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Several June and July 1959 Hollywood Reporter news items erroneously refer to the film as Psyche. A December 27, 1959 New York Times news item reported that director Alfred Hitchcock, in order to protect the film's plot twists, had deliberately withheld the title of the Robert Bloch novel on which the film was based, until "an alert reporter triumphantly [and incorrectly] revealed it" as Psyche. The film's opening title credits, designed by Saul Bass, feature grey lines bisecting the black background of each frame, with the names of the cast and crew appearing in white lettering, also either cut apart or brought together by the grey lines. According to modern sources, Harold Adler, William Hurtz and Paul Stoleroff were the team who animated and filmed Bass's title drawings. The jagged design of the film's title on posters and advertisements was based on the original book jacket design created by artist Tony Palladino. Hitchcock makes his customary cameo in Psycho near the beginning of the film, when "Marion Crane" returns to her office after her afternoon rendezvous with "Sam Loomis." Hitchcock appears as a man wearing a cowboy hat, standing on the sidewalk outside Marion's office.
At the end of the picture, after the psychiatrist, "Dr. Richmond," has explained "Norman Bates's" mental illness, a policeman goes into the room where Norman is being held to give him a blanket. As the camera slowly zooms in on Norman, voice-over narration by "Mother," as if she is conducting an interior monologue, states that she could not allow Norman to accuse her of the murders. Mother, fearing that she is probably being watched, notices a fly on Norman's hand, and, wanting to prove that she is innocent, refuses to swat it and hopes that her captors will observe that she "would not even hurt a fly." Norman then looks up, straight into the camera, with a sly grin, and a skull is briefly superimposed over his face before the scene cuts to Marion's car being lifted from the swamp. Throughout the film, the killer is seen only in shadow or from above or behind, until the scene in the fruit cellar near the end of the film in which "Lila Crane" sees that it is Norman dressed in his mother's clothes.
The film is largely faithful to Bloch's novel Psycho, with several notable exceptions. In the book, Norman is a plump, balding forty-year-old who drinks to excess and blacks out, thereby allowing the Mother side of his personality to take over. For the film, Norman was written as a younger, more attractive, more vulnerable character, coinciding with the casting of Anthony Perkins in the role. The violence in the book is also more extreme, with Mother completely severing Mary's head during the shower murder (the female protagonist's name was changed from Mary to Marion for the film). Norman's mental illness is also more pronounced in the book, with the psychiatrist suspecting that Norman had an incestuous relationship with his mother and that he was a "secret transvestite long before Mrs. Bates died." In the novel, Norman had been institutionalized for a few months after secretly poisoning his mother and her lover, and Dr. Steiner (changed to Dr. Richmond for the film) explains that Norman had three separate personalities representing himself as a child clinging to his mother; as his mother who still dominated him; and himself as an adult, able to cope with the outside world. After the film was released, a condensed version of Bloch's novel was published in Cavalier magazine in August 1960.
Bloch's novel was partially based on real-life killer Ed Gein (1906-1984). Gein, who lived on a farm near the rural town of Plainfield, WI, was arrested in 1957 after the body of a local woman was found in his barn. Although Gein confessed to only two murders, he was suspected of several more, and his home was found to contain numerous gruesome objects, such as masks made from human faces and clothing made from human skin, most of which he had obtained by robbing graves. After being judged criminally insane, Gein was incarcerated in a mental institution until his death. In a 1987 obituary for the judge who presided over Gein's case, it was reported that in a 1984 interview, Bloch, who was living in a nearby town when Gein's crimes were discovered, said that it was not Gein's actions that inspired him to write Psycho as much as the fact that a psychotic murderer could be living in a small town without anyone being aware of his crimes. Gein was also the basis for several other villains, including "Leatherface" in the 1974 film The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and "Buffalo Bill" in the 1988 novel and 1991 movie The Silence of the Lambs.
According to the Paramount Collection, located at the AMPAS Library, Paramount considered purchasing the rights to Bloch's book in February 1959, but the reader who synopsized the advance copy submitted to the studio called the novel "too repulsive for films, and rather shocking even to a hardened reader." According to an interview with Peggy Robertson, Hitchcock's longtime assistant, in the documentary "The Making of Psycho" included on the film's 1999 DVD release, Hitchcock first became aware of Bloch's book after reading Anthony Boucher's April 1959 review of it in the New York Times Book Review. Her assertion is supported by a March 1961 letter to Boucher from Hitchcock, contained in the Alfred Hitchcock Collection, also at the AMPAS Library, in which the director explains that he had sent Boucher champagne because he "bought the rights to Psycho after reading your notice in the New York Times."
