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Alfred Hitchcock: The Shape of Suspense

Saturday, April 20, 2013
8:30 p.m. Psycho
Alfred Hitchcock (U.S., 1960)



From its early scenes of self-censored sex in an anonymous hotel room, through Janet Leigh’s cold pursuit of hard cash, to a cop-car chase shown almost entirely in a small rear-view mirror, Psycho is a study in chilling frustration, effectively photographed in shades of gray. Ironically, things only warm up at the Bates Motel (a family establishment), where Anthony Perkins’s Norman Bates brings the first elements of vulnerable humanity. Norman is crazy (the others aren’t?), and his curious relationship with Mom is certainly one of the more intimate mother-son relationships around. Norman’s vulnerability is somehow contagious; it rubs off on Janet, whose attempt to freshen up in the shower is fruitless. “As for ‘psycho’ itself, that word, the name, the film turned it loose on the culture like a mad dog, and it shifted the Freudian age of potential treatment into one of licensed glee” (David Thomson).

—Judy Bloch

• Written by Joseph Stefano, based on a novel by Robert Bloch. Photographed by John L. Russell. With Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, Vera Miles, John Gavin. (109 mins, B&W, 35mm, From Universal)