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Psycho (1960) - Illustrated Reference

Updated on December 21, 2016

Psycho was directed by Sir Alfred Hitchcock. It premiered on the 16th of June 1960. Starring Anthony Perkins, Vera Miles, John Gavin, Martin Balsam and Janet Leigh. Screenplay by Joseph Stefano. Based on the novel by Robert Bloch. Music by Bernard Herrmann. 109mins.

Marion Crane, seizing the opportunity to start a new life with her lover Sam Loomis, steals $40,000 from her employer’s client. Packing her bags she leaves Phoenix, Arizona to join Sam in Fairvale, California. On the journey there during a wet and stormy night she decides to get off the highway and spend the night at a motel.

After the success of North by Northwest (1959) Alfred Hitchcock (1899-1980) was planning to make a film with Audrey Hepburn titled No Bail for the Judge but that was scrapped after Hepburn became pregnant.

He settled on a novel by Robert Bloch (1917-1994) which was inspired by real life psycho Ed Gein (1906-1984). Paramount studios didn’t want Hitchcock to make Psycho saying it was “too repulsive”. So Hitch shot the film at Universal using his own company Shamley Productions and most of the crew from his TV series Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

Marion Crane: Do you have any vacancies?
Norman Bates: Oh, we have 12 vacancies. 12 cabins, 12 vacancies.

Janet Leigh (1927-2004) / Marion Crane. Marion works at a real estate office, her boss Mr. Lowery gives her $40,000 to take to the bank for one of his wealthy clients. She decides to take the money and escape to California where her lover resides. Unfortunately she stops at the Bates Motel on her way there.

Born in California, Janet Leigh was married to Tony Curtis from 1951 to 1962 they had two daughters Kelly Curtis and Jamie Lee Curtis. She received an Oscar Nomination for Best Supporting Actress for Psycho. Leigh won a Best Supporting Actress Golden Globe for her role as Marion Crane.

Norman Bates: Uh, m-m-mother, uh, what is the phrase? She isn't quite herself today.

Anthony Perkins (1932-1992) / Norman Bates. After the death of his father young Norman suffers emotional abuse from his mother Norma, she tells him that all women are whores and that sexual intercourse is a sin. Mad with jealousy after seeing his mother with her lover he poisons them both.

The crime causes his mind to snap and he develops a multiple personality disorder. He preserves his mother’s corpse and takes on her persona even talking in her voice. “Mother” will make sure no one takes her boy away from her.

Born in New York City, Perkins had appeared in 11 movies before taking on the iconic role of Norman Bates, among them The Tin Star (1957), Green Mansions (1959) and On the Beach (1959). He would reprise the role of Norman Bates in two sequels and a prequel.

Sheriff Al Chambers: Your detective told you he couldn't come right back because he was goin' to question Norman Bates' mother. Right?
Lila Crane: Yes.
Sheriff Al Chambers: Norman Bates' mother has been dead and buried in Greenlawn Cemetery for the past ten years!

Vera Miles (1929-) / Lila Crane, Marion’s sister. She and Sam go searching for Marion after she went missing, a private detective calls to tell them Marion may have spent the night at the Bates Motel. They go to investigate, Lila discovers the corpse of Norman’s mother in the cellar. Whereupon she is attacked by Norman as “mother”, he is subdued by Sam.

Born in Oklahoma, Vera Miles had also appeared in Hitchcock’s The Wrong Man (1956) as the wife of a musician (Henry Fonda) falsely accused of a crime. Miles would play Lila Crane again in the sequel Psycho II (1983), now known as Lila Loomis after marrying Sam.

John Gavin (1931-) / Sam Loomis. Marion Crane’s lover, he and Lila search the Bates motel after they are told she was last seen there.

Born in Los Angeles, Gavin had also played Julius Caesar in Spartacus in 1960. He was considered for the role of James Bond after George Lazenby left the Secret Service, but Sean Connery returned for one more film.

Martin Balsam (1919-1996) / Milton Arbogast, a private detective hired by Marion Crane’s boss Mr. Lowery after she goes missing with $40,000 he gave her to bank. He traces Marion to the Bates Motel where he has a fatal encounter with “mother”.

Born in the Bronx, New York, Balsam has also appeared in 12 Angry Men (1959), Cape Fear (1962), Seven Days in May (1964), The Carpetbaggers (1964) and won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for A Thousand Clowns (1965).

Simon Oakland (1915-1983) / Dr. Richmond a forensic psychiatrist who explains Norman Bates psychosis to Lila and Sam.

