Psycho (Blu-ray) (1960)

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Released 2-Dec-2015

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller Featurette-Making Of-The Making of Psycho
Featurette-In the Master's Shadow: Hitchcock's Legacy
Audio Bites-Hitchcock/Truffaut
Featurette-Newsreel Footage: The Release of Psycho
Additional Footage-The Shower Scene: With & Without Music
Storyboards-Shower Scene
Featurette-Psycho Sound
Gallery
Theatrical Trailer
Additional Footage-Alfred Hitchcock Presents 'Lambs to the Slaughter'
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1960
Running Time 108:51
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Alfred Hitchcock
Studio
Distributor

ViaVision
Starring Anthony Perkins
Janet Leigh
Vera Miles
John Gavin
Martin Balsam
John McIntire
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI $15.95 Music Bernard Herrmann


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
English DTS HD Master Audio 2.0
French Dolby Digital 2.0
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0
German Dolby Digital 2.0
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0
Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Japanese
French
Italian
German
Spanish
Dutch
Danish
Finnish
Portuguese
Chinese
Korean
Swedish
Norwegian
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

††† Itís impossible to discuss the narrative and storytelling brilliance of Alfred Hitchcockís Psycho without divulging spoilers. The movieís twists and secrets are almost common knowledge over five decades after its release, but fair warning all the same. If you have not seen Psycho and are oblivious to its surprises, stop reading this review right now and watch the movie. It is a masterpiece, and thatís all you need to know.

††† Released in 1960, Psycho has become synonymous with the late great Alfred Hitchcock, standing proudly alongside the likes of Rear Window, North By Northwest and Vertigo. An adaptation of Robert Blochís 1959 novel of the same name, Psycho was actually an attempt by Hitchcock to reinvent himself at the time and try something different. A trend had broken out in Hollywood during the 1950s, with low-risk, low-budget horrors crowding theatres and effortlessly generating a large profit. However, said movies were not often particularly good, and Hitchcock was eager to see what would happen if somebody talented helmed a comparable production. Despite being able to command lavish budgets, Hitchcock wanted to create a horror movie on the cheap with the crew of his television show Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and was even compelled to go outside the studio system to fund the movie himself. Itís a gamble that paid off, and the film still holds up today. Indeed, Psycho is not just groundbreaking, influential and oft-imitated - itís also a highly engaging, albeit disturbing horror movie.

††† A clerk in a real estate office earning an average wage, Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) is engaged in a romantic relationship with Sam Loomis (John Gavin), but they cannot get married because of Samís debts. When Marionís boss closes a lucrative real estate deal, Marion is entrusted to deposit $40,000 in cash into the bank, but the large sum of money is simply too tempting. Seeing a way out of her situation, she impulsively decides to keep it and sets off to visit Sam, but a powerful storm one night compels Marion to seek accommodation. Happening across the eerily quiet Bates Motel, which has ď12 cabins, 12 vacancies,Ē Marion meets owner Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins), a shy but well-meaning young man whoís excited by the prospect of a female visitor. However, Normanís jealous mother, who lives in a creepy old house overlooking the establishment, does not take kindly to Normanís attraction to Marion...

††† Many factors can be attributed to the success of Psycho, but the creative marketing campaign most certainly helped. Indeed, Hitchcockís name alone was enough to sell plenty of tickets, but the maestro took it one step further. Cinema staff were not permitted to let patrons enter a screening after the movie had started, and advertisements encouraged audiences not to spoil any of the twists, on top of the fact that Hitchcock purchased every copy of Blochís novel he could find to limit the bookís availability and thus keep the storyís secrets under wraps. The virtuoso filmmaker truly wanted audiences to see the film with fresh, unaware eyes, which gave Psycho the power to shock, terrify and amaze in a way thatís nearly impossible to accomplish in this age of internet gossip and spoilers. Even though the movie was almost unanimously panned by critics at the time of its initial release, hundreds of people queued up outside cinemas for hours, and Hitchcockís masterpiece fast became a nationwide phenomenon, grossing an estimated $32 million in America alone against its meagre $800,000 production budget. (Adjusted for inflation, Psychoís gross is equal to approximately $350 million in 2015.)

