The movie poster for Psycho features a large image of a young woman in white underwear. The names of the main actors are featured down the right side of the poster. Smaller images of Anthony Perkins and John Gavin are above the words, written in large print, "Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho"
theatrical release poster
Directed byAlfred Hitchcock
Written byNovel:
Robert Bloch
Joseph Stefano
Samuel A. Taylor
Produced byAlfred Hitchcock
StarringAnthony Perkins
Janet Leigh
Vera Miles
John Gavin
Martin Balsam
John McIntire
CinematographyJohn L. Russell
Edited byGeorge Tomasini
Music byBernard Herrmann
Distributed by1960–1968:
Paramount Pictures
Universal Pictures
Release date
June 16, Template:Fy
Running time
109 min.
LanguageTransclusion error: ((En)) is only for use in File namespace. Use ((lang-en)) or ((in lang|en)) instead.
Box office$32 million

Psycho is an American Template:Fy suspense/horror movie directed by Alfred Hitchcock, from the screenplay by Joseph Stefano. The film is based on the novel of the same name by Robert Bloch, which was in turn based on the crimes of Wisconsin serial killer Ed Gein.[1]

The film depicts the encounter between a secretary, Marion Crane (Janet Leigh), who is in hiding at a motel after embezzling from her employer, and the motel's owner, Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins), and the aftermath of their encounter.

Psycho initially received mixed reviews, but outstanding box office returns prompted a re-review which was overwhelmingly positive and led to four Academy Award nominations. Psycho is now considered one of Hitchcock's best films[2] and is highly praised as a work of cinematic art by international critics.[3] The film spawned two sequels, a prequel, a remake, and an unsuccessful television spin-off.


In need of money to marry her boyfriend Sam Loomis, Marion Crane steals $40,000 from her employer and flees Phoenix, Arizona by car. While en route to Sam's California home, she parks along the road to sleep. A highway patrol officer awakens her in the morning and, suspicious of Marion's agitation, follows her. When she trades her car for another at a dealership, the officer notes the new vehicle's details. Marion returns to the road but, rather than drive in a heavy storm, decides to spend the night at the Bates Motel. She checks in under an Assumed name, although later she unwittingly gives Norman Bates, the owner of the motel, her real name.

Norman, who lives with his mother in a sinister-looking house on a hill overlooking the motel, tells Marion he rarely has customers because of the motel's disconnection from a new interstate. As it is still raining and the nearest diner is 10 miles away, Norman suggests that she have dinner at his house. While Norman is preparing dinner, Marion overhears him arguing with his mother, who seems to suspect that his dinner with Marion is part of a sordid affair. Norman then suggests to Marion that they have dinner in the motel's office instead. During the meal, Marion angers Norman when she suggests he institutionalize his mother. He admits he would like this, but does not want to abandon her. He compares his life to stepping into a "trap," and observes that this could apply to many situations.

Marion, after hearing this and realizing that she has stepped into a similar trap herself, resolves to go back to Phoenix and return the money. After calculating how she can repay the money she has already spent, Marion dumps her notes down the toilet, wraps the remaining money in newspaper and begins to shower. As she is showering, an anonymous female figure enters the bathroom and stabs her to death. Finding the corpse, Norman is horrified. He places Marion's body, wrapped in the shower curtain, and all her possessions — including the money, which is still hidden in a newspaper — in the trunk of her car and sinks it in a nearby swamp.

Shortly afterward, Sam is contacted almost simultaneously by both Marion's sister Lila and private detective Milton Arbogast, who has been hired by Marion's employer to recover the money.

Arbogast later traces Marion to the motel and questions Norman, who unconvincingly lies that Marion stayed for one night and left the following morning. After inquiring about his mother, Norman refuses to let Arbogast talk to her, claiming she is ill. Arbogast calls Lila to update her and tells her he will call again after he questions Norman's mother. Arbogast enters Norman's house and at the top of the stairs is attacked by a figure who slashes his face with a knife, pushes him down the stairs, then stabs him to death. Norman confronts his mother and urges her to hide in the cellar, theorizing that more people will come looking for both Marion and Arbogast. She rejects the idea and orders him out of her room, but against her will Norman carries her to the cellar.

When Arbogast does not call Lila, she and Sam contact the local police. Deputy Sheriff Al Chambers is perplexed to learn Arbogast saw a woman in a window, since Norman's mother has been dead for ten years. Posing as a married couple, Sam and Lila check into the motel and search Marion's room, where they find a scrap of paper stuck in the toilet with "$40,000" written on it. While Sam distracts Norman, Lila sneaks into the house. Sam suggests to Norman that he killed Marion for the money so he could buy a new motel. Realizing Lila is not around, Norman knocks Sam unconscious with a golf club and rushes to the house. Lila sees him approaching and hides in the cellar where she discovers the semi-preserved and mummified body of Norman's mother. Wearing his mother's clothes and a wig and carrying a knife, Norman enters and tries to attack Lila, but she is rescued by Sam.

After Norman's arrest, a forensic psychiatrist tells Sam and Lila that Norman's dead mother is living in Norman's psyche as an alternate personality. After the death of Norman's father, the pair lived as if they were the only people in the world. When his mother found a lover, Norman went mad with jealousy and murdered them both. Consumed with guilt, Norman "erased the crime" by bringing his mother back to life in his own mind. He stole her corpse and preserved the body. When he was "Mother", he acted, talked and dressed as she would. The psychiatrist concludes that the "Mother" personality now has complete control of Norman's mind.