Born in New York City, Simon Oakland appeared in West Side Story (1961) as Lt. Schrank. Other films include The Sand Pebbles (1966) and Bullitt (1968).

Norman Bates: It's not like my mother is a maniac or a raving thing. She just goes a little mad sometimes. We all go a little mad sometimes. Haven't you?

In the novel Norman Bates is middle-aged, short and fat.

Lana Turner and Angie Dickinson were considered for the part of the doomed Marion Crane. 20 years later Dickinson starred in Brian de Palma’s homage to Psycho, Dressed to Kill (1980). Like Hitchcock’s classic the female lead is shockingly killed about halfway through. She is slashed to death with a razor blade in an elevator.

The film’s most famous and shocking sequence took seven days to shoot, using 77 camera angles, the shower murder takes up just 45 seconds of screen time. Chocolate syrup was used for blood. Doubly shocking at the time in that no one expected Janet Leigh to get killed off 45 minutes into the film and while having a shower too.

Hitchcock at first wanted the shower murder to have no music at all but composer Bernard Herrmann asked Hitch to watch the scene with some music he composed, Hitch changed his mind. The shrieking violins would become one of the movie’s most memorable features.

One of the greatest composers in film history, Bernard Herrmann (1911-1975) composed the music for movies ranging from Citizen Kane (1941) to Taxi Driver (1976), receiving Oscar nominations for both and winning for The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941). Herrmann scored seven movies for Hitchcock including Vertigo (1958) and North by Northwest (1959).

One of my favourite shots in the film appears at the very end, a subliminal shot of Norma's skull superimposed over Norman’s smiling face. Only lasts a second but it’s chilling. The shot is followed by Marion’s car being pulled out of the swamp.

Psycho is said to be the first American film to show a toilet flushing.

Hitchcock’s cameo is near the start of the film, he can be spotted wearing a cowboy hat outside Marion’s office.

As a joke Hitchcock hid “mother’s corpse” in Janet Leigh’s dressing room closet, he would judge by her reaction if it was effective for the film.

The incredible trailer to Psycho lasts a whopping 7 minutes and features Hitchcock himself taking the viewer on a tour of the Bates house and motel. The trailer finishes with Hitch in a motel bathroom pulling aside the shower curtain followed by a quick shot of a woman (Vera Miles) screaming.

Movie theatres showing Psycho had large posters of Hitchcock pointing at his watch placed outside with the words – “No one ... BUT NO ONE ... will be admitted to the theatre after the start of each performance of Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho.”

Hitch filmed Psycho in black and white because it was going to get a little gory plus he wanted to film it as cheaply as possible. It was filmed in 30 days and cost just $800,000 to produce. It went on to gross $32m making it Hitchcock’s most successful film.

The film was nominated for four Academy Awards – Best Director, Best Actress, Art Direction and Cinematography. Billy Wilder’s The Apartment was the big winner that year. Hitchcock was also nominated by the Director’s Guild of America.

Psycho was one of the films selected in 1992 for preservation in the National Film Registry.

Two sequels, a prequel and remake appeared decades later - Psycho II (1983), Psycho III (1986 directed by Anthony Perkins), Psycho IV-The Beginning (1990 TV) and Psycho (1998) a pointless shot-for-shot remake of the original in colour directed by Gus Van Sant, starring Anne Heche as Marion Crane and Vince Vaughn as Norman Bates.

Psycho is Hitchcock’s horror masterpiece, hugely influential, much copied and imitated. Now half a century old the film hasn’t lost its power to shock and thrill.

The Blu-ray release is beautifully remastered and contains a commentary by Stephen Rebello author of “Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho.”

Norma Bates: They're probably watching me. Well, let them. Let them see what kind of a person I am. I'm not even going to swat that fly. I hope they are watching... they'll see. They'll see and they'll know, and they'll say, "Why, she wouldn't even harm a fly..."

The Critics Wrote –

"As hair raising as anything I've seen on the screen... And I warn you if you've got a queasy stomach stay away... The picture is as magnetising as a snake poised to pounce... It makes Frankenstein seem as dull as noughts and crosses." (Margaret Hinxman, Daily Herald)

"A journey into hell that robs us, at calculated intervals of our guides... For the first time in movie history the heroine.. has actually been murdered... and the hero has been demolished: Hitchcock has removed the last line of defense between us and the knife." (Kenneth Tynan, Observer, 1968)

"The "Psycho" diagnosis, commercially, is this: an unusual, good entertainment... Hitchcock uses the old plea that nobody give out the ending "It's the only one we have." This will be abided by here, but it must be said that the central force throughout the feature is a mother who is a homicidal maniac. This is unusual because she happens to be physically defunct, has been for some years. But she lives on in the person of her son." (Variety)

