Psycho 1960

Psycho is a 1960 American thriller/horror film directed by Alfred Hitchcock. The film is based on the screenplay by Joseph Stefano, who adapted it from the 1959 novel of the same name by Robert Bloch. The novel was based on the crimes of Wisconsin serial killer Ed Gein.

The film depicts the encounter between a secretary, Marion Crane (Janet Leigh), who is in hiding at a motel after embezzling from her employer, and the motel’s owner, Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins), and the aftermath of their encounter.

Psycho initially received mixed reviews, but outstanding box office returns prompted a re-review which was overwhelmingly positive and led to four Academy Award nominations. Psycho is now considered one of Hitchcock’s best films and is highly praised as a work of cinematic art by international critics. The film spawned two sequels, a prequel, a remake, and an unsuccessful television spin-off.


Considered for the role of Marion were: Eva Marie Saint, Piper Laurie, Martha Hyer, Hope Lange, Shirley Jones, and Lana Turner.

Alfred Hitchcock bought the rights to the novel anonymously from Robert Bloch for only US$9,000. He then bought up as many copies of the novel as he could to keep the ending a secret.

One of the reasons Alfred Hitchcock shot the movie in black and white was he thought it would be too gory in color. But the main reason was that he wanted to make the film as inexpensively as possible (under $1 million). He also wondered if so many bad, inexpensively made, b/w “B” movies did so well at the box office, what would happen if a really good, inexpensively made, b/w movie was made.

This was Alfred Hitchcock’s last feature film in black and white.

During filming, this movie was referred to as “Production 9401” or “Wimpy”. The latter name came from the second-unit cameraman on the picture Rex Wimpy who appeared on clapboards and production sheets, and some on-the-set stills for Psycho.

Janet Leigh has said that when he cast her, Alfred Hitchcock gave her the following charter: “I hired you because you are an actress! I will only direct you if A: you attempt to take more than your share of the pie, B: you don’t take enough, or C: if you are having trouble motivating the necessary timed movement.”

The license plate on Marion’s first car is ANL-709. The license plate on Marion’s second car is NFB-418. The latter could be a Québec reference. NFB stands for National Film Board of Canada, the famous office in which Norman McLaren, Claude Jutra, Michel Brault and many others worked, and 418 is the regional phone code for the region of Québec city. Although the real regional code of the NFB is 514 and not 418, this could have been mistaken by Hitchcock, as he shot I Confess (1953) in Québec years earlier in the effective 418 area.

The film only cost US$800,000 to make and has earned more than US$40 million. Alfred Hitchcock used the crew from his TV series “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” (1955) to save time and money. In 1962 he exchanged the rights to the film and his TV series for a huge block of MCA’s stock, becoming its third-largest stockholder).

An early script had the following dialogue: Marion: “I’m going to spend the weekend in bed.” Texas oilman: “Bed? Only playground that beats Las Vegas.” (This discarded dialogue was resurrected for the Gus Van Sant remake, but was subsequently cut.)

Alfred Hitchcock produced this film when plans to make a film starring Audrey Hepburn, called “No Bail for the Judge,” fell through.

Director Cameo: [Alfred Hitchcock] about four minutes in wearing a cowboy hat outside Marion’s office.

Director Trademark: [Alfred Hitchcock] [hair] Lila, and Mother.

Walt Disney refused to allow Alfred Hitchcock to film at Disneyland in the early 1960s because Hitchcock had made “that disgusting movie, ‘Psycho’.”

This was Alfred Hitchcock’s last film for Paramount. By the time principal photography started, Hitchcock had moved his offices to Universal and the film was actually shot on Universal’s back lot. Universal owns the film today as well, even though the Paramount Pictures logo is still on the film.

Director Trademark: [Alfred Hitchcock] [bathroom] Marion hides in the bathroom to count the required number of bills.

According to Stephen Rebello, author of “Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho”, Alfred Hitchcock was displeased with the performance of John Gavin who played Sam Loomis in the film and referred to the actor as ‘the stiff’.

James P. Cavanagh was the first writer to adapt Robert Bloch’s novel for the production. However, his script was jettisoned in favor of the Joseph Stefano adaptation. Cavanagh also wrote at least five episodes of “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” (1955), including two directed by Hitchcock.

In the opening scene, Marion Crane is wearing a white bra because Alfred Hitchcock wanted to show her as being “angelic”. After she has taken the money, the following scene has her in a black bra because now she has done something wrong and evil. Similarly, before she steals the money, she has a white purse; after she’s stolen the money, her purse is black.

For a shot right at the water stream, Alfred Hitchcock had a six-foot-diameter shower head made up so that the water sprayed past the camera lens.

Marion’s white 1957 Ford sedan is the same car (owned by Universal) that the Cleaver family drove on “Leave It to Beaver” (1957).

Vera Miles wore a wig for her role as she had to shave her head for a role in the film 5 Branded Women (1960).

First American film ever to show a toilet flushing on screen.

