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Gordon S. Miller Written by Gordon S. Miller
Oct. 29, 2010 | 10:44 PM

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PSYCHO: 50th Anniversary Edition (Blu-ray)

In time for Halloween, though it’s good any time of year from Mother’s Day to non-holidays, Universal has released Alfred Hitchcock’s classic horror film Psycho on Blu-ray. 

Right from the start, Saul Bass’ opening title sequence paired with Bernard Herrmann’s string-only score is striking and creates great tension.  Hitchcock pans across the city of Phoenix and then takes the viewer into a hotel room where Marian (Janet Leigh) reveals her frustrations to Sam (John Gavin) because he doesn’t to want to commit beyond their afternoon affairs until his divorced wife remarries and he can afford it.  When opportunity presents itself, Marian embezzles $40,000 and runs out of town to bring it to him. 

During a rainy night on the road, she comes upon the Bates Motel and meets proprietor Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins).  A nice, meek fellow with an interest in taxidermy who suffers from an overbearing mother who “goes a little mad some times,” but then “we all go a little mad some times” according to Norman.

Psycho is difficult to talk about because some of its genius lies in its plot twists.  After the legendary shower scene where a murder unexpectedly takes places, the story changes direction.  A new person becomes the main focus for both the audience and the characters looking for Marian.  The film concludes with a great twist.

Hitchcock and his crew deliver a horror film that is so well done, even when the viewer knows the secrets, it doesn’t diminish the experience, instead providing a more accurate view of the story.  Leigh and Perkins are standouts on the acting front.  Joseph Stefano wrote a great script based on Robert Bloch’s novel of the same name.  Cinematographer John L. Russell and his team do exquisite work bringing Hitchcock’s vision.  While different reasons are given for the choice, shooting in black and white works so well fir the film.  Editor George Tomasini deserves a mention as well for the construction of the shower scene.

The video is presented with a 1080p/VC-1 encoded transfer at an aspect ratio of 1.85:1.  Although the source has some slight specks of dirt, the entire gray scale is well rendered, as are the inky shadows.  Some jackets with fine lines in the fabric print cause aliasing.  There is one short, very dark scene when Norman heads up to house after Marian has had a bite to eat that looks terrible.  Almost like DNR has smeared the entire scene but there is a light grain presence throughout so I am not sure what happened.

While the dialogue is clear and Herrmann’s score sounds awesome, I am not entirely sure where I stand on the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack it has been given.  Cars pass along the fronts and objects, like a door closing, are positioned but they sound a little too lively at times and cause a disconnect because they don’t always sound realistic or maybe it’s that they don’t meet my expectation like the English DTS 2.0 Mono does.  Plus, some of the ADR dialogue sounds flat.  The 5.1 does have pluses though.  The rain comes through strong and cars can be heard passing by on the left side. 

There are a great many extras for fans to go through.  The audio commentary is provided by Stephen Rebello, author of Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho.  He is very knowledgeable and provides the information in an engaging manner. 

“The Making of Psycho” - A great documentary created in 1997 about the making of the movie with people involved in its creation like Janet Leigh, screenwriter Joseph Stefano, and assistant director Hilton Green.  Many aspects are covered from pre-production to the marketing of the film

Psycho Sound”  - An interesting piece for audiophiles that looks at how the film’s original mono audio was expanded into a new 5.1 audio track. 

“In the Master’s Shadow: Hitchcock’s Legacy”- Martin Scorsese, John Carpenter, and Guillermo del Toro are joined by many others who work in film to discuss Hitch’s work and impact.  Comparisons are shown with his work and those who followed, including directors who cite his influence and when they borrowed from him. 

“Hitchcock/Truffaut” - Taking the title from Francois Truffaut’s book, which this material was used for, the audio from their 1962 interviews is a real treasure to hear.  Naturally Psycho is the focus.  Clips from the film accompany the audio.

Newsreel Footage: The Release of Psycho - A visual pressbook on film that covers Hitch’s rules about attending the film.  It’s cool to see the great marketing gimmicks. 

Two looks at the legendary shower scene.  “The Shower Scene: With and Without Music” presents two versions of the classic scene as the title indicates.  Not really sure of the purpose.  “The Shower Sequence: Storyboards by Saul Bass” reveals Bass’ drawings and served as a guide for Hitch to shoot the scene.

A whole slew of features focus on photos and promotion.  “The Psycho Archives” contains photos of the production and behind the scenes.  “Posters and Psycho Ads” from around the world.  “Lobby Cards” “Behind the Scenes Photographs” and “Publicity Shots” the trailer for the films starring Hitch and five re-release trailers that trumpet the fact that it’s the version “TV didn’t dare show”.

Hitchcock’s Psycho is a must-own film and the Blu-ray does it justice.


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