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 Post subject: Psycho-babble
PostPosted: Fri Jul 25, 2008 6:02 pm 
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I recently watched the Michael Epstein documentary Hitchcock, Selznick and the End of Hollywood again and it discusses Hitch's negative and suspicious view of psychoanalysis due to the script intervention of Seznick's own shrink on Spellbound. The exact quote eludes me at the moment, but apparently he had a good one-liner for her to the effect that (tonally: c'mon) it's not fact, it's just a movie so the psychiatric couch to screen correlation doesn't need to be exact, again fighting with her also over the sexual imagery in Dali's dream sequence (she wanted to tone it down and he didn't). Personally, I see the immature psycho-babble at the end of Psycho similarly in the sense I believe he's taking the piss out of 'conventional' textbook psychiatry that seems inadequate at best in dealing with the modern psycho at least at the time the film was made (although Norman is not exactly Heath Ledger as the anarchist Joker). As the documentary also notes, Hitchcock would not exactly have been an ideal psychiatric patient either. This is not to say his films aren't filled with psychology and his own brand of brilliant psychoanalysis (Vertigo, Marnie, etc), but I don't think Hitch had any love for the neat answers we get at the end of Psycho. To embrace psychological drama is not the same as embracing the psychiatric textbook on the subject. It all feels like a sly punchline to me.


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PostPosted: Sat Jul 26, 2008 12:24 am 

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Quote:
The last image, of the car withdrawing from the dark depths of the bog, returns us to Marion, to ourselves, and to the idea of psychological liberty.

Not at all. The last image is a slap in the face, knocking away forever any sense of complacency we might still be harboring after the psychiatrist's facile explanations.


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 28, 2010 3:52 pm 
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Got Universal's new "Psycho" Blu-ray as a Christmas gift from a client at the place I work for. This dude loves "Psycho," it's his favorite movie of all time and claims its the most irony-free and realistic (!) portrayal of dog-eat-dog human life on this planet... OK! I had only seen "Psycho" two or three times before, the last time several years ago on VHS (mid-90's). Watching it twice in a row in high-def (the second time with the commentary track on) "Psycho" blew my mind, and not just because of John Russell's tight Oscar-nominated B&W photography looking mighty pretty on my 47" 1080p LCD. Yes, the exposition-spewing psychiatrist at the end really blows (though it cracked me up that Lila Crane takes the news that her sister is dead so well). If the commentary is to be believed though, Simon Oakland's explanation of what had taken place in the movie is what kept the censors from going to town, scissors at the ready, and butchering all the now-classic scenes/moments the movie is remembered for. As much as Oakland's psychiatrist grinds the movie to a halt before the final scene (which is a knock-out; Mrs. Bates' voice-over is just so freaking ice-cold chilly AND funny!) it's a nuisance worth living with since it let the rest of "Psycho" pass untouched. What stood out for me watching "Psycho" at my 37 years of age is the dark gallows humor throughout. The first 25 minutes are just one pathetic screw-up after another (by Marion, mother nature, fate, etc.) not-so-gently steering guilt-ridden Janet Leigh into the unsuspecting arms of Perkins' Norman Bates. Are the voices that Marion hears as she's driving (the cop talking to the car dealer, the boss talking to the secretary, etc.) figments of her paranoid imagination or actual conversations taking place? I know Hitch intended these inner-voices to be both real and imagined (per the Blu-ray's bonus features) but for me "Psycho" works better if these are imagined made-up figments of Marion's non-criminal mind getting the better of her. The conversation between Norman and Marion is both a dance of delicacy and raw repressed sexuality. Was Marion 'lying' (which, ironically, was the actual truth) about her last name the trigger that set Norman off? Or was Marion doomed the moment she pulled into the Bates Motel? Regardless, even after seeing the countless spoofs and knowing THE SCENE from memory, to see it within the context of what comes before and after it... Hitch having the balls to dispatch the leading lady when she's made the decision to turn her life around... with just 15 miles to go between her and safety... just fucking WOW! The movie deflates and inflates through its second half depending on whether we're watching Perkins or John Gavin-Vera Miles (she's OK but John seems to have stepped out from the John Agar school of mannequin acting: pretty surface, nothing going inside) with Arbegast somewhere in-between. I was surprised at how easy Hitch switches audience sympathy from Marion to Norman when the latter gets rid of the former's remains. "Dexter" might be the closest we have now to a continuation of the themes of rooting for the psychopath that Hitchcock started with "Psycho," but it's Perkins' grounded performance that keeps us liking the guy even though we (unlike the audience from '60) already know what the deal is with Mrs. Bates. BTW, the hole-shaped-like-a-body pattern in the bed of Mrs. Bates' bedroom.... if it is what I think it is... EEEEEEUUUUU!

