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"Psycho: 50th Anniversary Edition" {Blu-ray}-(Wayne)
Wayne Klein
Studio: Universal
Release Date:
Special Features:

Commentary by author Stephen Rebello, featurettes, newsreel footage, trailer, "Psycho" Sound, documentary, "The Psycho Archives", posters, lobby cards, Hitchcock/Truffaut Interview Excerpts Rated R


First let's get a common misconception out of the way; "Psycho" is no more a horror film than "Jaws" is. It's a suspense film with two horrorfying moments. Yes, the use of black and white photography, Bernard Herrmann's brilliant score and Hitch's imaginative camera angles do echo what we've come to expect from horror films. That's because the genre has borrowed from Hitchcock and made it their own. It's cheapened Hitch's film in many respects (and lessened the impact somewhat)but such is the fate of great films that influence a generation. Can the film work as a horor film? Sure all we have to look at is the inspiration that pushed Hitchcock to make the movie; the success of William Castle's low budget horror flicks but the difference between Castle's films which often went for the"cheap" thrills at the time (and don't get me wrong I love Castle and the two sequences in "Psycho" that were inspired by Castle's films were given steroids by Hitch) is the difference between a guilty pleasure genre film and one that changed film and film direction in a meaningful way. ***

I suppose the difference between a horror film and a suspense film is best described as follows; someone jumps out of the shadows and yells "boo!". We, the audience, weren't aware that they were in the shadows at all. Seeing the twisted wreckage and gore. Suspense, on the other hand, is walking into an eerie room knowing that someone is watching you but not able to confirm it. It's that sense of being uncomfortable. We the audience know that someone is there and can actually SEE them. Our fear for the character and what will happen generates the suspense. One lasts but a moment but the other (suspense) has a much larger pay off. Sure, there's moments of horror in "Psycho" but two moments don't make a horror film. It's everything that surrounds those two scenes that make it a suspense film. Why is that important? Because everyone is judging the film (and some find it wanting) as a horror film. As a horror film (slasher films are much more closely related to John Carpenter's terrific Halloween than "Psycho"). As a horror film, it's ultimately a failure but, well, that's because we're judging the film on an inaccurate reputation. ***

Hitch's film deals with many of his personal themes--guilt, murder and the psychology of the human mind. Hitch had first ventured into this area in the 40's. This film, along with "Frenzy', is his most penetrating into that latter theme. ***

The plot is well summurized and anyone that doesn't know it has probably been hiding under a rock for the last, well 50 years. I'm not going to discuss the plot. Analysis? Robin Wood does the ultimate analysis of this film. In many respects Psycho features ultimate con job; the audience is lured into thinking that the film is about one thing and then, suddenly, Hitch switches gears. He had tried a similar experiment (unsuccessfully but brilliantly) with Stage Fright and had it down by the time he and Ernest Lehman dreamed up North by Northwest. ---

Image & Sound:

"Psycho" debuts on Blu with a marvelous looking transfer and a marked improvement compared to the over DNR'd catalog films ("Spartacus", "Darkman" anyone?) that Universal has pulled out of its vault lately. This is, however, a Hitchcock film and Universal KNEW that all eyes were on them and they rose to the occasion). Universal has done a very nice job of grain management here keeping the integrity of the film's "look" intact without eliminating too much of it for the Blu-ray presentation. Presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio (anyone that saw it full screen saw the film incorrectly presented as it was shot full with a matte applied for its theatrical presentation. The fact that it has been presented full screen before doesn't mean that it was intended to be seen that way. ***

Detail is rermarkably sharp, blacks are rich and grays that look extremely nice throughout the film. ***

Psycho is one of only two films by Hitch that is rated R. It deserves the rating. While the film isn't graphic like many of the films released not, it's the implied violence and artful use of the film medium that makes it so overpowering. It's the difference between art and artiface something that few modern film directors would understand.

Special Features:

We get ALL of the extras from the previous DVD editions. The only thing new here is a newly created 5.1 digital audio track. The documentary is quite good which covers everything from the genesis of the project to the audience reaction. ---

Final Words:

A brilliant suspense thriller that uses the shocks of the horror genre to further allow Hitchcock to investigate his themes of guilt, isolation and the traps that we often find ourselves falling into.


Copyright @ Teakwood Productions 2000
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