Directed By: Alfred Hitchcock

Starring: Anthony Perkins, Vera Miles, John Gavin, Martin Balsam, John McIntire, and Janet Leigh

Alfred Hitchcock is one of the most influential and pioneering directors in all of cinematic history.  In countless films, he brought terror and suspense to life in a way that no one had before him and arguably no one has since.  Among his many works, no movie may be more famous or beloved than the great Psycho.  The 1960 film is considered one of the greatest movies of all time and stands as the benchmark for the suspense genre.  It's no wonder that they're releasing a film on the making of PsychoHitchcock (starring Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren, and Scarlett Johansson).

In a relationship with her divorced boyfriend Sam Loomis (John Gavin), Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) witnesses firsthand how his financial woes are holding him back from finding happiness.  When opportunity knocks, she decides to buy off unhappiness by stealing $40,000 from one of her employer's clients.  She flees Phoenix but is seen driving off by her boss.  After sleeping in her car one night and getting into an altercation with a police officer, she opts to stay in a motel the following night.

That night, Marion stumbles upon the Bates Motel, a place to stay for the evening right off the highway.  Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins), the owner of the facility, prepares dinner for her and has an interesting conversation with her during which she learns about his invalid mother.  Marion recommends to Norman that he institutionalize her.  When the conversation gets heated, she opts to go to bed for the night.  What Marion does not realize is that she will never see the light of day again. After a week without hearing from her, Marion's sister Lila (Vera Miles), her boyfriend Sam, and private investigator Milton Arbogast (Martin Balsam) begin a relentless search for her, and all roads lead back to the Bates Motel.

Psycho is the ultimate suspense movie.  In this flick, Alfred Hitchcock writes the suspense playbook directors have been using for more than half a century now.  In introducing the world to the sadistic Norman Bates, Hitchcock goes to a dark, violent place where no director before him had ever gone.  You can see, hear, and feel how he builds the suspense and terror in every scene of the movie.  He makes some narrative decisions that would even be considered bold today.  Finally, the legendary director has a great cast that really helps him bring this vision to life.  Psycho is a tense, suspenseful masterpiece that set the standard for thrillers.

Hitchcock brilliantly brings fear to life in Psycho.  This is no more apparent than at the Bates Motel and the adjacent home.  This creepy setting is downright bleak and spells nothing but terror.  It's dark, ugly, and quite old.  Beyond the visuals of the motel, Hitchcock often uses the audio to create terror.  It is most obvious in the scenes during which Leigh's character Marion Crane is driving alone.  She's left to her own devices and all she can hear are the voices of the people from whom she's running.  These scenes are pretty unnerving.  The thunderous score from Bernard Herrmann keeps the tension riding high as well.

Hitchcock also makes some extremely bold narrative decisions in this suspense flick that cleverly help build an aura of mystery.  By killing off his main character halfway through the movie, he took one of the largest creative risks in all of film history.  As time has told, this risk certainly paid off.  Defying the standard narrative structure pays rich dividends throughout the second half of Psycho because it turns the audience's world upside down.   After Crane is killed off, you'll have no clue what happens next.  There are no longer any rules to the game.  This makes Psycho incredibly mysterious and unpredictable.  Because Hitchcock accomplishes this feat, he can ratchet up the frights to unparalleled levels.

The cast delivers great performances as well.  The two standouts are Janet Leigh and Anthony Perkins.  As the protagonist, Leigh does everything in her power to show how terrified her character is at the situation in which she has placed herself during the first half of the film.  Her performance really adds to the suspense Hitchcock builds leading up to her fright night at the Bates Motel.  As Norman Bates, Anthony Perkins does an outstanding job as well.  He personifies insanity and is downright terrifying.  His fiery, devilish performance leaves no one questioning that the Bates Motel is a madhouse for one.

I would be remiss if I didn't talk about the famous shower scene in Psycho.  This scene has been imitated a thousand times over the last half century, but the nightmarish horror of this sequence has never quite been duplicated.  The way that Hitchcock executes this scene is absolutely brilliant.  As Leigh's Marion Crane showers, Hitchcock has a mysterious figure approach her in the bathroom.  Using the shower curtain as a silhouette, he simultaneously masks the killer's identity and builds terror.  After the deed is done, Hitchcock then keeps the camera focused on Crane's motionless carcass for quite some time to emphasize the finality of this violent act.  It's just utterly genius filmmaking.

Psycho is one of the greatest flicks to ever grace the big screen.  If you've not had a chance to see this film, go find it now.  This is Hitchcock's signature movie and the fright fest that many filmmakers have emulated for decades.  Psycho gets a sober rating.