A Phoenix secretary embezzles $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.
I’ll warn you here, I’m a HUGE fan of not just “Psycho” but it’s entire franchise, so I’m really looking forward to this one.
Sir Alfred Hitchcock was a true master of his craft and in my opinion that is no more evident than in this feature. With this film he was stripped of the big budget he was used to working with and and had to go back to basics with his film-making which by his own admission is essentially what he wanted.
Anthony Perkins is absolutely fantastic in this feature, he brings so much to the character of ‘Norman Bates’ and you really can’t imagine anybody else in that role. In my opinion it’s easily one of the best on screen performances and there’s good reason why the charac6ter is so iconic.
The film is remembered for many, many things and rightfully so but of course the most iconic feature of the film is the infamous shower scene. Janet Leigh even stated that seeing it on film profoundly moved her remarking that it made her realize how vulnerable a woman was in a shower. To the end of her life, she always took baths.
The one thing you can’t deny is that it’s a definition of a classic and is still counted amongst the greats over sixty years after it’s release. If there was ever a film I wanted to see on a big screen this is it, I’d love to have been alive when this was first released just for that experience.
“Psycho” is most certainly a part of the foundations of the Horror genre, some say it even helped give birth to the slasher genre. In my opinion it’s a near perfect film and certainly essential viewing.
Miscellaneous facts about the film:
Director Sir 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, “Thirty-three percent of the effect of Psycho was due to the music.”
Director Sir 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.
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. Sir Alfred Hitchcock also withheld the ending part of the script from his cast until he needed to shoot it.
Director Sir Alfred Hitchcock bought the rights to the novel anonymously from Robert Bloch for only $9,000. He then bought up as many copies of the novel as he could, to keep the ending a secret.
After this movie’s release, Sir Alfred Hitchcock received an angry letter from the father of a girl who refused to have a bath after seeing Les Diaboliques (1955), and now refused to shower after seeing this movie. Hitchcock sent a note back simply saying, “Send her to the dry cleaners.”
Walt Disney refused to allow Sir Alfred Hitchcock to film at Disneyland in the early 1960s because Hitchcock had made “that disgusting movie, ‘Psycho.'”
In the opening scene, Marion Crane is wearing a white bra because Sir 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.
When Norman first realizes there has been a murder, he shouts, “Mother! Oh God! God! Blood! Blood!” Sir Alfred Hitchcock had the bass frequencies removed from Anthony Perkins’ voice to make him sound more like a frightened teenager.
Anthony Perkins and Janet Leigh said that they did not mind being stereotyped forever because of their participation in this movie. They said in interviews they would rather be stereotyped and be remembered forever for this classic movie than not be remembered at all.
The Bates house, though moved from its original location, still resides on Universal’s lot. The motel has been replicated. It is a regular stop on the Universal Studios tram tour.
To ensure the people were in the theaters at the start of this movie (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.
In order to implicate viewers as fellow voyeurs, Sir 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.
For a shot looking up into the water stream of the shower head, Sir Alfred Hitchcock had a six-foot-diameter shower head made up and blocked the central jets so that the water sprayed in a cone past the camera lens, without any water spraying directly at it.
Every theater that showed this movie had a cardboard cut-out installed in the lobby of Sir Alfred Hitchcock pointing to his wristwatch with a note 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”
On-set, Sir Alfred Hitchcock would always refer to Anthony Perkins as “Master Bates.”
The reason Sir Alfred Hitchcock cameos so early in the movie was because he knew people would be looking out for him, and he didn’t want to divert their attention away from the plot.
One of the reasons Sir 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 movie as inexpensively as possible (under one million dollars). He also wondered if so many bad, inexpensively made, black-and-white “B” movies did so well at the box-office, what would happen if a really good, inexpensively made, black-and-white movie was made.
The score, composed by Bernard Herrmann, is played entirely by stringed instruments.
The movie in large part was made because Sir 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. He ultimately used a crew consisting mostly of television veterans and hired actors and actresses less well-known than those he usually used. Specifically, Vertigo (1958), which was later hailed as a masterpiece, was considered a bloated, over-budgeted misfire. And while North by Northwest (1959) was hailed as a masterpiece and was a hit, it was a huge production, and it was also very time-consuming and expensive. So Hitch decided to scale things back for his next movie. Also, during the same period, his rival, French new wave and noir film director Henri-Georges Clouzot, hit the bullseye and created a critical box office sensation with the classic Les Diaboliques (1955). All the critics said Clouzot had out-Hithcocked Hitchcock, and this presented a confrontation which Hitch could not turn down. Diabolique was a small scale, gritty, black and white independent movie, so Hitch decided to out-Diabolique Diabolique and directed his own small scale, gritty black and white project – that was Psycho.