Regardless, Bernard Herrman's score is flat-out incredible (though I admit to personally liking the rip-off score from "Re-Animator" a little bit better) and Saul Bass' opening titles/little visual tricks enhance the nightmare-happening-in-reality feel. Like "The Usual Suspects" this is a movie that is still fun to watch despite everyone knowing the plot twists. And, for a guy that watches regular doses of "Law & Order" and "Dexter," it's so startling to go back to a time in movies when blood evidence could be wiped away with a bucket & mop and D-N-A were just three randomly put-together alphabet letters. I've only seen "Psycho II & III" once about 18-20 years (when WPIX-11 here in NYC used to show them regularly on weekend afternoons) and don't remember much about them other than they were better than expected. Time maybe for a second look at the whole "Psycho" franchise minus the Van Sant remake (not interested).


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 28, 2010 5:50 pm 
Dot Com Dom
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Watching this film with a class of students flash-immersed this semester in classical Hollywood who had no idea what was coming was one of the best experiences you could ever hope for as a film teacher-- not just the ending, but since they'd been exposed to the conventions of the studio system, they were flabbergasted when Leigh bought it. And in a bit of insight into how film conventions of today flavor this generation's experience with the classics, several students thought that the skeleton at the end was going to be a reveal that Mother was a zombie!


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 29, 2010 12:07 am 
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Get out of town! I don't know what's more depressing: that a class full of young people had no idea Janet Leigh dies early in "Psycho" or that they would think Mrs. Bates is coming back to life. Today I bought the Universal three-pack DVD with "Psycho II," "Psycho III" and "Psycho IV: The Beginning." I know Hitch's original is untouchable but, if my memories are half-right, the sequels aren't bad movies (although they offer diminishing returns the further along one goes). Just the fact that Joseph Steffano came back to write the script for "Psycho IV" and that it stars Henry fucking Thomas as young Norman Bates has me intrigued.


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 29, 2010 12:42 am 
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I don't find Domino's post depressing; there's a lot to envy in a group of people who can watch Psycho for the first time without knowing all of its twists beforehand.

Side note: when Rear Window was shown to my first year film class, I was nonplussed to discover that pretty much everyone was shocked to learn that Thorwald actually was a murderer. Seems everyone remembered that Simpsons parody and assumed everything would turn out to be an improbable series of harmless coincidences just like in the show. I'm still not sure if that helped or hindered their experience.


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 29, 2010 12:49 am 
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That reminds me of when I first saw Psycho I thought the shower scene meant rain shower so I didn't expect anything shocking after she checks in. I really do wish I could have seen all iconic movies like that, though the ending to The Birds was much more shocking to me for some reason.


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 29, 2010 12:55 am 
Dot Com Dom
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Mr Sausage wrote:
Side note: when Rear Window was shown to my first year film class, I was nonplussed to discover that pretty much everyone was shocked to learn that Thorwald actually was a murderer. Seems everyone remembered that Simpsons parody and assumed everything would turn out to be an improbable series of harmless coincidences just like in the show. I'm still not sure if that helped or hindered their experience.

