The Legacy of “Psycho”


This is Part II of my “Psycho” write-up. Part I is here! Keep reading for some bonus musings, but please do not divulge the surprise ending.


  • “Psycho” was a megahit, and thanks to his distribution deal with Paramount, Hitchcock received the lion’s share of the profits. Following this film, Hitchcock jumped ship to the more supportive Universal Studios (they were also producing “Alfred Hitchcock Presents”), and spent the rest of his filmmaking career there, starting with 1963’s “The Birds”.
  • Sure, in hindsight “Psycho” was the apex of both Anthony Perkins and Janet Leigh’s filmographies, but they both worked steadily for the rest of their lives, and were always quick to acknowledge how much the film did for their careers.
  • “Psycho” is considered the first of the slasher sub-genre of horror. Slashers have maintained their popularity over the last 60 years, from immediate follow-ups like Polanski’s “Repulsion” to De Palma’s “Dressed to Kill” to whatever slasher films from the ‘70s and ‘80s are being remade today. Honorable mention to fellow NFR entry “Halloween”, starring Jamie Lee Curtis, daughter of Janet Leigh.
  • Shortly after Hitchock’s passing, Universal started cranking out sequels to “Psycho”. Despite a very game Anthony Perkins returning for all of them (and even directing “III”), the “Psycho” sequels are the textbook example of diminishing returns.
  • On a related note, Robert Bloch wrote a few sequels to the original novel that are in no way connected to the film sequels.
  • Perkins played a Norman Bates-type in a 1990 commercial for Oatmeal Crisp. That brings a whole new meaning to “Kid Tested, Mother Approved”.
  • The Bates Motel and house are still a staple of the Universal Studios Hollywood tour. The set on the Orlando tour were created specifically for the sequel-prequel “Psycho IV: The Beginning”.
  • There are countless books devoted to Hitchcock and the making of “Psycho”. One in particular, Stephen Rebello’s “Hitchcock and the Making of ‘Psycho’”, spawned the 2012 movie “Hitchcock” with Anthony Hopkins. Turns out even a fascinating story like Hitch putting his artistic integrity on the line to make “Psycho” can be bogged down in rudimentary Biopic 101 trappings.
  • IMDb lists over 1700 films and TV shows that have referenced, parodied, or featured “Psycho” over the years. Among the oddities: Martin Balsam spoofing his own performance in something called “The Silence of the Hams”.
  • Everyone has spoofed the shower scene, including this very forced homage from “High Anxiety!”.
  • The shower sequence is so iconic it has its own documentary! “78/52” spends 91 minutes dissecting the 45 second sequence. Now that’s a legacy!
  • You may recall the “Bates Motel” series on A&E a few years back, but did you know there was an unsuccessful “Bates Motel” pilot back in the ‘80s with Bud Cort? Oh, you did? You read the Wikipedia page too, huh? …I see.
  • “Psycho” has even inspired art exhibitions! Douglas Gordon’s “24 Hour Psycho” drastically slows down the film’s framerate and asks the question “What if ‘Psycho’ had been directed by Andy Warhol?”
  • “Chubby Checker, ‘Psycho’, Belgians in the Congo, we didn’t start the fire…”
  • Last, and definitely least, the 1998 shot-for-shot remake by Gus Van Sant. It hurts my soul so very, very much.

Other Other Notes

  • Janet Leigh is from my hometown of Stockton, California! Well, she’s not actually from there; she was born in Merced, but spent most of her childhood in Stockton. She even went to UOP…to study music and psychology. She didn’t get into acting until after she left Stockton. But hey, my hometown will take what it can get.
  • I was a bit tough on John Gavin’s performance last time, but I will say his work as Sam didn’t bother me as much now. He’s not great, but part of that is all the clunky dialogue Sam gets. That’s a lot of exposition for a character who really doesn’t matter in the long run. In fact, pretty much everyone’s expositional backstory can be categorized as “MacGuffin”.
  • Best exchange in the movie; “I declare!” “I don’t; that’s how I get to keep it.”
  • Apparently Norman is munching on candy corn throughout the movie. He truly is evil!
  • “You see, if it doesn’t jell it isn’t aspic, and this ain’t jelling.” Well you don’t hear that phrase a lot anymore. Or ever.
  • At one point when Lila is exploring the house, there’s a cut to a close-up of her face that made me jump. And I knew nothing was going to happen in that scene! When a movie you’ve seen before can make you shiver like that, you know you’ve got a classic.

Other Notes From the Original Post That I Felt Deserved Another Chance

  • This movie got the green light when Audrey Hepburn bowed out of Hitch’s proposed courtroom drama “No Bail for the Judge” due to pregnancy. So congratulations, Sean Hepburn Ferrer, you are indirectly responsible for one of the greatest American films ever!
  • That’s future “Mary Tyler Moore” star Ted Knight as the policeman outside of Norman’s cell. And here I thought it all started for him at a 5000-watt radio station in Fresno, California.

Further Viewing: Hitchcock was obsessed with preserving the secrets to “Psycho” for first-time viewers, and launched a unique publicity campaign for the movie. He barred Perkins and Leigh from making the talk-show rounds, crafted a trailer that has zero footage from the final film, banned critics from seeing the film until it had opened, and gave theaters explicit instructions not to permit audience members into the theater once the film began. He even produced a short film to tell theater owners how to enforce his policies.

Further Further Viewing: Norman Bates sings! An accomplished musical theater performer (even receiving a Tony nomination for Frank Loesser’s “Greenwillow”), Anthony Perkins got to show off his pipes to a national audience in 1966’s “Evening Primrose”, which plays like a lost “Twilight Zone” musical episode.

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