Joseph Stefano was adamant about seeing a toilet on-screen to display realism. He also wanted to see it flush. Alfred Hitchcock told him he had to “make it so” through his writing if he wanted to see it. Stefano wrote the scene in which Marion adds up the money, then flushes the paper down the toilet specifically so the toilet flushing was integral to the scene and therefore irremovable.

The movie in large part was made because Alfred Hitchcock was fed up with the big-budget, star-studded movies he had recently been making and wanted to experiment with the more efficient, sparser style of television filmmaking. Indeed, he ultimately used a crew consisting mostly of TV veterans and hired actors less well known than those he usually used.

This was voted the seventh scariest film of all time by Entertainment Weekly.

The novel “Psycho”, written by Robert Bloch, was actually part of a series of pulp novels marketed in conjunction with the popular spooky radio show “Inner Sanctum”.

Parts of the house were built by cannibalizing several stock-unit sections including a tower from the house in Harvey (1950). The house was the most expensive set of the picture but came to a mere US$15,000.

In the novel, the character of “Marion” was “Mary” Crane. The name was changed because the studio legal department found that two real people named Mary Crane lived in Phoenix, Arizona.

According to Janet Leigh, wardrobe worn by her character Marion Crane was not custom made for her, but rather purchased “off the rack” from ordinary clothing stores. Alfred Hitchcock wanted women viewers to identify with the character by having her wear clothes that an ordinary secretary could afford, and thus add to the mystique of realism.

The first scene to be shot was of Marion getting pulled over by the cop. This was filmed on Golden State Freeway (number 99).

When the cast and crew began work on the first day they had to raise their right hands and promise not to divulge one word of the story. Hitchcock also withheld the ending part of the script from his cast until he needed to shoot it.

The car dealership in the movie was actually Harry Maher’s used car lot near Universal Studios. Since Ford Motor company was a sponsor of “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” (1955) TV show the car lot’s usual inventory was displaced in favor of shiny Edsels, Fairlanes and Mercury models from Ford.

In order to implicate viewers as fellow voyeurs Alfred Hitchcock used a 50 mm lens on his 35 mm camera. This gives the closest approximation to the human vision. In the scenes where Norman is spying on Marion this effect is felt.

To ensure the people were in the theaters at the start of the film (rather than walking in part way through) the studio provided a record to play in the foyer of the theaters. The album featured background music, occasionally interrupted by a voice saying “Ten minutes to Psycho time,” “Five minutes to Psycho time,” and so on.

Anthony Perkins was paid US$40,000 dollars for his role, which is exactly the same amount of money that Marion Crane embezzles.

Visa d’exploitation en France : #23645.

Beethoven’s 3rd Symphony (“Eroica”) is in Norman’s record player

In 2006, Scottish artist Douglas Gordon created a 24-hour slow-motion version of the film titled “24-Hour Psycho” that played at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

The Bates house was largely modeled on an oil painting at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. The canvas is called “House by the Railroad” and was painted in 1925 by American iconic artist Edward Hopper. The architectural details, viewpoint and austere sky is almost identical as seen in the film.

A false story has circulated that George Reeves was hired to play detective Milton Arbogast and filmed a few of his scenes with the rest of the cast just a week before his death. There is no truth to this rumor whatsoever. Reeves died on June 16, 1959, almost two months before Alfred Hitchcock decided to make a film of “Psycho” and exactly one year before the June 16, 1960 date when the film had its world premiere in New York. Work on the script began in October, 1959, four months after Reeves’s death. Filming began in November, 1959, five months after Reeves’s death. At the time of Reeves’s death, Hitchcock was on a world tour promoting North by Northwest (1959). (Source: “The Dark Side of Genius: The Life of Alfred Hitchcock,” by Donald Spoto.) George Reeves did not live long enough to even know a film of “Psycho” was planned, much less actually appear in it.

Alfred Hitchcock deferred his standard $250,000 salary in lieu of 60% of the film’s net profits. His personal earnings from the film exceeded $15 million. Adjusted for inflation, that amount would now top $150 million in 2006 dollars.

The movie’s line “A boy’s best friend is his mother.” was voted as the #56 movie quote by the American Film Institute (out of 100).

In 2007, the American Film Institute ranked this as the #14 Greatest Movie of All Time.

If you look attentively you can notice that nearly every time a driver gets out of his car he does so through the passenger side, a seemingly odd behavior. This is due to the bench seating in older cars, and Alfred Hitchcock’s desire to continue the shot without either moving the camera to follow the actor or having the actor walk between the car and the camera.

On February 8, 1960, exactly one week after he finished “Psycho,” Alfred Hitchcock directed an episode of TV’s “Startime” (1959/I) (“Incident at a Corner”, #1.27), that also featured Vera Miles and much of the same crew that worked on “Psycho”.

Ranked #1 on the AFI 100 Years… 100 Thrills film series.

Ranked #14 on the AFI 100 Years… 100 Movies 10th Anniversary Edition, up 4 places from #18 in 1997.