"One of the messiest, most nauseating murders ever filmed. At close range, the camera watches every twitch, gurgle, convulsion and haemorrhage in the process by which a living human becomes a corpse...a spectacle of stomach-churning horror.” (Time)

"One of the most vile and disgusting films ever made. Now look here, Maestro Hitchcock, just what is the game? ... A sad waste of talent." (Rene MacColl, Daily Express)

“To my relief, this is the felicitous, the mischievous, old-style Old Master Hitchcock. Though you, of course, may say I am loco about Psycho.” (Dilys Powell, Sunday Times)

“Sicko.” (Picturegoer)

Psycho (1960) Trailer


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    • Steve Lensman profile image

      Steve Lensman 3 years ago from London, England

      Thanks MandiGirl, appreciate the comment. I'm a Hitchcock fan too.

    • MandiGirl profile image

      MandiGirl 3 years ago from Arkansas

      Very informative! Love Hitchcock movies!

    • Steve Lensman profile image

      Steve Lensman 5 years ago from London, England

      The Birds is a Hitchcock classic too, first time I saw the film I avoided walking through the park in case some birds were gathering, biding their time.

      Just kidding. Thanks for the comment daisydayz.

    • daisydayz profile image

      Chantele Cross-Jones 5 years ago from Cardiff

      Gotta love a bit of psycho, or any Hitchcock for that matter. the Birds creeps the hell out of me! Great hub!

    • Steve Lensman profile image

      Steve Lensman 5 years ago from London, England

      One of my favourites too Sam. I watch Psycho at least once a year. Great film. Thanks for the comment!

    • sam209 profile image

      sam209 5 years ago

      One of my favorite movies of all time! Great hub!

    • Steve Lensman profile image

      Steve Lensman 6 years ago from London, England

      That's right musical director Donen was directing the kind of films Hitch would have directed in the sixties if he hadn't gotten all dark and serious. ;)

      Wait Until Dark directed by Terence Young and starring Audrey Hepburn has been compared to Hitchcock's films.

      btw Stanley Donen also directed a gory sci-fi film Saturn 3 in 1980, one of his last films.

    • FloraBreenRobison profile image

      FloraBreenRobison 6 years ago

      I always thought it ironic that Donen directed Charade and Arabesque. He started out as a dancer/choreographer and directed his first movies with Kelly - light musicals.

    • Steve Lensman profile image

      Steve Lensman 6 years ago from London, England

      Thanks Cogerson. Yeah Hitch took a gamble with Psycho and it paid off handsomely. But his films did take on a darker tone after this. Other directors tried to recapture that classic Hitchcock style with films like Charade, Mirage and Arabesque.

    • Cogerson profile image

      Cogerson 6 years ago from Virginia

      I just rewatched this movie today...first half without the DVD commentary and the second half with the DVD commentary. Lots of great information on the commentary, but one of the interesting things I heard was that Hitchcock actually gave Perkins lots of input into the role...I have not heard that too many times when reading about Hitch. I think the 800,000 Hitchcock put up for this movie was one heck of a wise investment.

      Even though I have see this movie many many times....I still jumped when the door opened and Norma/Perkins came out trying to get Vera Miles. I referenced this hub numerous times when watching the movie...still an awesome job.

    • Steve Lensman profile image

      Steve Lensman 6 years ago from London, England

      Thanks Jools99. appreciate you visiting my 'pictorial' hubs. The success of Hitchcock's Psycho was the rebirth of the horror genre, Frankenstein and Dracula didn't seem so frightening after Psycho. Man is the monster here and it could be anyone.

    • Jools99 profile image

      Jools99 6 years ago from North-East UK

      Another great hub. The photos are amazing and your use of photos is really great. Psycho is one of my dad's favourites but I never really warmed to it myself. I really like Hitchcock but prefer Dial M for Murder, Rear Window and my favourite is North By Northwest. Voted up.

    • Steve Lensman profile image

      Steve Lensman 6 years ago from London, England

      Thanks Greensleeves, appreciate the comment. And it's good to see Psycho on your 100 favourite movies list. :)

      Hitch had this to say about the violence in Psycho -

      "Now, this film had a horrible scene at the beginning with a girl being murdered in a shower. Well, I deliberately made that pretty rough, but as the film developed, I put less and less physical horror into it because I was leaving that in the mind of the audience and, as the film went on, there was less and less violence but the tension, in the mind of the viewer, was increased considerably. I was transferring it from the film into their minds. So, towards the end, I had no violence at all. But the audience by this time was screaming in agony... thank goodness!"

