Franchise Review: Psycho II

After twenty-two years of psychiatric care, Norman Bates attempts to return to a life of solitude, but the specters of his crimes – and his mother – continue to haunt him.

How in the hell do you follow up the bona fide classic “Psycho”?

I’m always skeptical when it comes to sequels, I don’t care what film it is it’s just the way I’ve always been like that ever since I was a kid when I watched “Batman & Robin” (can you blame me). So even with Anthony Perkins returning to his infamous role I was still skeptical heading into this. Luckily, that skepticism wasn’t needed.

In my opinion the storyline for the film is a stroke of genius, with Bates never convicted of murder by reasons of insanity and now classed as sane he is free to go. You see from Bates’ point of view of how much the world has changed since he was last out, it makes for intriguing viewing.

Anthony Perkins manages to slide straight back into the ‘Norman Bates’ role and seems to embrace him like an old friend, you wouldn’t think he’d not played the character in over 20 years. We also see Vera Miles return which makes to the role of ‘Lila Loomis’ which helps bridge the story between two films.

Tom Holland (yes, the same Tom Holland who brought us ‘Chucky’) wrote an absolutely fantastic story, it fits right in next to it’s predecessor Without giving too much away this film has some great twists and turns with a bang of an ending that will leave you with your jaw on the floor.

“Psycho II” is a fun sequel and helps bring the franchise into a more modern age, I’m sure Mr. Hitchcock would have been proud of it.

Miscellaneous facts about the film:

The reflection of young Norman Bates in the doorknob when he flashes back to his mother’s poisoning is Anthony Perkins’ son Oz Perkins.

The original house set was used and the motel was reconstructed.

Meg Tilly was never allowed to watch any sort of television as a child, and so had never seen the original Psycho (1960) and was unaware of its significance. She didn’t understand why the press was giving all the attention to Anthony Perkins for his comeback role in this movie, and one day on the set Perkins overheard her say, “Why is Tony getting all the attention?” Perkins was upset, didn’t talk to her during filming, and recommended that she be replaced, even though half of her scenes had already been shot.

Producer Hilton A. Green originally suggested Jamie Lee Curtis to play Mary Loomis due to her being the daughter of Janet Leigh and having success with Halloween (1978). Jamie Lee Curtis had a scheduling conflict though, and did not want to return to the horror genre after getting such a huge role in 1983’s top comedy, Trading Places (1983).

At time-code 25:10, when Mary and Norman first go into Norman’s mother’s room, before they turn the lights on, you can see Alfred Hitchcock’s silhouette on the wall to the far right.

The way that Norman says “cutlery” in the scene in the kitchen was conceived during a table read of the script. Anthony Perkins accidentally stuttered when he said the line and director Richard Franklin loved it and told him to say it like that in the film.

The original shower head used in Psycho (1960) was supposed to have been used in this film as well. However, just before filming was to commence, someone stole it.

When Anthony Perkins was ambivalent about the film (and leaning towards passing on returning to play Norman Bates), rumours flew that Christopher Walken was going to be cast in the lead role and the film would be a TV movie event. However, Perkins eventually agreed to star in the film. In the DVD commentary for the movie, screenwriter Tom Holland was asked if Walken had almost become the new Norman Bates. He said he could not confirm or deny the reports and immediately began talking about an unrelated subject.

Actor Anthony Perkins was given an audio cassette tape of the opening title theme by composer Jerry Goldsmith. The music allegedly brought Perkins to tears.

Writer Robert Bloch published the novel “Psycho II” in 1982. The plot of the book is very different than the feature film. It has Norman Bates escaping from the mental institution and traveling to Hollywood, California to stop the production of a film based on his life. Universal Studios was reportedly upset by Bloch’s take on the horror film industry and this led to the development of this 1983 film sequel.

Meg Tilly has expressed that her worst film experience was working with Anthony Perkins and director Richard Franklin in Psycho II (1983) saying that they were both very difficult to work with. She has also said her best film experience was working with director Norman Jewison and co-stars, Jane Fonda and Anne Bancroft in Agnes of God (1985). Interestingly, both films resulted in Tilly being nominated for several awards, including a Golden Globe and an Oscar (Academy Award).

