Howard Phillips Lovecraft, otherwise known as H.P. Lovecraft by his fellow readers, was an inspirational American author of the early twentieth century. His macabre imagination articulated numerous fiction and horror short stories and novels that would later become the influence on many prominent writers and filmmakers to this present day.
One such prolific author, Robert Bloch, was mesmerized by the horror-themed impreson of Lovecraft’s work. Soon becoming his mentor, Lovecraft encouraged Bloch to follow in his footsteps continuing his knack for thrilling stories and fulfill a reader’s frightful cognitions. One such story, published in 1959, created what would later be a horror icon and marked an original tale of psychological suspense: Psycho.
Bloch’s chilling story about an introverted motel keeper plagued with isolation and sole interaction with his “ck” mother was brought to life by an unprecedented horror legend of his own kind, Alfred Hitchcock.
Deving a film-worthy screenplay by Joseph Stefano, Hitchcock’s representation of Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) radiates the characteristics of an individual, who initially seems to be an innocent, soft-spoken young man, but holds a dark, disturbing secret that not even he can comprehend.
Psycho (1960) begins by following Marion Crane (Janet Leigh), a ngle young woman living in Phoenix, Arizona who holds a dark secret of her own committing adultery with a married bunessman Sam Loomis (John Gavin). Following a sensual act of immorality, Marion heads to her job at a real-estate agency and is trusted to depot $40,000 cash from a property sale into the bank. Asking her boss to go home early after completing the depot as she had a headache, adultery wasn’t the only unethical decion Marion was about to embrace.
Deciding to flee the state with the forty-grand in hand, Marion suspiciously makes the trip to California following buying a new car and having an awkward run-in with the law. But as driving mile after mile can make one weary, Marion comes across a secluded inn, the Bates Motel, an eerie, lifeless landscape, which will eventually be the worst and final decion of her already suggestive life.
Being the lone customer and briefly socializing with the cumbersome owner Norman, karma catches up with Marion’s corrupt past-decions in a stomach-turning, merciless bloodbath.
After Marion’s disappearance sparks the nerves of her ster Lila (Vera Miles), detective Milton Arbogast (Martin Balsam) is hired to trace the steps of her misng bling. Being hot on the trail after making a pit stop at the Bates Motel, and drilling the mind of the suspicious landowner, Norman realizes the torment he could face if the truth surfaced. Yet, unfortunate acts at the peculiar motel continue to proceed and it’s up to Lila and Sam to put Marion’s case to rest. Not only will they dig up the answer to what happened to Marion, but soon find out what Norman had dug up himself.
Character development shines as each cast member radiates his/her own sense of credibility. Perkins’ awkward, deceitful personality in Norman Bates manifests the very traits of someone you would not want to spend the night alone with at a deserted motel (or any place for that matter). Leigh progresvely showed how psychos and paranoia can overtake one’s psychological state-of-mind, and would forever be remembered for her infamous shower scene that, in its time, was one of the most grotesque sequences to be shot on film.
The mucal score composed by Bernard Herrmann (also known for the muc in It's Alive and Taxi Driver), comprised entirely of string instruments throughout, can be deemed as one of the most influential and symphonic themes in horror history. Such films as the 1985 cult-clasc Re-Animator related its main-title theme to Herrmann’s unnerving rhythm.
Three sequels and a remake would eventually ensue throughout the eighties and nineties. Although the following installments had no correlation with Bloch’s original storyline, and Vince Vaughn’s flop of a reincarnation would have Hitchcock “tumbling” in his grave, Psycho was the first film based on the Wisconn sociopath Ed Gein. Numerous horror favorites, such as Deranged and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, loosely followed the notorious 1950s murders, but Hitchcock and Bloch set the foundation of psychological suspense and turned the tide of realism in horror cinema.
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