Psycho (1960)


Psycho is a 1960 American psychological thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Janet Leigh and Anthony Perkins. The film is based on the screenplay by Joseph Stefano, who adapted it from the 1959 novel of the same name by Robert Bloch. The novel was loosely inspired by the crimes of Wisconsin murderer and grave robber Ed Gein, who lived just 40 miles from Bloch. The film depicts the encounter between a secretary, Marion Crane (Leigh), hiding at a secluded motel after embezzling money from her employer, and the motel's disturbed owner and manager, Norman Bates (Perkins), and the aftermath of their encounter. Psycho initially received mixed reviews, but outstanding box office returns prompted a re-review which was overwhelmingly positive and led to four Academy Award nominations. Psycho is now considered one of Hitchcock's best films and is highly praised as a work of cinematic art by international critics. The film spawned two sequels, a prequel, a remake, and a television movie spin-off. The film is often categorized by multiple sources as a drama, horror, mystery and thriller film.


In Phoenix, Arizona, discreet lovers Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) and Sam Loomis (John Gavin) want to marry, but cannot, as Sam is in debt and must also pay heavy alimony to his ex-wife. Unhappy and desperate to improve their situation, Marion steals $40,000 in cash from her office and drives to California, where Sam lives. All the while, Marion is nervous and apprehensive, and drives well into the night, eventually parking alongside the road to sleep. She is awakened by a concerned highway police officer, who warns her that it is dangerous to sleep in a car and tells her in the future to find a motel. However, Marion's desperation to leave arouses his suspicions. The officer looks at her license and registration, taking note of the plate number. He allows her to go on, but follows her, which agitates Marion further. Realizing that he now knows her plate number, she trades her 1956 Ford Mainline with an additional $700 for a 1957 Ford Custom 300 before continuing to California. However, the same officer has been watching the exchange from across the street and gotten has her new plate number. Marion leaves, worrying that the car trader will express suspicions of his own to the officer. Marion becomes fatigued from stress and driving in heavy rain and decides to find a proper place to stay for the night, fearing a reprise of the incident with the patrolman. She turns off the main road without realizing it, and arrives at the Bates Motel, a twelve-cabin lodging, rather out-of-the-way establishment with no other guests at present. The young, boyishly handsome and innocent-seeming owner, Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins), explains to her that business has decreased dramatically since the new road bypassed the motel. Norman does what little work is left, and also looks after his mother in a sinister-looking house on top of a nearby hill. Marion checks in under an assumed name, Marie Samuels, though she unwittingly gives her real name to him later. It is still raining, Marion is very tired, and the nearest diner is ten miles away, so Norman suggests that she have dinner at his house. However, from her room, Marion overhears a heated argument between Norman and his mother, who seems to suspect that his meal with Marion is part of a sordid affair. The two eat in the office instead, where Norman keeps several stuffed birds (his hobby is taxidermy). While eating, they have a gentle conversation at first, but Norman becomes angry after she delicately suggests he gets help in looking after his disturbed mother and possibly institutionalize her. Norman recovers from his brief outburst and admits that he would like to leave, but can't abandon his mother. He compares his life to a trap and observes that this aptly describes most people. Feeling that the theft of the money has also got her into a trap, Marion resolves to drive back to Phoenix in the morning. She undresses in her room next door while Norman watches through a peephole in the wall of his office. The "Psycho" set still stands on the Universal lot. At the time this picture was taken (1997), the car driven by Janet Leigh in the film was parked in front of the motel. After calculating how she can repay the money she has spent, Marion flushes her notes down the toilet and begins to shower. Suddenly, an anonymous figure, presumably Norman's mother, enters the bathroom and stabs Marion to death. Norman finds the corpse, and immediately assumes that his mother committed the murder. He cleans the bathroom and places Marion's body, wrapped in the shower curtain, and all her possessions – including the money – in the trunk of her car and sinks it in a swamp. Shortly afterward, Sam is contacted by both Marion's sister Lila (Vera Miles) and private detective Milton Arbogast (Martin Balsam), who has been hired by Marion's employer to find her and recover the money. Arbogast traces Marion to the motel and questions Norman, who lies unconvincingly about Marion having been and left weeks before. He refuses to let Arbogast talk to his mother, claiming she is ill. Arbogast calls Lila to update her and tells her he will contact her again after hopefully questioning Norman's mother. Arbogast enters Norman's house and, at the top of the stairs, he is attacked by a figure who slashes his face with a large kitchen knife, pushes him back down the stairs and then stabs him to death. When Arbogast does not call Lila, she and Sam contact the local police. Deputy Sheriff Al Chambers is perplexed to learn Arbogast saw a woman in a window, revealing that Norman's mother had died ten years earlier; Norman had found her dead alongside her married lover, an apparent murder-suicide. After this Norman confronts his mother, urges her to hide in the cellar. She rejects the idea and orders him out of her room, but against her will, Norman carries her to the fruit cellar. When Chambers dismisses Lila and Sam's concerns over Arbogast's disappearance, the two decide to search the motel themselves for any clues leading to Arbogast or Marion. Posing as a married couple, Sam and Lila check into the motel and search Marion's cabin, where they find a scrap of paper with "$40,000" written on it. While Sam distracts Norman, Lila sneaks into the house to search for his mother. Sam suggests Norman killed Marion for the money so he could buy a new hotel. Realizing Lila is missing, Norman knocks Sam unconscious and rushes to the house. Lila sees him and hides in the cellar where she discovers the semi-preserved and hideously mummified body of Mrs. Bates. Seconds later, Norman rushes in, wearing his mother's clothes and a wig, and carrying a knife. Sam arrives just in time to subdue Bates by tackling him to his knees and save Lila. After Norman's arrest, forensic psychiatrist Dr. Fred Richmond (Simon Oakland) tells Sam and Lila that Mrs. Bates is alive in Norman's fractured psyche. After the death of Norman's father, the pair lived as if they were the only people in the world. When his mother found a lover, however, Norman was consumed with jealousy and murdered both of them. Wracked with guilt, he tried to "erase the crime" by bringing his mother "back to life" in his mind. He stole her corpse and preserved the body. When he is "Mother", he acts, talks, and dresses as she would. Marion is revealed to have been "Mother"'s third victim, the first two also having been attractive young women; "Mother" is as jealous of Norman as he is of her, and so "she" kills anyone he feels attracted to. His psychosis protects him from knowing about other crimes committed after his mother's death. In the final scene, Norman sits in a cell, his mind dominated by the Mother persona. In voiceover, she says that she will prove to the authorities that she is harmless by refusing to swat a fly on Norman's hand: "They'll say, 'why, she wouldn't even harm a fly'". In some prints of the film, his face flashes briefly into a skull. The final shot shows Marion's car being recovered from the swamp.