Tuesday, 19 January 2016

CUTTING EDGES 3: 'Psycho' (1960) Review

Fig.1. 'Psycho' Poster

Alfred Hitchcock's world renowned movie, 'Psycho' (1960) is a masterpiece in the art of story telling. Hitchcock captivated audiences with his thought provoking shots that carried the weight of the story throughout its 109 minute running time. But it's un forgettable 'shower scene' is the one thing that stands out most within this intensely paced out masterpiece.

Fig.2. Film Still

From start to finish, Hitchcock welcomes the audience in to the world of 'Psycho'. Each shot has a purpose and a reason for being there. At times it can feel as if the audience becomes one of the characters. 'Hitchcock's mischievous genius for audience manipulation is everywhere: in the noirish angularity of the cinematography, in his use of Bernard Herrmann's stabbing string score, in the ornithological imagery that creates a bizarre sense of preying and being preyed upon' (Monahan, 2015) This sense of 'preying and being preyed upon' is what stands out within 'Psycho',  for example, during the shower scene every time the camera cuts from one shot to the other the role of the 'audience' seems to change. As a viewer you watch helplessly as the murderer enters the bathroom. Then suddenly the audience becomes the murderer and back again, this entire scene really immerses the viewer making them feel as if they are there in the bathroom watching this tragedy unfold.

Fig.3 Film Still
Hitchcock shocked audiences with the famous 'shower scene' but shocked them in more ways than one. The first shock came as more of a surprise, the heroine of the story is done murdered after just 47 minutes. 'Unlike modern horror films, "Psycho" never shows the knife striking the flesh. There are no wounds. There is blood, but not gallons of it. Hitchcock shot in black and white because he felt the audience could not stand so much blood in color' (Ebert, 1998) The second shock, this entire murder is so openly non-graphic that is becomes more of an art piece, a spectacle that we are able to watch without the toe curling moments of a knife piercing the skin of the murdered. It is shockingly classy, the shots that are used give the victim a strange sense of decency which makes this well known scene so immersive and easy to watch.

Bernard Herrmann's score is ultimately the most poignant and memorable moment within 'Psycho'.  Frequently used in modern day TV shows and movies, Herrman's soundtrack for the memorable shower scene is a stand out piece of movie memorabilia. 'Bernard Herrmann's stabbing score, with it's screeching atonal strings, which packs the real punch' (Kermode, 2010) With more of a stab than a punch, this influential piece of music really builds the tension within the scene. The screeching string instruments somehow seem to throw a mask of obscurity over the murder, like a beautifully choreographed dance the murdered stabs to the beat of the music.

With the powerful acting, piercing soundtrack and delicately figured out camera work we are left with an end result that has brought new audiences into the world of 'Psycho' across the years since it's release. Hitchcock created a masterpiece of film, a film that sits eloquently upon the mantel piece of great movies.


Ebert, R (1998) 'Psycho' At:http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/great-movie-psycho-1960 Accessed on: 19-01-2016

Kermode, M (2010) 'Psycho: The best horror film of all time' At: http://www.theguardian.com/film/2010/oct/22/psycho-horror-hitchcock Accessed on: 19-01-2016

Monohan, M (2015) 'Psycho, Review' At: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/film/filmreviews/11025424/Psycho-review.html Accessed on: 19-01-2016


Figure.1 'Psycho' (1960) [Movie Poster] At:https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/b/b9/Psycho_(1960).jpg Accessed on: 19-01-2016

Figure.2 [Film Still] At:http://projectdeadpost.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Psycho.jpg Accessed on: 19-01-2016

Figure.3 [Film Still] At: https://www.movieposter.com/posters/archive/main/126/MPW-63288 Accessed on: 19-01-2016


  1. '...It is shockingly classy, the shots that are used give the victim a strange sense of decency which makes this well known scene so immersive and easy to watch.' - Excellent review Tom!

  2. *the nourish angularity* maybe 'noirish angularity'? (autocorrect at work again!)