Meg Tilly’s character’s name, Mary Samuels, is a reference to the original Psycho (1960). In that film Marion Crane signs her name as Marie Samuels in the Bates Motel. The book upon which the film was based had Marion named “Mary”.

Composer Jerry Goldsmith had written a musical theme for Norman Bates that director Franklin rejected. The theme ended up being used in Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983).

Quentin Tarantino has stated that this is one of his favorite films, and that he prefers it to Psycho (1960).

The scene in Norman’s childhood bedroom where Mary comforts him on the bed was added by screenwriter Tom Holland at the request of Anthony Perkins, who felt that his character needed a moving moment with the character of Mary Loomis.

Meg Tilly did not attend the premiere of the film.

Director Richard Franklin was a Hitchcock student – they first met when Franklin ran a Hitchcock discussion/retrospective during his first semester at USC – and even visited him on the set of Topaz (1969).

The character of Sam Loomis from the original film was written out, as the actor, John Gavin was currently serving as the American ambassador to Mexico.

Vera Miles said in interviews that she never really talked to Anthony Perkins during the shooting of the original. She said Alfred Hitchcock was so strict and focused, and everyone was bending over backwards to get this stuff right, so no one really had the time or freedom to socialize. But she said when they were shooting the sequel, both she and Anthony Perkins had loosened up, and they had a few conversations together. “He was delightful,” she said.

Lee Garlington who plays Myrna, the bitchy waitress at Emma Spool’s diner, also produced the handwriting of Mother’s notes. Garlington is a well known veteran Hollywood actress that has appeared in TV shows like Roseanne (1988) and 8 Simple Rules… for Dating My Teenage Daughter (2002).

The set designers for Psycho II found many props and decor from the original film to use again, including their version of a notorious painting. “The Rape of Lucretia” returned to cover up Norman’s peep hole in the wall of his office. It also saw a return in Psycho III (1986).

Richard Franklin was selected to direct the movie because of a film he made called Roadgames (1981) that was considered to be influenced by Rear Window (1954), one of Hitchcock’s most famous films.

The Universal Studios backlot is used to represent the town of Fairvale. It was later used to represent Kingston Falls in Gremlins (1984) and Hill Valley in Back to the Future (1985) and Back to the Future Part II (1989).

In 1960, Psycho (1960) made over $32 million in worldwide box office returns, whereas this film made over $34 million.

The film was shot in 32 days.

Actress Meg Tilly did not get along well with either director Richard Franklin or co-star Anthony Perkins. Tilly complained about all the Psycho fans at one point. Perkins, who already wasn’t happy with her performance, asked Franklin to fire her. Tilly said it was the worst work experience of her career; and she did not attend the premiere. In spite of this, most critics praised her performance and her chemistry with Perkins.

The film was originally conceived as a made for TV movie. However, when Anthony Perkins decided to reprise his role as Norman Bates, the film became a theatrical release.

In the original screenplay, there was dialogue between Mary and Dr. Raymond when he is driving her to work but it was cut.

Norman refrains from giving Mary the key to Cabin 1. Cabin 1 was the site of the infamous shower scene in Psycho (1960).

Brian De Palma declined to direct this movie.

That’s Anthony Perkins really playing in the piano scene. He was a lifelong pianist and teacher.

The book Mary is reading in bed on her first night in the Bates house is “In the Belly of the Beast”, an account of life in prison that was one of the resources used by Norman Mailer to write “The Executioner’s Song”, and was assisted by Mailer in getting published in 1981. It also shows up in Psycho III (1986), abandoned and battered in the Bates front yard.

When the film was released, critics criticized that the shower scene from the first film was used as the opening.

Richard Franklin was so keen to have Jerry Goldsmith compose the score, he turned down Universal’s offers of Bernard Herrmann’s cues for the original film, and even his unused work for Torn Curtain (1966). Though well-meaning; Franklin was trying to let the sequel establish it’s own identity; many criticized the director for rejecting arguably one of film history’s best scores; and instead having Goldsmith conceive his own “poor man’s Psycho” music. Psycho III (1986) did not use the theme music either; though it was not given permission as Richard Franklin was.