Modern sources add that Hitchcock bid for the screen rights to Bloch's book anonymously through agent Ned Brown of the Music Corporation of America (MCA) talent agency, while the director's papers confirm that he purchased the screen rights for just $9,000. Bloch did not learn the identity of the actual buyer until after the deal had been finalized. In modern interviews, Hitchcock claimed that he was interested in the book primarily because of the suddenness of the murder in the shower. Although a December 27, 1959 New York Times news item noted that a rumor persisted that Hitchcock had "bought up all available copies of the Robert Bloch novel in a monopolistic shopping spree calculated to insure secrecy," the rumor was unfounded.
In a June 22, 1959 New York Times interview, Hitchcock stated: "I have bought a book but I won't reveal its title....I would like to suppress it if I could because publicizing it would undo any effects I will try to put into the picture." In the New York Times article, Hitchcock elaborated that the film "would be in the Diabolique genre," after the 1954 French thriller Les Diaboliques, which Hitchcock greatly admired. [Modern sources sometimes assert that Hitchcock shot Psycho in black and white to emulate the French film, but Hitchcock later stated repeatedly that he used black and white because color film would have made the shower sequence too gory.]
Modern sources have claimed that Paramount was deeply reluctant to finance production of the picture due to its controversial subject matter, which forced Hitchcock to seek cost-cutting measures wherever possible. One of the ways in which Hitchcock sought to lower the budget was to shoot the picture primarily with the crew he used for his acclaimed television series, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, as they were used to working under strict time constraints and for smaller budgets. A October 27, 1959 Hollywood Reporter news item announced that Hitchcock would be shooting on the Universal-International Studios backlot, which was the home of his television production company, Shamroy Productions. The item stated that "behind this unusual situation" was MCA, which owned Universal Studios as well as represented Hitchcock, Perkins, Leigh and screenwriter Joseph Stefano. In 1959, when MCA purchased U-I, it based its own television production company, Revue Productions, at Universal, which was then sometimes called Universal-Revue Studios. Some modern sources assert that Hitchcock had to shoot on the Revue stages at the Universal lot because Paramount, still hoping to discourage him, told him that all of its sound stages were in use, even though they were not.
In order to keep down production costs, Hitchcock voluntarily deferred his directing fee in exchange for ownership of sixty percent of the picture, according to a September 1960 Variety report. According to some modern sources, the studio still would not agree to finance the picture, only to distribute it, but the Hitchcock Collection reveals that Paramount did pay the salaries of some Paramount-based crew members so that they would retain their benefits, as well as split the costs of editor George Tomasini's salary with Hitchcock. In an April 1962 New York Times article, Hitchcock recounted, "We didn't get a cent from Paramount until we delivered the negative, and for that they got twenty percent of the picture." [The September 1960 Variety article had indicated that Paramount received thirty percent of the gross as a distribution fee, however.] Modern sources add that after Paramount earned back its distribution costs as well as a profit percentage, the complete rights to Psycho were transferred to Hitchcock.
In a 1982 Los Angeles Herald Express article, Bloch was reported as stating that Hitchcock wanted him to adapt his book for the screen, but was mistakenly told that Bloch was unavailable for the project. According to June 1959 Hollywood Reporter news items, James P. Cavanagh had been set to write the film's screenplay (several contemporary sources reported his name as Cavanaugh). Even though Cavanagh had previously written for Hitchcock's television series, Robertson stated in the DVD documentary that Hitchcock rejected Cavanagh's script as "dull." Hitchcock then hired Stefano on the recommendation of Stefano's agent, Ned Brown, who had helped Hitchcock acquire the rights to the book. In modern sources, Stefano stated that he won Hitchcock's approval by beginning the screenplay with the scene between Marion and "Sam" (the book begins with a "conversation" between Norman and his mother) and making the first forty-five minutes of the film about Marion, thereby engaging the audience's sympathy for her.
