“My suspense work comes out of creating nightmares for the audience. And I play with an audience. I make them gasp and surprise them and shock them.” – Alfred Hitchcock. If you haven’t watched the cult classic horror movie, Psycho; you can’t consider yourself to be a movie buff! Disturbing and equally terrifying, Psycho managed to put everyone on tender hooks. The 1960s horror genre was just beginning to take root, when Alfred Hitchcock stepped in with Psycho. He totally smashed the preconceived ideas, the audience had about horror thrillers.
Psycho is the most discussed, dissected, theorised and studied movie ever to be focussed on. Hitchcock was so paranoid of getting the final suspense disclosed, that he swore the crew members to secrecy. He even went to the extent of not allowing audience to enter the theatres after the movie started screening. Life size cut outs of him pointing to his watch were placed outside theatres, informing them that they should watch the film from starting or else not watch it at all.
1. Hitchcock’s thrilling horror movie
The honour for his best horror movie till date goes to the Psycho movie. Hitchcock made this movie in B/W because he didn’t want the audience to be disturbed by the actress Janet Leigh’s blood flowing down the drain. It was also his last movie in B/W.
2. The book based movie had real life connections
The movie is based on the novel written by Robert Bloch. It is said that he was inspired by Ed Gein, as serial killer of the 1950s Wisconsin serial killer. It is said that Bloch lived within 40 miles from where Gein murdered his victims.
It is rumoured that Alfred Hitchcock bought the book rights from the author for a meagre $9000. He even supposedly bought all the books available prior to the release of the film, to retain the suspense of the movie.
3. Terrifying shower scene
A popular rumour was that the actress Janet Leigh was splashed with ice cold water by Hitchcock, to make her screams realistic. She confirmed in her memoir that, throughout the 7 days of shooting, the crew used warm water for the scene to keep her comfortable. The red blood shown in the movie was actually chocolate syrup.
4. Iconic background score gets last minute addition
Another fact, which you’ll find interesting, is that the scene had 72 cuts and lasts about 45 seconds. Hitchcock wanted to direct the shower scene in silence with no background score. Thankfully for us, the music director Bernard Herrmann went ahead and composed the aptly named track “Screaming Violins”. Hitchcock was so impressed that he included the soundtrack, and it went on to become the most acclaimed music work of all times.
5. Fruits bear the brunt of Hitchcock’s cinematic authenticity
In order to get the right sound for the stabbings sequence, Hitchcock had his prop man Bob Bone get a variety of melons and in turn stab them while he closed his eyes listening to it. It was finally “Casaba” which won the stabbing spree from among watermelons, cantaloupes and honeydews.
6. Focus on eyes gets Hitchcock’s attention
Alfred Hitchcock ruffled the feathers of many ophthalmologists, who insisted that the close zoom of Janet’s face after being murdered, showed her eyes as contracted. It should have been dilated. The perfectionist and brilliant technician that he was, Hitchcock used eye drops in all his future films to shows dilated eyes.
7. The Birds references
There are many scenes which have birds referenced. Marion Crane, who name has the cranes name, is told by Norman Bates, that she also eats like a bird. He is also shown to have a bird stuffing hobby in the movie. It might seem like a premonition, that Hitchcock’s next movie was titled “The Bird”.
8. Toilet scene works up Censor board
It was the first time that a flushing toilet was shown in an American movie. Just before that murderous shower scene, Janet Leigh is shown tearing up a letter and flushing it down the toilet.
9. Life imitates art for body double
Myra Jones, who was the body double for Janet Leigh during the shower scenes, was murdered by a mentally disturbed man in 1988. She was stabbed to death. It was a case of life imitating art.
10. Psycho loses out on the Oscar
The irony of all times, the Psycho movie didn’t win one single Oscar. It garnered 4 Oscar nominations for Best Director, Best Supporting Actress (Leigh), Best Black-and-White Production Design, and Best Black-and-White Cinematography. Inspite of all its commercial and critical success, Psycho didn’t win a single Oscar.
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