In the final scene, Norman sits in a cell, thinking in "Mother's" voice. In a voice-over, "Mother" explains that she plans to prove that she is incapable of violence by refusing to swat a fly that has landed on her hand. The final shot shows Marion's car being recovered from the swamp.


After Psycho had established itself, as well as jump-starting the career of Anthony Perkins, he soon began to suffer from typecasting.[4] However, when Perkins was asked whether he would have still taken the role knowing that he would be typecast afterwards, he replied with a definite "yes".[5]

Until her death, Leigh continued to receive strange and sometimes threatening calls, letters, and even tapes detailing what they would like to do to Marion Crane. One letter was so "grotesque" that it was passed along to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), two of whose agents visited Leigh and told her the culprits had been located and that she should notify the FBI if she received any more letters of that type.[6] Norman Bates' mother was voiced by Paul Jasmin, Virginia Gregg, and Jeanette Nolan, who also provided some screams for Lila's discovery of mother's corpse. The three voices were thoroughly mixed, except for the last speech, which is all Gregg's.[7]

Alfred Hitchcock's cameo is a signature occurrence in most of his films. In Psycho, he can be seen through a window, wearing a Stetson hat, standing outside Marion Crane's office (seven minutes into the film).[8] Wardrobe mistress Rita Riggs says that Hitchcock chose this scene for his cameo so that he could be in a scene with his daughter (who played one of Marion's colleagues). Others have suggested that he chose this early appearance to avoid distracting the audience.[9]



The film is based on the novel by Robert Bloch, which was in turn based on the crimes of Wisconsin serial killer Ed Gein. Hitchcock acquired the film rights anonymously through an agent for $9,000.[10]

Hitchcock embraced Psycho as a means to regain success and individuality in an increasingly competitive genre. He had seen many B movies churned out by William Castle such as House on Haunted Hill (1958), and by Roger Corman such as A Bucket of Blood (1959) that had performed well at box offices despite being panned by critics. There were also a series of competing directors who had tried their hand at typical Hitchcock fare in such films as When Strangers Marry (1944), The Spiral Staircase (1946), Gaslight (1944), and so forth.[11]

Furthermore, both Hitchcock and Henri-Georges Clouzot had adapted two books by the same authors with very different results. Clouzot's Les Diaboliques (1955), based on a Boileau-Narcejac novel, was critically acclaimed and financially successful, earning him the title of the "French Hitchcock", while Hitchcock's Vertigo (1958), based on the Boileau-Narcejac novel D'entre les morts, had failed both critically and financially.[12] Hitchcock was also constantly reinventing himself (he once said "Style is self-plagiarism"), so, when Peggy Robertson, a trusted production assistant, brought Psycho to his attention, he seized on it not only for its originality but also as a way to retake his mantle as an acclaimed director of suspense.[12]

Ned Brown, Hitchcock's longtime agent, explained that Hitchcock liked the story because the focus began with Marion's dilemma then completely turned after the murder.[13] Hitchcock himself said in an interview with François Truffaut that "I think the thing that appealed to me was the suddenness of the murder in the shower, coming, as it were, out of the blue. That was about all."[13]

James Cavanaugh, who had written some of the Alfred Hitchcock Presents television shows, wrote the original screenplay.[14] Hitchcock rejected it, saying that the story dragged and read like a television short horror story.[15] His assistant recalls that the treatment was very dull.[14] Hitchcock reluctantly agreed to meet with Stefano, who had worked on only one film before. Despite his newness to the industry, the meeting went well, and Stefano was hired.[14]

The screenplay is relatively faithful to the novel, with a few notable adaptations by Hitchcock and Stefano. The book features Mary Crane, from Dallas, Texas as its heroine and protagonist. Since, at the time, a real Mary Crane existed in Phoenix, Hitchcock renamed the character Marion Crane.[16] Stefano also changed Marion's telltale earring found in the bathroom after her death to a scrap of paper in the toilet. When developing the characters for film, Hitchcock asked Stefano why he did not like the Norman Bates character (who, in the book, is middle-aged and more overtly pathetic), to which Stefano replied that Norman was unsympathetic, unattractive, and a drinker. Hitchcock suggested Perkins as a sympathetic man, and Stefano agreed.[15] Other changes Stefano made for the screenplay include the location of Arbogast's death from the foyer to the stairwell. He also changed the novel's budding romance between Sam and Lila to just a friendly relationship, and instead of using the two to explain Norman's mental condition he replaced them with a professional psychiatrist.[17] The novel is more violent than the film; for instance, the girl gets beheaded in the shower, as opposed to stabbed to death.[14]