Although no contemporary information about the casting of the female leads has been found, modern sources indicate that Eva Marie Saint, Piper Laurie, Hope Lange, Shirley Jones, Martha Hyer and Lana Turner were considered for the role of Marion, while Felicia Farr, Carolyn Jones, Caroline Kurney and Eleanor Parker were considered for Lila. A November 5, 1959 Hollywood Reporter news item noted that Hitchcock was interested in casting Stuart Whitman in the film. John Gavin was borrowed from U-I for the production, although modern sources add that Hitchcock cast him as Sam instead of Whitman, his first choice, because as a Universal contract player, Gavin was less expensive to hire. Other actors considered by Hitchcock for Sam, according to modern sources, included Cliff Robertson, Tom Tryon, Brian Keith, Leslie Nielsen and Robert Loggia.
In December 1959, when Hitchcock was still attempting to hide the film's plot twists, New York Times relayed that he was considering hiring Helen Hayes or Judith Anderson to portray Mother. According to studio files, Paul Jasmin and Virginia Gregg recorded Mother's voice. Modern sources add that Jeanette Nolan's voice was also used, and that sometimes the actors' voices were blended or spliced together, so that some speeches contained more than one voice. [Nolan was married to actor John McIntire, who played "Deputy Sheriff Al Chambers" in the film.] Contemporary cast and crew sheets list a number of different doubles who portrayed Mother, and modern sources assert that Margo Epper was the main player used during the shower scene. Perkins appears as Mother only in the scene in which he attacks Lila. Although a December 3, 1959 Hollywood Reporter news item includes Bob Grandin, Russ Peak and Charles Cirillo in the cast, their appearance in the completed picture has not been confirmed. A cast list in the Hitchcock Collection includes Richard Bull (Gas station attendant), Ted Fish (Rental car man), Larry Thor (TV man) and Jim Brandt (Coffee boy) in the cast, but they were not in the released film.
Technical advisor Everett W. Brown was a real private investigator, according to studio records, which also add that Melvin Hilgenfeld, of the College of Mortuary Science in Los Angeles, was consulted as to the potential condition of a corpse that had been preserved for ten years. According to a February 1971 Reader's Digest press release contained in the film's production file at the AMPAS Library, author James Michener claimed that the Bates house was modeled after a house on the campus of Kent State University in Ohio. Modern sources have disputed Michener's report, however, stating that the house was built from original drawings by the film's art directors, Joseph Hurley and Robert Clatworthy.
The scenes of Marion's road journey were shot between Bakersfield and Fresno, on California's Highway 99, according to the studio files, which also note that the car lot Marion visits was Harry Maher's used car lot in North Hollywood, CA. The opening shots were filmed on location in Phoenix, AZ, as was background footage for use in rear projection shots of Marion driving away from the city. According to the December 1959 New York Times article, the opening aerial shot of Phoenix, which started with a long shot of the city and gradually zoomed into the hotel room where Marion and Sam were in bed, was to be "the longest dolly (moving) shot ever attempted by helicopter" and was to cover four miles. In the DVD documentary, however, assistant director Hilton A. Green related that because the footage obtained from the helicopter was too bumpy and jerky, Hitchcock was forced to use wipes and pans to obtain the desired effect, rather than a single, continuous shot.
Hitchcock's papers reveal that he initially refused full access to studio still photographers during production, in case their pictures were leaked to the press. In a December 30, 1959 memo to the director, Paramount director of publicity Herb Steinberg pleaded with Hitchcock to allow the photographers on the set, promising him that their film would remain undeveloped until he gave approval. On April 3, 1960, the New York Times Sunday magazine reported that during production, Hitchcock had "closed the set to visitors, forbade his cast and crew to discuss the plot outside the studio, and ordered Paramount publicity men NOT to talk up the story." Despite Hitchcock's efforts to maintain secrecy about the film's plot, Mike Connolly, Hollywood Reporter's "Rambling Reporter" columnist, wrote on January 12, 1960: "Tony Perkins, the Psycho psycho, kills his mother and stuffs her, taxidermist-style." Additionally, a May 1960 Variety item revealed virtually the entire plot of the film, and that Perkins played a transvestite who killed while impersonating his mother. In an attempt to maintain control of the situation, Hitchcock released no stills of key scenes and did not allow exhibitors or reviewers to see the finished picture until it opened in New York, according to the Motion Picture Herald Prod Digest review.
According to the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, in November 1959, the PCA approved the screenplay's basic story but informed Paramount that it would be impossible to issue the picture a Code seal because of "the very pointed description of an incestuous relationship between Norman and his mother." The PCA demanded the change or elimination of several lines of dialogue indicating an incestuous relationship and recommended the deletion of any discussion of transvestitism. In addition, the PCA advised caution in showing the toilet in the bathroom, and according to modern sources, Psycho marked the first time that a flushing toilet was seen in an American motion picture.
