Psycho (1960)

(On Cable TV, July 2013) More than half a century after release and its accession to the pantheon of pop-culture, is there something left to say about Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho?  When movies such as Hitchcock are a fictionalized making-of, when the infamous shower scene has been parodied nearly everywhere, when the basic twist of the film has inspired an entire sub-genre of psycho-killer thrillers, it would seem as if all has been said and done.  And yet…  the sudden shift in structure signaled by the infamous shower scene remains as unsettling as it was (even though you can argue that it robs the film of a good chunk of its narrative energy), while the film remains effective in its small details.  Hitchcock was a master craftsman, and while his technique has been widely imitated, Psycho doesn’t feel as dated as other films of its time.  In fact, the most dated thing about it isn’t the black-and-white cinematography, obvious set design, stilted acting style or period details: It’s the awful ending monologue in which a psychologist explains in excruciating detail what subsequent generations of filmgoers now take for granted.  Still, Psycho keeps much of its power nowadays, and even viewers who may think they know everything about the film may find something new.  (For some reason, I feel pleased-as-punch that the film features a prominent CANADA in the middle of the screen for a relatively long shot.)  Plus, the ending monologue is still remarkably chilling.

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