema fan will have seen that shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho. It is so a part of collective pop consciousness that that scene is instantly recognisable anywhere. However how many cinema fans have seen Hitchcock's 1960 masterpiece or heard of the 1959 source novel of the same name?

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Marion Crane, trusted bank employee, embezzles a large deposit on a whim. The plan: skip town to reunite with her boyfriend, Sam and start life together debt free. The journey is long. Marion finds herself spending the night at the secluded Bates motel owned by social recluse Norman Bates; who lives in a house behind the motel with his mother. Bates displays mixed feelings towards Marion, warm one moment cold the next.

An awkward dinner reveals Bates has an over-involved relationship with his mother. Meanwhile Marion's little sister, Lila goes in search of her. Lila finds Sam unaware that Marion is missing. Private investigator Arboghast is swiftly hired. However Lila and Sam have no choice but to take matters into their own hands when Arboghast goes missing after finding a promising lead.

Without Hitchcock's cinematic expertise, the film could have been bland. Besides from the ingenious shower scene, there are various aspects worth mentioning. The setting up of Marion Crane's story is succinct, Hitchcock's creative decisions work well and we quickly get a sense of who she is. We understand her excitement and fear. She's living in the moment. Dialogue isn't used to fill up space, every word counts. The actors have great chemistry and their characterisation of the characters is spot on. The big reveal at the end is shocking and everything is played as a mystery thriller should.

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Hitchcock's film is a classic of a genre. Yet when you approach a story as a 'novel first' (having read the novel first) there will inevitably be comparisons and discrepancies in individual visualisations. If I hadn't read Bloch's novel, I would say Hitchcock's film is perfect however in light of the source material the film falls a little flat. Inspired by true events, Bloch's novel focuses on Bates more. Bates' mother features more prominently. His relationship with his mother is established in the first few pages. Their shocking backstory is gradually revealed; a twist that was glossed over in the film. It truly earns the title 'Psycho'.

The dinner scene between Marion and Bates is so much more in the novel. It sets up various features in the story as it was set in Bates' house. There is better use of the house, a slight gothic horror feel, adding to its foreboding nature in the search for Marion. There were many parts of the search that did build up to the main twist which did not make it into the film. The murderer's descent into madness is even creepier in the book. Another missed opportunity is the introduction of Lila. An ill-fated kiss, that would have haunted audiences as Sam kisses Marion only for her to change into Lila.

Psycho is a classic, a solid thriller however the original novel packs a few more scares. An almost perfect film adaptation the film is recommended for night time viewing. Both are recommended for lovers of mystery thrillers and gothic horror.
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