On February 19, 1960, the PCA viewed the completed film, which it refused to approve. According to an internal memo, the film was rejected because of the beginning scene between Sam and Marion, which was "entirely too passionate"; a sexually suggestive line uttered by "Tom Cassidy"; and the shower murder sequence. The memo stated that the sequence had "a number of shots, some impressionistic, some completely realistic, of the girl's nude body. All of these shots are in violation of the Code, which prohibits nudity `in fact or in silhouette.'" It was further declared that Norman watching Marion undress was too sexually suggestive and had to be cut so that he would only see her in her bra and slip rather than explicitly taking off her bra. On March 3, 1960, the office issued Paramount a seal of approval "based upon the revised scenes as reviewed in our projection room" the previous day, so presumably the cuts demanded by the PCA were made.
The Hitchcock papers reveal that the National Catholic Legion of Decency demanded three cuts before giving the picture a "B," or "morally objectionable in part for all" rating. The Legion required that scenes of Marion removing her bra be deleted, that the shots showing Norman washing his hands of blood be shortened and that the number of times Arbogast is stabbed be reduced from four to two. Psycho was eventually issued the "B" rating by the Legion, which announced: "The sensational use of sex and the excessive violence, which partially March the development of the story, are considered to be entirely lacking in dramatic justification and to be highly objectionable."
Information in the Hitchcock Collection suggests that there was a "foreign version" of the picture, in which the opening sequence between Sam and Marion contained footage excised from the American release. A June 21, 1960 entry in Hollywood Reporter's "Rambling Reporter" column asserted that the European version would contain more nudity in the shower sequence. A February 1961 New York Times story about Geoffrey I. Shurlock, the head of the PCA, reported that although Shurlock had been criticized for allowing the frank sequence, "it is known that this scene was much more torrid as filmed originally; Shurlock forced Hitchcock to reshoot the entire sequence to make it less sexy." Modern sources allege, however, that Hitchcock offered to redo the sequence, but only if someone from the PCA office was present at the time to approve it, and when no PCA officials attended the scheduled reshoot, the matter was not pursued.
The shower scene, which lasts for approximately forty-five seconds and consists of over seventy separate shots, has become one of the most widely recognized, studied, copied and parodied sequences in cinema history. The December 1959 New York Times article reported that Hitchcock intended to rehearse the sequence "'with film,' staging the scene and photographing it simultaneously from several angles with hand-held Eyemos." Hitchcock intended to use the resulting footage as the basis for the storyboards that would guide the final filming. In the February 1961 New York Times article, the director revealed that he had used chocolate syrup for the blood.
Beginning with a December 1973 The Sunday Times (London) article, title designer and pictorial consultant Saul Bass has claimed numerous times that, with Hitchcock's approval, he actually directed and edited the entire sequence, but was never given full credit. In her 1995 book about the making of Psycho, however, Janet Leigh emphatically refuted his claim, declaring that only Hitchcock directed the scene; Leigh's denial of Bass's claim has been substantiated by several surviving members of the film's crew, including assistant director Hilton A. Green in the DVD documentary. In Leigh's book, she asserted that the only time anyone other than Hitchcock directed any part of the picture was when he was ill and allowed assistant director Green to attempt to direct the scene depicting the murder of Arbogast. After viewing Green's footage, however, Hitchcock reshot almost all of it. A January 15, 1960 Hollywood Reporter news item reported that while Hitchcock was ill with the flu, Green was filming "inserts and non-cast shots."
In Leigh's book, the actress dispelled several other myths about the shower scene, such as one that Hitchcock doused her with cold water to get her to scream. She related that the water was a pleasant temperature for the entire seven days that it took to film the sequence. She also stated that, at the suggestion of costumer Rita Riggs, she was covered with flesh-toned moleskin in strategic areas, but was otherwise nude, and that it was she who appeared throughout the entire sequence. As noted in the Hitchcock Collection, the director did use model Marli Renfro as Leigh's double during the sequence. According to a September 1960 Los Angeles Mirror-News article and Leigh's book, Renfro appeared nude on the set in order to establish the sequence's lighting and camera angles, as well as the density of the water and shower curtain, and to make the crew more comfortable with Leigh's near nudity.