††† Despite being one of the motion pictures most associated with Hitchcock, Psycho is something of an anomaly for the filmmaker, as itís removed from the low-key mysteries, elegant romances and grand-scale espionage thrillers that constitute the majority of his filmography. And that was, of course, Hitchcockís intention. Whatís particularly ingenious about Psycho is its narrative edifice, with Hitchcock and screenwriter Joseph Stefano creating a horror that defies expectations with utter glee. The shocking final revelation has lost none of its power, but itís also the repercussions of the iconic shower scene that stunned audiences back in 1960. Hitchcock deliberately lulls you into thinking that an entirely different story will unfold, only to pull the rug out from underneath you with the early exit of Marion Crane and the sudden shift in narrative focus. Itís all pulled off so eloquently by Hitchcock, who favours twists over out-and-out violence.

††† Despite the advancing popularity of colour film, Hitchcock deliberately chose to lens Psycho in black and white, feeling that the movie would simply be too gory in colour. The monochrome photography is a masterstroke, enhancing the movieís shocking impact and sense of horror. But itís the sense of atmosphere which really makes Psycho unforgettable, with John L. Russellís eye-catching cinematography making superlative use of shadows, creating unease during scenes set at the ominous Bates Motel. Furthermore, Hitchcock was something of a cinematic magician, with violence being implied rather than simply shown, using trick shots and montage. Especially during the shower scene, you believe youíve witnessed more than whatís actually on the screen - the knife is never actually seen penetrating skin, with creative angles, expert editing and realistic sound design prompting our minds to fill in the blanks. Itís simply superb craftsmanship, turning the scene into a cinematic masterclass that continues to be studied. But Psycho would not be as memorable as it is without Bernard Herrmannís riveting original music. The screaming strings still send a chill down the spine, with the filmís intensity and horror confidently amplified by the accompanying soundtrack.

††† Say what you will about Psychoís content in this day and age, but audiences back in 1960 were not prepared for such a disturbing motion picture. Even in 2015, the movie has bite, which is all the more impressive considering the restrictions of the period. Psycho was released before films were actually rated; in 1960, motion pictures simply had to be approved for release. Hitchcock was therefore treading on eggshells, pushing the censorship envelope to see exactly how much he could get away with as he dabbled in cinematic taboos. On top of the obvious violence, Psycho also features a toilet being flushed, denoting the first time in cinematic history that a toilet was visible in a motion picture. Furthermore, the film shows unmarried people engaging in a sexual affair, as well as voyeurism, schizophrenia and transvestism, not to mention Marion is a thief, and Janet Leigh is glimpsed in her underwear on more than one occasion. Psycho really was a breakthrough at the time.

††† Leigh earned an Oscar nomination for her portrayal of Marion Crane, which was well deserved, but Perkins was inexplicably overlooked by the Academy. Bates is one of the greatest all-time horror icons, and Perkinsí portrayal is note-perfect. In Blochís novel, Bates was a bald, middle-aged fat man, but Stefano felt that such a character would be hard to sympathise with, choosing to write the role for a younger performer. Perkins nails it, exhibiting plenty of boyish charm and coming across as hugely sympathetic. You feel sorry for Norman, whoís the furthest thing from a vindictive horror villain imaginable, and itís impossible to imagine anybody else embodying the role as skilfully as the late Perkins. The remainder of the actors hit their marks respectably, with the likes of John Gavin, Vera Miles and Martin Balsam making a good impression in their respective roles, but Psycho is Perkinsí show.

††† It took a lot of effort in post-production to truly bring Psycho to life, with Hitchcockís beloved wife Alma (a former editor) reportedly assisting in the cutting process. Even though some have complained about an extensive psychiatric explanation in the final scene, I personally have no issue with it, especially with the haunting note that the movie closes on. Slasher flicks released since Psycho may be gorier and more graphic, but Hitchcockís film remains untouchable precisely because of what the master director was able to accomplish in a stricter era of film censorship. In 2015, the movie succeeds thanks to its fine performances, nuanced characters, brilliant narrative and superlative technical presentation. It is a must-see.

