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At the end of the 1950's Alfred Hitchcock saw all of these cheaply made B-movies coming out of Hollywood and came up with an idea: what if I made a movie on a shoe string budget that was actually good. After doing the big budget films Vertigo and North By Northwest, Hitchcock took his TV crew and started to shoot a film with the working title "Wimpy". And that's how Psycho, the masters greatest work, was born.
Psycho is about a young women who runs off with $40,000 from her employer to her boyfriend. It's a fairly simple story during the first 45 minutes until it's shattered in a way that takes the film down a totally different road becoming the story of the young inn keeper and his domineering mother.
Yes, I am actually writing this review as not to spoil the film for the three people who don't know what the big twist is.
Hitchcock steered away from the Vistavision films he had made for the previous decade to make a gritty kind of film- black and white, no Grant or Stewart, no matte paintings. This was like guerilla filmmaking for Hitchcock and it's one of the reasons that this film works so well. Another is the way that Hitchcock presents a cheaply made horror film to his audience. This isn't a film about werewolves or reanimated eastern Europeans. It could be about that deserted house down the road or the hotel near the ball park. It's centered in reality and makes you think that these could be your friends and neighbors. This was revolutionary in 1960. A tight production, it used every dollar to its fullest. It's like Hitchcock painted the Mona Lisa with a box of crayons. The only thing that Hitchcock carried over from his 1950's high end films was music by Bernard Herrmann, which probably was the final cog in the machine that is Psycho. Herrmann's score is legendary and improves a film that was perfection to begin with.
Other than John Gavin's semi-stiff performance, the rest of the cast give their roles great personality, especially Janet Leigh as the unlucky thief Marion Crane. Of course, the real stand out is Anthony Perkins. He becomes Norman Bates and plays the part to perfection. This is probably one of the best examples of acting ever captured on film. Perkins lives as Norman Bates. He conquers the role with all the mannerisms, such as knowing when to stutter the line and when to pour gasoline on the fire in his eyes. A legendary performance.
You can say that Hitchcock's career peaked with Psycho. He never produced the same kind of quality film again (excluding Frenzy) as they were always compared to Psycho. As the '60's wore on he continued to direct big budget films with big names (Connery, Newman, Julie Andrews) but none of them would come close to the greatness of that little production titled Wimpy.