The only shot of Renfro that Hitchcock attempted to insert into the finished picture was an overhead shot showing the length of Marion's body after she was slain, but it was censored due to Renfro's bare buttocks being visible, according to Leigh and screenwriter Joseph Stefano. Leigh did state, however, that Hitchcock used Renfro for the sequence in which Norman wraps up and carries Marion's corpse to the trunk of her car, as it would have been uncomfortable for Leigh and her face would not be visible anyway. In many interviews after the film's release, Leigh reported that, although she was not frightened while filming the sequence, after seeing the completed film, she was too scared to take a shower ever again and if a bathtub was not available, would take a shower only with the doors locked and the shower curtain open.
In modern interviews, surviving crew members recount that, although the shower scene required more elaborate set-ups, the murder of Arbogast, which was also storyboarded by Bass, was actually much more difficult to film. A rig to hold Martin Balsam while he fell down the stairs had to be constructed, and because motion picture cameras of the time did not have automatic focus, the camera had to be painstakingly re-focused throughout his fall. An overhead pulley system, to follow Balsam, was made to hold the camera and its operators. A modern source notes that the double used for Mother in that sequence, four-foot-tall actress Mitzi Koestner, added to the sequence's eerie perspective.
Bernard Herrmann's score, which, according to modern sources was the first ever to be played solely by stringed instruments, has become one of the most highly praised and imitated musical scores in cinema history, as well as one of the most recognized in popular culture. According to modern sources, Hitchcock at first asked Herrmann to compose an all-jazz score, presumably because the director thought it would be more commercial. Herrmann demurred, however, insisting on the string score, which he felt was better suited for a black-and-white film. Herrmann also added the soon-to-be famous accompaniment to the shower scene, which Hitchcock reportedly did not want to contain music. It was Hitchcock, modern sources add, who suggested that Herrmann repeat the screeching violin cue for the ending scene in which Norman attacks Lila. The music is often featured in concerts of film scores and recorded compilations of Hitchcock film scores. In 1973, Herrmann recorded an abbreviated version of the score with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and in 1975, recorded the complete score with the National Philharmonic Orchestra; both albums were best-sellers.
As noted by several Hollywood Reporter news items, the picture was sold on a "blind bidding" policy to protect the plot twists, which meant that exhibitors could not screen the film before bidding on the right to show it. Although several exhibitors complained that the practice ran contrary to the U.S. Supreme Court's 1948 abolishment of block booking, a May 24, 1960 Hollywood Reporter news item announced that the anti-trust division of the Justice Department ruled that the policy was not illegal as long as it was applied equally to all theaters.
As noted by contemporary sources, the picture's extremely successful publicity campaign, featuring a special trailer starring Hitchcock and a "no admittance after picture start" policy, was constructed by the director himself. A July 1960 Hollywood Reporter news item called Hitchcock's publicity scheme "the most extensive and comprehensive promotion campaign at the theatre level in Paramount's 45-year history." The main theatrical trailer, which ran for approximately six-and-a-half minutes, featured Hitchcock wandering through the Bates Motel and house set, giving audiences a tour of "the scene of the crime." In the tongue-in-cheek trailer, which was included on the 1999 DVD release, Hitchcock is careful not to reveal the exact nature of the plot, although at the end, he throws open the shower curtain to reveal a screaming woman, who was actually Vera Miles wearing a wig to make her resemble Leigh. A December 23, 1960 Hollywood Reporter news item reported that Hitchcock himself recorded the trailer in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, German and French.
Hitchcock was insistent about the widely publicized and praised policy that no patron could be admitted to a theater after the picture had started. Although many previous "roadshow" pictures shown on a special engagement basis had scheduled start times, it had been customary practice for theaters to allow moviegoers to enter whenever they wished. In modern interviews, Hitchcock asserted that the main reason he established the policy was because Leigh was killed so early in the film, and if viewers missed the beginning, they would spend the rest of the picture wondering when she would appear.
A June 10, 1960 Hollywood Reporter news item noted that at the film's initial engagement in New York City, patrons would be admitted only during the showing of a twenty-five minute short or two five-minute periods before and after the short. [Paramount also strongly urged exhibitors not to have a double-bill when exhibiting Psycho, instead filling out the program with shorts and newsreels.] Outside the two New York theaters running the film, while patrons were standing in line, exhibitors played a recording of Hitchcock asking them not to give away the ending to their friends who had not yet seen it and explaining that they would enjoy the film much more by seeing it from the beginning. One of Hitchcock's most popular phrases from this campaign was his statement, "please don't give away the ending, it's the only one we have." In a July 30, 1960 Los Angeles Mirror-News article, the director stated that he used his "TV personality" for the recordings. Several contemporary sources indicated that as a further publicity ploy, Paramount hired Pinkerton guards to appear at theaters and enforce the admittance policy, which was also used in Great Britain and other countries.