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Transfer Quality

Video

††† Compared to the Hitchcock titles remastered and distributed by Warner Bros (Strangers on a Train, North by Northwest), Psycho comes up a little short. Still, this restoration effort is a thing to behold, cleaning up the image to remove print damage and create a stable, crisp HD master, framed in the movieís original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Encoded in MPEG-4 AVC, this Blu-ray faithfully replicates Psychoís visuals, bringing out detail and nuance.

††† The only issue with this high definition image is that some noise reduction has visibly been applied, as is the case with most Universal Blu-rays. As a consequence, the image is a bit too smooth, with some shots looking rather waxy. Grain should be more prevalent; without it, some of the fine detail is lost. However, casual watchers probably wonít notice this; Universal have deviously created an image thatís stuck somewhere between DNR disaster and overly grainy, in an attempt to please both the grain haters and the videofile purists. However, I did not detect any edge enhancement, nor did I detect any encoding anomalies that the American release reportedly suffers from.

††† Now...the good news. Psycho looks amazingly clear and stable on Blu-ray, and has probably never looked this good before. The transfer beautifully handles the distinctive photography, with the image faithfully replicating the dark, inky look of the movie. The video at no point looks washed out, with plenty of darkness in the frame, and the transfer miraculously never falls victim to black crush. There is an assortment of flecks and other imperfections, but I almost prefer seeing these and they do not bother me, as it replicates the experience of watching an imperfect celluloid print.

††† Psycho looks good on Blu-ray, but a tad too smooth for my taste - it could look even better with a fresh 4K scan which retains a healthy grain structure. Perhaps the Ultra HD Blu-ray format will grant this wish.

††† A heap of subtitle options are available.


Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

††† Universal offer a number of audio options for different languages, chief among them are two English tracks: the filmís original mono track in lossless DTS-HD 2.0, and a remixed DTS-HD MA 5.1 track. The upgrade in audio afforded by a lossless encode is really obvious from the opening titles (especially contrasted against the lossy Dolby Digital options on the disc), with Herrmannís unforgettable music sounding clear and impactful.

††† The original mono track is exceptional, with dialogue coming through clearly, and with nothing in the way of bothersome crackling or popping, though there isnít much in the way of separation or surround activity. The DTS-HD MA 5.1 track, however, is better in this regard. A featurette on this Blu-ray delves into the efforts undertaken by the audio engineers to create a surround track thatís faithful to the original sound, and it pays off.

††† Stabbing, slicing and slashing sounds pack plenty of punch, and the track is professionally mixed with appropriate levels to create an immersive experience. Psycho does not compare to more recent cinematic releases, but it sounds as good as it ever will, and I was not disappointed in any way.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

††† Heaps and heaps of extras are available here. It will take a couple days for fans to chew through all the extras on offer.

The Making of Psycho (SD; 94:13)

††† A vintage piece, this documentary is simply sensational, a meaty, in-depth examination of what it took to bring Hitchcockís timeless gem to the big screen. Since it was produced in the 1990s, interview subjects include the now-deceased Janet Leigh, Hilton Green and Joseph Stefano, with input from a number of other individuals, who have plenty of stories to share. The technical presentation is admittedly dated, with 4:3 interviews and widescreen film clips that are not 16:9 enhanced, but this scarcely matters. The documentary touches upon Blochís novel, Hitchcockís initial interest, the scripting process, the filming of several key scenes, post-production, Herrmannís music, battles with the censors and the eventual release. Itís an easy-to-digest, comprehensive documentary, and itís a welcome addition to this Blu-ray.

In The Masterís Shadow: Hitchcockís Legacy (SD; 25:58)

††† An extra produced in 2008, this featurette is chock full of interviews with filmmakers who were personally inspired by Hitchcock, and who examine Hitchcockís influence on a variety of motion pictures.