Paramount, whose contract guaranteed another film by Hitchcock, did not want Hitchcock to make Psycho. Paramount was expecting No Bail for the Judge starring Audrey Hepburn who became pregnant and had to bow out, leading Hitchcock to scrap the production. Their official stance was that the book was "too repulsive" and "impossible for films", and nothing but another of his star-studded mystery thrillers.[18][19] They did not like "anything about it at all" and denied him his usual budget.[10][19] So, Hitchcock financed the film's creation through his own Shamley Productions, shooting at Universal Studios under the Revue television unit.[20][21] Hitchcock's original Bates Motel and Psycho House movie set buildings, which were constructed on the same stage as Lon Chaney Sr.'s The Phantom of the Opera, are still standing at Universal Studios in Universal City near Hollywood and are a regular attraction on the studio's tour.[22][23] As a further result of cost cutting, Hitchcock chose to film Psycho in black and white, keeping the budget under $1,000,000.[24] Other reasons for shooting in black and white were to prevent the shower scene from being too gory and that he was a fan of Les Diaboliques's use of black and white.[25][26]

To keep costs down and because he was most comfortable around them, Hitchcock took most of his crew from his television series Alfred Hitchcock Presents, including the cinematographer, set designer, script supervisor, and first assistant director.[27] He hired regular collaborators Bernard Herrmann as music composer, George Tomasini as editor, and Saul Bass for the title design and storyboarding of the shower scene. In all, his crew cost $62,000.[28]

Through the strength of his reputation, Hitchcock cast Leigh for a quarter of her usual fee, paying only $25,000 (in the 1967 book Hitchcock/Truffaut, Hitchcock said that Leigh owed Paramount one final film on her seven-year contract which she had signed in 1953). His first choice, Leigh agreed after having only read the novel and making no inquiry into her salary.[16] Her co-star, Anthony Perkins, agreed to $40,000.[28] Both stars were experienced and proven box-office draws.

Paramount did distribute the film, but four years later Hitchcock sold his stock in Shamley to Universal's parent company and his next six films were made at and distributed by Universal.[21] After another four years, Paramount sold all rights to Universal.[21] When the film became a major hit, the Hitchcocks received a much larger share of the profit than they would have otherwise.


The film, independently produced by Hitchcock, was shot at Revue Studios,[29] the same location as his television show. Psycho was shot on a tight budget of $806,947.55,[13] beginning on November 11, 1959 and ending on February 1, 1960.[30][31] Filming started in the morning and finished by six or earlier on Thursdays (when Hitchcock and his wife would dine at Chasen's).[32] Nearly the whole film was shot with 50 mm lenses on 35 mm cameras. This trick closely mimicked normal human vision, which helped to further involve the audience.[33]

Before shooting began in November, Hitchcock dispatched assistant director Hilton Green to Phoenix to scout locations and shoot the opening scene. The shot was supposed to be an aerial shot of Phoenix that slowly zoomed into the hotel window of a passionate Marion and Sam. Ultimately, the helicopter footage proved too shaky and had to be spliced with footage from the studio.[34] Another crew filmed day and night footage on Highway 99 between Fresno and Bakersfield, California for projection when Marion drives from Phoenix. They also provided the location shots for the scene where she is pulled over by the highway patrolman.[34] In one street scene shot in downtown Phoenix, Christmas decorations were discovered to be visible; rather than re-shoot the footage, Hitchcock chose to add a graphic to the opening scene marking the date as "Friday, December the Eleventh".[35]

A black and white photograph of a silhouetted man standing on a hill infront of a large, improsing gothic house
The Bates mansion situated on a hill overlooking the motel

Green also took photos of a prepared list of 140 locations for later reconstruction in the studio. These included many real estate offices and homes such as those belonging to Marion and her sister.[34] He also found a girl who looked just like he imagined Marion and photographed her whole wardrobe, which would enable Hitchcock to demand realistic looks from Helen Colvig, the wardrobe supervisor.[34]

Both the leads, Perkins and Leigh, were given freedom to interpret their roles and improvise as long as it did not involve moving the camera.[36] An example of Perkins' improvisation is Norman's habit of munching on candy corn.[37]

Throughout filming, Hitchcock created and hid various versions of the 'Mother corpse' prop in Leigh's dressing room closet. There were no hard feelings, as Leigh took the joke well, and she wondered whether it was done to keep her on edge and thus more in character or to judge which corpse would be scarier for the audience.[38]

During shooting, Hitchcock was forced to uncharacteristically do retakes for some scenes. The final shot in the shower scene, which starts with an extreme close-up on Marion's eye and pulls up and out, proved very difficult for Leigh, since the water splashing in her face made her want to blink, and the cameraman had trouble as well since he had to manually focus while moving the camera.[36] Retakes were also required for the opening scene, since Hitchcock felt that Leigh and Gavin were not passionate enough.[39] Leigh had trouble saying "Not inordinately" for the real estate office scene, requiring additional retakes.[40] Lastly, the scene in which the mother is discovered required complicated coordination of the chair turning around, Miles hitting the light bulb, and a lens flare, which proved to be the sticking point. Hitchcock forced retakes until all three elements were to his satisfaction.[41]

According to Hitchcock, a series of shots with Arbogast going up the stairs in the Bates house before he is stabbed were directed by Hilton Green, working with storyboard artist Saul Bass' drawings only while Hitchcock was incapacitated with a "temperature". However, upon viewing the dailies of the shots, Hitchcock was forced to scrap them. He claimed they were "no good" because they did not portray "an innocent person but a sinister man who was going up those stairs".[42] The scene was later reshot by Hitchcock, though a little of the cut footage made its way into the film. Filming the murder of Arbogast proved problematic due to the overhead camera angle necessary to hide the film's twist. A camera track constructed on pulleys alongside the stairway together with a chair-like device had to be constructed and thoroughly tested over a period of weeks.[43]

Shower scene

The film's pivotal scene, and one of the most famous scenes in cinema history, is the murder of Janet Leigh's character in the shower. As such, it spawned numerous myths and legends. It was shot from December 17 to December 23, 1959, and features 77 different camera angles.[44] The scene "runs 3 minutes and includes 50 cuts."[45] Most of the shots are extreme close-ups, except for medium shots in the shower directly before and directly after the murder. The combination of the close shots with the short duration between cuts makes the sequence feel longer, more subjective, more uncontrolled, and more violent than would the images if they presented alone or in a wider angle.