This sort of thing happens a lot with my students. After several films, the kids will go "Now I see where Family Guy got that from" and as loathe as I am to praise Family Guy, it goes a long way toward legitimizing the contemporary value of older films for these students


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 29, 2010 9:44 am 
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We have to remember how we first discovered these classic films. It's wonderful if we have parents to introduce us to this great history (as a parent myself, that's what I've tried to do!), but more-than-likely we stumbled upon these films ourselves. My parents were avid moviegoers, but not particularly interested in classic/silent/foreign cinema. I was fascinated by films from an early age and began reading about them at every opportunity. PSYCHO was one I read about for years before actually seeing it (and I saw excerpts from it before seeing the complete film), so I wish I could have experienced it without knowing too much about it.

What matters most is how students respond to these films once they see them. Are they dismissive? Or are they learning to love this stuff the way we did?

Nothing wrong with picking up on a pop culture film reference after the fact. When I first saw Tarkovsky's THE SACRIFICE about five years ago, I thought "Ah-ha, so that's where the opening shot of R.E.M.'s "Losing My Religion" video came from!"


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 29, 2010 10:53 am 
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My first exposure to "Psycho" (and Hitch's "The Birds" too) was one of those "That's Entertainment!"-type compilation movies that came out in the 70's/early 80's that was all about death and violence (gathered from news footage and random movie scenes). My uncle took me to see this in El Salvador when I was a little kid even though I was too young for this type of context-less compilation. The three clips I remember clearly were the bird attack from Hitch's "The Birds," some pit crew guy getting hit & spun in the air as he crossed the track by a racing car that didn't slow down (death caught on camera!) and the shower scene from "Psycho." My mom was mad at my uncle because, after what I saw at that movie theater, I refused to take showers for several days (and when I started taking them I would do it only with the bathroom door and shower curtain wide open). :)


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 29, 2010 5:54 pm 
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domino harvey wrote:
Watching this film with a class of students flash-immersed this semester in classical Hollywood who had no idea what was coming was one of the best experiences you could ever hope for as a film teacher-- not just the ending, but since they'd been exposed to the conventions of the studio system, they were flabbergasted when Leigh bought it. And in a bit of insight into how film conventions of today flavor this generation's experience with the classics, several students thought that the skeleton at the end was going to be a reveal that Mother was a zombie!

I think the fact that those students had no idea what to expect is terrific! I first saw Psycho when I was a sophomore in high school, not long after the remake came out. I was well aware of the shower scene (I think I actually caught the beginning of one of the sequels on TV one time, which featured the original shower scene in its entirety), but I had no idea that Norman was the killer. I was never a fan of slasher movies as a kid, and I guess I wasn't hip to the influence and twists that Psycho had inspired over the years, so I was thoroughly convinced that it was Mother who was doing all the killings. When Vera Miles went down to the fruit cellar, I found myself yelling at the screen, "Get out of there! She's gonna murder you!" When the chair spun around and that leering skull head appeared, I just about peed my pants!


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 30, 2010 4:17 am 

Joined: Wed Sep 26, 2007 7:56 am
I wish I didn't know about the disposal of Crane before going in. Also, the zombie thing is hilarious. That's just... wow. Imagine showing your class Citizen Kane and the class believes that "Rosebud" is Kane's superhero alter ego.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 30, 2010 4:26 am 
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Grand Illusion wrote:
"Rosebud" is Kane's superhero alter ego.

I really want to see that movie now. Thanks a lot I won't be happy now unless the next Batman movie is also a CK remake.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 30, 2010 4:29 am 

Joined: Wed Sep 26, 2007 7:56 am
knives wrote:
Grand Illusion wrote:
"Rosebud" is Kane's superhero alter ego.

I really want to see that movie now. Thanks a lot I won't be happy now unless the next Batman movie is also a CK remake.


Citizen Wayne?


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 30, 2010 5:49 am 
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knives wrote:
Grand Illusion wrote:
"Rosebud" is Kane's superhero alter ego.

I really want to see that movie now. Thanks a lot I won't be happy now unless the next Batman movie is also a CK remake.