A long article with Hitchcock's byline, describing the various policies, was published in Motion Picture Herald under the title "A Lesson in PSYCHO-logy." In the article Hitchcock discussed another innovation used infrequently prior to the exhibition of Psycho, that of a separate line for moviegoers who had already purchased their tickets and were awaiting the next showing, which kept foot traffic clear of the box-office windows. A September 1960 Variety article offered that one of the reasons the publicity campaign for Psycho was so effective was because it focused almost exclusively on the director rather than on any of the stars, who were "good" but not "outstanding" marquee names, according to the article. Contemporary sources also noted that Hitchcock toured extensively, in the United States and foreign countries, to advertise the picture with public appearances.
Contemporary sources reported that the admittance policy was also being enforced at drive-ins, with the result that one drive-in theater in New Jersey had a three-mile line of waiting cars, according to a July 15, 1960 Hollywood Reporter news item. The July 1960 Los Angeles Mirror-News article added that Paramount and Hitchcock had "stuck to their guns" when selling the film to exhibitors throughout the country and had "refused to sell the picture to dissenters" who would not abide by the admittance policy. The Los Angeles Times review of the Los Angeles opening did note that of the twenty area theaters where the picture was being shown, eleven of them were exhibiting the film on a double-bill, "against the old master's strict dictum," and a August 19, 1960 Hollywood Reporter news item noted that the admittance policy had been dropped at one New York theater, a "grind house," because of "irate customers." The studio's admittance policy was enforced, however, for the Telemeter pay television system then in use in Canada. From 9 November through November 14, 1960, the picture was available four times daily on the system but could only be ordered up to eleven minutes before the screening. If a viewer deposited the required price, one dollar, in their home Telemeter coin box after that time, the money was put toward the next screening, according to studio files and Hollywood Reporter news items.
The film's portrayal of sexuality, violence and mental illness would prove to be extremely controversial throughout its initial release, with many reviewers condemning it, or cautioning patrons not to bring children to the theater. The picture, which received an "X," or adults only, certificate in Great Britain, was particularly attacked by British critics, several of whom labeled the film the worst of Hitchcock's career. According to a February 1961 New York Times article, the film was lightly censored in Sweden and Australia, which considered Psycho "a bit bloody," while a modern source adds that Singapore and Great Britain also demanded cuts to reduce the violence.
The picture sparked a debate about censorship and the effects of film violence throughout the United States. Although influential New York Times critic Bosley Crowther initially gave the film a tepid review, he revised his opinion after seeing it again, and in an August 1960 article, defended it against charges that it should be censored. Crowther declared that while the film did offer "two horrendous murders...a pretty bold sex scene...and a denouement based on an assumption of psychological abnormality that would make Krafft-Ebing's hair stand on end...what would one expect from a Hitchcock picture titled Psycho, which is not precisely an ambiguous word?" Crowther argued that the film had been extensively publicized as a thrilling shocker, and that cinema had always presented highly sensational material, such as in the 1931 German film M, which was at the time being shown at a New York revival house.
Although Psycho has come to be regarded as one of Hitchcock's masterpieces, a large number of contemporary critics agreed with Harry MacArthur of The Sunday Star (Washington, D.C.), who proclaimed: "No major moviemaker ever employed sex and shock more blatantly for the sake of sex and shock alone." The Esquire critic termed the picture "a reflection of a most unpleasant mind, a mean, sly, sadistic little mind." Many newspaper and magazine reviewers were especially upset that a director of Hitchcock's reputation had made what they considered an inferior film. Most of the trade papers, however, such as Hollywood Reporter, Daily Variety and Film Daily, lauded the film, pointing out the skill with which Hitchcock told the story and the excellent performances that he obtained from the actors, especially that of Perkins. Although most reviews accommodated Hitchcock's request that they not reveal the film's story, some, including Filmfacts and Harrrison's Reports, related the entire plot.