Hitchcock/Truffaut (SD; 15:20)

††† An audio interview excerpt from Francois Truffautís 1962 interviews with Hitchcock (with a translator to ensure the two men can have a conversation). The discussion is smart and insightful, making this a real treat. Since this is audio-only, clips and stills from Psycho accompany the interview.

Newsreel Footage: The Release of Psycho (SD; 7:45)

††† This is a reel of news footage from 1960 which covers the release of Hitchcockís Psycho. Emphasis is placed on Hitchís strict theatre policies, and itís also fascinating to see the gargantuan line-ups outside the cinema. Worth watching.

The Shower Scene: With & Without Music (SD; 1:18)

††† Self-explanatory, really; the shower scene is available to watch here, both with and without music. You choose whichever audio option you wish. Worth watching for fans.

Shower Scene Storyboards (SD; 4:10)

††† A video slideshow of storyboards, with no music or any other aural accompaniment. I would have preferred the option to scroll through these manually, but a worthwhile inclusion nevertheless.

Psycho Sound (HD; 9:57)

††† This interesting, all-new featurette is concerned with the process of upgrading Psychoís sound mix from original mono to 5.1. A number of sound engineers chime in to talk to talk about the possibilities of the software, and how they strived to stay true to Hitchcock while giving the sound more precision and separation.

The Psycho Archives (SD; 7:48)

††† A video slideshow of production photographs. Like the storyboards, manual navigation would have been preferred, but oh well.

Posters and Psycho Ads (SD; 3:00)

††† A three-minute video slideshow of, you guessed it, posters and ads.

Lobby Cards (SD; 1:30)

††† Again, no manual navigation; a video slideshow of lobby cards from the pictureís release.

Behind the Scenes Photographs (SD; 8:00)

††† A pretty sizable collection of on-set images, with Hitchcock often seen smartly-dressed. As ever, this is a video slideshow.

Publicity Shots (SD; 8:30)

††† The last of the video slideshows, this is a collection of publicity shots.

Psycho Theatrical Trailer (SD; 6:35)

††† The iconic trailer, featuring Mr. Hitchcock taking us on a tour of the Bates Motel and the house.

Psycho Re-Release Trailers (SD; 1:50)

††† A selection of trailers from the Psycho re-release, focusing around the fact that TV did not dare air Hitchcockís original cinema edit.

Alfred Hitchcock Presents ďLambs to the SlaughterĒ (SD; 26:08)

††† Just as an added bonus, we have a half-hour episode Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Written by Roald Dahl, this is actually quite a good little short, revolving around an impromptu murder and the killer attempting to cover it up. Definitely worth watching.

Feature Commentary With Stephen Rebello, author of ďAlfred Hitchcock and the Making of PsychoĒ

††† Rebello is well-versed in Hitchcock history and knows plenty about the making of Psycho, and does his best to provide scene-specific anecdotes throughout this insightful, excellent audio commentary track. Heís an easygoing, laid-back commentator, patiently imparting pieces of trivia about the production and the actors, whilst also discussing the themes and symbolism of the movie. For fans of the movie, itís definitely worth the time investment, and itís the perfect way to top off this extensive selection of supplements.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

† † Universal's release in America lacks the Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode. A win for local.

Summary

††† Psycho endures in 2015; it's an exceedingly creepy, thrilling motion picture which continues to be analysed for its themes and subtleties. Any film enthusiast must watch this movie, and any fan will be overjoyed by this incredible Blu-ray release. Despite a so-so video presentation, the audio is outstanding and the selection of extras will not disappoint anybody. It earns my highest recommendation.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Callum Knox (I studied biology)
Tuesday, December 15, 2015
Review Equipment
DVDPlayStation 4, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 42LW6500. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationLG BH7520TW
SpeakersLG Tall Boy speakers, 5.1 set-up, 180W

Other Reviews NONE
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