The official trailer back in 1960 ran on for over six minutes and thirty seconds, a feat unheard of in today’s trailers.
Although Norman Bates typecasted Anthony Perkins, he said he still would have taken the role, even if he knew the character would dog his career.
Janet Leigh received threatening letters after this movie’s release, detailing what they would like to do to Marion Crane. One was so grotesque, she passed it on to the F.B.I. The culprits were discovered, and the F.B.I. said she should notify them again if she ever received any more letters.
The novel upon which this movie was based was inspired by the true story of Ed Gein, a serial killer who was also the inspiration for Deranged (1974), The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), and The Silence of the Lambs (1991).
The amount of cash Marion stole, $40,000 in 1960 would be equivalent to approximately $352,000 in 2020. The $700 difference she paid when trading in her car, and getting another one, would be equivalent to about $6,100.
Sir Alfred Hitchcock used Bosco chocolate syrup instead of blood, because it showed up better on camera.
Janet Leigh invented a complete backstory for Marion Crane, figuring out what she was like in high school, her favorite colors, et cetera.
Anthony Perkins and Janet Leigh were allowed to improvise their roles. For example, Norman’s habit of munching on candy corn.
The sound that the knife makes penetrating the flesh is actually the sound of a knife stabbing a casaba melon.
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 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.
Joseph Stefano was adamant about seeing a toilet on-screen to display realism. He also wanted to see it flush. Sir 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. This was the first American movie (and possibly first fictional movie) ever to show a toilet flushing on-screen.
This movie only cost $800,000 to make, and earned more than $40 million. Sir Alfred Hitchcock used the crew from his television series Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955) to save time and money. In 1962, he exchanged the rights to the movie and his television series for a huge block of MCA’s stock, becoming its third-largest stockholder).
According to Janet Leigh, the wardrobe worn by her character Marion Crane was not custom made for her, but rather purchased “off the rack” from ordinary clothing stores. Sir 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 strings-only music by Bernard Herrmann is ranked #4 on AFI’s 100 Years of Film Scores.
Janet Leigh only had three weeks to work on the movie and spent the whole of one of those weeks filming the shower sequence.
When Sir Alfred Hitchcock was off due to illness, the crew shot the sequence of Arbogast inside the house going up the stairs. When Hitchcock saw the footage, he complimented those responsible but said the sequence had to be reshot. Their version made it appear as if Arbogast was going up the stairs to commit a murder. Hitchcock reshot the sequence.
Shooting wrapped February 1, 1960, nine days over schedule. A rough cut was finished by April, at which point, Sir Alfred Hitchcock was convinced his “experiment” had failed. He was ready to cut the movie down to a television episode, but handed it to Bernard Herrmann to score. After he saw the completed movie with the music, he was very pleased.
Sir Alfred Hitchcock even had a canvas chair with “Mrs. Bates” written on the back prominently placed and displayed on the set throughout shooting. This further added to the enigma surrounding who was the actress playing Mrs. Bates.
The Bates house was largely modelled 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 the iconic American artist Edward Hopper. That painting was the first one that was acquired by New York’s Museum of Modern Art (in 1930). The architectural details, viewpoint, and austere sky is almost identical as seen in this movie.
In Robert Bloch’s novel, Norman Bates is short, fat, older, and very dislikable. It was Sir Alfred Hitchcock who decided to have him be young, handsome, and sympathetic. Norman is also more of a main character in the novel. The story opens with him and Mother fighting, rather than following Marion from the start.
Screenwriter Joseph Stefano and director Sir Alfred Hitchcock deliberately layered-in certain risqué elements as a ruse to divert the censors from more crucial concerns, like the action that takes place in the bedroom in the beginning and the shower murder. The censors reviewed the script and censored the “unimportant” extra material and Hitchcock managed to sneak in his “important” material.
This was Sir Alfred Hitchcock’s first horror movie.
In 1992, this movie was selected for preservation by The Library of Congress at The National Film Registry.
Janet Leigh has said that when he cast her, Sir 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.”
While writing the screenplay, Joseph Stefano was in therapy dealing with his relationship with his own mother.
