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Psycho

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All-Reviews.com Movie Review: Psycho

Starring: Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Rated: R
RunTime: 109 Minutes
Release Date: March 1960
Genres: Classic, Drama, Horror, Suspense


*Also starring: Vera Miles, John Gavin, Martin Balsam, John McIntire, Simon Oakland, John Anderson, Frank Albertson



Review by Brian Koller
3½ stars out of 4

"Psycho" is one of Alfred Hitchcock's best and most famous films. Although it has been called a black comedy or a horror movie, perhaps it qualifies better as a mystery. There is considerable suspense throughout, the Bernard HerrmanX score is outstanding, the script and directing is excellent, and Anthony Perkins' character (Norman Bates) and performance is one of the most infamous in film history.

There are spoilers in the following paragraphs, but it would be difficult to discuss the film properly without giving much away.

The story begins with blonde beauty Janet Leigh, whose character is vulnerable but calculating. She steals a large sum of cash from her employer and flees town. She sells her car, and stops for the night at a cheap hotel. There, she meets lonely hotel owner Perkins. Perkins has a strong love-hate relationship with his abusive mother, who is heard but not seen. Leigh is murdered, apparently by Perkins' mother. Later, a private detective traces Leigh to the motel. This leads to more confrontations between Perkins and those looking for Leigh. It is revealed that Perkins has a split personality: one as Norman, the other as his long-dead mother.

Hitchcock plays a trick on us by focusing the first half of the film on Leigh, when the film is really about Norman Bates. Even in the second half, the story is told from the viewpoint of other characters. These characters only know part of the truth, adding to the mystery and suspense that permeates the film.

The dramatic tension is strong and endless: Will Leigh steal the cash? Will she get caught, by the policeman or the car salesman? What is Bates' relationship with his mother? Will Bates get charged with his mother's crime? Is Bates' mother still alive? If not, who is the old lady who lives with him? Hitchcock keeps the audience guessing by teasing it with misleading information.

Poor Anthony Perkins. Prior to "Psycho", he played leading man roles, in successful films such as "Fear Strikes Out" and "On The Beach". He was sort of a Timothy Hutton of the 1950s. But after "Psycho", he could only be seen by the audience as Norman Bates. He could then only get Bates-style roles, such as in "Pretty Poison" and the Psycho sequels.

My only real complaint about "Psycho" is the conclusion. A psychiatrist is trotted in to explain Perkins' behaviour. He seems to know everything: that Bates killed his mother, other strangers, buried them all in the swamp, and didn't steal the money. Tying up all the loose ends in "Psycho" goes against the grain of the rest of the film. I can imagine this character appearing in "2001: A Space Odyssey" to explain things: "The monkeys represent early man, whose murderous instincts required alien intervention to advance human society..."

Copyright 1999 Brian Koller

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