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DVD Review

Pack shot

Psycho (1960)


Starring: Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, Vera Miles and John Gavin
Universal Classic Cinema
RRP: £9.99
Certificate: 15
Available 05 May 2008

A woman, disillusioned with both her professional and private life, is entrusted by her employer to bank $40,000. Instead, she decides to keep the cash and use it to open a new chapter in her life. Hitting the open road, she drives for three days before pulling into a motel and requesting a room. The Bates motel is surprising empty. It is run by the strangely aloof but sometimes over-enthusiastic Norman Bates, aided by his vociferous and demanding mother. Too tired to read the early signs, the woman stays. She is soon to suffer the dire consequences of her mistake...

Everyone knows that Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho is an all-time classic - and everyone is right. It unknowingly, I think, created a new horror genre, the slasher movie. But strictly speaking Psycho is not so much a horror as a thriller. It breaks all the moulds of standard convention. The most unheard of move at that time was to kill-off the star in the first half of the film. Movie-goers were quite naturally horrified. However, anyone who had taken the time to read the novel by Robert Bloch, upon which the film was based, would have known what was coming.

Psycho is dripping in style from start to finish, and has thankfully failed to age, except in terms of fashion and attitudes.

There is a direct link between this timeless classic and another granddaddy of the genre, John Carpenter's Halloween (which is also more about style than blood and violence). That connection is Janet Leigh (star of Psycho) and her daughter Jamie Lee Curtis (who debuted in the latter film).

Anthony Perkins is extremely powerful in his role as Norman Bates. This is a film which hinges on more than a tight script and intelligent direction; without the unbalanced intensity of Perkins' characterisation and acting prowess this could so easily have been reduced to derisible B-movie status.

There was a stilted attempt to resurrect Psycho as a franchise series of films on the back of the 1980s slasher explosion, but none of them shared the edginess of the original. What can I say but, everyone needs this DVD in their collection, particularly followers of suspense thrillers and classic horror.


Ty Power