My film class was satisfied knowing that "Rosebud" was Marion Davies' :-$


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 30, 2010 8:09 am 
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Feego wrote:
My film class was satisfied knowing that "Rosebud" was Marion Davies' :-$

Or rather, a particular part of Marion Davies.


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 Post subject: Re:
PostPosted: Tue Aug 23, 2011 7:57 am 
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Narshty wrote:
(In the meantime, how about the terrific Psycho II, one of the most enjoyable and underrated films of the 80s?)

I watched PSYCHO II tonight, and Narshty nails it with his adjectives here. Genuinely captivating, with Richard Franklin (whose ROAD GAMES I clearly need to check out now, on the basis of this) directing the fuck out of it, and a crafty, nuanced script that keeps you guessing on multiple levels - every time you think you've outsmarted the film, it reveals what you think might have been the big reveal 2 or 3 minutes later.

I actually almost watched it twice in a row (something I never do!), but instead decided to take a look at PSYCHO III. Which is ... okay, and amiably insane at points (the ice cube eating scene!) but nowhere near the kind of special that PSYCHO II is. Watching just the first (new) scene in the courtroom a second time, though, becomes genius when you know how the plot unfolds.

As a friend of mine said, "The only reason PSYCHO II isn't universally recognized as a great film is that it's called PSYCHO II."

(And, of course, I'm probably contributing to its stepchild-like status by not creating its own thread.)


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 Post subject: Re: Re:
PostPosted: Tue Aug 23, 2011 9:10 am 
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DDillaman wrote:
I actually almost watched it twice in a row (something I never do!), but instead decided to take a look at PSYCHO III. Which is ... okay, and amiably insane at points (the ice cube eating scene!) but nowhere near the kind of special that PSYCHO II is.

Psycho III is my favourite of the sequels, and I almost like it as much as the original. Lots of great, neon, giallo-esque lighting and camerawork from Perkins and Bruce Surtees, and a hilariously perverse script
[Reveal] Spoiler:
(not least Maureen's vision of Mother during her attempted suicide);
a very fun black comedy in its own right. Apparently Perkins' biggest influence in directing the film wasn't Psycho, but Blood Simple - it even features Carter Burwell's second score. I may be reaching, but I'd say it makes a nice tryptich with The Night Of The Hunter and Tam Lin in the "famous closeted gay actor directs a great blackly comedic horror one-off" stakes. Perkins directed another film, Lucky Stiff, which I've sadly heard is dreadful, and nowhere near as accomplished as Psycho III. I have no problem imagining Hitchcock greatly enjoying Psycho II and III; sadly, most of Psycho IV's problems stem from Stefano's lumpy script and Mick Garris' pedestrian directing.


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 23, 2011 2:54 pm 
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I think that Psycho III is best described as being similar to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part II, and not just because they were both made in the same year! Both films are very problematic if you expect them to be in the vein of the previous film(s), but surprisingly good as a off-kilter takes on both their 'franchise' and slasher film conventions in general.

Plus Psycho III has that wonderful homage to Vertigo's bell tower scene (seemingly designed specially for anyone who ever wished that Scottie had taken revenge on that nun who scared Madeliene/Judy off the edge of the tower in the Hitchcock film!)

Psycho IV also has to be seen in the context of being a TV movie - in those terms it certainly beats out other TV movie franchise continuances from around the same period such as Omen IV: The Awakening or Amityville IV: The Evil Escapes. It also anticipates the rather redundant fad for 'explanatory' prequels by a number of years.


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 Post subject: Re: Re:
PostPosted: Tue Aug 23, 2011 6:46 pm 

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JamesF wrote:
I may be reaching, but I'd say it makes a nice tryptich with The Night Of The Hunter and Tam Lin in the "famous closeted gay actor directs a great blackly comedic horror one-off" stakes. Perkins directed another film, Lucky Stiff, which I've sadly heard is dreadful, and nowhere near as accomplished as Psycho III. I have no problem imagining Hitchcock greatly enjoying Psycho II and III; sadly, most of Psycho IV's problems stem from Stefano's lumpy script and Mick Garris' pedestrian directing.


