Psycho II (Blu-ray) (1983)

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Released 2-Mar-2016

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller Interviews-Cast & Crew
Trailer
TV Spots
Gallery-Photo
Audio Interview-Cast
Audio Commentary-with Tom Holland
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1983
Running Time 112:45
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Richard Franklin
Studio
Distributor

ViaVision
Starring Anthony Perkins
Meg Tilly
Vera Miles
Robert Loggia
Dennis Franz
Claudia Bryar
Hugh Gillin
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI $19.95 Music Jerry Goldsmith


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
English DTS HD Master Audio 2.0
English Audio Commentary DTS HD Master Audio 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 Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

††† Itís one thing to create a sequel to an unremarkable blockbuster like The Fast and the Furious, but itís something else entirely to attempt a follow-up to one of the most legendary, acclaimed movies of all time. For all intents and purposes, Alfred Hitchcockís Psycho didnít need a sequel; itís in the same league as films like Lawrence of Arabia, hence a follow-up sounds like madness, especially one released 23 years after the 1960 original. Robert Bloch, who wrote the Psycho novel on which Hitchcockís film is based, actually penned his own sequel novel in 1982, prompting Universal to pursue their own follow-up. Psycho II was apparently planned to be a television movie with Christopher Walken as Norman Bates, but Anthony Perkins eventually came aboard to reprise his iconic role, and the production became so overwhelmed with press coverage and interest that the studio execs pursued a theatrical release. The bad news is that Psycho II is nowhere near as good as its lightning-in-a-bottle predecessor. The good news? It was made by a crew who cared about the project and wanted to honour Hitch, and the result is a lot better than expected.

††† Opening 22 years after the end of the first film, Norman Bates (Perkins) is declared to be cured of his insanity, and of sound body and mind. He is released back into society, despite the passionate pleas of Lila Loomis (Vera Miles), the sister of one of Normanís victims, whoís convinced that the rehabilitated madman is going to kill again. Returning to his family home next to the Bates Motel, Norman takes up a job at a local diner, where he meets kindly young waitress Mary Samuels (Meg Tilly), who becomes homeless after a harsh break-up with her boyfriend. Feeling sorry for Mary and not wanting to be alone, Norman invites her to live with him. Norman sacks the new manager of the Bates Motel, and looks to fix up the place and return it to its former glory. But try as he might, Norman cannot shake the feeling that something is not quite right, as he begins receiving notes and phone calls from his ďmotherĒ. Making matters worse, people begin to go missing around the motel...

††† Although Psycho II ostensibly looks like a needless cash-in sequel, itís a solid motion picture in its own right, a well-made and suspenseful thriller that rises above the grim standard for most horror sequels. Much of the credit has to go to writer Tom Holland, a newcomer at the time who went on to script Fright Night. Thereís a lot of head-slapping ambiguity during the opening act, as Holland and director Richard Franklin toy with us like a devious cat messing with a hapless mouse. The question looms about what exactly is happening, and if Norman really is insane again. Eventually, Psycho II begins revealing itself layer by later, leading to a shocking climax beset with surprises. Also beneficial is that Psycho II functions as a sensitive character study, observing the relationship between Norman and Mary which advances Normanís story in a fascinating way. Even if the film is not on the same level as Hitchcockís masterpiece, itís surprising just how intelligent and clever this sequel truly is, as it plots its own fresh path and doesnít try to recreate its predecessor.

††† Director Richard Franklin is a self-described student of Hitchcock; he worshipped the manís work, and even met him on the set of Topaz. He does lack Hitchís brilliant artistry and ability to generate shocks and chills, but Franklinís efforts are nevertheless effective. Recruiting Halloweenís director of photography Dean Cundey, Psycho II is a handsome motion picture, exhibiting Hitchcockian influence in its lighting, framing, deliberate pacing and subtle clues about the true nature of whatís going on. Nothing here is as masterful as the iconic shower scene, but Franklin stages a number of note-worthy set-pieces, using eerie shadows and creepy production design to enhance the mood and atmosphere. One huge misstep, though, is using the shower scene from the original film to open the picture. It feels like a cheesy gimmick, something one would see in a TV movie. Added to this, the score is not as chilling or memorable as Bernard Herrmannís remarkable contributions to Hitchcockís film.

