“The American Film Institute’s list of the 100 Greatest Movies was selected by AFI’s blue-ribbon panel of more than 1,500 leaders of the American movie community to commemorate 100 Years of Movies”. Every weekend(ish) during 2015, I’ll review two(ish), counting them down from 100 to 1.
“Mother! Oh God, mother! Blood! Blood!”
When it comes to directors famous for suspense, the most famous would have to be Alfred Hitchcock. When it comes to on screen murders, the most famous would have to be Janet Leigh in the shower. When it comes to the most famous pieces of music associated with a movie. The most famous would have to be Jaws. But a close second would be the screaming strings in the Janet Leigh shower murder scene. When it comes to the most famous twists and reveals, the identity of Janet Leigh shower killer is right up there. I guess what l’m saying is, based purely on legacy alone, Psycho deserves every bit of praise it has ever received. It also doesn’t hurt that Psycho is one of the tightest, most efficient and well told suspense thrillers of all time.
After embezzling $40,000 from her boss, Marion Crane (Leigh) hits the road. Woken up on the side of the road by a highway cop, her paranoia leads Marion to buying a new car and taking to the road once more. Basically, she’s doing the kinds of things that will make her stand out and be remembered, if anyone comes asking questions later. During a bad storm, she loses the highway and ends up on a small, back road in the middle of nowhere. A small, back road where she finds the Bates Motel.
Thinking it’s just the respite she needs from the heavy rain and another night sleeping her car, Marion decides to stay the night. Checked in by the awkward Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins), Marion wants nothing more than to get to bed so she can wake up refreshed and leave in the morning. But the lonely Norman guilts her into having dinner with him in the main house. When he goes to prepare, Marion hears Norman having a loud argument with his mother. Things are not quite right at the Bates Motel.
I don’t think I need to go on much more about the plot of Psycho. Even if you’ve never seen it, chances are you know what happens to Marion and you know all about Mrs Bates. And if you don’t know any of that stuff, stop reading this, clear the next two hours and watch Psycho right now. I don’t know how you’ve managed to avoid spoilers of his movie your entire life, but don’t risk it being ruined now. Watch this movie!
But even if you have seen it before, or even if you haven’t but know the twists, Psycho is still worth a watch or re-watch. Like I’ve said before, if a movie is only as good as its twist, it’s not a very good movie. And Psycho is so much more than its twists, shocks and reveals. Norman Bates is a compellingly creepy character long before anything creepy happens. Marion is tragic and draws you in long before any tragedies befall her. And there are several amazing main characters I haven’t even mention yet because the unique structure of this movie means it can introduce main characters in the second and third acts, and they don’t feel lazily tacked on.
Psycho is one of the most famous suspense movies of all time, containing one of the most famous on screen murders, set to one of the most famous scores of all time. And it was made by the most famous suspense and thriller director of all time. But all of those are secondary reasons to watch Psycho. The real reason to watch Psycho is one of the tightest, most efficient and well told suspense thrillers of all time.