Franchise Review: Psycho IV – The Beginning

‘Norman Bates’ recalls his childhood with his abusive mother while fearing his unborn child will inherit his split personality disorder.

What we have here is essentially a sequel & prequel all wrapped into one film.

In this feature we get to see ‘Norman Bates’ telling the story of his childhood to a radio station doing a story on matricide, we witness the acts of ‘Norma Bates’ and what she inflicted on him. The scenes are so close to incest it makes you nauseous but it’s certainly essential story-telling.

We also see something that we get in a lot of modern reboots, screenwriter Joseph Stefano completely ignores the whole ‘Mrs. Spool’ story arc that was established in the two previous films and mainly uses the first film for all the source material, shame really as it could’ve been interesting to see how that played out.

Henry Thomas does a fantastic job of playing a young ‘Norman Bates’, he obviously studied the character very well and pulls it off amazingly. Also Olivia Hussey does a great job of playing the psychotic mother, she got a-lot of criticism which I feel wasn’t needed, in my opinion she pulled off the role with such grace.

And then there’s Anthony Perkins, he is truly fantastic as he always was through-out the entire franchise. Sadly you can see the effects of his AIDS illness (During production Perkins was diagnosed with HIV; he received treatment during filming), but all credit to him for carrying on and putting in an amazing performance.

The film is a great end to the franchise, it was the story we all wanted to know more about. Sure we were left with more questions than answers but it’s always good to have some mystery left.


Miscellaneous facts about the film:

Anthony Perkins and Psycho III (1986) screenwriter Charles Edward Pogue originally pitched an idea for Psycho IV that had Norman’s house and motel getting turned into a tourist attraction for horror weekends. Norman then escapes from the mental institution with a mute patient and the actor who was set to play Norman Bates for the horror weekend quits and Norman comes home and gets hired to play himself. Pogue claims that it was meant to be a black comedy but Universal opposed the idea.

Director Mick Garris has called Anthony Perkins the most difficult actor he has ever worked with.

When filming the first murder scene, Henry Thomas got so involved in the stabbing that part of the knife went into his hand which caused some nerve damage. To this day, he still has a scar.

When Anthony Perkins saw the first screening of the film, he called it the best out of all the Psycho sequels.

The only one of the Psycho sequels to use Bernard Herrmann’s original ‘Psycho’ theme music.

Olivia Hussey didn’t have to audition for the role of Norma Bates; she was directly offered the role and immediately said yes when she was asked if she was interested in playing the role.

Contrary to popular belief, only one ending was shot for the film. Director Mick Garris has stated in interviews that Janet Leigh saying in her introduction for the broadcast on Showtime that multiple endings were shot was just a publicity stunt by Universal.

The scene where Norman rips the apple in half was improvised by Anthony Perkins. In the script, Norman was originally supposed to take a butcher knife and slam it into the apple but Perkins felt that was too corny.

During pre-production, there were talks of the flashbacks to Norman’s youth being filmed in black and white to reference the original film.

The name of the psychologist in this film is Dr. Leo Richmond. The psychologist who explained Norman’s condition in the first film was named Dr. Fred Richmond.

The bed in Norma Bates’ bedroom is in fact the original bed from Psycho (1960).

The house and motel used for the film were originally built in 1988 on the back lot of Universal Studios Florida. It remained there until the early 1990s, when it was torn down.

Actor Henry Thomas was considered to reprise his role as Norman Bates in the Psycho (1998) remake before Vince Vaughn was cast.

The interior of mother’s bedroom is slightly different from the sets in the previous Psycho films. In this film, the room has a bathroom and an extra closet.

When Norman first calls into the radio show, he says that his name is Ed. Robert Bloch, author of the original novel “Psycho”, based Norman Bates on real-life Wisconsin serial killer and cannibal Ed Gein.

After the film aired on Showtime, there were rumours going around that a fifth film was in development that would focus on Norman’s newborn son. However, none of these rumors were true and another “Psycho” film would not be made until Gus Van Sant’s remake Psycho (1998).

This was the first film to be filmed at Universal Studios in Florida.

The film takes place in 1940, in 1949, on July 4, 1951 and in 1990.

