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Checking In: An Extended Stay at the Bates Motel

Psycho: A Love Letter

by Charles Beall

I just want to be your friend!

How do you review Psycho?

If you are any kind of film lover, you have seen it.  There isn’t any basis of film criticism, film admiration, or film anything where Psycho is not part of our subconscious.  Psycho is as much American art as any painting from the hand of an American artist (yes, Hitchcock was British, but he was both a British and American filmmaker).

In his fantastic book, Alfred Hitchcock and the making of ‘Psycho’, author Stephen Rebello writes that the “working-stiffs milieu, two shocking murders, a twist finale peppered with transvestism, incest, and necrophilia [were] catnip to a man who fancied himself a connoisseur of abnormal psychology;” indeed, the plight of the characters is what drew Hitch to make Robert Bloch’s novel into a film.  After all, isn’t it the characters that we remember most from this landmark film?  Marion, Norman, “Mother,” and indeed, the Bates Motel and the house on the hill- these characters haunt our psyche (or at least mine).

Psycho is one of my all-time favorite films for many reasons.  I remember my first time (don’t we all?) seeing this film.  It was on AMC (when they actually showed good movies, but before they made the awesomeness that is Mad Men and Breaking Bad) and I was skeptical going into it.  I was a budding Hitchcock fan, the only movies of his I had seen were The Birds and Vertigo (needless to say, at the time, I wasn’t a fan of the latter) and I had read that Psycho was his masterpiece.  I sat down, eagerly awaiting the start of the film.  Hitch had me at the titles.

We know how the story progresses, but to sum it all up, Psycho was originally Marion’s story, not Norman’s.  The brilliance of the switcheroo is what has had me hooked for so many years.  In a way, I became obsessed with Norman Bates- what an amazing character!  But really, he is two characters warring inside the mind, and in the end, the “dominant” one prevails.

This war is brilliant portrayed by Anthony Perkins, who gives one of the greatest performances ever captured on celluloid.  We see a sympathetic, fidgety young man who we feel pity for, even though we know he is a psychopath.  But how did he get that way?  Is he a good person corrupted by a force so overwhelmingly evil that there is nothing he can do to stop it?  This week, I will be reviewing the Psycho film series while making a special emphasis on Norman Bates and his evolution to sanity (or insanity?).

The question I placed before you at the beginning is indeed rhetorical.  How do you review Psycho?  I know I can’t because it has all been said before.  But this week you will find out my love and admiration for the Psycho series and this amazing character of both film and American folklore, Norman Bates.

Psycho grade: A+ (duh)

Tomorrow,  it’s 22 years later, and Norman Bates is coming home…