††† The role of Norman Bates haunted Perkins throughout his career, and his performance here is one of the chief reasons why Psycho II works as well as it does. Bates is completely unlike í80s horror icons like Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger; whereas we enjoy seeing those characters kill and maim, we donít want to see Norman lose his sanity and kill again. Perkins is so utterly pathetic, yet heartbreakingly sympathetic as well, and we feel that heís earned the right to live peacefully after such a hard life. Itís painful to watch this easily likeable man try to maintain his sanity, question what is real, face temptation, and even wonder if heís mentally stable. Perkins also brilliantly keeps us guessing; we wonder just what exactly is happening, and even when things slowly become clear at the end, even then you might not be sure. Alongside him, Meg Tilly (sister of Jennifer Tilly) provides great support; she brings a sense of innocence to the role of Mary, and sheís beautiful, making for an ideal counterpoint to Bates. Even though Perkins reportedly tried to get Tilly fired after she revealed herself to have no knowledge of the original film or of Perkinsí legacy, the pair share great chemistry, and their interplay is engaging. One of the movieís standout scenes is the climax involving Norman and Mary thatís both thrilling and emotionally powerful.

††† Apart from Perkins, the only other returning cast member from the 1960 film is Vera Miles as Lila Loomis (formerly Lila Crane). Alas, her inclusion is one of the aspects of Psycho II that fails to sit right. She serves a purpose at the beginning of the movie, actively petitioning against Normanís release, but she has more than a cameo. Where the script leads her is frightening and unnecessary, turning this smart character into an idiotic, overwrought, revenge-minded harpy. Miles delivers a strong performance as Lila, but the proceedings here tarnish the characterís name.

††† If Psycho II were a standalone thriller with no ties to Hitchcockís timeless masterpiece, it would be an exceptional movie, and perhaps would be more fondly remembered. But as a follow-up to one of the most ďuntouchableĒ movies of all time, it loses a few points, due to the fact that it simply is not Hitchcockís movie, and a few aspects are questionable. Still, Psycho II is much better than it had a right to be, further developing Normanís character, providing plenty of twists and chills, and staying true to the spirit of its predecessor. Not to mention, itís head over heels superior to a lot of horror sequels.

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Transfer Quality

Video

††† Created from a HD master directly supplied by Universal, Psycho II is presented in 1080p high definition via the MPEG-4 AVC codec, framed at 1.84:1 (OAR is 1.85:1). The transfer is adequate but far from perfect, though since the video is exactly the same as Shout! Factoryís Region A release (which I own, and did a direct comparison with), the flaws are attributable to the supplied master as opposed to Via Visionís perfectly agreeable encode.

††† First, the positives. This is a stable HD transfer, with no evidence of distracting digital tampering, exhibiting a grain structure that keeps fine detail intact. Close-ups are often excellent, with plenty of detail on faces and clothing. Although there is an assortment of flecks and scratches, this is a mostly clean print free of any major issues. Colour is decent (with caveats, more on that below), and the image is reasonably sharp.

††† However, Psycho IIís Blu-ray is by no means perfect. The grain is not as well-refined as it should be, and thereís a fair amount of digital video noise as well, making for an occasionally smeary image in need of better clarity. This is an inconsistent transfer, at times very good while at other times looking almost on the same level as an upscaled DVD. Furthermore, the image does look washed-out from time to time, which gives Psycho II the appearance of a television movie. Some might say this is the fault of the original photography, but thatís unlikely, as Dean Cundey (John Carpenterís go-to DOP) is a very careful and stylish cinematographer. There is also a shot towards the film's end which suffers from a noticeable shudder, an error traceable to the source since it was also on the Shout! disc.