A silhouetted figure brandishes a knife towards the camera
The shadowy mother figure from the famous shower scene.

In order to capture the straight-on shot of the shower head, the camera had to be equipped with a long lens. The inner holes on the spout were blocked and the camera placed farther back, so that the water appears to be hitting the lens but actually went around and past it.[46]

The soundtrack of screeching violins, violas, and cellos was an original all-strings piece by composer Bernard Herrmann entitled "The Murder." Hitchcock originally wanted the sequence (and all motel scenes) to play without music,[47] but Herrmann begged him to try it with the cue he had composed. Afterwards, Hitchcock agreed that it vastly intensified the scene, and he nearly doubled Herrmann's salary.[48][49][50] The blood in the scene is in fact chocolate syrup, which shows up better on black-and-white film, and has more realistic density than stage blood.[1] The sound of the knife entering flesh was created by plunging a knife into a melon.[51][52]

It is sometimes claimed that Leigh was not in the shower the entire time, and that a body double was used. However, in an interview with Roger Ebert, and in the book Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho, Leigh stated that she was in the scene the entire time; Hitchcock used a live model as her stand-in only for the scenes in which Norman wraps up Marion's body in a shower curtain and places her body in the trunk of her car.[53]

Another popular myth is that in order for Leigh's scream in the shower to sound realistic, Hitchcock used ice-cold water. Leigh denied this on numerous occasions, saying that he was very generous with a supply of hot water.[54] Also, all of the screams are Leigh's.[7]

Another myth was that Leigh was only told by Hitchcock to stand in the shower, and had no idea that her character was actually going to be murdered the way it was, causing an authentic reaction. The most notorious urban legend arising from the production of Psycho began when Saul Bass, the graphic designer who created many of the title sequences of Hitchcock's films and storyboarded some of his scenes, claimed that he had actually directed the shower scene. This claim was refuted by several people associated with the film. Leigh, who is the focus of the scene, stated, "...absolutely not! I have emphatically said this in any interview I've ever given. I've said it to his face in front of other people... I was in that shower for seven days, and, believe me, Alfred Hitchcock was right next to his camera for every one of those seventy-odd shots."[55] Hilton Green, the assistant director and cameraman, also denies Bass' claim: "There is not a shot in that movie that I didn't roll the camera for. And I can tell you I never rolled the camera for Mr. Bass."[55] Roger Ebert, a longtime admirer of Hitchcock's work, was also amused by the rumor, stating, "It seems unlikely that a perfectionist with an ego like Hitchcock's would let someone else direct such a scene."[56]

However, commentators such as Stephen Rebello and Bill Krohn have established that Saul Bass did contribute to the creation of that scene in his capacity as a graphic artist.[57] Bass is credited for the design of the opening credits, and also as "Pictorial Consultant" in the credits. When interviewing Hitchcock, François Truffaut asked about the extent of Bass' contribution to the film, to which Hitchcock said that Bass designed the titles as well as provided storyboards for the Arbogast murder (which he claimed to have rejected), but made no mention of Bass providing storyboards for the shower scene. According to Bill Krohn's Hitchcock At Work, Bass's first claim to have directed the scene was in 1970, when he provided a magazine with 48 drawings used as storyboards as proof.[58]

Krohn's analysis of the production of Psycho in his book Hitchcock at Work, while refuting Bass' claims for directing the scene, notes that these storyboards did introduce key aspects of the final scene—most notably, the fact that the killer appears as a silhouette, and details such as the shower curtain being torn down, the curtain rod being used as a barrier, and the transition from the hole of the drainage pipe to Marion Crane's dead eyes which (as Krohn notes) is highly reminiscent of the iris titles for Vertigo.[58]

Krohn's research also notes that Hitchcock shot the scene with two cameras: one a BNC Mitchell, the other a handheld camera called an Éclair which Orson Welles had used in Touch of Evil (1958). In order to create an ideal montage for the greatest emotional impact on the audience, Hitchcock shot a lot of footage of this scene which he trimmed down in the editing room. He even brought a Moviola on the set to gauge the footage required. The final sequence, which his editor George Tomasini worked on with Hitchcock's advice, went far beyond the basic paradigms set up by Bass' storyboards.[58]

According to Donald Spoto in The Dark Side of Genius, Hitchcock's wife, Alma Reville, spotted a blooper in one of the last screenings of Psycho before its official release: after Marion was supposedly dead, one could see her blink. According to Patricia Hitchcock, talking in Laurent Bouzereau's "making of" documentary, Alma spotted that Leigh's character appeared to take a breath. In either case, the postmortem activity was edited out and was never seen by audiences.[14] Although Marion's eyes should be dilated after her death, the contacts necessary for this effect would have required six weeks of acclimatization to wear them, so Hitchcock decided to forgo them.[59]