First billed Anthony Perkins does not appear until twenty-seven minutes into the movie. Second billed Vera Miles does not appear until fifty-seven minutes into the movie.
According to biographers, Sir Alfred Hitchcock had a troubled relationship with his own domineering mother, who, like Mrs. Bates, forced him to stand at the foot of her bed and tell her everything that had happened to him, although the real relationship was not as disturbed as that seen in the movie.
Sir 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, Hitchcock’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. Hitchcock’s voice said simply “Brand X is a western.” “Now for my picture,” followed by a loud scream. End of commercial.
Sir Alfred Hitchcock hated the infamous psychiatrist explanation scene done by Dr. Fred Richman (Simon Oakland) at the end of the movie. He felt the scene was boring, and the movie came to a grinding halt at that point. The scene has also been ripped to shreds by critics over the years as the worst scene in the movie, and one of Hitchcock’s worst scenes ever. Hitchcock and viewers felt the scene was unnecessary, overly obvious, and too talky, slowing down the action and suspense of the rest of the movie. But there was strong pressure from the studios and powers-that-be that funded and distributed the movie to relieve the pressure from earlier scenes, and also to explain the action to less insightful audience members who might be confused by the big reveal at the ending, so the scene was kept in.
As part of publicity campaign prior to release of this movie, Sir 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.”
Vera Miles wore a wig for her role, as she had to shave her head for her role in 5 Branded Women (1960).
In total, three actresses recorded Norma Bates’ dialogue. Their recordings were then mixed together until Sir Alfred Hitchcock found the right tone of voice for each particular scene.
In an interview on The Dick Cavett Show (1968), Sir Alfred Hitchcock said of the shower scene, “everything was so rapid that there were seventy-eight separate pieces of film in forty-five seconds.”
Anthony Perkins was paid $40,000 for his role, which is the same amount of money that Marion Crane embezzled.
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), the car lot’s usual inventory was displaced in favour of shiny Fords, Edsels, and Mercurys.
This was Sir Alfred Hitchcock’s last theatrical movie in black-and-white. It was filmed from November 30, 1959 to February 1, 1960.
In his famous interviews with Sir Alfred Hitchcock, François Truffaut, who was a fan of the movie, commented that the scenes with the sheriff were a letdown. Hitchcock replied: “The sheriff’s intervention comes under the heading of what we have discussed many times before: “Why don’t they go to the police?”. I’ve always replied: “They don’t go to the police because it’s dull.” Here is a perfect example of what happens when they go to the police”.
The film has been rated and re-rated over the years, from PG, to PG-13 and 15, to R.
There are several references to birds in this movie: Marion’s surname is Crane, Norman’s hobby is stuffing birds, and Norman states that Marion eats like a bird. Sir Alfred Hitchcock’s next movie was The Birds (1963).
Features Janet Leigh’s only Oscar nominated performance.
According to Stephen Rebello, author of “Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho,” Sir Alfred Hitchcock was displeased with the performance of John Gavin (Sam Loomis) and referred to Gavin as “the stiff.”
Bernard Herrmann related how the shots of Marion driving away after taking the money looked very ordinary. Sir Alfred Hitchcock thought of having the soundtrack convey anxious voices in her head to add to the action and tension. Herrmann noted, however, that it still didn’t work until he suggested bringing back the main title music. All in all, Hitchcock was delighted with Herrmann’s very significant contribution to this movie, giving the composer an unusual amount of credit (for Hitchcock) and stating openly that “Thirty-three percent of the effect of Psycho was due to the music.”
Sir Alfred Hitchcock teased the press that Dame Judith Anderson, who had famously essayed the part of Mrs. Danvers in Rebecca (1940), would play the part of Mrs. Bates. Rebecca (1940) was another thriller with an evil mother figure manipulating things from beyond the grave. Virginia Gregg as a matter of fact would go on to voice mother in this movie and a couple of sequels.
This movie was first scheduled to air on U.S. network television in the fall of 1966. Just before it would have aired, however, Valerie Percy, the daughter of then-U.S. Senate candidate Charles H. Percy (U.S. Senator, R-Illinois: 1967 to 1985), was stabbed to death, apparently by an intruder, in a murder that, as of 2019, remains unsolved. It was deemed prudent, under the circumstances, to postpone the scheduled airing. Ultimately, this movie was not shown on U.S. network television until 1970, following a highly successful theatrical re-release in 1969. At that time, Universal Pictures released it on the syndication market, where it quickly became a popular staple on local late night horror movie showings.
