Reviewed by MattFini
Starring Tom Holland, Jeff Fahey, Mick Garris, Adam Green, Joe Lynch, and many more
Directed by Robert Victor Galluzzo
Distributed by Shout! Factory
It’s a wonder that anyone got around to making The Psycho Legacy at all considering that so many key participants (Anthony Perkins, Richard Franklin, Jerry Goldsmith and, of course, that Hitchcock guy) are no longer with us. But that didn’t stop indie filmmaker Robert Victor Galluzzo from trying, and at last we’ve got the end result of his three-year labor of love!
The smartest thing Galluzzo could’ve possibly done was gloss over details about the original Psycho. Considering a wealth of information is readily available around the 1960 Alfred Hitchcock film, from books to documentaries, Galluzzo wisely uses it as a springboard to delve into sequel territory. Being that Universal has never felt like giving fans much in the way of supplementary features on their DVD releases of Psychos II–IV, The Psycho Legacy rectifies their oversight. Featuring interviews with almost all surviving participants (only John Gavin, Vera Miles, Meg Tilly, Dennis Franz and Carter Burwell are noticeably absent), this documentary offers an insightful look into the process of resurrecting Norman Bates in three subsequent sequels. No stone is left unturned as dirt is dished, anecdotes are told and we’re left reminiscing over one of horror’s best and most integral franchises.
Each sequel is given equal time before the camera, and when key participants are speaking, the results are absolutely fascinating.
We learn that Anthony Perkins and Meg Tilly did not get along during the filming of Psycho II (you’d never know it based on their amazing chemistry in the film) and how the sequel was shaped along the way (although there is some debate as to just who was responsible for that amazingly demented ending). Perkins proved to be a brilliant director when he got behind the camera for my personal favorite film in the series, Psycho III, and Jeff Fahey’s reminiscence of him is some of the best content in the documentary (particularly his advice to Jeff over accommodating enthusiastic tourists on Universal’s backlot). Mick Garris isn’t afraid to proclaim Perkins the most difficult actor he’s ever worked with (remember, Mick was just starting out while Perkins was a seasoned vet) and young Norman himself, Henry Thomas, brings some terrific stories to the table, too.
The Psycho Legacy gives us lots of great stories like this, and it works best when functioning as a retrospective on the series. Its biggest mistake is assuming that anyone watching cares what filmmakers Adam Green, Joe Lynch and Dave Parker have to say on the matter. The introduction proposes a thesis for the film which it doesn’t end up fulfilling. It wants to examine the sequels in depth (mission accomplished) while exploring their lasting impact and influence on modern genre filmmakers. But these guys never fess up to the ways in which Psychos II–IV helped shape their own work (if at all), and it mostly feels like an excuse to include them.
It’s not quite the botch job that His Name Was Jason was (sorry, but who cares what horror website editors or uninvolved filmmakers have to say about an enduring franchise), but it’s troubling when you consider that Adam Green arguably has as much screen time as any of the actual participants. Unlike the miserable Jason documentary, those unassociated with Psycho bring some welcome insight and humor to the table. Their inclusion doesn’t derail the proceedings completely but gives the end result an unfocused feel nonetheless.
Shout! Factory delivers The Psycho Legacy to DVD in a two-disc set that’s packed with bonus content. The crown jewel of the entire collection is a rare convention panel discussion with Anthony Perkins himself. Recorded on a camcorder in the late 1980s, this forty-four-minute discussion features a lively and delightful Perkins as he addresses a roomful of enthusiastic fans. Perkins covers everything from working with Hitchcock to the genesis of his famous pronunciation of ”cutlery” in Psycho II. There’s a terrific set of questions thrown at the actor (where he even gets to discuss some of his non-genre work), and he works the crowd with aplomb. We lost the great Anthony Perkins too soon, but this amazing video alone justifies the cost of the disc.
Beyond that there are audio excerpts from the Psycho Reunion panel which is much too superficial to leave a lasting impact. While folks like Mick Garris and Tom Holland might contribute some interesting tidbits, we’re only getting the CliffsNotes version here and it’s all fairly forgettable stuff as a result. Beyond that is a tour of the Bates Motel where director Rob G. walks the Universal backlot. We’re also given a set of extended interviews from key participants. Again, who wouldn’t have preferred hearing more about Psycho III scribe Charles Edward Pogue’s original concept for Psycho IV rather than hear from today’s genre directors? But at least we get to hear about it, even if it’s in the deleted scenes. These extended bits are a nice inclusion because you get to hear a little more from just about everyone involved.
A couple of Psycho II-specific features include a nifty featurette where the film’s writer and editor sit with Galluzzo and pour over set blueprints and promotional materials. These guys dig through some very cool stuff that will undoubtedly incite the rabid collector to start prowling for these goodies. There’s also a twenty-minute interview with DP Dean Cundey – another terrific supplement.
Rounding out the set is a brief interview with Psycho superfan Guy Thorpe. Give this man some credit for amassing a very enviable collection over the years – including the actual ‘Mother’ corpse from Psycho II! Very cool! Lastly there’s a look at Psycho on the Web.
The Psycho Legacy isn’t a homerun like Never Sleep Again, but it’s an absolute must have for anyone with even a passing interest in this excellent series. And yes, the bombastic Gus Van Sant abomination goes completely ignored. Hard to believe this series has been resting comfortably for nearly twenty years, but Galluzzo deserves lots of credit for stepping up and tacking this sucker when no else would. To paraphrase Jeff Fahey at one point, ”Maybe we should start remembering a lot sooner.” As far as Psycho is now concerned, we’ve thankfully got this documentary so that we won’t forget.
3 1/2 out of 5
3 1/2 out of 5