Movie of the Month: August 2011

On August 25, 1960, only 12 days after the director’s 61st birthday, Alfred Hitchcock released his last black and white film.  Psycho is not only his scariest film to date, but it was also his most controversial.  The movie shocked audiences for a number of reasons, the first of which was the infamous shower sequence.  After seeing the movie and recognizing how vulnerable people are in the shower, Janet Leigh reportedly took baths for the remainder of her life.  The power of Psycho doesn’t come from the music (although it may contribute).  The primary reason that we are still frightened by it today is because Hitchcock shows the characters being attacked in the moment when they are most defenseless.

Alfred Hitchcock first had the idea to make Psycho after seeing the success of William Castle’s House on Haunted Hill.  He wanted to make his own low-budget thriller.  It just so happened that it ended up being so good that it is arguably his best film.  The movie did not have the star power of his previous projects, North by Northwest and Vertigo.  Hitchcock instead used actors and actresses that required a smaller paycheck.  Each of the players ended up moving on to other notable films such as Breakfast at Tiffany’s, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, The Manchurian Candidate, and Bullitt.

The final shot of Psycho stands out in my mind as one of the most haunting that I have ever seen.  I won’t spoil the ending for those who have yet to see it, but I promise that it is one worth checking into.  In fact, the whole movie is a rewarding experience.  This is one of my three favorite Hitchcock films (the others being Vertigo and Rear Window), and without a doubt, my favorite horror film.  It is a masterpiece, low-budget or not, and it contains the most shocking thrills that the Master of Suspense ever gave us.  And if you don’t believe me, watch the trailer below: