.. pathy for a peeping Tom killer in his forties (the age of the murderer in Bloch’s novel), the director proposed using a much younger character and even suggested to the writer that Perkins get the lead role(Rebello 111). When Hitchcock began production on PSYCHO, he was told that he would have to use the facilities at Revue Studios, the television division of Universal Studios, which Paramount had rented for the making of the film(Rebello 112). Although he was unable to use his regular cinematographer, Robert Burks, Hitchcock managed to convince Paramount that his special editor, George Tomasini, should be included in the production(Rebello 110). The director’s desire for detail was in full force here.
He insisted that Stefano and others scout motels along Route 99 to learn how they operated, who stopped at them, and who ran them. The Bates Motel was then put together on the Universal back lot and was definitely on the seedy side, with a scaled-down The mansion cost only $15,000 to construct and technicians cannibalized several other stock buildings on the lot to keep the costs down, throwing onto the structure a tower that had been part of the Dowd home in HARVEY(Rebello 150). Perkins, then only twenty-seven, was hired without the actor even reading the script. The rising young performer owed Paramount one film under his contract and was taken aboard because Hitchcock thought him right for the role of Norman Bates along with other reasons(Rebello 128). The role of the female lead was a problem. Hitchcock was interested in using Shirley Jones, but her salary would have been too high.
Instead, he selected Leigh, who was more of a starlet than a star at the time, although this part would change that(Rebello 132). Leigh received a copy of the Bloch novel before shooting began, but the director wrote a note to her pointing out that the female victim, who is almost incidental in the novel, would have much more importance in the film(Rebello 133). Actually Leigh is on screen for only forty-five minutes before she is brutally slashed. Leigh’s relatively rapid departure forces viewers to switch the focus that they began. To protect the murderous mother’s real identity, Hitchcock announced to the press that he was considering Helen Hayes or Judith Anderson to play the role(Rebello 136).
This attempt to set up viewers for the surprise ending (an atypical finish for a film by a director who always avoided surprise endings) backfired somewhat when Hitchcock was attacked with wires and letters from actresses asking to be considered for the role of the mother(Rebello 136). Originally, the concept for the horrific mother was nothing more than a large plastic doll with glass eyes; however, Hitchcock was quick to alter this approach, substituting a sunken-faced and an ossified corpse of his own design(Rebello 137). He used that cadaver for one of the many offbeat pranks he pulled on Leigh, which the actress took so well that she quickly became one of Hitchcock’s favorite performers. Once the corpse was created, Hitchcock had it placed in Leigh’s dressing room so that when she entered and turned on the light the corpse sat grinning at her, causing the actress to let out piercing screams louder and more frightening than her shrieks in the shower scene(Rebello 140). When it came to that famous shower scene, Hitchcock not only approved of every little detail in the scenefrom toilet to shower nozzlebut he demonstrated every move the killer and victim were to make.
The director even showed Perkins exactly how he was to wrap the body in the shower curtain. Ironically, Perkins was not present for the filming of Leigh’s murder. He later commented: Not many people know this, but I was in New York rehearsing for a play when the shower scene was filmed in Hollywood. It is rather strange to go through life being identified with this sequence knowing that it was my double. Actually the first time I saw PSYCHO and that shower scene was at the studio. I found it really scary.
I was just as frightened as anybody else. Working on the picture, though, was one of the happiest filming experiences of my life. We had fun making itnever realizing the impact it would have.(Rebello 192). It was Hitchcock who specifically ordered this murder shown as a brutal thing, scribbling in his own hand for shot 116: The slashing. An impression of a knife slashing, as if tearing at the very screen, ripping the film. This brutal slaying is long, terrifying, and gory.
Through lightning cuts between Leigh and close ups of the knife striking her body (she is stabbed at least a dozen times) and seemingly piercing her flesh, Hitchcock depictsfor the first time in film historythe bloody realities of violent murder(Rebello 189). Reportedly, a fast motion reverse shot was used to give the impression that the knife actually enters Leigh’s abdomen. Another of the inventive techniques Hitchcock uses in this legendary scene is the way in which he shows the spray coming directly out of the shower nozzle. Jets of water encompass the camera without ever hitting the lens, as if Leigh is looking directly into the nozzle. To achieve this effect, Hitchcock ordered a huge shower nozzle made, then moved his camera in for a close-up.
Even though the film was shot on a hectic schedule of a little over a month, Hitchcock took a full week to shoot the shower scene, directing it from a tower above the set, employing a single cameraman. He had abandoned the use of Technicolor, so as not to make the film more gory than it already was, and washed chocolate sauce down the drain as if it were Leigh’s blood(Rebello 200). Leigh was opposed to shooting this scene naked. She went through many options such as special garments such as the ones that strippers wore, but none worked. Finally, the director came up with a solution; flesh-colored moleskin.
But during shooting hot water from the shower undermined this solution. I felt something strange happening around my breasts, Leigh later said. The steam from the hot water had melted the adhesive on the moleskin and I sensed the napped cotton fabric peeling away from my skin. What to do?To spoil the so far successful shot and be modest? Or get it over with and be immodest. I opted for immodestythat was the printed take, and no one noticed my bareness before I could cover it up.
I think!(Rebello 209). Because he owned so much of the film, Hitchcock turned promotion minded with PSYCHO, devising the entire publicity campaign for his gruesome masterpiece. He insisted that no moviegoer be seated during the showing of the film. The director said that he had fun with the film. In an interview with French director Franois Truffaut, Hitchcock stated that it was rather exciting to use the camera to deceive the audiencesThe game with the audience was fascinating.
I was directing the viewers. You might say I was playing them like an organ I didn’t start off to make an important movie. I thought I could have fun with this subject and this situation My main satisfaction is that the film had an effect on the audience I feel it’s tremendously satisfying for us to be able to use the cinematic art to achieve something of a mass emotion. With PSYCHO we most definitely achieved this. It wasn’t a message that stirred the audiences, nor was it a great performance or their enjoyment of the novel.
They were aroused by pure film. That’s why I take pride in the fact that PSYCHO, more than any of my other pictures, is a film that befilm.(Rebello 234). In a 1947 press conference the great director laid out his philosophy of the mystery-horror genre: I am to provide the public with beneficial shocks. Civilization has become so protective that we’re no longer able to get our goose bumps instinctively. The only way to remove the numbness and revive our moral equilibrium is to use artificial means to bring about the shock. The best way to achieve that, it seems to me, is through a movie.(Rebello 236).
PSYCHO provided shocks heard around the world and became an instant smash, breaking all box-office records in its initial release. Hitchcock had the last laugh with the Paramount executives who wanted no part of PSYCHO from the beginning. The film became one of Paramount’s most popular pictures and it made Hitchcock not only a master of the modern horror film but also fabulously wealthy. He had outwitted everyonethe industry, the audience, and the critics. Alfred Joseph Hitchcock lived for 80 years.
He died on April 28, 1980. He lived a long, and very successful life. Throughout his life, he took part in the creation of a countless number of films. His films were very popular at the time that he made them, and they are still appreciated by many today. He is undoubtedly the Master of Suspense.
Bibliography 791.43 Sen Sennet, Ted. Great Movie Directors. New York: 1982. Herricks High School Library 791.43 Phi Philips, Gene D. Alfred Hitchcock. New York: 1976. Herricks High School Library 791.4302 Reb Rebello, Stephen. Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho.
New York: 1986. Herricks High School Library 791.43 Spo Spoto, Donald. The Art of Alfred Hitchcock. Fifty Years of his Motion Pictures. New York: 1976. Herricks High School Library.