This is the first “Psycho” film in which Virginia Gregg does not provide the voice of Norma Bates. Gregg died on September 15, 1986 at the age of 70.

The only sequel in the Psycho series not to feature clips from the infamous “shower scene” from the original.

Kurt Paul (Raymond Linette) previously served as Anthony Perkins’s stunt double in Psycho II (1983) and Psycho III (1986). He also played Norman Bates in Bates Motel (1987).

This film was shot in 24 days.

Steven Spielberg was so impressed with the film he personally wrote Mick Garris a letter of admiration. The letter holds permanent occupancy framed in Mick’s office to this day. Spielberg, of course, worked with Henry Thomas eight years prior in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982).

This is the only sequel to Psycho (1960) that Stephen King liked (director Mick Garris would soon after direct two King adaptations: Sleepwalkers and The Stand).

Anthony Perkins (Norman Bates) is the only actor to reprise his role from any of the previous “Psycho” films.

In the opening credits, the various shots of Norman’s birthday cake being made were done by a real baker.

In real life, tourists who visit Universal Studios in Florida can get close to the actual house that was used in the movie, but there’s no motel on display.

According to the feature commentary on the Scream Factory Blu-ray, even though this film debuted on TV in North America, it has actually premiered in theaters across Europe.

This movie broadcast premiered on Showtime in the USA on 10th November 1990 as part of a special ”Psycho” retrospective mini-series. It was hosted and presented by actress Janet Leigh who had played Marion Crane in Alfred Hitchcock’s original ‘Psycho’ picture.

Mick Garris is the only director of a Psycho film who is not deceased. The ones who have passed away are Alfred Hitchcock (Psycho), Richard Franklin (Psycho II), Anthony Perkins (Psycho III) and Richard Rothstein (Bates Motel).

First ‘Psycho’ movie in the official film franchise to be made-for-television. It’s the second if one counts the ‘Bates Motel’ (1987) tele-movie. ‘Psycho IV’ (1990) did get a theatrical release in some territories such as in Europe as is the case with some US-made tele-features.

Fourth and final film in the original ‘Psycho’ film franchise. It’s the fifth if one counts the ‘Bates Motel’ (1987) tele-movie. It is also the final appearance in a ‘Psycho’ movie of actor Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates.

According to ‘The Psycho Movies’ website, this movie ‘…’was the first feature film to be shot on the Universal Studios Florida complex in Orlando. The house and motel facades were constructed so close to the Hard Rock Cafe that filmmakers had to ask the manager to turn the lights and music off during the shoot.”

The only movie installment in the ‘Psycho’ film franchise to feature a subtitle in the name of the movie. The subtitle of ‘Psycho IV’ is ”The Beginning” which indicates its prequel aspects.

Third ‘Psycho’ movie starring Anthony Perkins made within an eight year period. ‘Psycho II’ (1983) shot around July-August 1982, ‘Psycho III’ (1986) shot around July-September 1985, whilst ‘Psycho IV’ shot around June-July 1990.

The only ‘Psycho’ movie to not be shot on the back-lot at Universal Pictures in Los Angeles, California. The movie instead shot at the same studio’s new facilities in Florida. ‘Psycho’ (1960), ‘Psycho II’ (1983), ‘Psycho III’ (1986) and the ‘Psycho’ (1998) remake all shot on the back-lot at Universal Studios in Hollywood.

First of two ‘Psycho’ movies made during the 1990s. The second would be the ‘Psycho’ (1998) remake.

Actor Henry Thomas had previously worked on ‘Cloak and Dagger’ (1984) with Richard Franklin who was the director of ‘Psycho II’ (1983).

First ‘Psycho’ movie to be written by screenwriter Joseph Stefano since ‘Psycho’ (1960) – an interval of about exactly thirty years or three decades. Stefano is also credited for the ‘Psycho’ (1988) video game and the ‘Psycho’ (1998) remake in that both are based on his screenplay for ‘Psycho’ (1960).

The film reveals that the two previously unidentified women Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) killed were Holly (Sharen Camille) and Gloria (Bobbi Evors).

This is the only “Psycho” film that shows Norma Bates alive. In the previous films, she is a corpse.

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