was an iconic thriller directed by Alfred Hitchcock, released in the summer of 1960. (That Wiki's an interesting read, btw.)
It was a sensation when it was released. In time, it's become a film school textbook. Which is to say, something that is more often studied
rather than actually enjoyed as regular entertainment.
I was watching the ending of Gus Van Sant's shot-for-shot 1998 remake
on cable recently and the thing intrigued me. There was all this noise back then about why Van Sant would bother shooting a virtually shot-for-shot remake of Hitchcock's classic. It seemed like a colossal waste of time to a lot of whiners, but I remember being intrigued by it because I'd heard a rumor that Van Sant's movie was only shot-for-shot until the shower scene... and then it would go in a completely different direction... which would have been an awesome surprise. Like a ride you've been on a thousand times that suddenly goes down a different track.
But no. It turned out to be exactly what it advertised. A shot-for-shot remake in color. With the exception of a few shots Van Sant created the way Hitchcock would've wanted if he had the technology
and a few other random inserts and Van Santisms.
Still, Van Sant's faithful experiment, in its own way, serves as a useful teaching tool. A strapping young Vince Vaughn takes on the role of Norman Bates, and the shot-for-shot nature of the film only serves to highlight how Vaughn is wrong for the role originated by Anthony Perkins. Where Perkins was skinny and slight, Vaughn (the 1998 Vince Vaughn) was fit and handsome. Though he tries to play up the social awkwardness, there is something far more intimidating about him upfront. Perkins worked so well because he was the portrait of "non-threatening". Perkins played it as a naive adolescent. Vaughn comes across as an awkward frat boy who'd probably have a healthy stock of date-rape pills in his cupboard.
But beyond the remake, the cable's been playing all the PSYCHO movies... this is what I find interesting about the *series*...
[* I don't think PSYCHO IV counts as much because it was made for television.]
I find the sequels interesting because they are not "reboots". (A popular idea in modern Hollywood movie-making wherein the continuity of the series is WIPED CLEAN and we start over with a fresh re-imagining
of the movie series... including changing up the look of the films, tinkering with characters, setting, backstory, the works... see BATMAN BEGINS.) No, 1983's PSYCHO II is a direct sequel to 1960's PSYCHO. Anthony Perkins reprises his role as Norman Bates. It takes place in the current day, as Norman is released from a mental institution where he's been locked up since the events of the original film. There's more violence and nudity than they could get away with in 1960... but it doesn't really struggle with the weight of original's reputation. It's simply a continuation of the saga.
It's strange looking back at the two PSYCHO movies from the 80s because it's also a portrait of a different Hollywood. These were hard R-rated horror movies. These days, there's so much more hand-wringing and double-guessing before a movie gets greenlit, and it often shows in the final products. There's a different feel to a movie that's been rewritten by a dozen different writers
. The PSYCHO sequels may not be classics, but there's a certain charm to them that is hard to find in the modern Hollywood sausage-factory blockbuster.