††† In final analysis, Psycho II looks decent on Blu-ray, flaws and all. Especially considering that this film would not have been a top priority for Blu-ray, the transfer is probably the best it will ever be, unless a lot of money and time is put into a new 4K remaster, which is very unlikely. Iíll take it, especially after many years of being stuck with a low-quality DVD.

††† Only English subtitles are available.


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

Audio

††† Four audio options are available on this disc: an English DTS-HD MA 5.1 track, an English DTS-HD MA 2.0 track, and the two commentary tracks, both of which are encoded in DTS-HD. The 2.0 track is there for the purists, as the 5.1 track was mixed more recently. Listening to both, there is not a great deal between them, though there is not much that a 5.1 track could really bring to the table beyond a bit more precision from the surround channels. This is not Transformers, after all.

††† Psycho II sounds simply magnificent on Blu-ray. Dialogue is crystal clear, and mixed well enough that itís never overwhelmed by ambience or music. Jerry Goldsmithís music also comes through impressively, and the various murders and unnerving set-pieces are given extra oomph thanks to the lossless audio. Indeed, sound effects have plenty of impact, with knife slicing sounding perfectly visceral.

††† Happily, there are no issues with the audio tracks - thereís no hissing or crackling, which is fantastic for a film of this age. Psycho II is not demo material, but it does show that older movies can be given new aural life on Blu-ray.

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

Extras

††† A reasonable selection of extras, all of which were ported over from the Region A Shout! Factory release. However, one must wonder why there aren't any recently-recorded interviews like those found on the Psycho III Blu-ray.

Cast and Crew Interviews (SD; 35:22)

††† Taken from an ancient VHS source, this is an odd mishmash of Electronic Press Kit material from Universalís vaults, and itís as much about the success and legacy of Hitchcockís original as it is about the sequel itself. A whole heap of people are interviewed, including Perkins and director Franklin, on top of Janet Leigh as well. There is some nice insight and behind-the-scenes footage, though there is a fair amount of overlap, and since this featurette comprises of little EPK snippets cut together, there is not enough meaty insight into the production. There are some significant audio issues with this featurette, particularly in the opening few minutes when audio randomly cuts out for seconds at a time, while the video itself is extremely rough, with artefacts and flickering; it looks like an old VHS cassette. Still, this is a worthwhile inclusion, and itís worth a watch.

Trailers (SD; 3:44)

††† Two trailers are included here; a teaser, and a more comprehensive theatrical trailer. Good for historical purposes.

TV Spots (SD; 2:02)

††† Four thirty-second TV spots are included. Most are of poor quality, sourced from a VHS.

Stills Gallery (HD)

††† A whole heap of stills are included here, from publicity shots to production stills and screenshots, as well as poster art. These are all of great quality.

Play Film with Cast and Crew Interviews

††† Iím not exactly sure why these interviews play over the movie, as they only play over the first 20 minutes or so. Anyway, this is a selection of radio spots and promos, featuring input from cast and crew. Of limited interest, but a nice inclusion nevertheless.

Audio Commentary with Tom Holland

††† This track is undoubtedly the piŤce de rťsistance of the set, with screenwriter Tom Holland sitting down with Rob Galluzzo, the man responsible for the Psycho Legacy documentary. The two men have a lot to discuss and plenty of trivia to convey, with Galluzzo often prompting Holland to talk about scene-specific details. Added to this, Holland talks about his various decisions in the writing process, and how the project evolved, with Perkins coming on-board and with Vera Miles agreeing to return. The two men also (understandably) have a heightened appreciation for director Richard Franklin. Thereís plenty of interesting info here. Any fan of Psycho II really needs to listen to this track. Oddly, this track is only accessible from the audio options; it's not in the bonus features section.

R4 vs R1

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

† † The Region A Shout! Factory edition is identical to our local release in terms of video/audio, and supplements. Buy local with confidence.

Summary

††† Psycho II remains underrated and overlooked, an artistic thriller which has its own interesting story to tell. Any fans of the original movie really need to give it a shot. Via Vision's Blu-ray is of a high quality considering how overlooked the movie is. Recommended.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Callum Knox (I studied biology)
Wednesday, December 16, 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

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