The film received a number of Academy Award nominations: Best Director, Best Supporting Actress (Leigh), Best Art Direction (black & white) and Best Cinematography (black & white). Leigh won a Golden Globe as Best Supporting Actress and Hitchcock was nominated for awards by the Directors Guild of America and the Screen Producers Guild. In addition to receiving a nomination from the Writers Guild of America for Best Written American Drama, Stefano's screenplay was voted the Best Screen Mystery of 1960 by the Mystery Writers of America, and Bloch received a special scroll from the organization for his contribution to the film. The picture, which was named one of the year's ten best by New York Times as well as the best American feature by Kine Weekly, was chosen for preservation by the Library of Congress' National Film Registry in 1992. Psycho has been included on several of AFI's 100 Years series. For 100 Movies, the picture was listed 18th and was 1st on the 100 Thrills list, while Norman placed 2d on the 100 Heroes & Villains list.
In a July 1966 New York Times article, Hitchcock commented that the film had cost only $810,000 to make, but had, to that time, made fifteen million dollars. According to a November 1960 Variety article, slightly over seven million dollars had been grossed by the film in its first 3,750 U.S. playdates alone. The article added that Hitchcock's share of the gross would eventually reach about six million dollars after the film's initial runs, and that "a before-taxes gross of $6,000,000 from an enterprise that involved less than a year's time would seem to establish some sort of show business record."
A February 7, 1961 New York Post article reported that Psycho was the second most profitable black-and-white film in Hollywood history, after the 1915 D. W. Griffith film Birth of a Nation (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1911-20). Because of Psycho's continued strength at the box office during its subsequent theatrical re-releases, from 1965 through the 1990s, it has remained one of the highest-grossing pictures in cinema history in terms of cost-to-profit ratio, according to a July 29, 1998 Time Out (London) news item, as well as Hitchcock's most financially successful film. It was also the last of six pictures directed by Hitchcock for release by Paramount.
In February 1964, New York Times reported that Psycho, along with "about 200" other post-1948 Paramount films, had been secured for television broadcast by the NBC network. NBC's contract with Paramount was for one year, with the option for two more years. A December 4, 1966 New York Times article noted that NBC was wary of broadcasting the controversial Psycho, however, and after declining to do so, sold the rights to CBS for approximately $400,000. According to contemporary news items, a proposed television broadcast of the film was to occur in September 1966, but the CBS network postponed the broadcast due to a number of complaints from Midwest affiliates concerned about showing the film after the recent stabbing murder of Valerie Percy, the twenty-one-year-old daughter of Illinois senatorial candidate Charles Percy.
The New York Times article added that CBS had cut nine minutes from the film for television, which was due to be shown in the spring of 1966; however, as of spring 2005, the picture has never been aired on a non-cable, national network in the United States, although it has been shown innumerable times on local stations, beginning in 1970. Theatrical re-releases after the film began airing on television were advertised as "the version TV didn't dare show!" According to a TV Guide article, Psycho was not shown on television uncut and commercial-free until November 1990, when it was broadcast by the Showtime cable channel. A 1974 book and a July 1998 article in The Independent on Sunday (London) added that the film was frequently shown with a bar covering the bottom of the frame in the shower scene, presumably to cover any hint of Leigh's breasts, and that the original negative not containing the bar had, as of the mid-1970s, appeared to have been lost, although it was not.
The following information comes from modern sources: Edith Head, who had worked with Hitchcock several times, designed the costumes for Miles. Allegedly, according to one modern source, when the film was first released, the skull image superimposed over Norman's face was also seen when he sinks Marion's car in the swamp, but Hitchcock decided to delete the image, which no longer exists. Another source states that Hitchcock was so ambivalent about including the skull image at the end of the film that some 1960 prints were sent out that did not have it.
Throughout the years, several real-life murderers have asserted that the film influenced them to commit their crimes. The most widely publicized case, involving killer Henry Adolph Busch, who murdered his aunt and two other women, went to trial in Los Angeles in December 1960. Busch, who claimed that the film prompted him to slay his third victim, was found guilty and sentenced to the death penalty. In a 1969 New York Times interview, Hitchcock, who was frequently asked about the possible effects of the film's violence, especially in Busch's case, retorted: "Well, I wanted to ask him what movie he had seen before he killed the second woman."
The sets of the Bates Motel and house have been prominent features on the studio tour of Universal Studios in Hollywood for many years, while the Universal Studios Tour in Orlando, FL features the Hitchcock Pavilion as well as a "Psycho Experience," consisting of live actors, clips from the film and footage of Perkins especially shot for the tour. Merchandise ranging from Bates Motel memorabilia to a shower curtain emblazoned with the outline of Mother carrying a knife continues to sell well.