It is often claimed that, despite its graphic nature, the "shower scene" never once shows a knife puncturing flesh.[60][61][62] Leigh herself was so affected by this scene when she saw it, that she no longer took showers unless she absolutely had to; she would lock all the doors and windows and would leave the bathroom and shower door open.[63] She never realized until she first watched the film "how vulnerable and defenseless one is".[14]

Leigh and Hitchcock fully discussed what the scene meant:

Marion had decided to go back to Phoenix, come clean, and take the consequence, so when she stepped into the bathtub it was as if she were stepping into the baptismal waters. The spray beating down on her was purifying the corruption from her mind, purging the evil from her soul. She was like a virgin again, tranquil, at peace.[55]

Film theorist Robin Wood also discusses how the shower washes "away her guilt". He comments upon the "alienation effect" of killing off the "apparent center of the film" with which spectators had identified.[64]


According to the book Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho, the censors in charge of enforcing the Production Code for the MPAA wrangled with Hitchcock because some censors insisted they could see one of Leigh's breasts. Hitchcock held onto the print for several days, left it untouched, and resubmitted it for approval. Astoundingly, each of the censors reversed their positions–those who had previously seen the breast now did not, and those who had not, now did. They passed the film after the director removed one shot that showed the buttocks of Leigh's stand-in.[65] The board was also upset by the racy opening, so Hitchcock said that if they let him keep the shower scene he would reshoot the opening with them on the set. Since they did not show up for the reshoot, the opening stayed.[65]

Another cause of concern for the censors[66] was that Marion was shown flushing a toilet, with its contents (torn-up note paper) fully visible. Up until that time in mainstream film and television in the U.S., a toilet flushing was never heard, let alone seen. A possible exception is the Turner Classic Movies print of the 1959 Walt Disney film The Shaggy Dog, in which a toilet is heard flushing off-camera. However, because of the possibility of audio dubbing in restorations and reissues of the film over the years, today it is unclear whether or not the sound of the toilet flushing was in the original 1959 release.

Also, according to the "Making of" featurette on the Collector's Edition DVD, some censors objected to the use of the word "transvestite" in the film's closing scenes.[14] This objection was withdrawn after writer Joseph Stefano took out a dictionary and proved to them that the word carried no hidden sexual context, but merely referred to "a man who likes to wear women's clothing".[66]

Internationally, Hitchcock was forced to make minor changes to the film, mostly to the shower scene. Notably, in Britain the shot of Norman washing blood from his hands was objected to and in Singapore, though the shower scene was left untouched, the murder of Arbogast and a shot of Mother's corpse were removed.[67]


A large image of Hitchcock pointing at his watch. The words at the other side of the poster say "It is required that you see Psycho from the very beginning." There is a space for theatre staff to advertise the start of the next showing.
Theatre poster providing notification of "no late admission" policy

Hitchcock did most of the promotion on his own, forbidding Leigh and Perkins from making the usual television, radio, and print interviews for fear of them revealing the plot.[68] Even critics were not given private screenings but rather had to see the film with the general public, which, despite possibly affecting their reviews,[67] certainly preserved the plot.

The film's original trailer features a jovial Hitchcock taking the viewer on a tour of the set, and almost giving away plot details before stopping himself. It is "tracked" with Bernard Herrmann's Psycho theme, but also jovial music from Hitchcock's comedy The Trouble with Harry; most of Hitchcock's dialogue is post-synchronized. The trailer was made after completion of the film, and since Janet Leigh was no longer available for filming, Hitchcock had Vera Miles don a blonde wig and scream loudly as he pulled the shower curtain back in the bathroom sequence of the preview. Since the title, "Psycho," instantly covers most of the screen, the switch went unnoticed by audiences for years. However a freeze-frame analysis clearly reveals that it is Vera Miles and not Janet Leigh in the shower during the trailer.[21]

The most controversial move was Hitchcock's "no late admission" policy for the film, which was unusual for the time. It was not entirely original as Clouzot had done the same in France for Les Diaboliques.[69] Hitchcock thought that if people entered the theater late and never saw the star actress Janet Leigh, they would feel cheated.[21] At first theater owners opposed the idea, claiming that they would lose business. However, after the first day, the owners enjoyed long lines of people waiting to see the film.[21]

The film was so successful that it was reissued to theaters in 1965. A year later, CBS purchased the television rights for $450,000. CBS planned to televise the film on September 23, 1966, but three days prior Valerie Percy, daughter of Illinois senate candidate Charles H. Percy, was murdered. As her parents slept mere feet away, she was stabbed a dozen times with a double-edged knife. In light of the murder, CBS agreed to postpone the screening, but as a result of the Apollo pad fire of January 27, 1967, the network washed its hands of Psycho.[70] Following another successful theatrical reissue in 1969, the film finally made its way to television in one of Universal's syndicated programming packages for local stations in 1970. Psycho was aired for twenty years in this format, then leased to cable for two years before returning to syndication as part of the "List of a Lifetime" package.[70]



Two CDs of the film soundtrack have been released:

Track listing (Psycho Soundstage Records)

All pieces by Bernard Herrmann.