Among the major promotional items for this movie was a lengthy coming attractions trailer (filmed in several languages) of Sir Alfred Hitchcock taking the audience on a seemingly lighthearted tour of the house and motel. At the end, Hitchcock pulls open a shower curtain to reveal a close-up of a woman screaming. The actress is not Janet Leigh, but Vera Miles wearing a wig similar to Miss Leigh’s hairstyle. The logo “Psycho” simultaneously comes onto the screen and cleverly covers Miss Miles’ eyes so that the switch is not easily discernible.
In the novel, it is explained that Marion and Sam met on a cruise and fell in love, which is how their relationship became a long distance one, with Marion in Phoenix, Arizona, and Sam in Fairvale, California.
Multiple characters in Halloween (1978) are inspired by this movie. Jamie Lee Curtis was cast as the heroine in this movie, based on the casting of her mother, Janet Leigh, in Psycho. Dr. Sam Loomis is directly named after John Gavin’s character, the boyfriend to Marion in this movie. The name of Marion Chambers, the nurse in Halloween, is inspired by Marion and Judge Chambers. Billy Loomis, the killer from Scream (1996), was also inspired by Sam Loomis in Psycho. Also, Bates High School in Carrie (1976) is inspired by Norman Bates in Psycho.
During pre-production, Sir Alfred Hitchcock said to the press that he was considering Helen Hayes for the part of Mother. This was obviously a ruse, but several actresses wrote to Hitchcock requesting auditions.
When Marion is having a conversation with Norman in his parlor, Norman says in reference to his mother: “She had to raise me all by herself after my father died. I was only five and it must have been quite a strain for her.” Anthony Perkins (Norman) was his parents’ only child, and he, like Norman, suffered the loss of his father when he was five years old. From then on, he was raised by his mother.
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 movie, but came to a mere fifteen thousand dollars.
This movie marked the fifth and final time that Sir Alfred Hitchcock earned an Oscar nomination for Best Director, though he never won.
Anthony Perkins was Sir Alfred Hitchcock’s first choice for the part of Norman Bates.
On CA 99, which eventually turns into Pacific Avenue near the Fife and Tacoma border in Washington, there are several older hotels 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 horror movies, he renamed his motel “Bates Motel.” In April 2012, the hotel was torn down, but the hotel sign is still intact.
Ranked #1 on the AFI 100 Years… 100 Thrills film series.
The novel “Psycho”, written by Robert Bloch, was part of a series of pulp novels marketed in conjunction with the popular spooky radio show “Inner Sanctum”.
Norman Bates is ranked the second greatest villain on AFI’s 100 Years…100 Heroes & Villains.
Although disputed, it is claimed that graphic designer and title director Saul Bass directed the shower sequence. Bass certainly storyboarded the scene, but there is disagreement about the level of direction by Sir Alfred Hitchcock, and how much credit can be afforded by Bass for the construction of this iconic scene. Janet Leigh flat-out denies this claim, saying that Hitchcock directed the sequence one hundred percent.
Sir Alfred Hitchcock produced this movie when plans to make a movie starring Audrey Hepburn, called “No Bail for the Judge”, fell through.
This movie features in both the American and British Film Institutes’ Top 100 lists.
The look of the tall vertical mansion on the hill contrasted with the low, long motel was a deliberate composition choice. Yet Sir Alfred Hitchcock said it wasn’t his intention to create a mysterious atmosphere with the big Gothic house, but to re-create the kind of older architecture that existed in the Northern California setting of the story.
Lila Crane is standing in front of a display of lawn rakes in the hardware store scene that are arranged to give the appearance of hands reaching out to grab her.
In 2007, the American Film Institute ranked this as the #14 Greatest Movie of All Time.
Bernard Herrmann wrote the main title theme before Saul Bass created the opening credit sequence. Bass animated it to the music, creating the stabbing, wrenching look in which the credits are ripped in half.
Bernard Herrmann decided to use only strings in his score to have a black and-white sound to go along with the black-and-white images.
Marion Crane’s white 1957 Ford sedan is the same car (owned by Universal Studios) that the Cleaver family drove on the television series Leave It to Beaver (1957).
This was voted the seventh scariest movie of all time by Entertainment Weekly.
