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Mother isn't quite herself today.
November 24, 2007 7:31 PM   Subscribe

Norman Bates and that oh, so famous shower scene...

FULL FILM –– Psycho (1960)
The Bates Motel today (scroll to bottom for best images)
Who owns Norman Bates?
Ed Gein, the "real" Norman Bates
Dr. Philip Skerry (the guy who wrote a 400 page book on a 2 minute movie scene)
Aaaah!
posted by miss lynnster (47 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
i'd stab it.

(wait, was that inappropriate? flagged)
posted by empath at 7:38 PM on November 24, 2007


In all seriousness, the interesting thing to me about Psycho wasn't the shower scene, but the way it that continuously shifted genres and even protagonists. It starts out as kind of a heist movie, and then becomes... something else. At one point, you're not even sure if you should be rooting for Norman Bates or not. After the death of the protagonist, he becomes the main character for a period of time, while you follow him around cleaning up after the murder.
posted by empath at 7:41 PM on November 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


"My name is Norman Bates, I'm just a normal guy" Landscape
posted by Eekacat at 7:55 PM on November 24, 2007


Howard Goodall did a show on Bernard Hermann who composed the music. Great analysis of the music in this clip. The whole show is worth a look aswell.
posted by TwoWordReview at 8:33 PM on November 24, 2007 [5 favorites]


great post mate

can i go back and slate single you tube posts? they seem to be getting away with murder these days.
posted by Frasermoo at 8:38 PM on November 24, 2007


That Mr. Potatohead bit is priceless.
posted by dhammond at 8:44 PM on November 24, 2007


Hey, TwoWord, thanks for that Herrmann analysis link! That's part of a whole series on YouTube, which I look forward to viewing in totality. Good ol' Bernie Herrmann, the man could drive home a musical point like nobody's business.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:51 PM on November 24, 2007


There's one on the Beatles too which is great (playlist link)

(If anybody has a link to the 'How Music Works' series that'd be peachy - been looking everywhere for it!

posted by TwoWordReview at 8:54 PM on November 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


I wish one of those photographers had wandered up the steps of the main house. I'd like to see some closeups. How complete is it? What's on the back side?
posted by grumblebee at 9:35 PM on November 24, 2007


Some good shots on flickr, including ... huh?
posted by grumblebee at 9:38 PM on November 24, 2007


Exactly, empath. What I wouldn't give to have been able to see Psycho without knowing that the shower scene was about to happen. The first half-hour of Psycho is great--taut and lean. Then Hitchcock just wipes the slate clean, and suddenly you're in a new movie. But the transition isn't the least bit jarring, you're completely drawn along, and the shifting the of the film's main protagonist from Marion Crane to Norman Bates is effortless. Hitchcock is a genius. Psycho is easily one of my favourite films.

(Off-topic: the original Alien is another movie I would have loved to have been surprised by. I know Hitchcock was very stringent that the marketing of the film spoil nothing; was Alien marketed similarly?)
posted by freem at 9:41 PM on November 24, 2007


"Santa Drop" . . . ?
Man, Norman really was messed up.

posted by cowbellemoo at 9:43 PM on November 24, 2007


was Alien marketed similarly?

No. I remember when it came out. I knew about the big spoiler before ever seeing it.
posted by grumblebee at 9:44 PM on November 24, 2007


Ah, that's a shame, grumblebee. Thanks, though.
posted by freem at 9:49 PM on November 24, 2007


When I was about 19, a friend of mine & I actually smuggled ourselves into the house to camp out overnight. She worked on the lot and we snuck in there with sleeping bags, just so we could say we did. Back then, you could get away with that stuff... security was a total joke and if you knew the layout of the lots you could go crazy. Anyhow, I wish I could remember all of the details of our adventure but unfortunately it's a really vague memory (I barely remember the first name of my friend... how bad is that?!? God, I'm old), but I seem to recall that it isn't just a facade on the front, it's actually got 4 walls and is basically like an empty warehouse space inside. I also seem to remember it was one of those sets with staircases inside that led up to the windows. But it was like 20 years ago though, so like I said, it's hazy and my memories are blending together in my brain. So I could be off. But that's how I remember it.
posted by miss lynnster at 10:10 PM on November 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


What I wouldn't give to have been able to see Psycho without knowing that the shower scene was about to happen.

