Bates Motel (1987) (NTSC)

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Released 2-Dec-2015

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller None
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1987
Running Time 90
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Programme
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Richard Rothstein
Studio
Distributor

ViaVision
Starring Bud Cort
Lori Petty
Moses Gunn
Gregg Henry
Khrystyne Haje
Jason Bateman
Kerrie Keane
Kurt Paul
Case ?
RPI Box Music J. Peter Robinson


Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

††† Long before A&Eís Bates Motel premiered in 2013, there was the 1987 telemovie Bates Motel, which was designed to be a pilot for a potential television show. Suffice it to say, the show was never picked up by any network, and itís not hard to see why. Written and directed by Richard Rothstein, the movie disposes of everything that made Psycho so fascinating in the first place, and it doesnít even focus on franchise lead Norman Bates. Rather than a disturbing horror like Alfred Hitchcockís timeless classic, Bates Motel is a bewildering thriller/fantasy concoction with very little merit in its premise or execution. For Hitchcock fans, itís a frustrating insult.

††† After the events of the first movie, Norman Bates (briefly played here by Kurt Paul) is sent to a mental asylum, where he meets troubled young boy Alex West (Bud Cort) who murdered his abusive stepfather. Norman takes Alex under his wing, essentially acting as his surrogate father. Coincidentally, Norman dies in the same year that Alex is set to be released, and Normanís will specifies that Alex is to inherit the Bates Motel as well as the nearby family home. Travelling to the rundown motel, Alex meets a plucky squatter named Willie (Lori Petty), who convinces Alex to let her hang around. Wanting to honour Norman, Alex becomes determined to renovate the old Bates Motel and re-open the establishment to the public. However, Alex begins to see a dark figure lurking around the residence who looks like Mrs. Bates, and things begin to happen which threaten Alexís dream.

††† Bates Motel ill-advisedly and inexplicably retcons the Psycho sequels, playing out as a direct follow-up to Hitchcockís Psycho. However, there are fundamental flaws and inconsistencies that cannot be ignored by anybody who has actually watched Psycho, let alone those who know it intimately. For instance, in Hitchcockís movie, the motel resides about fifteen miles outside of Fairvale, but in Bates Motel, the establishment is a half-mile away from ďFairville.Ē Worse, in the movies and in Robert Blochís Psycho novel, Normanís mother is named Norma, but all the characters here seem to think that Mrs. Batesí first name is Gloria. And while the construction crews are working on the motel here, they stumble upon the body of Mrs. Bates, which makes no sense since her body would have been properly laid to rest after being found in Hitchcockís movie. Unless Norman broke out of the asylum to specifically steal his motherís body again, just to bury it at the motel... See how none of this makes any sense? One has to seriously wonder if Rothstein has even seen the Hitchcock film - in all likelihood, he just read a brief plot outline of Psycho before working on his screenplay.

††† Bizarrely, Rothstein turns Bates Motel into a saccharine supernatural sitcom, with kind-hearted ghosts and no murders. Itís a peculiar knockoff of the likes of Twilight Zone and Fantasy Island, involving guests checking in where they confront their fears and emerge as a whole new person. Out of nowhere in the final act, a woman (played by Kerrie Keane) checks into the motel looking to commit suicide, but a group of deceased teens rise from the grave to have a í50s-style party and persuade her to change her mind. Jason Bateman even stars as one of the teens, and all the ghosts pay Alex to rent rooms in the motel. Despite the fact that this subplot is utterly ridiculous, the supernatural has never been part of the Psycho mythology; itís a tale about monsters within. By leaning on this crap, Bates Motel negates the very thing that made the original movie such a unique entity.

††† The only noticeable tie-in to Psycho is the Bates Motel setting (though itís renovated beyond all recognition), and the brief appearance of Norman, who isnít even played by Anthony Perkins. Worse, the majority of the movie is concerned with the hopelessly humdrum machinations involved in getting the motel up and running again, lacking the type of Hitchcockian suspense that should be omnipresent in a production like this. Even though ostensibly spooky things do happen, such sequences are not scary or unnerving, and climactic reveals fundamentally transform the entire enterprise into an episode of Scooby Doo. On this note, the movieís tone is all over the place, with irritating attempts at comedy - Willie is even introduced wearing a f***ing chicken costume. Itís an outrage to see such content in a Psycho spinoff, and the film even ends with Alex breaking the fourth wall, because TV.

††† Things were eventually set right in the Psycho universe with the release of Psycho IV: The Beginning in 1990, which ignores Bates Motel and exists in the same continuity as the other Psycho sequels. Thus, itís easy for fans of the Psycho film series to continue happily ignoring Bates Motel, which is in the same league as the Star Wars Holiday Special - a historical curiosity thatís probably better left unseen. Hell, even Anthony Perkins himself detested the film.

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Transfer Quality

Video

††† With its poor reputation, Bates Motel never received a proper DVD release, eventually being offered as a burn-on-demand title from Amazon. Understandably, the telemovie has not been properly remastered, sporting a DVD transfer that looks only slightly better than a VHS. This failed TV pilot is presented in full-frame 1.33:1, and it looks pretty shoddy.

††† According to IMDb, Bates Motel was shot on 35mm film stock, but it was presumably edited and completed on video, as was the case for most telemovies of this era. Therefore, if any HD presentation was to be possible, a team of editors would have to go back to the original camera negative and re-assemble the picture from scratch, which would cost a lot of money (assuming the negatives even still exist anymore). I do not expect such a lavish restoration to happen in my lifetime, or anybodyís lifetime, but since I do not plan to view this garbage ever again, it doesnít bother me too much.

††† Sharpness and detail are towards the lower end of the spectrum, with a frequently fuzzy-looking picture of bleeding colours and muddiness. Colours look mostly faded, with poor delineation in darker scenes, and a lack of true blacks. Artefacts dot the image; it really does look like a second or third-generation VHS tape, rather than a DVD. Indeed, even by DVD standards, Bates Motel looks slapdash, and thatís saying something.

††† This transfer borders on the unwatchable. Such an image would even be unacceptable for a YouTube video. But I suppose itís the best we will ever get. One cannot blame Via Vision for the poor quality of the video.

††† No subtitles are available.


Video Ratings Summary
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Shadow Detail
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Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
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Audio

††† Bates Motel is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, as to be expected considering its television origins. The audio is about on par with expectations, which is to say itís serviceable but nothing special by any means. It does sound ancient, but at least dialogue is easy to hear throughout.

††† Do not expect any surround channel usage or separation, while the subwoofer is left with almost nothing to do. Bates Motel sounds the best that it ever will unless a restoration team re-assembles the movie from the ground upwards, which will never happen, so chalk up all the flaws and shortcomings to the source.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
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Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

††† No extras at all. Not even a disc menu. Inserting the DVD, the movie plays immediately, and thatís it.

R4 vs R1

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

† † All DVD releases worldwide are identical. No extras, same shoddy presentation. Draw.

Summary

††† It's hard to defend Bates Motel, a miscalculated Psycho offshoot that is not essential viewing by any means. The DVD is pretty useless, sporting no extras and below-par video and audio. Skip it.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Callum Knox (I studied biology)
Monday, December 21, 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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