  1. "Prelude; The City; Marion and Sam; Temptation" 6:15
  2. "Flight; The Patrol Car; The Car Lot; The Package; The Rainstorm" 7:21
  3. "Hotel Room; The Window; The Parlour; The Madhouse; The Peephole" 8:52
  4. "The Bathroom; The Murder; The Body; The Office; The Curtain; The Water; The Car; The Swamp" 6:58
  5. "The Search; The Shadow; Phone Booth; The Porch; The Stairs; The Knife" 5:41
  6. "The Search; The First Floor; Cabin 10; Cabin 1" 6:18
  7. "The Hill; The Bedroom; The Toys; The Cellar; Discovery; Finale" 5:00


Initial reviews of the film were thoroughly mixed.[72] British writer C. A. Lejeune was so offended that she not only walked out before the end but permanently resigned her post as film critic for the Observer.[73] Bosley Crowther of The New York Times warned people that Hitchcock "comes at you with a club in this frankly intended bloodcurdler" and complained that the "denouement falls quite flat for us."[74] Other negative reviews stated, "a blot on an honorable career", "plainly a gimmick movie", and "merely one of those television shows padded out to two hours."[72][75] Positive reviews stated, "Anthony Perkins' performance is the best of his career... Janet Leigh has never been better", "played out beautifully", and "first American movie since Touch of Evil to stand in the same creative rank as the great European films."[72][76] A good example of the mix is the New York Herald Tribune's review, which stated, "...rather difficult to be amused at the forms insanity may take... keeps your attention like a snake-charmer."[72]

The public loved the film, with lines stretching outside of theaters as people had to wait for the next showing. It broke box-office records in Asia, Japan, China, France, Britain, South America, the United States, and Canada, and was a moderate success in Australia for a brief period.[72] It is one of the largest-grossing black-and-white films and helped make Hitchcock a multimillionaire and the third-largest shareholder in Universal.[77] Psycho was, by a large margin, the top moneymaking film of Hitchcock's career, earning $11,200,000.[78]

In Great Britain, the film shattered attendance records at the London Plaza Cinema, but nearly all British critics panned it, questioning Hitchcock's taste and judgment. Reasons cited for this were the critics' late screenings, forcing them to rush their reviews, their dislike of the gimmicky promotion, and Hitchcock's expatriate status.[79] Perhaps thanks to the public's response and Hitchcock's efforts at promoting it, the critics did a re-review, and the film was praised. Time magazine switched its opinion from "Hitchcock bears down too heavily in this one" to "superlative" and "masterly", and Bosley Crowther put it on his Top Ten list of 1960.[79]

Psycho was initially criticized for making other filmmakers more willing to show gore; three years later, Blood Feast, considered to be the first "gore film," was released.[80] Psycho's success financially and critically had others trying to ride its coattails. Inspired by Psycho, Hammer Film Productions launched a series of mystery thrillers, most shot in black and white and all with twist endings, starting with Taste of Fear (1961), followed by Maniac and Paranoiac (both 1963), Nightmare (1964), Hysteria, Fanatic and The Nanny (all 1965), and Crescendo (1970).[81] Other films inspired by the success of Psycho include William Castle's Homicidal (1961), followed by a whole slew of more than 13 other splatter films.[80]

Awards and honors

Psycho was nominated for four Academy Awards: Best Supporting Actress (Janet Leigh), Director (Alfred Hitchcock), Black and White Cinematography (John Russell), and Black and White Art Direction-set decoration (Joseph Hurley, Robert Clatworthy, George Milo).[82] It did not win any Academy Awards, though Leigh did win a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress, and Perkins tied for best actor in an award from the International Board of Motion Picture Reviewers. Stefano was nominated for two writing awards by Edgar Allan Poe Awards and the Writers Guild of America, East; he won the former only. Hitchcock was nominated for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures by the Directors Guild of America. In 1992, the film was deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" by the United States Library of Congress and was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.

Actress Janet Leigh asserts, "no other murder mystery in the history of the movies has inspired such merchandising."[83] Any number of items emblazoned with Bates Motel, stills, lobby cards, and highly valuable posters are available for purchase. In 1992, it was adapted scene-for-scene into three comic books by the Innovative Corporation.[83]

Psycho has appeared on a number of lists by websites, TV channels, and magazines. The shower scene was featured as number four on the list of Bravo Network's 100 Scariest Movie Moments,[84] whilst the finale was ranked number four on Premiere's similar list.[85] Entertainment Weekly's book titled The 100 Greatest Movies of All Time ranked the film as #11.[1]

American Film Institute recognition


In his novel, Bloch used an uncommon plot structure: he repeatedly introduced sympathetic protagonists, then killed them off. This played on his reader's expectations of traditional plots, leaving them uncertain and anxious. Hitchcock recognized the effect this approach could have on audiences, and utilized it in his adaptation, killing off Leigh's character at the end of the first act. This daring plot device, coupled with the fact that the character was played by the biggest box-office name in the film, was a shocking turn of events in 1960. The most original and influential moment in the film is the "shower scene", which became iconic in pop culture because it is often regarded as one of the most terrifying scenes ever filmed. Part of its effectiveness was due to the use of startling editing techniques borrowed from the Soviet montage filmmakers,[86] and to the iconic screeching violins in Bernard Herrmann's musical score.