All my teen daughter knew about Psycho was the shower scene. She had never seen the whole movie till a year ago when I sat with her to watch it. She is very cimematically aware, and watches a great variety of movies. She generally catches onto things in movies pretty quickly, and it's hard for a twist in a movie to take her my surprise.

But it was a thrill to watch her watch Psycho. Even though she knew the shower scene was coming, and maybe even because of it, she was on pins and needles, and seeing it in context made it as if she had never seen it.

At the end, when Mother is revealed in the basement, she was taken totally by surprise. She jumped from her chair laughing and saying "WHOA!!! WHOA!!! WHAT JUST HAPPENED!?" it was hysterical to watch and, as you can tell, a good and lasting memory for me.

Ahhhh... subjecting my daughter to disturbing, mind-bending movies. Good times.

Thanks Miss L! :)
posted by The Deej at 10:15 PM on November 24, 2007 [2 favorites]


Apropos of nothing, Psycho was largely a response to Henri-George Clouzot's Les Diaboliques about a petty tyrant of a school headmaster whose wife and mistress conspire to murder him. Reportedly, when Hitchcock showed up to buy the film rights to the novel from its two French authors, he found that Clouzot had beaten him to it literally by a few hours.

Hitchcock considered himself to have been outdone by Clouzot's film, and Psycho was pretty much a deliberate effort to recapture the crown. Hence, the shower scene, which was a calculated reply to the big scare scene in Les Diaboliques where the two women kill their victim in his bathtub.

Audiences at the time clearly made the link. There's a famous story of a father who wrote Hitchcock a letter saying that Diabolique (the US title) had left his daughter too frightened to take baths, and now Psycho had come along and made her afraid to take a shower. What was he to do with her? Hitchcock's answer - send her to the dry cleaners.
posted by Naberius at 10:47 PM on November 24, 2007 [3 favorites]


In October, the restored historic theater in the next town over had a Hitchcock festival. I took my 15-year-old son to see Psycho, and he knew nothing of the famous scenes and plot twists... It was sooo much fun watching (and hearing) his reactions!

There were several other teenagers there, in groups and/or with parents, and it was great to see a whole new generation enjoying the movie. My son loved it and recommended it to all his friends.
posted by amyms at 11:09 PM on November 24, 2007


Actually I'm still amazed at how many classic films I can watch for the first time and wonder why a scene is so familiar until it slowly dawns on me - "Simpsons did it!"

That was part of their genius of the Simpsons back in the early days. They had all these film references that were still funny and still relevant to the plot even if you'd never seen the film and didn't get the reference.

By the time I finally saw the film I'd probably seen various takes on the scene thousands of times (the same went for the end of Empire Strikes Back) but it was a world of difference seeing it in context. It's also the mark of a truly great film that even though you knew the main scene in the whole film, it's impact wasn't lessened. I doubt the same could be said for the likes of 'Unbreakable' and whatnot.
posted by TwoWordReview at 12:41 AM on November 25, 2007


Psycho's trailer where Hitch gives you a tour of the house (plus commentary by John Landis).

24 Hour Psycho

I've never seen the remake... is it worth it?
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 5:16 AM on November 25, 2007


No. Gus Van Sant is a fucking hack.
posted by item at 6:11 AM on November 25, 2007


Psycho Killer,
Qu'est-ce que c'est?

posted by The Deej at 6:18 AM on November 25, 2007


Great post, thanks!

