We wrapped up watching Psycho in my high school film class today. Showing a film made in 1960 to students is interesting, because none of them have ever seen it. They’ve heard about it, and they have ideas about it, but every year that I show Psycho I’m deliciously surprised by the parts that catch them off guard. Last year I showed the film on a whim, at Halloween, after my syllabus pick for Alfred Hitchcock—Rear Window—was a huge dud. I still dunno why the students didn’t like it (it’s my favorite Hitchcock film), but in the end-of-the-year survey it was the film the students disliked the most. So I needed a horror film to “wow” them.
OK, quick fact: Rear Window was made in 1954, and is in color, but Psycho, made six years later, is in black-and-white. Cinematography sixty years ago was complicated.
Now, if you saw Psycho years ago, and were curious if it still holds up—yeah, it still holds up. Holds up AMAZINGLY well. Students love it, and though they laugh at a few points (like when investigator Arbogast falls down the stairs), they can tell it is a product of the special effects of the time. So some of the more hokey shots are overlooked, and honestly, they’re quick. Students don’t care. And moving on, at this point I’ve seen this film a good dozen times, and I feel like I know it pretty well. But today, one detail really stood out to me: in the infamous shower scene, Marion Crane gets in the shower, gets under the shower head, and then turns on the water! It’s insane—it would be so cold without warming up first. And now, truly, we know who the real psycho was.
Happy Halloween everyone!
–Jeff and Leah