Norman plays two pieces on the piano throughout the film; both composed by Beethoven. Refer to Psycho (1960), there is a shot of a record player. The record on the player is a piece called “Eroica” by Beethoven (this is not the piece played in “Psycho II”). This suggests Norman Bates’s affection towards Beethoven’s music. This was probably woven into the plot because Anthony Perkins himself was a piano aficionado; not so much because of Norman.

John Williams was originally suggested to compose the film.

Dr. Raymond in this movie was originally going to be Dr. Richman, played by Simon Oakland in the original film. He likely would have been brought back to reprise his role but his health was failing at this point, and he actually passed away just a month or two after this premiered.

Sheriff Hunt was originally called Sheriff Chambers and Dr. Raymond was originally called Dr. William Richmond in the script. They were both characters from the original film but their names were changed at the last minute.

It took screenwriter Tom Holland six months to complete the screenplay.

Writer Tom Holland and director Richard Franklin and the Universal Pictures studio approached Patricia Hitchcock, the daughter of Alfred Hitchcock, about doing a sequel to Psycho (1960). Patricia said: “Of course! He would have loved that”. Pat Hitchcock appeared in the original ‘Psycho’ as Caroline who was Marion Crane’s friend and co-worker at the Phoenix Real Estate Developer company.

Film critic Roger Ebert gave this film two and a half stars and said it continued the story but not the spell of the original.

Original Psycho (1960) movie actress Janet Leigh appears in both ‘Psycho II’ (1983) and Psycho III (1986) as Marion Crane – albeit but only via archive footage from the original.

Meg Tilly was the “It girl” in Hollywood from about ’82 to ’85 when she starred in Agnes of God (1985), Psycho 2, The Big Chill (1983), Tex (1982) and Off Beat (1986). Tom Holland the writer of Psycho 2 met her on set and got along with her famously. It was through Meg that Holland met her sister Jennifer, who would go on to star in Holland’s iconic horror franchise Child’s Play, playing Tiffany Valentine, Chucky’s femme fatale and partner in crime.

Final theatrical feature film of actress Claudia Bryar who played Mrs. Emma Spool.

The film takes place in 1982.

The producer’s name is Bernard Schwartz. Bernard HERSCHEL Schwartz is unrelated. He is, however, connected to the victim of the original Psycho (1960). Most people know him as Tony Curtis, husband to Janet Leigh, parents of Jamie Lee Curtis.

Both Lila and Norman call their mothers “mother”, not mom. And in fact both have crazy mothers that are manipulative and antagonistic, and who lead to their own demise.

When Warren Toomey calls Norman a “psycho” at the restaurant and then later drives by shouting “psycho” at the Bates house, these are the first times we hear the word ”psycho” spoken in the franchise.

According to the audio-commentary, most of the film was shot on the Universal Studios backlot and on the studio’s Sound Stage No. 24 which was Alfred Hitchcock’s favourite sound stage.

It has been suggested that the eye during the peep-hole scare shot, where Mary Samuels (Meg Tilly) looks through a peep-hole, was actually a shot of one of Tilly’s own eyeballs, so as to create a disorienting effect on the audience.

According to ‘The Psycho Movies’ website, ”only about forty feet of the Bates Motel was constructed for the film. The original motel had been torn down to make room for the Universal Studios Tour. Much of the exterior of the motel is a matte painting by Albert Whitlock.”

‘Psycho II’ (1983) got surprisingly good reviews. In fact, 61% of the reviewers on ‘Rotten Tomatoes’ liked it. It’s ironic how all the critics say it cannot hold a candle to the original. They are forgetting that the original was very controversial when it came out and many critics hated it. It is only later; in retrospect; that the film has become almost universally beloved and is now considered one of the best movies ever made.

A title card in the film’s closing credits directly acknowledges Hitch and reads: ”The producers wish to acknowledge their debt to Sir Alfred Hitchcock”.

For some reason they don’t use the iconic and famous “tweet tweet tweet” shrieking violins score that Bernard Herrmann immortalized in Psycho for this movie. As it turns out the studio offered to let director Franklin use the iconic score, but he declined, opting with Jerry Goldsmith to create their own unique score which would be more effective.