The theatrical trailer shows Sir Alfred Hitchcock giving a partial tour of the set located on the Universal Studios backlot. It ends with a tour of the famous bathroom and Hitchcock pulling the shower curtain revealing the screaming Vera Miles. (Vera Miles was the stand-in for Janet Leigh because Leigh was not available.
Director Sir Alfred Hitchcock and director of photography John L. Russell regularly used two cameras to get most of the shots in this movie, rather than resetting to get different angles, a common practice in television, but rare for theatrical movies.
Ludwig van Beethoven’s 3rd Symphony (“Eroica”) is in Norman’s record player.
The film takes place in December 1959.
The Edward Hopper painting “House By the Railroad,” the inspiration for the Bates home, was modeled after an actual Victorian house by a railroad track in Haverstraw, N.Y. Built in 1885, it is still standing and privately owned.
Sir Alfred Hitchcock had previously cast Vera Miles in The Wrong Man (1956). He wanted to cast her in Vertigo (1958), but she had to turn it down due to pregnancy. Miles was not happy making this movie, and felt that Hitchcock was punishing her by giving her an unflattering wardrobe that made her look matronly, never mind that it was designed by the famous Hollywood designer Edith Head.
During filming, this movie was referred to as “Production 9401” or “Wimpy”. The latter name came from Second Unit Cameraman Rex Wimpy, who appeared on clapboards and production sheets, and some on-the-set stills for this movie.
Reflections are often used to imply schizophrenia, but in this movie, everyone except Norman Bates is seen in a mirror.
Sir Alfred Hitchcock always preferred to film indoors on a soundstage, and only the distant shots of the Bates Mansion were shot outside on the backlot. To accomplish this, and allow for an exterior to interior dolly shot, a second, duplicate, mansion exterior consisting only of the front porch was constructed on the soundstage and the cut from exterior, backlot, set to interior soundstage can clearly be seen as Lila approaches, visible in the difference in the lighting when the camera cuts from her back to the porch and front door once she gets close.
Currently the oldest movie in release to carry an R rating, having been released eight years before the MPAA rating system was established, in 1968.
Considered for the role of Marion were Eva Marie Saint, Lee Remick, Angie Dickinson, Piper Laurie, Martha Hyer, Hope Lange, Shirley Jones, Lana Turner, and Jean Simmons. Coincidentally, Dickinson played a Marion Crane-type character in Brian De Palma’s Dressed to Kill (1980), a movie heavily influenced by this movie.
The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970)’s Ted Knight (Ted Baxter) makes an appearance in this movie as one of the guards at the ending who open’s the door to Norman’s cell; so they can bring him a blanket. Knight had a supporting role in Hitchcock’s Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Party Line (1960), an episode from his popular TV series Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955).
This was the last movie Sir Alfred Hitchcock made for Paramount Pictures. To avoid interference by studio executives, he shot it on the Universal Pictures lot, where he had already moved his offices in order to produce Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955). Universal Pictures would later get the distribution rights to the movie as well even though the Paramount Pictures logo is still on the movie.
Tony Curtis, Janet Leigh’s husband at the time, claimed in his autobiography that the film’s success, and the fact that all anyone wanted to talk to her about was the shower scene, drove his wife to drink, which eventually led to her breakdown and their divorce.
The head of Mrs. Bates, seen at the end of this movie, was donated by Sir Alfred Hitchcock to Henri Langlois of the Cinematheque Francaise.
The camera used to shoot Norman’s point of view as he watched Marion undress through the peephole required a circular mask on the lens.
On February 8, 1960, exactly one week after he finished this movie, Sir Alfred Hitchcock directed Startime (1959) season one, episode twenty-seven, “Incident at a Corner”, that also featured Vera Miles, and much of the same crew that worked on this movie.
Anthony Perkins and Martin Balsam both later starred together in Murder on the Orient Express (1974). Perkins once again played a never-married, socially distant man with mother issues.
Alfred Hitchcock had not intended the film to be set at Christmas, as established by the date in the titles following the opening credits. Even though the film was shot in the Southwest at that time of year, and the characters were dressed for it, there was nothing in the story to connect it with Christmas. But after discovering the Christmas decorations on the street behind Marion’s boss as he crosses in front of her car during her flight out of Phoenix, and knowing it was too late to re-shoot the scene, the director reluctantly set the date to the holiday season.