I'm glad I got to see the movie (before miss lynnster was even born, if we're talking about old) without knowing about the twist. Quite a surprise, it was!
posted by languagehat at 6:32 AM on November 25, 2007


Psycho trailer without John Landis' voiceover.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:38 AM on November 25, 2007


Psycho references in The Simpsons' "Bart the Fink," "Black Widower," "Brother From the Same Planet," "Cape Feare," "Homer Loves Flanders," "Itchy and Scratchy and Marge" (shower scene), and "Marge in Chains."
posted by kirkaracha at 7:44 AM on November 25, 2007


Going back to whether the marketing for Alien give anything away subthread: it did not.

I'm not sure what grumblebee is talking about but the marketing for the film revealed nothing. You can see the trailers here.
posted by mistersquid at 10:17 AM on November 25, 2007


You're right about the marketing, mistersquid. The "Alien" publicity didn't try to leak the surprise or anything. On the other hand, they didn't request people keep mum about spoilers. "Diabolique" actually ends with a title-card, begging people not to reveal the ending. And Hitchcock took similar measures with "Psycho."

I HATE spoilers, but I can't imagine anyone doing something like that, now -- or even back when "Alien" came out. There's something quaint about it, as if moviegoers all lived in the same small town and you could reasonably expect them to not gossip about something, as-long-as you asked nicely.

I remember there were a ton of tie-in products that came out along with "Alien." There was a novelization. There was a comic-book adaptation. I saw the movie fairly soon after it came out, but I remember reading the comic first.
posted by grumblebee at 10:39 AM on November 25, 2007


was Alien marketed similarly?

No. I remember when it came out. I knew about the big spoiler before ever seeing it



Opposite experience here; I knew nothing of the scene. The adverts I saw in '79 made no mention of it. In fact the trailers I saw were sort of minimalist in treatment. Quick glimpses of something slimy, guttural screams, dripping sounds, ominous music. "In space no one can hear you scream." Me: Oh shit I gotta see that!
posted by hojoki at 10:44 AM on November 25, 2007


Empath: "In all seriousness, the interesting thing to me about Psycho wasn't the shower scene, but the way it that continuously shifted genres and even protagonists. It starts out as kind of a heist movie, and then becomes... something else... "

Psycho is quite the roller coaster ride. At the start we think we're supposed to root for Marion Crane but then when she makes the choice of crime, we find ourselves wondering who we're supposed to be rooting for. Whose side are we supposed to be on?

Kurosawa's High and Low with Toshiro Mifune starts as a sneaky corporate intrigue film, turns into a character intensive morality drama with a conscience, and then ends as a crime thriller with disturbing overtones.

I don't know why Psycho always makes me think of High & Low. They are nothing alike and yet from a directorial standpoint they feel like similar emotional roller coaster rides.

The two films released three years apart, but for me they seem to complement one another. In both cases, you go in thinking you're gonna see one thing and you come out of the film realizing it wasn't what you expected to see but it was what you wanted to see. Both films exceed one's expectations.

You can go in completely spoiled. That won't make a difference. It's how the stories are told that grip you, not what the stories are about. Kurosawa and Hitchcock were each without equal.
posted by ZachsMind at 10:48 AM on November 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


...

Alien was fun, but I can't compare it to Hitchcock. The director used a freakin' cat to illicit a cheap scare for goodness sake. That is such a cop out. Comparing Ridley Scott to Alfred Hitchcock is like comparing falling off a roof to hang gliding.
posted by ZachsMind at 10:54 AM on November 25, 2007


Absolutely brilliant post, miss lynnster.
(and terrific comments too.)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 10:55 AM on November 25, 2007


You're right about the marketing, mistersquid. The "Alien" publicity didn't try to leak the surprise or anything. On the other hand, they didn't request people keep mum about spoilers. "Diabolique" actually ends with a title-card, begging people not to reveal the ending. And Hitchcock took similar measures with "Psycho."

Yeah, well... I remember nobody would leak the "surprise ending" to The Crying Game, but everyone said I "had" to see it. So of course I took my homophobic father.

