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Psycho (1960) - Blu-ray Review

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Psycho - Blu-ray Review

5 stars

Only one part of Psycho may be underrated: the stylized intro with its opening credits. Horizontal and vertical lines rush across the screen. Words appear cut apart, split into stripes until they line up and right themselves. They foreshadow the splitting of characters’ psyches, the dual natures of Marion Crane and especially of Norman Bates. Along with the jarring visuals, shrill string instruments in Bernard Herrmann’s famous score set the viewer even more on edge. By the time the first scene starts, your nerves are already shot.

Based on Robert Bloch’s novel of the same name, the movie Psycho begins telling the story of Marion Crane (Janet Leigh), a real estate office employee who steals $40,000 from a client. On her drive out of town, she’s forced to stop one rainy night at the secluded Bates Motel. There she meets Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins), the polite young proprietor. She quickly learns that Norman is a mama’s boy, still living under his mother’s thumb. Of course, it’s not what it seems, as anyone even vaguely familiar with movies already knows.

In 2014, it’s hard to imagine how shocking Psycho was in 1960. Throughout the movie, Hitchcock created expectations and then defied them. For example, the money Marion stole seems vital to the story. But no, Norman lets it sink into the swamp, along with her body in the car. By the end, the cash is all but forgotten. More importantly, the audience believes it knows which main characters to follow (Marion and Detective Arbogast), only to watch them both get killed.

That brings us to Psycho’s infamous shower scene. In an era where movies like Saw portray graphic torture, the once-shocking shower scene  now seems almost quaint. Hitchcock decided to film in black and white, partly to downplay the gore. He also avoided shots of actual stabbing. Instead, we see the killer and the knife only in silhouette. Mostly, we watch Marion’s terrified face and hands in quick closeups; we see her blood and water swirl down the drain. It’s possible that the first audiences to watch Psycho remembered “seeing” what was only suggested, not shown.

Psycho has one more depiction of a murder: that of Arbogast. Here, too, the commentary reveals that Hitchcock went for a “stylized and bizarre” look, instead of pure realism. He needed the movie to get past the censors, but the lack of extreme, explicit violence adds to the film’s high quality reputation. Today’s horror filmmakers should be reminded that constant realistic blood and gore aren’t needed to deliver huge scares, even decades later.

Psycho (1960) (Blu-ray + DIGITAL HD with UltraViolet)

MPAA Rating: Not rated by the MPAA.
Runtime:
109 mins
Director
:
Alfred Hitchcock
Writer
:
Joseph Stefano
Cast:
Anthony Perkins; Janet Leigh; Vera Miles
Genre:
Classic | Horror
Tagline:
A new- and altogether different- screen excitement!!!
Memorable Movie Quote:
"I think I must have one of those faces you can't help believing."
Distributor:
Paramount Pictures
Official Site:
Release Date:
August 10, 1960
Blu-ray Release Date:
May 6, 2014
Synopsis:
A Phoenix secretary steals $40,000 from her employer's client, goes on the run and checks into a remote motel run by a young man under the domination of his mother.

Psycho - Blu-ray Review

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Psycho (1960) (Blu-ray + DIGITAL HD with UltraViolet)

Available on Blu-ray - May 6, 2014
Screen Formats:
1.85:1
Subtitles
:
English SDH, Spanish, French
Audio:
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; English: DTS 2.0 Mono; French: DTS Digital Surround 2.0 Mono
Discs:
50 GB Blu-ray Disc, Single disc (1 BD)
Region Encoding: A

The 1080p transfer in the widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio is impressively detailed and high in contrast. There’s a wide variety of grays between the solid-looking blacks and white. While some graininess is visible, it should be expected in a 1960 film and only adds to the slightly gritty, horror movie feel of the picture.   

Psycho’s sound, in the form of Bernard Herrmann’s all-string score, is as well known as the movie itself. For the Blu-ray disc, sound engineers walked a fine line between preserving the original sound and technologically updating it. However, the original 2.0 mono mix is included along with the new 5.1 mix. Differences are subtle, but the depth in the 5.1 mix is greater. While the dialogue stays in the center (as with the 2.0), atmospheric sounds and music have a layered, surrounding effect. A bonus feature called “The Sound of Psycho" contrasts the two, with engineers explaining how they separated out elements of the 2.0 mix and reworked them to produce a fuller, more wraparound sound.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • Feature Commentary with Stephen Rebello (author of Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho). The commentary provides plenty of background information and intriguing behind-the-scenes details, giving you a sense of what makes ”Psycho”such a groundbreaking classic.

Special Features:

There are tons of bonus features to satisfy Hitchcock and horror fans. They range from a short gallery of shower scene storyboard drawings to movie length commentary from author Stephen Rebello

  • The Making of “Psycho” - 94 minutes
  • Psycho’s Sound  - 10 minutes
  • In the Master’s Shadow: Hitchcock’s Legacy - 26 minutes
  • Hitchcock / Truffaut Interview Excerpts - 15 minutes
  • Newsreel Footage: The Release of “Psycho” - 8 minutes
  • The Shower Scene: With and Without Music - 3 minutes
  • The Shower Scene: Storyboards by Saul Bass - 4 minutes
  • The “Psycho” Archives - 8 minutes
  • Posters and “Psycho” Ads - 3 minutes 
  • Lobby Cards - 2 minutes
  • Behind-the-Scenes Photographs - 8 minutes
  • Publicity Shots - 8 minutes
  • Theatrical Trailer - 7 minutes
  • Re-Release Trailers - 2 minutes

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