Then a newcomer actress with just a handful of film and TV credits behind here, Meg Tilly actually had relevant movie genre experience for this picture, as she had the year before starred in a low-budget horror movie called One Dark Night (1982). Tilly would later appear in such other genre related pieces as Impulse (1984) (suspense-drama), Masquerade (1988) (mystery-thriller), The Two Jakes (1990) (detective film noir), and Body Snatchers (1993) (sci-fi-horror).

Actor Dennis Franz, who played Warren Toomey in this movie, had recently appeared in both Brian de Palma’s ‘Blow-Out’ (1981) and ‘Dressed to Kill’ (1980), which were both also Hitchcockian pastiches, with both featuring direct references to Hitch, such as voyeuristic long shot POV shots in ‘Dressed to Kill’ (1980) evoking Hitch’s ‘Rear Window’ (1954). In ‘Blow-Out’ (1981), there is a slasher film being made within the film featuring a knife wielding serial killer murdering a woman taking a shower which is a direct reference to ‘Psycho’ (1960).

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.

According to the audio commentary, the skeletal dummy seen in a coffin in the movie was also featured in Poltergeist (1982). That movie’s main tagline was ”they’re here” which is a phrase that Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) is actually heard saying at one point towards the end of ‘Psycho II’.

Tom Holland is quite the horror maestro, having penned this movie, having written and directed Fright Night and having directed Child’s Plays part 1 and 2, as well as Stepfather. More of a horror director and autuer than Hitchcock who really mostly directed crime thrillers, not really voyaging much into the horror genre except to direct Psycho, the Birds and Frenzy. Mostly Hitchcock was known for crime thrillers and suspense. Hitch favored an-innocent-man-living-on-the-lam-fasley-accused-of-a-crime type stories like The Man Who Knew Too Much, North by Northwest, Dial M For Murder and Vertigo. He even shoe-horned Psycho into that type of story by changing the beginning and focusing on Marion’s crime spree (which the book did not).

This sequel was originally going to be based on Robert Bloch’s sequel to his 1959 novel, which the original film was based on, but the studio found the book offensive for the prospect of a new movie, and so sought out another script.

The movie was not the first time that actress Meg Tilly had co-starred with a cast member called Perkins. In tele-movie Insight: The Trouble with Grandpa (1981), Tilly had played opposite actress Millie Perkins, though no relation to actor Anthony Perkins.

Anthony Perkins and Dennis Franz both appeared in Remember My Name (1978).

Cameo of Tom Holland – The screenwriter plays Deputy Norris.

Director Richard Franklin Cameo – As a man standing playing an arcade video game, Battlezone, in the diner that Norman works in, with his back to the camera, but turning his head briefly showing part of his face.

The final scene of Norman and Mrs. Spool was not given to cast and crew until the last day of shooting. All the shooting scripts ended with a message saying: “The final scene will be distributed to cast and crew on the last day of shooting”. The only people that knew about the ending were director Richard Franklin and writer Tom Holland.

In the shooting script an extended scene in the sheriff’s office at the end of the movie reveals Mary survives the gunshot and “she’ll pull through okay” but goes mad.

The iconic last shot of the movie with Norman standing in front of the house was used as a Christmas card for various crew members. When Universal presented concept art for the one sheet film poster, director Franklin wasn’t pleased with it. It was editor Andrew London who came up with the idea of using the Christmas card photo as the film poster and also came up with the famous tagline.

Lila Loomis (Vera Miles) knocks the hanging lamp right before her death scene in the Bates’ basement just like she did in the original Psycho (1960), also causing a lens flare as she did in the original film when she discovers “Mother” in the fruit cellar. Director Richard Franklin also does a series of close ups on Lila’s screaming face and mouth, getting closer and closer as Mother attacks, which is also an exact homage of the shots Alfred Hitchcock used during Marion Crane’s death in Psycho.

The kill scenes in this movie are only about 2 or 3 seconds each. Whereas in the original Marion’s death scene is 45 seconds; and Arbogast’s is about 20.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s