Friday, June 18, 2010

2. Psycho - 1960 (USA)

Psycho. All I can say is classic, classic, classic.

I've seen a few Alf Hitchcock originals before, but for some reason never got round to his career highlight Psycho. I have always wanted to though, and suddenly this week seemed the perfect time. Last Wednesday (June 16) marked the 50 year anniversary of it's release, and it's still as much a masterpiece now as it was in 1960.

After some of the uber gore, have-sex-and-die slasher flicks that pass as horror these days, a classic like Psycho reminds you what the thriller genre is all about, and where all the greats got their ideas.
Interestingly, the famous shower scene that stopped much of generation x from ever showering alone again, shows none of Janet Leigh's naughty bits and only shows the knife touching flesh once (and the frame doesn't even show the knife penetrating skin.) Yeah, it's as tame as grandma's lemonade, but the famous screeching violins and abrupt and constant stabbing motion with the butchers knife still leave you with that thrilling aftertaste of a good horror murder scene.
And again at detective Arbogast's murder. Yes, I giggled at the poor stunt as he "fell" down the stairs (it seemed those stairs were kilometres long) but Mother's swoop over his body and fast and violent stabbing were still rather bloodthirsty for a 50 year old movie, and I quite enjoyed it.

If I can say anything about the development of the thriller/horror genres over the years though, it's that we've gotten much better at setting up a villain's psychological reasons for murder. Or at least explaining it with more subtlety at the end. I had to have a few giggles at the psychologist's big run-down of the entire plot at the end, like we'd all missed something vital and needed his explanation to understand it. Funnily enough, this is pretty much spot-on for 1960's audiences, which doesn't so much say something about them, but about us and our de-sensitisation to violence.

But who really cares about all that? In the end, a good thriller is a good thriller. And who better to serve it up than the master of suspense himself?

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