#14 Psycho

“I think I must have one of those faces you can’t help believing.”
Norman Bates

Alfred Hitchcock’s classic thriller Psycho is a perfect example of what a modest budget, an intriguing story, and a brilliant director can do. Everything about this film is near perfect, and Hitchcock’s dedication to it is amazing.

Psycho focuses on quite the cast of characters. The film opens with Marion Crane (Janet Leigh), an office worker who has stolen 40,000 dollars from her boss and is now forced to flee from Arizona to Phoenix. En route a storm causes Marion to momentarily put a halt to her journey. She uses this opportunity to pull off the main highway and take up lodging at the Bates Motel. And it is at the Bates Motel that that Marion meets Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins).

Bates could most easily be described as a recluse from society. Running a motel just off the highway, Norman does not have the opportunity to interact with anyone on a regular basis. Anyone that is, except his mother, and the psychological result this has on him is… complex.

Not much else can be said about the plot of this movie other than that. Not that there isn’t anymore to say, I just feel that if I did Hitchcock himself may come back to life and strangle me. After all, that is what is so special about this film, the fact that absolutely nothing is revealed until the moment it happens.

Hitchcock was meticulous in every aspect of this film. Small details, like what colour Janet Leigh’s bra was (white to denote mischief and black to imply evil), to where her clothes were bought (in an attempt to add believability the character was dressed in “off the rack” clothing), demonstrate just how important every frame was to Hitchcock. And the result of this dedication was brilliance.

Hitchcock creates an atmosphere in this film that is unlike any other thriller made to date (at least as far as I have seen). One scene in particular (in which Hitchcock mounted a 50mm lens on a 30mm camera), when Norman’s sense of voyeurism is supposed to mirror our own, is one of the most realistic and life like shots I have ever seen on film.

If this film were nothing more than an exercise in near perfect direction it would be worth a watch, but it is so much more than just that. The psychological complexity of Norman Bates is astounding, the dialogue is sharp, and the end… well, lets just say you will wish that all your friends had watched this movie with you so you could discuss the ending with them.

At first glance Psycho would appear to be a common fifties black and white b-grade slasher flic. Its budget was only 800,000 dollars, and most of the actors, with the exception of Janet Leigh, were relatively unknown when the film was made. But this is not what Psycho is. Psycho is a work of Art on nearly every level. It took the genre, and created a yard stick which all future thrillers would be judged by.

Sometimes a piece of art is so magnificent it does not simply require appreciation, it demands adulation. This picture, is one of those pieces.


#9 Vertigo

Only one is a wanderer; two together are always going somewhere.

It has been said that Vertigo is Hitchcock’s masterpiece, and I couldn’t agree more. Every movie that Hitchcock does is a masterpiece, and from a directorial standpoint there is nothing about this film that is more exceptional than any of his others, where this film succeeds above Hitchcock’s others is its story. Unlike certain films of his, this film’s greatness does not depend on its twist (take notes Syamalan), instead, the film is driven by realistic characters that beg for sympathy.

The film is, at times, romantic, sad, and suspenseful, and sometimes it is all three simultaneously. James Stewart is captivating as the lead, and Kim Novak plays her part, and all it’s various stages, to near perfection. And of course, the directing was amazing.

Hitchcock has a creative way of shooting every scene in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable. Different camera angles, and awkwardly placed props put you on edge in virtually every scene. Hitchcock’s dedication to the visual aspects of this film was so great that he spent a week filming a scene that only took about 6 seconds of screen time, just so that he could get the lighting right.

Everything about this film works so well. The story is intriguing, the dialogue is amazing, and like I said before, the acting and directing are top notch. The film’s only flaw is its first twenty minutes. It plays out a little slow, but even this is necessary to properly set the mood of the film.

Ultimately, this film should be seen by everyone. It is considered the greatest mystery of all time, and for good reason. My only question is, why did Psycho finish five places below this film? You’ll get to find out in five days.