Stephen Rebello Shares Five Things You Never Knew About the Making of Psycho

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“It’s not like my mother is a maniac or a raving thing. She just goes a little mad sometimes. We all go a little mad sometimes. Haven’t you?” These are my absolute favorite movie lines of all time, and even though the source is decades old, we’re still learning about it.

It’s so powerful because as Norman Bates asks the question of Marion Crane (who happens to be sitting on $40,000 of regretfully stolen money), he’s also asking it of the entire viewing audience … and aren’t we all forced to answer the same way as Marion did? “Yes. Sometimes just one time can be enough.”

Psycho was not the first horror movie to scare the bejesus out of America. Certainly by 1960 scores of horror films had graced the silver screen. But Psycho was one of, if not the, first truly disturbing film. The one that dug into the American psyche and made us question what drove us to watch this nightmare, even as we couldn’t tear our eyes away.

From iconic shots of the Bates house, hovering menacingly over the motel, to the discovery of Mother in the basement as Norman rushes in a moment too late, wig sitting askew atop his head, to the final chilling scene where Norman seems to have fully become his mother, Psycho is loaded with incredible scenes and images that have become legendary. Now, to celebrate the 52nd anniversary of the film, we’ve got a special guest writer to fill you in on some Psycho info you might not have been privy to.

Stephen Rebello, the author of Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho and screenwriter of the motion picture adaptation of his book (the upcoming film for Fox Searchlight Pictures stars Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren, Scarlett Johannson, James D’Arcy, Jessica Biel, Toni Collette, Danny Huston, Michael Stuhlbarg, Ralph Macchio, and Michael Wincott…Wow!) is here to share Five Things You Never Knew About the Making of Psycho. Read on!

Five Things You Never Knew About the Making of Psycho by Stephen Rebello
Under contract with Paramount Pictures, director Alfred Hitchcock had made box office hits like Rear Window, To Catch a Thief, and The Man Who Knew Too Much. But when he pitched his idea for Psycho, the studio’s executives were so shocked and repulsed that they denied him his usual generous budget and the use of their sound stages, cameras, and other production equipment. Instead, Hitchcock financed the film himself and shot Psycho at Universal, using his television crew. Paramount then released the film and won their biggest box-­office profits of the year.

1. Before Psycho, Hitchcock was famed for elegant Technicolor thrillers starring marquee actors such as Cary Grant, Grace Kelly, and James Stewart. With Psycho, Hitchcock tried something completely different. He shot the film in black-and-white and broke with convention by violently killing the film’s biggest star on-screen early in the movie. He also depicted the lead actress in what was then considered an unusually frank sexual relationship, showed and flushed a toilet on-screen for the first time in American movies, and dressed the lead actor in women’s clothing in a chilling role.

2. Although Janet Leigh appeared in most of the infamous shower sequence, Hitchcock hired Playboy cover model, exotic dancer, and sometimes actress Marli Renfro as Leigh’s body double. Both he and Leigh were shy about the near-nudity, and Hitchcock created extremely specific storyboards for filming the sequence so that he wouldn’t overexpose his star.

3. Hitchcock decided against using Anthony Perkins in the shower scene, both to avoid tipping off the audience to the killer’s identity and to spare the actor potential embarrassment. Instead, he gave Perkins time off to rehearse for his upcoming Broadway musical.

4. During filming and post-production, Hitchcock became convinced that Psycho would be such an embarrassing flop that he considered cutting out the most daring and shocking scenes and dialogue so that it could be played off as a one-hour Hitchcock TV show. The addition of Bernard Herrmann’s brilliantly innovative score was a deciding factor in releasing the movie to theaters.

5. Since Hitchcock believed that the twist ending of Psycho was its biggest asset, he tried to buy up as many copies of the original Robert Bloch novel as possible so that the public wouldn’t already know the plot. He also devised a promotional campaign that insisted no one would be allowed to enter the theater once the film had started and also asked audiences not to reveal the finale.

Although Hitchcock’s special effects team devised a rubber female torso that spurted fake blood, the director rejected the prosthetic as crude and unsubtle.

A giveaway is coming soon at the Stephen Rebello Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho Facebook page. Stay tuned!

Stephen Rebello Shares Five Things You Never Knew About the Making of Psycho

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