Psycho is a prime example of the type of film that appeared in the 1960s after the erosion of the Production Code. It was unprecedented in its depiction of sexuality and violence, right from the opening scene where Sam and Marion are shown as lovers sharing the same bed. In the Production Code standards of that time, unmarried couples shown in the same bed would be taboo. In addition, the censors were upset by the shot of a flushing toilet; at that time, the idea of seeing a toilet onscreen — let alone being flushed — was taboo in American films and television shows. According to Entertainment Weekly, "The Production Code censors... had no objection to the bloodletting, the Oedipal murder theme, or even the shower scene — but did ask that Hitchcock remove the word transvestite from the film. He didn't."[1] At one point, Hitchcock actually considered releasing the film without censorial approval. Its box office success helped propel Hollywood toward more graphic displays of previously-censored themes. Psycho is also widely considered to be the first film in the slasher film genre.[87][88]

Interpretation and themes

The film often features shadows, mirrors, windows, and, less so, water. The shadows are present from the very first scene where the blinds make bars on Marion and Sam as they peer out the window. The stuffed birds' shadows loom over Marion as she eats, and Norman's mother is seen in only shadows until the very end. More subtly, backlighting turns the rakes in the hardware store into talons above Lila's head.[89]

Mirrors reflect Marion as she packs, her eyes as she checks the rear-view mirror, her face in the policeman's sunglasses, and her hands as she counts out the money in the car dealership's bathroom. A motel window serves as a mirror by reflecting Marion and Norman together. Hitchcock shoots through Marion's windshield and the telephone booth, when Arbogast phones Sam and Lila. The heavy downpour can be seen as foreshadowing of the shower, and it letting up can be seen as a symbol of Marion making up her mind to return to Phoenix.[89]

There are a number of references to birds. Marion's last name is Crane and she is from Phoenix. Norman's hobby is stuffing birds, and he comments that Marion eats like a bird.[89]

Psychoanalytic interpretation

Psycho has been called "the first psychoanalytical thriller."[90] The sex and violence in the film were unlike anything previously seen in a mainstream film. "[T]he shower scene is both feared and desired," wrote French film critic Serge Kaganski, "Hitchcock may be scaring his female viewers out of their wits, but he is turning his male viewers into potential rapists, since Janet Leigh has been turning men on ever since she appeared in her brassiere in the first scene."[90]

In his documentary The Pervert's Guide to Cinema, Slavoj Žižek remarks that Norman Bates' mansion has three floors, parallelling the three levels that psychoanalysis attributes to the human mind: the first floor would be the superego, where Bates' mother lives; the ground floor is then Bates' ego, where he functions as an apparently normal human being; and finally, the basement would be Bates' id. Žižek interprets Bates' moving his mother's corpse from first floor to basement as a symbol for the deep connection that psychoanalysis posits between superego and id.[91]

Sequels and remakes

A large Gothic house on a hillside above a one-storey building.
The Bates Motel and the house became a popular attraction on the Universal lot.

The film spawned three sequels: Psycho II (1983), Psycho III (1986), and the prequel Psycho IV: The Beginning (1990), the last being a TV movie written by the original screenplay author, Joseph Stefano. Anthony Perkins returned to his role of Norman Bates in all three sequels, and also directed the third film. The voice of Norman Bates' mother was maintained by noted radio actress Virginia Gregg with the exception of Psycho IV, where the role was played by Olivia Hussey. Vera Miles also reprised her role of Lila Crane in Psycho II.[92] The sequels were considered inferior to the original.[93][94]

A spin-off of the Psycho series is Bates Motel (1987) a failed television pilot turned television movie. Anthony Perkins declined to appear in the pilot, so Norman's cameo appearance was played by Kurt Paul, who was Perkins' stunt double on Psycho II and III.[95] In 1998, Gus Van Sant directed a remake of Psycho. The film is in color and features a different cast, but aside from this it is a virtually shot-for-shot remake copying Hitchcock's camera movements and editing.[96] A Conversation with Norman (2005), directed by Jonathan M. Parisen, was a film inspired by Psycho. It premiered in New York City just three days short of the 45th anniversary of the premiere of the original film.[97]

In 2009, a dramatic feature motion picture is scheduled for theatrical release based on the book by Stephen Rebello, Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho. Alfred Hitchcock Presents will be directed by Ryan Murphy and star Anthony Hopkins as Hitchcock.[98]

In popular culture

Psycho has become one of the most recognizable films in cinema history, and is arguably Hitchcock's best known film. The iconic shower scene is frequently spoofed, given homage to and referenced in popular culture, complete with the violin screeching sound effects. The Simpsons in particular has spoofed the film on numerous occasions,[99] while Principal Skinner's relationship with his mother is reminiscent of Norman Bates'.[100]

Psycho is (to an extent) referenced in films; examples include the 1978 horror film Halloween, the 1977 High Anxiety, the 1980 Fade to Black, the 1980 Dressed to Kill, Invader Zim, Dexter's Lab, Hoshi no Kaabii, and the 2003 live-action/animated Looney Tunes: Back in Action.[101][102]

The film, along with "Rear Window" and "Vertigo", are referenced in "Lady Gaga"'s "2009" song "Bad Romance".




