Psycho – 50th Anniversary Edition, Blu-ray (1960/2010)

by | Oct 22, 2010 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews | 0 comments

Psycho – 50th Anniversary Edition, Blu-ray (1960/2010)

Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Starring: Janet Leigh, Anthony Perkins, Vera Miles
Music: Bernard Herrman
Studio: Universal 61112067 [10/19/10]
Video: 1.85:1 for 16:9 B&W 1080p HD
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 created from original mono track, DD 5.1 or mono
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
The Making of Psycho
Psycho Sound
In The Master’s Shadow: Hitchcock’s Legacy
Hitchcock / Truffaut Interview Excerpts
Newsreel Footage: The Release of Psycho
The Shower Scene: With and Without Music
The Shower Scene: Storyboards by Saul Bass
The Psycho Archives
Lobby Cards
Behind-the-Scenes Photographs
Production Photographs
Theatrical Trailer
Re-release Trailers
Feature Commentary with Stephen Rebello (author of "Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho")
Length: 1 hr. 49 min.
Rating: *****

Though it makes me feel very old, I’m delighted to have this masterpiece which started the whole disgusting slasher/horror movie trend finally in hi-def and in its original aspect ratio.  Even more interesting for me is the fact discussed in one of the extras – that the studio used some new French audio software that cleanly separated out the various elements of the original mono soundtrack and re-directed them to the six channels for a smashing 5.1 surround mix. It is a much-improved surround sound mix than ever heard before from mono originals – even from most stereo originals. The sounds of cars pass by left to right, rain sounds like it’s all around you, and Bernard Herrman’s string-orchestra score supports the film even better than it ever did before. The black and white images (Hitch felt it would be too gory in color) are sharp and crisp, with dramatic lighting. The many bonus features are fascinating. There’s one that is introduced by Hitch and then runs the length of the actual film, with various commentary about the making of it. (Such as the fact that this was the first film to show a toilet in a bathroom.)

OK, just in case someone reading this has never seen Psycho:  Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) has a secret relationship with a handsome divorced man who is saddled with a huge debt. In the real estate office where she works she is asked to take $40,000 in cash to a bank box, and she gets the mad idea of running off with it to take to her lover. Lost and tired in a driving rainstorm (didn’t know they had those in Arizona), she ends up at the Bates Motel.  Uh, oh.

The owner-manager is Norman (and you know who that is). He seems nice and helpful, fixing a sandwich to deliver to Marion and chatting with her.  But soon she is dispatched in a knifing-in-the-shower scene that goes rapidly but took Hitchcock a week to shoot. The extras thoroughly analyze the moleskin used to cover Leigh’s breasts and the shrieking strings of Herrman’s clever score. And the fact that no knife is ever shown entering any flesh. It was very unusual in that the heroine of the film was killed off halfway thru it!

Hitchcock’s attention to detail is fantastic. The looming face of the suspicious highway patrolman is shown in extreme and disturbing close up, and then it is repeated with the face of the private detective. The film is really not so much a horror film but a sort of study in suspense.  All the scenes and acting communicate a type of unease. Hitch made an effort to show as little as possible of Leigh’s body as Norman prepares to dispose of her. One of the elements that has been criticized in the film is the concluding scene in which a psychiatrist who has met with Norman explains his chilling mental state in which he has now become 100% his mother whom he killed a decade earlier. But it does a good job of explaining the background of much of what we have seen before. And the final “wouldn’t hurt a fly” scene with Norman secures his fame as one of the greatest film actors ever.

 — John Sunier

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