“Psycho” was first scheduled to air on U.S. network TV in the fall of 1966. Just before it would have aired, however, Valerie Percy, the daughter of U.S. Senator Charles H. Percy (R-Illinois: 1967 – 85), was stabbed to death, apparently by an intruder, in a murder that, as of 2007, remains unsolved. It was deemed prudent, under the circumstances, to postpone the scheduled airing. Ultimately, the film was never shown on U.S. TV until 1970, following a highly successful theatrical re-release the previous year. At that time, Universal released in on the syndication market, where it quickly became a popular staple on local late night horror film showings.

Every theater that showed the film had a cardboard cut-out installed in the lobby of Alfred Hitchcock pointing to his wristwatch with a note from the director saying “The manager of this theatre has been instructed at the risk of his life, not to admit to the theatre any persons after the picture starts. Any spurious attempts to enter by side doors, fire escapes or ventilating shafts will be met by force. The entire objective of this extraordinary policy, of course, is to help you enjoy PSYCHO more. Alfred Hitchcock”

Alfred Hitchcock ran a deliciously droll and terse radio ad in the summer of 1960. In an era when sponsors used “Brand X” to describe their competitors’ products, Hitch’s voice said he wanted to compare his new movie with “Brand X”. Then, the sound of a horse neighing and horse clippity-clop sounds. Hitch’s voice said simply “Brand X is a western.” “Now for my picture”, followed by a loud scream. End of commercial!

The shower scene has over 90 splices in it, and did not involve Anthony Perkins at all. The scene was filmed between 17 December 1959 and 23 December 1959 while Perkins was in New York rehearsing for a Broadway musical, “Greenwillow”.

Alfred Hitchcock originally envisioned the shower sequence as completely silent, but Bernard Herrmann went ahead and scored it anyway, and upon hearing it, Hitchcock immediately changed his mind.

Alfred Hitchcock and Joseph Stefano originally conceived the film with a jazz score instead of Bernard Herrmann’s miniature string orchestra.

The score, composed by Bernard Herrmann, is played entirely by stringed instruments.

John Gavin starred in the final episode of Alfred Hitchcock’s TV series, “The Alfred Hitchcock Hour” (1962) {Off Season (#3.29)}, as a trigger-happy sheriff who relocates to a new town where he and his wife check into the Bates Motel on the Universal lot.

As part of publicity campaign prior to release of the film, Alfred Hitchcock said: “It has been rumored that ‘Psycho’ is so terrifying that it will scare some people speechless. Some of my men hopefully sent their wives to a screening. The women emerged badly shaken but still vigorously vocal.”

Alfred Hitchcock was so pleased with the score written by Bernard Herrmann that he doubled the composer’s salary to $34,501. Hitchcock later said, “33% of the effect of Psycho was due to the music.”

Stuart Whitman was Hitchcock’s first choice for the role of Sam Loomis.

On the Interstate 99 that eventually turns into Pacific Ave. near the Fife/Tacoma boarder in Washington State, there are several older hotels up along the strip. One of the former owners of one of the hotels is a horror movie buff and puts on costume parties in his retirement. Being a fan of the horror movies, he renamed the motel, Bates Motel.

Marli Renfro, unbilled nude model who doubled for Janet Leigh in portions of the murder sequence, was featured as a Playboy cover girl on the September 1960 issue while the film was still in theaters. Quite coincidentally, she was pictured on the cover taking a shower.

Kim Stanley, noted Actors Studio legend, was offered the role of Lila, but turned it down due to personal reservations about working with Anthony Perkins.

In the murder scene in the shower, there are two split second frames of the knife touching the body

The theatrical trailer shows Alfred Hitchcock giving a partial tour of the set located on the Universal Studios back-lot. It ends with a tour of the famous bathroom and Alfred Hitchcock pulling the shower curtain revealing the screaming Vera Miles. (Vera Miles was the stand-in for Janet Leigh because Janet Leigh was not available.

In an interview on The Dick Cavett Show, Alfred Hitchcock said of the shower scene, “…everything was so rapid that there were 78 separate pieces of film in 45 seconds.”

Norman Bates is ranked the second greatest villain on AFI’s 100 Years…100 Heroes & Villains.

The strings-only music by Bernard Herrmann is ranked #4 on AFI’s 100 Years of Film Scores.

There are several references to birds in this film : Marion’s surname is Crane, Norman’s hobby is stuffing birds and he states that Marion eats like a bird. Coincidentally Alfred Hitchcock’s next film was The Birds (1963)

In the new film Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho (2010) Anthony Hopkins will portray Alfred Hitchcock, This is notable because on the AFI’s 100 Years… 100 Heroes & Villains (2003) (TV) Norman Bates is #2 on the villains list and Hannibal Lector from The Silence of the Lambs (1991) is #1 on the villains list (Hannibal Lector was portrayed by Anthony Hopkins).

The first U.S. TV station to show “Psycho” was WABC-TV (Channel 7) in New York, on their late-night movie series “The Best of Broadway” on 24 June 1967.

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