Yes, me thinks you may indeed be reaching, as three "horror-y movies containing a few humorous elements directed by gay men" would hardly seem to be three parts of a whole when grouped together. I guess you could argue that all three have a similar use of homoerotic subtext, but I don't think I buy that either (although I can't say to have analyzed these three closely for that sort of thing). Having said that, Night of the Hunter and Tam Lin might make an interesting double feature.

I watched Psycho 4 during it's television premiere. I was 10 or 11, and would sit through practically any horror movie, but still shut this off half way through. I kinda rewatched it much later, and my response was pretty much the same; that is, the script is clumsy and ridiculously forced, and "pedestrian" is a polite way to put Garris' entire output.

Also, has Perkins ever said that his primary influence on Psycho III was Blood Simple? I know he liked the movie and hired Burwell because of it, but I don't see much of a link to Blood Simple apart from the score (although I'm saying this retroactively). I think it's pretty clear that Argento is a primary influence on Psycho III, with several bits copied from Tenebre in particular, and also the lighting and the camerawork. There's also the Hitchcock influence in there, and I see a bit of DePalma too.


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 23, 2011 8:01 pm 
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DDillaman wrote:
Genuinely captivating, with Richard Franklin (whose ROAD GAMES I clearly need to check out now, on the basis of this) directing the fuck out of it

Franklin's Road Games is well worth checking out.

[Reveal] Spoiler:
It really is just Rear Window as a road movie, but in many ways the premise of Rear Window finds a more natural fit in the road genre - the windscreen as a cinema screen, the bored musings of long distance travel, etc. Plus Jamie Lee Curtis is more fun than Grace Kelly.


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 Post subject: Re: Re:
PostPosted: Wed Aug 24, 2011 6:48 am 
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Thomas Dukenfield wrote:
Yes, me thinks you may indeed be reaching, as three "horror-y movies containing a few humorous elements directed by gay men" would hardly seem to be three parts of a whole when grouped together. I guess you could argue that all three have a similar use of homoerotic subtext, but I don't think I buy that either (although I can't say to have analyzed these three closely for that sort of thing). Having said that, Night of the Hunter and Tam Lin might make an interesting double feature.

My tongue was slightly in my cheek when I referred to those three as a tryptich - at least it doesn't sound as far-fetched as my "Post-ET Movies About Benevolent Aliens Directed In 1984 By Guys Called John" double-bill (Starman and The Brother From Another Planet) :wink:

According to cast and crew members, the film Perkins elected to screen for them before shooting was Blood Simple. But I absolutely agree on the Argento influence, even if it's never been documented as far as I know - it's full of vivid, unreal colours that give it the air of an American giallo.


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 Post subject: Re: Re:
PostPosted: Wed Aug 24, 2011 6:58 am 

Joined: Thu Nov 04, 2010 6:42 pm
JamesF wrote:
My tongue was slightly in my cheek when I referred to those three as a tryptich - at least it doesn't sound as far-fetched as my "Post-ET Movies About Benevolent Aliens Directed In 1984 By Guys Called John" double-bill (Starman and The Brother From Another Planet)

According to cast and crew members, the film Perkins elected to screen for them before shooting was Blood Simple. But I absolutely agree on the Argento influence, even if it's never been documented as far as I know - it's full of vivid, unreal colours that give it the air of an American giallo.

Well, sometimes it's hard to tell :)

Interesting. I'll rewatch it at some point with that in mind.


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 Post subject: Re: Re:
PostPosted: Thu Aug 25, 2011 1:31 am 
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DDillaman wrote:
As a friend of mine said, "The only reason PSYCHO II isn't universally recognized as a great film is that it's called PSYCHO II."
2010 syndrome.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 02, 2012 3:05 pm 
Dot Com Dom
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TV adaptation/prequel Bates Motel coming to A&E


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