Yep. That was an uncomfortable movie-going experience.
posted by miss lynnster at 11:46 AM on November 25, 2007


ZachsMind, Didn't Alien even use the Cat Gag twice? Jeez.
posted by Cookiebastard at 12:40 PM on November 25, 2007


I never saw Alien until years later because everyone had already told me all about the stomach thing & I didn't think I wanted to see it.
posted by miss lynnster at 1:10 PM on November 25, 2007


Woah, yeah, I sure didn't want to equate Psycho to Alien in any term other than "surprises I would have liked to be surprised by, but were spoiled by their ubiquity in pop culture." Psycho >>>>> Alien.

(Sorry if I derailed your thread, Miss L.)
posted by freem at 1:28 PM on November 25, 2007


You didn't.
posted by miss lynnster at 1:29 PM on November 25, 2007


Ohhh! Here's Hitchcock discussing cutting and orchestrating the shower scene as well as the second murder. (As if you haven't already seen the scene enough by now...)
posted by miss lynnster at 1:44 PM on November 25, 2007


Ah, the ol' "it was just a cat" gag...you want cheap, lazy frights, it's all about The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake from a few years ago...

There is the scary noise that is only a cat. The device of loud sudden noises to underline the movements of half-seen shadows. The van that won't start. The truck that won't start. The car that won't start. The character who turns around and sees the slasher standing right behind her...
posted by The Card Cheat at 1:46 PM on November 25, 2007


....and she takes off running only to trip on the ground due to a broken heel...
posted by hojoki at 3:20 PM on November 25, 2007


I love Alfie. I love him. With sauce. I've never not liked a single thing he did.

When we were kids, my brother and I used to play a lot of practical jokes on one another. One of my favourite ways to torment him was when, knowing of my abject devotion to Alfie, he'd whisper his name to me so no one else could hear at night when we were supposed to be sleeping: "Alfred Hitchcockie!" To which I would respond that as soon as he was asleep...and oh no, we both know you can't stay awake forever, now can you?...I would be waiting and watching. And as soon as he drifted off, that's when I'd make the call to old Alfie and tell him what you said, and by then, you'll be asleep and you'll never know what hit you...

He was about seven, and utterly petrified. Good times. Funny, though; he hates me now and refuses to speak to me at all. I wonder why?

Okay, looks like I'm goin' to have to watch me some Psycho right now. Thanks, great post! :D
posted by perilous at 4:37 PM on November 25, 2007


Hmmmm... something's missing.


Signed,
Not a Plumber, But Love to Shower
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 5:38 PM on November 25, 2007


I noticed that too. Not even a hole for the shower head...
posted by miss lynnster at 5:54 PM on November 25, 2007


*And* I was promised a jacuzzi on the hotels.com site!

Color me annoyed!
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 6:35 PM on November 25, 2007


Look like the shower head was on the left above the tile.

Not a plumber, but checked out of the Bates motel JUST IN TIME!
posted by The Deej at 6:41 PM on November 25, 2007


Ah... watched the clip again ("Psycho" was on after "The Birds" on AMC the other night -- SACRILEGE ALERT: they're remaking "The Birds" with Naomi Watts). The photo's kinda dark, so it's hard to see the hole.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 7:26 PM on November 25, 2007


Thanks for the Herrmann link, TwoWord. That Goodall doc was great. (Note: It contains spoilers to a few classic films.) Herrmann's scores rank among my favorites, and that did a nice job of explaining the "how" to a non-musician like myself.

And to echo freem ... when I finally saw Psycho in college with some friends, I was so jealous of their fresh perspective. Even though I'd never seen it, I knew all about it. Of course, that enabled me to pick up on the jokes. It seemed like half the audience would chuckle and the other half probably thought, "what did I miss?"
posted by pmurray63 at 10:30 PM on November 25, 2007


I noticed that too. Not even a hole for the shower head...
Maybe it's there, above the tile.
posted by thomcatspike at 12:40 AM on November 26, 2007


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