In later interviews, Sir Alfred Hitchcock and Janet Leigh categorically stated that it was her body in the shower scene, but it wasn’t. The body belonged to a model called Marli Renfro. When you can’t see Leigh’s face in the shots, you’re looking at her body double. She only made $500 for filming what would become one of the most iconic movie scenes ever. A Dallas-born stripper who worked in Las Vegas, Renfro was one of the first Playboy Bunnies. Apart from Psycho, she only appeared in one other film: Francis Ford Coppola’s 1962 soft-porn comedy-western Tonight for Sure (1962).
“Mother”, or Norma Bates, is played by several actors and actresses in the movie, including Anthony Perkins. Several people contributed to her shrieking harpy hag voice, and there was a deliberate attempt to age her up, make her older, since Sir Alfred Hitchcock wanted this to be an apocryphal voice of Norman’s own conscience and inner demons. Realistically, Norma Bates would be about fifty, since Norman in the movie is only about twenty-six, but you can hear from the voice of the actors and actresses playing her that she is supposed to be a sexagenarian, which is possible if she gave birth to Norman when she was in her mid to late thirties.
Director Alexander Payne said he couldn’t imagine this movie being made in color, because it’s far more chilling in black-and-white, but it was remade in color as Psycho (1998), to universal disapproval.
Sir Alfred Hitchcock wanted either Stuart Whitman, Tom Tryon, Brian Keith, Cliff Robertson, or Rod Taylor for the role of Sam Loomis, but Universal Pictures insisted on John Gavin.
To achieve the effect of the water coming out of the shower head and streaming down past the camera on all sides, Sir Alfred Hitchcock had a huge shower head made to order and shot with his camera very close to it.
Norman’s parlor features many stuffed birds, several of whom are associated with wisdom or intelligence, including an owl and a crow. Less noticed is a hoopoe, a striking striped bird native to Eurasia and Africa, that Norman rests his hand upon during the calm portion of his conversation with Marion. Hoopoes are common in Middle Eastern and African folklore, and are characterized as being wise, much like owls. On the other hand, pheasants like the one behind him in the same scene are thought to be fairly stupid, suggesting the split nature of Norman’s personality. This seems intentional, given the recurring bird motifs throughout the movie.
It’s just “Mrs. Bates” in this movie; her first name isn’t specified until the sequels.
Ranked #14 on the AFI 100 Years… 100 Movies 10th Anniversary Edition, up 4 places from #18 in 1997.
John Gavin appeared in both this film and Spartacus (1960) in the same year. This means he worked with both Janet Leigh and her then-husband, Tony Curtis.
Sandwiches and milk, snacking from a bag of Candy Corn, and having peanut butter and crackers in the kitchen are the only times in the film series when Norman is seen preparing food of any kind at home. Since he murdered his mother as a teenager it will be assumed that he never learned to cook, and Norman (along with Tony Perkins) remained rail thin for 30 years.
In his youth, Anthony Perkins had a boyish, earnest quality, reminiscent of the young James Stewart, which Sir Alfred Hitchcock exploited and subverted.
The painting Norman Bates removes to observe Marion as she undresses in her washroom is Susannah and the Elders, 1691, by Willem van Mieris. It was from Alfred Hitchcock’s own art collection.
For Marion’s driving scenes, to get her proper actions and facial expressions, Alfred Hitchcock articulated to Janet Leigh what she was doing and thinking at every point in her flight from justice. Later on, cutaway views of the windshield and rear view mirror, road sounds, and voice overs from the other actors, were cut into the film, establishing these stimuli for the audience.
Since the death of Patricia Hitchcock in 2021, Vera Miles is now the sole surviving member of the cast.
Michael Powell directed the infamous movie Peeping Tom (1960), which has been called the “British version of Psycho” by critics. This is ironic, because this movie was directed by an Englishman. But Peeping Tom concerns itself with English characters and takes place in Britain, whereas this movie takes place in the U.S. and concerns itself with Americans. The only British character in this movie is Caroline. She plays Marion’s co-worker at the beginning of the movie, and was played by Patricia Hitchcock, Sir Alfred Hitchcock’s daughter.
Sir Alfred Hitchcock asked graphic designer Saul Bass to find a way to make the house appear more forbidding. But each attempt by Saul Bass to alter the look of the house failed. Finally, he gave up and tried surrounding it at night with moonlit clouds, moving abnormally, giving the house an eerie silhouette and sinister appearance. This helped give later scenes inside the house, such as Arbogast quietly going up the stairs, an eerie feeling of foreboding.