Psycho has inspired numerous copies, homages and parodies, including a May 1961 sketch on the Bob Hope television show, in which Hope played a mad hotelkeeper in a skit entitled "Weird-o"; the 1961 William Castle film Homicidal; Roman Polanski's 1965 film Repulsion (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1961-70 for both); the 1977 Mel Brooks comedy High Anxiety; several Brian De Palma films such as Dressed to Kill (1980); a 1991 television commercial featuring Perkins as Norman, following Mother's command to eat his cereal; and even episodes of the animated television series The Simpsons. Many cinema historians consider Psycho to be the genesis of the "slasher" horror genre, which encompasses such films as the Halloween series (some of which starred Leigh's daughter, Jamie Leigh Curtis) and the Friday the 13th series.
Bloch wrote two sequels to his novel. The first, Psycho II, was published in 1982, and the second, Psycho House, was published in 1990. Neither book was used as the basis for the subsequent movie sequels to Hitchcock's Psycho, nor were they related at all in plot. According to an August 1982 Los Angeles Herald Express article, when Bloch sold the screen rights to his original novel Psycho, he "lost the rights to any sequel films based on any subsequent Psycho novels." Bloch received no royalties for the use of his characters in the filmed sequels to Psycho. The article further reported that when Universal began pre-production on the first Psycho sequel, it asked Bloch not to write a sequel to his book, or at least not to call it Psycho II, but because he was not legally bound to comply, he ignored the studio's request.
Hitchcock sold Psycho and its attendant rights to Universal in 1962. Three sequels to Psycho were made, each featuring Perkins in the role of Norman and produced by Hilton A. Green, the assistant director on the original film. Miles recreated her role as Lila in the second film, Psycho II, which was directed by Richard Franklin and released by Universal in 1983. Psycho II opened with a "reprise" of the "notorious" shower murder, according to its Variety review, which also noted that the original production was the "second-best grossing film" of 1960, after Ben-Hur (see entry above). The second sequel, released in 1986 and entitled Psycho III, marked Perkins' directorial debut and co-starred Diana Scarwid and Jeff Fahey. The opening of Psycho III features an homage to Hitchcock's noted 1958 film Vertigo (see below). For both Psycho II and Psycho III, Virginia Gregg reprised her role as the voice of Mother.
The third sequel, Psycho IV: The Beginning, was a television movie first broadcast on the Showtime cable network on November 10, 1990. Telling the story of Norman's youth and his early relationship with his mother, the picture was directed by Mick Garris, scripted by Stefano and starred Henry Thomas as the adolescent Norman and Olivia Hussey as Mother. For Psycho IV, the Bates Motel and house were reconstructed at Universal Studios, Orlando, where they remain a tourist attraction.
Some modern sources assert that due to his identification with the role of Norman, Perkins was typecast and could rarely find film work other than portraying mentally unstable characters, although he continued to work in the theater in a variety of roles. As Leigh noted in her book, after Psycho's release, Perkins left the United States to work abroad for several years, and she claims that he was shocked to learn of its far-reaching impact upon his return. In the April 1989 Los Angeles Herald Express review of Perkins' second-to-last film, Edge of Sanity, in which he portrayed an updated version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the critic commented that Perkins had "been trapped in this kind of part ever since that fateful evening 29 years ago when Janet Leigh decided to wash the desert grit out of her pores."
In 1987, Universal attempted to use the story as the basis for a weekly television series entitled Bates Motel. The two-hour pilot, which aired on the NBC network on July 5, 1987, starred Bud Cort as a former mental patient who, after meeting Norman while incarcerated, revitalized the defunct Bates Motel. The pilot was not picked up by NBC, however.
In 1998, Universal released a "recreation" of Psycho directed by Gus Van Sant. An almost shot-for-shot remake of the original, the 1998 Psycho used Herrmann's score, the graphic design for the opening credits and Stefano's screenplay, which he updated for the new film to include such changes as having Marion steal $400,000 instead of $40,000. Van Sant made a cameo in the picture as a man being berated by a Hitchcock look-alike outside the Lowery real estate office. The remake, which starred Anne Heche as Marion, Vince Vaughn as Norman and Julianne Moore as Lila, was dedicated to the memory of Hitchcock.