starring Janet Leigh, Anthony Perkins, John Gavin, Vera Miles
screenplay by Joseph Stefano, based on the book by Robert Bloch
directed by Alfred Hitchcock
by Walter Chaw SPOILER WARNING IN EFFECT. I'd wager there aren't any films that have been more analyzed than Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, the expanse of scholarship spent on it a curious echo of its own curious psychobabble anti-climax. Find studies of this film as the wellspring for everything from feminist film theory to measured leaps into psychoanalytic theory, from technical dissertations to Citizen Kane-style forays into authorship pitting the contributions of Hitch against those of graphic designer Saul Bass. I've read pieces on composer Bernard Herrmann's unparalleled work in the picture; on the artwork used in the Bates Motel; on the ways that Hitch's own queasy obsessions--themselves on the verge of explosion with his collaborations with poor Tippi Hedren--bled into the production. I've read about how the film was shot with Hitch's television crew on a minimal budget and about the controversy surrounding, of all things, the depiction of a toilet for the first time since the pre-Code silent era in the United States. I even recall writing something about how this film, along with the other miraculous releases of 1960 (Peeping Tom, Eyes Without a Face, Breathless, The Thousand Eyes of Dr. Mabuse, Rocco and His Brothers, Shoot the Piano Player, The Stranglers of Bombay, and Nabuo Nakagawa's miraculous Jigoku), announced that cinema after this very particular point would never be the same. I've heard Janet Leigh's oft-repeated tale of how the flesh-coloured pasties on her breasts peeled away as they tried to get that shot of her hanging over the tub and how, damnit, she wasn't going to move even if it meant the crew in the rafters getting a good look at those world-class goodies. I know my favourite quote regarding the Sixties in film belongs to Ethan Mordden's indispensable Medium Cool, comparing the previous decade to the new day dawning like so: "Surrender to the Wild Ones yields a dissolution of society. Surrender to Mrs. Bates turns you psycho." I've heard the apocryphal tales, the legends; I've listened to Truffaut interview Hitch about the shoot. Hell, I've taught the picture a few times in my own limited way to classrooms still surprised to learn there are more things left to discover in Psycho.