When she was auditioned for the job of Janet Leigh’s body double in Psycho’s iconic shower scene, model, dancer, and Playboy cover girl Marli Renfro said she had to strip naked for Alfred Hitchcock. After he examined her every curve, he took her to Leigh’s trailer where she had to drop her robe again while Leigh reviewed her body. Renfro was a dedicated nudist and a professional stripper, so she had no issue being naked in front of people. After she was cast, she said she spent hours a day for a week naked on set in front of Hitchcock and a mostly male crew as they shot from every angle. At one point, Hitchcock attached a measuring tape to the lens of the camera, walked over and put the point of it on her left nipple to make sure her breast will be out of focus. But she said he was an absolute gentleman and went out of his way to make her feel comfortable.
Sam Loomis’ last name is an obvious tongue-in-cheek reference to the Loomis armored truck company. This grimly humorous allusion is due to Marion Crane’s stealing a large sum of money that she had been entrusted with as a courier, just as the operators of a Loomis truck are tasked with honorably transporting large sums of currency to various destinations.
Included among the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”, edited by Steven Schneider.
The two scenes of Norman’s mother when she leaves her bedroom to go downstairs, are both shown from overhead outside her bedroom door. The first is when Norman, dressed as his mother, runs downstairs to kill Arbogast coming up them. The second is when Norman, fearing she’ll be arrested for the murders, carries her protesting corpse downstairs to hide her in the cellar. The director has stated that his intention was to hide Mrs. Bates’s appearance in a way not to arouse audience suspicion. But the two sightings of his mother from the same vantage point, once with Norman voicing her words, again misleads the audience into thinking she is both alive and dangerous. Thus setting up the suspense in the last scene when Lila, Marion’s sister, visits the house alone to question the mother. Then hides in the cellar with the presumably dangerous mother after Norman shows up unexpectedly.
Sir Alfred Hitchcock personally funded Psycho’s entire cost of production.
Included among the American Film Institute’s 1998 list of the Top 100 Greatest American Movies.
The film is included on Roger Ebert’s “Great Movies” list.
Shirley Jones was up for, and almost got, the part of Marion Crane in Psycho. If she had beaten out Janet Leigh for the role, Jones would have played two Marions in a row. Marion in Psycho (1960) and Marian the Librarian in The Music Man (1962).
To paraphrase from the play “The Importance of Being Earnest”, Oscar Wilde opined how man’s tragedy was that he does not become like his mother.
According to ‘The Psycho Movies’ website, ” Anthony Perkins wasn’t present during the shooting of the shower scene. A stand-in played Mother while Perkins was rehearsing a Broadway show in New York.”
Included among the American Film Institute’s 2001 list of the Top 100 Most Heart-Pounding American Movies.
There is a similarity in Psycho (1960) seen and heard in The Raven (1935). In both films, the main character is shown with a stuffed bird and is heard to say “it’s more than a hobby.”
Anthony Perkins had not one, but two, shower scenes in 1960. He also starred with Jane Fonda (in her film debut) in Tall Story (1960). They were kissing in a tiny shower in a camper.
The movie features seven actors and actresses who starred on The Twilight Zone (1959). Vera Miles (Lila Crane) starred in The Twilight Zone: Mirror Image (1960). Martin Balsam (Milton Arbogast) starred in The Twilight Zone: The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine (1959) and The Twilight Zone: The New Exhibit (1963). John McIntire (Sheriff Al Chambers) appeared in The Twilight Zone: The Chaser (1960). Simon Oakland (Dr. Fred Richmond) appeared in The Twilight Zone: The Rip Van Winkle Caper (1961) and The Twilight Zone: The Thirty-Fathom Grave (1963). Vaughn Taylor (George Lowery) appeared in The Twilight Zone: Time Enough at Last (1959), The Twilight Zone: Still Valley (1961), The Twilight Zone: I Sing the Body Electric (1962), The Twilight Zone: The Incredible World of Horace Ford (1963), and The Twilight Zone: The Self-Improvement of Salvadore Ross (1964). Lurene Tuttle (Mrs. Chambers) appeared uncredited in The Twilight Zone: Sounds and Silences (1964). John Anderson (California Charlie) appeared in The Twilight Zone: A Passage for Trumpet (1960), The Twilight Zone: The Odyssey of Flight 33 (1961), The Twilight Zone: Of Late I Think of Cliffordville (1963), and The Twilight Zone: The Old Man in the Cave (1963).
