Posts tagged ‘Movies’

March 2, 2011


"Shower Power"

Image by brizzle born and bred via Flickr

I think it’s hard to realise the magnitude of Hitchcock’s achievement with this film with the handicap of hindsight; I wish I could somehow erase all knowledge of it from my mind so I could view as if for the first time: I think only then could I appreciate just how revolutionary & subversive this film really is.

It seems Hitchcock deliberately set out to change the film-going habits of the Western world, & it also seems that he succeeded. Apparently when it was made (1960) film-goers were in the habit of wandering in & out of films at the theatre irrespective of the film’s starting & finishing times. Trailers for ‘Psycho’ blazed the message: “Make sure you watch this film from the beginning”. Those who heeded this advice could have been forgiven for wondering why: a young woman (Janet Leigh) steals a large sum of money from a business partner of her employer. On the road, she stops at the Bates Motel in order to divert attention from a suspicious cop, & with her boyfriend, her sister & a private detective also on her trail. The proprietor is one Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) who, although a little edgy, seems basically OK – apart from a slight maternal fixation. What’s the big deal, they might ask – psychological drama, girl on the run etc. etc.: so far, so Hitchcock. After chatting with Bates for a while she retires to her room for a shower, which in hindsight was probably not such a good idea…

In an age when Hollywood was still largely dominated by the star system, half an hour into the movie Hitchcock takes his main lead – an attractive, curvaceous blonde – & kills her off, & with a savagery rarely portrayed on the big screen. He then takes what seemed like a fairly conventional movie & turns it on it’s head. No longer is the lead character an attractive yet vulnerable young woman on the run, it is now a twitchy nervous antithesis of a Hollywood or even a Hitchcockian leading man (i.e. Cary Grant, James Stewart, Gregory Peck); no longer is the film a run-of-the-mill crime thriller, it is now a journey into the mind of a madman.

Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates in Psycho

Image via Wikipedia

I have heard that Hitchcock himself regarded this film as a comedy, & although I’ve never seen it this way myself I wonder if this is where for him the humour lies: the delight of taking accepted Hollywood movie conventions, turning them upside-down & inside-out & yet still producing a hugely successful blockbuster by mangling all the rules. I’m sure it made him laugh anyway!

Mention has to be made of Anthony Perkins’ portrayal of Norman Bates – he is simply magnificent & puts in one of cinema’s greatest performances. His representation of an unhinged madman masquerading as normal is brilliantly done & totally believable. His desperate attempts at normal behaviour & conversation are overlaid with a nervy touchiness; & his twitchy, constantly changing facial expressions make it clear before you know anything more about him that you’re looking at a man torn with internal conflict. He delivers lines such as ‘Mother isn’t quite herself today’ with a superb drollness that is somehow also loaded with hidden meaning, & in hindsight also very funny. The end scene where we finally see Norman in his true colours done by anyone else would just look silly (i.e. the recent remake) but he makes it extremely chilling – for me one of cinema’s great scenes.

The directorial craftmanship is equally superb: who else but Hitchcock could come up with anything like the famous shower scene? Shot over 7 days using 70 different camera set-ups for a minute or so of a naked girl being stabbed in a shower – & yet not showing any nudity that would have upset the censors of the time, or even showing the knife plunging into her flesh, such was the attention to detail. In my opinion it probably still is the greatest cinematic sequence ever made.


Image by Dave & Bry via Flickr

And how can I do a review of ‘Psycho’ without mentioning the score? Definitely one of the best ever, it helps create a mood of tension throughout, & complements the direction & cinematography beautifully. Certainly the shower scene wouldn’t be anywhere near as effective without those high-pitched staccato violins mimicking screams & the stabbing knife, then the plunging doom-laden bass strings.

The scripting, the cinematography, the acting, the music, the sets, but particularly its subversive delight in turning conventionality on its head to stunning effect make this film a masterpiece by any standards, a description that still applies 50 years later & I think will do for generations to come.

This review was originally on this blog in the Film Reviews page; I’ve posted & prettified it here  for Metal Mummy’s Movie Meme. The theme this week is “Black & White”, so why not hop over & take a look at the other entires (popcorn not included)

March 8, 2009

Musactors Union

Inspired by @jupitusphillip on twitter

There’s been a warp in the space-time continuum, resulting a melding together of actors & musicians. Here’s some of what we’ve been left with:

George Michael Douglas: I Can’t Make You Love Mimi Rogers
Sigur Ross Kemp: Vidrar the River Quai
Tony ‘Smokey’ Robinson & The Miracles of Archeology: You’ve Really Got a
Hold on My Shovel
Seasick Steve Buscemi: My Donny Darko
Don Estelle: American Boy Werewolf in London (aka It Ain’t Half Hot on the
Jean-Claude Vangelis: Chariots of Cyborg
Bob Dylan Moran: Black on Black Books
Radio TonyHead: Straight to Videotape (sorry)
Thin Lizzy Taylor: The Boyo’s Back in Town
The Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf
Pop Will Wheaton Itself: Everything’s Cool (in the Vacuum of Space)
Elton John Wayne: Goodbye Yellow Ribbon Road
John Lee Marvin Hooker: Whiskey & the Dirty Dozen Wimmin (aka Boom Boom)

From EmmaRhoyds

Dave, Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Trisha Goddard
Neil Diamonds are Forever
Last Tango in Paris Hilton

Musactors suggested by kenarmstrong1

The Sex Piss Tilda Swintons – Anarchy in Narnia
The George Lazen Bee Gees – On Her Majesty’s Saturday Night Fever
Deep Perp Phill Jupitus – Smoking Room on the Water
Bonzo Dog the Bounty Hunter Doo-Dah Band – I’m the Urban Spaceman (2001
Odyssey remix)
Sean Conner-Ry Cooder – From Paris, Russia With Love
Credence Clearwater ReviVal Kilmer – Bad MIG Rising
R.E.M. Night Shyamalan – Signy Happy People

Soylent Al Green
Muddy Julie Walters – Educating My Mojo
Dick Van Halen – The Grapes of David Lee Roth
The Pegg Shop Boys – Go West, Fat Boy, Go West
Kathleen Turner Overdrive – You Ain’t Seen Naked in New York Yet
And You Will Know Us by the Trail of ourTed Danson – Save Private Ryan
& the Rest Will Follow
Fiennes Young Cannibals – The Red Dragon Drives Me Crazy
Nicholas Parsons Project – I Wouldn’t Want to be Like You in Just a Minute

Thanks to twitterers RandHobart, LucasBlack, snedwan, vatimatt, MrLEdge, NickPeters, davidpwatts, Call123 for the musactors.

Feel free to add your own here.