    • Greensleeves Hubs profile image

      Greensleeves Hubs 6 years ago from Essex, UK

      Thanks Steve. Psycho must I think be regarded as something of a ground breaking film in many ways. For example, Norman Bates was hardly Hollywood's typical idea of a villain - instead he's a rather mild, weak character, which perhaps makes his evil even more chillingly unexpected.

      As for Marion Crane, as you say, what a twist! Even today you don't expect the leading lady to be brutally killed half way through a movie. Back then, it must have really really shocked audiences who might have thought they were watching a fairly conventional thriller up until that point. After that murder, I guess all bets were off as to what might happen next.

      What I really like, though, is the build-up as Marion drives from her boss's office to the Bates Motel, full of tension and red herring characters, like the suspicious traffic cop, until finally Marion's tension is released with her arrival at the sanctury of the motel.

      It's a great film, and a fine review full of interesting facts.

    • Steve Lensman profile image

      Steve Lensman 6 years ago from London, England

      I did enjoy the first sequel but it doesn't compare with the original. Thanks for commenting!

    • vmartinezwilson profile image

      Vanessa Martinez Wilson 6 years ago from Vancouver, WA

      It is one of the best horror movies of all time without a doubt and all those remakes have the words, but not the magic. Or as the world calls him, Alfred Hitchcock.

    • Steve Lensman profile image

      Steve Lensman 6 years ago from London, England

      Thanks for commenting Rob, appreciate it.

      To Catch a Thief is on the list, I have a folder full of photos and posters waiting here.

      I had to laugh at Variety's Psycho review posted above, the critic mentions that he won't be giving away the ending to the film and than he blurts out the surprise twist in the next couple of sentences. :)

    • Robwrite profile image

      Rob 6 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY

      One of the greatest horror films of all time. There are few more iconic scenes than the classic shower scene. (Janet Leigh's daughter went on to star in another of the greatest horror films ever, "Halloween".) This is a tie for my favorite Hitchcock film, along with "To Catch a Thief".

      They should never have bothered with any of those awful sequels later on. None of them were worthy of following in the footsteps of Hitchcock.

      Great movie. I'm looking forward to more Hitch hubs.


    • Steve Lensman profile image

      Steve Lensman 6 years ago from London, England

      Thanks Bruce much appreciated amigo. I love that last shot of Bates merging into mother and the car being pulled out of the swamp, fantastic.

      Another favourite image on here is the close up of Perkins eye staring through the peephole, amazing shot.

      I can never decide which is my favourite Hitchcock movie, is it Psycho, North by Northwest, Rear Window? All brilliant.

    • Cogerson profile image

      Cogerson 6 years ago from Virginia

      First of all great hub....second of all some of the black and white photos you are attached are awesome in their detail and almost look like brand new photos..very impressive.

      I love that shot at the end with Perkins and the skull as well. Wow 800,000 cost and a 32 million dollar return...and I can only image the amount of money this movie has pulled in via VHS, DVD and Blu-Ray.

      Without a doubt the film's music is one of the most famous in movie history...glad to see you give Bernard Herrmann lots of credit. This hub has me thinking I should check out Psycho again before Halloween gets here...voted up and awesome.

    • Steve Lensman profile image

      Steve Lensman 6 years ago from London, England

      Thanks for commenting Flora. I thought if I were to do a hub on a Hitchcock movie this one would be the first. I added Hitchcock's name to the title because there will be more in this format, a lot more. But not just yet, I want to try different genre's and titles. :)

    • FloraBreenRobison profile image

      FloraBreenRobison 6 years ago

      This is the movie-along with The Birds-that made me avoid Hitch for a long time, because I thought he directed only horror films. I really wish there hadn't been those sequels made. Perkins had a hard enough time as it is trying to get jobs after this movie without cementing his horror image further in versions that weren't as artistic as this was. And he was such a talented actor. He was excellent in On the Beach.

      Enough has been written about Vera Miles being Hitch's new find and him wanting her to be in a string of films with him, like Tippi Hedrin. But I will state that she has more to do in The Wrong man to show her talents-more screen time, and a disturbed character convinced she brought on all their troubles-another film based on a true life event, and actually very close to the truth.

      Back to this film: I have read the novel by Robert Bloch and I can say with the things the killer was doing with the bodies once they were killed make the film look rated G even for 1960.

      I love Martin Balsam in everything he ever did.

      Not my favourite hitch film. Well made and I admire it greatly, but I have never bought my own copy of it. I watch it when it is on TV.