The film was budgeted so well, that total production costs came to just less than $807,000 at the time. By comparison, 1.5 hours (3 episodes) of the Hitchcock half-hour television show of the day cost $387,000, just less than half of what the film cost.
Although it was believed that Sir Alfred Hitchcock was having problems with his marriage during production, some have disputed this as mere rumour.
During the scene where the Psychiatrist is explaining Bates’ psyche, behind him on the file cabinet is a wooden box with a GW insignia. That was a popular office Globe Werniche teak wood index file box that now is considered a collectible.
Actress Meg Tilly has starred in two sequels to two classic movies. She first starred in ‘Psycho II’ (1983), the sequel to ‘Psycho'(1960), then later starred in ‘The Two Jakes’ (1990), the sequel to ‘Chinatown’ (1974). These four pictures were each first released in four different decades.
At 6:37 Hitchcock makes his cameo appearance standing on the sidewalk as seen from inside Marion’s office.
Sir Alfred Hitchcock received several letters from ophthalmologists who noted that Janet Leigh’s eyes were still contracted during the extreme close-ups after her character’s death. The pupils of a true corpse dilate after death. They told Hitchcock he could achieve a proper dead-eye effect by using belladonna drops. Hitchcock did so in all of his later movies.
Sir Alfred Hitchcock tested the fear factor of Mother’s corpse by placing it in Janet Leigh’s dressing room and listening to how loud she screamed when she discovered it there.
At the end of the shower scene, the first few seconds of the camera pull-back from Janet Leigh’s face is a freeze-frame. Sir Alfred Hitchcock did this because, while viewing the rushes, his wife noticed the pulse in Leigh’s neck throbbing.
Stephen King said “people remember the first time they experienced Janet Leigh, and no remake or sequel can top that moment when the curtain is pulled back and the knife starts to do its work”.
Because he was working with a low budget, Sir Alfred Hitchcock did not want to use top marquee names, with the exception of Janet Leigh. But he hired her because he knew audiences would be shocked to see a star of her stature killed off early in the movie. (There is a slight giveaway in the credits, however, where instead of first billing, her name appears last as “And Janet Leigh as Marion Crane.”) She was paid twenty-five thousand dollars for the role.
Bernard Herrmann achieved the shrieking sound of the shower scene by having a group of violinists saw the same note over and over. He called the motif “a return to pure ice water.”
Sir Alfred Hitchcock was very uneasy about the morphing of Norman’s face into Mother’s at the end of the movie. He sent out three different versions of the movie during its initial release. The first version included the ending seen on all prints today, the second contained no morphing at all, and the third contained the trick at the end, yet also included it at an earlier point in the movie. When Sam Loomis (John Gavin) comes back to the Bates Motel to look for Arbogast, there is a zooming shot of Norman standing by the swamp, looking very sinister. The third version of the movie included the subtle morphing of Norman’s face into Mother’s at this moment.
The shot of the knife appearing to enter Marion’s abdomen was achieved by pressing it against her body so as to dent the skin slightly, withdrawing it rapidly, and then playing that shot backwards.
During post-production, Sir Alfred Hitchcock had several wrangles with the censors over scenes they considered objectionable, including the opening scene (with Marion in bed in her bra after obviously having had an afternoon tryst with Sam), the suggested nudity and brutality of the shower sequence, and both the visual and aural depiction of a toilet.
The American Film Institute ranked Norman Bates as #2 on the Top 50 Greatest Movie Villains.
When Janet Leigh signs the motel registry, the entry above seems to be that of another female guest, thus corroborating the questions asked at the end of the film, about other missing persons.
After Norman returns with a tray after being chewed out by his mother for feeding Marion, his reflection is seen dimly in the glass of a motel window as he tells her, “Mother… …what is the phrase… ‘she isn’t herself today'”. As Norman is the only one of the five major characters never seen reflected in a mirror, the scene hints subtly his own personality is fading, and he is becoming his mother.
The scene where Marion smiles as she imagines Mr. Cassidy’s remarks about her while she flees from justice, foreshadows Norman Bates’s later imagining his mother’s remarks about him, then smiling as he sits in jail. Suggesting that the their strong imaginations may help them to commit crimes. Only that in Norman’s case, the ones he commits when he imagines that he is his mother, are much worse.