  1. ^ a b c d Entertainment Weekly. The 100 Greatest Movies of All Time. New York: Entertainment Weekly Books, 1999.
  2. ^ Psycho is the top listed Hitchcock film in The 100 Greatest Movies of All Time by Entertainment Weekly, among the highest rated Hitchcock films on the Internet Movie Database (second only to Rear Window), and the highest Hitchcock film on AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies.
  3. ^ "Psycho reviews". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2007-03-13.
  4. ^ Leigh, 156, 187-188, 163
  5. ^ Leigh, 159
  6. ^ Leigh, 132-133
  7. ^ a b Leigh, 83
  8. ^ Richard Allen (2007). Hitchcock's romantic irony. Columbia University Press. p. 21. ISBN 0231135750.
  9. ^ Rebello, 97
  10. ^ a b Leigh, 6
  11. ^ Rebello, 18
  12. ^ a b Rebello, 17-9
  13. ^ a b c Leigh, 22-3
  14. ^ a b c d e f g The Making of Psycho, 1997 documentary directed by Laurent Bouzereau, Universal Studios Home Video, available on selected Psycho DVD releases.
  15. ^ a b Leigh, 36-7
  16. ^ a b Leigh, 33-4
  17. ^ Leigh, 39
  18. ^ Leigh, 6
  19. ^ a b Rebello, 13
  20. ^ Rebello, 23
  21. ^ a b c d e f Leigh, 96-97
  22. ^ Leigh, 86, 173
  23. ^ See WikiMapia {Coordinates: 34°8'12"N 118°20'48"W}.
  24. ^ Rothenberg, Robert S. (2001). "Getting Hitched - Alfred Hitchcock films released on digital video disks". USA Today (Society for the Advancement of Education). Retrieved 2007-03-13. ((cite web)): Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help); Unknown parameter |month= ignored (help)
  25. ^ Rebello, 82
  26. ^ CBS/AP (May 20, 2004). ""'Psycho' Voted Best Movie Death: British Film Magazine Rates It Ahead Of 'Strangelove,' 'King Kong'"". CBS News. Retrieved 2007-03-13.
  27. ^ Rebello, 28
  28. ^ a b Leigh, 12-13
  29. ^ Hall, John W. (1995). "Touch of Psycho? Hitchcock, Welles". Bright Lights Film Journal. Retrieved 2007-03-13. ((cite web)): Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help); Unknown parameter |month= ignored (help)
  30. ^ Rebello, 128
  31. ^ Leigh, 88
  32. ^ Leigh, 66
  33. ^ Rebello, 93
  34. ^ a b c d Leigh, 24-6
  35. ^ Rebello, 90
  36. ^ a b Leigh, 73
  37. ^ Leigh, 62
  38. ^ Leigh, 46-47
  39. ^ Leigh, 55
  40. ^ Leigh, 59
  41. ^ Leigh, 87-88
  42. ^ Truffaut, François, Helen Scott [1967] (1985-10-02). Hitchcock, Revised, New York: Simon & Schuster, 273 ISBN 0-671-60429-5
  43. ^ Leigh, 85-86
  44. ^ Leigh, 65, 67
  45. ^ Dancyger, Ken (2002). The Technique of Film and Video Editing: History, Theory, and Practice. New York: Focal Press. ISBN 0-2408-0420-1.
  46. ^ Rebello, 144
  47. ^ "Mr. Hitchcock's suggestions for placement of music (08/Jan/1960)". 1960. Retrieved 2007-12-27. ((cite web)): Unknown parameter |month= ignored (help)
  48. ^ Leigh, 165-166
  49. ^ Aspinall, David (2003). "Bernard Herrmann: Psycho: National Philharmonic, conducted by composer". The Film Music Pantheon #3. Audiophilia. Retrieved 2007-03-13. ((cite web)): Cite has empty unknown parameter: |coauthors= (help); Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help); Unknown parameter |month= ignored (help)
  50. ^ Kiderra, Inga (Winter 2000). "Scoring Points". USC Trojan Family Magazine. Retrieved 2007-03-13. ((cite web)): Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)
  51. ^ Lehmann-Haupt, Christopher (May 7, 1990). "Books of The Times; 'Casaba,' He Intoned, and a Nightmare Was Born". The New York Times. Retrieved 2006-11-28.
  52. ^ "Psycho stabbing 'best film death". BBC News. 20 May, 2004. Retrieved 2006-11-28. ((cite news)): Check date values in: |date= (help)
  53. ^ Ebert, Roger (October 5, 2004). ""Janet Leigh dies at age 77"". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2007-03-13. ((cite web)): Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)
  54. ^ Leitch, Luke (October 4, 2004). ""Janet Leigh, star of Psycho shower scene, dies at 77"". Evening Standard. Archived from the original on 2007-12-05. Retrieved 2007-03-13. ((cite web)): Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)
  55. ^ a b c Leigh, 67-70
  56. ^ Ebert, Roger (December 15, 1996). ""Movie Answer Man"". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2007-03-13. ((cite web)): Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)
  57. ^ Rebello, 117
  58. ^ a b c Krohn, (2003) Hitchcock at Work, Phaidon Press Ltd
  59. ^ Leigh, 176, 42
  60. ^ Leigh, 169
  61. ^ Ebert, Roger (1998-12-06). "Psycho (1960)". Great Movies. Retrieved 2006-12-01.
  62. ^ Harmetz, Aljean (2004-10-05). "Janet Leigh, 77, Shower Taker of 'Psycho,' Is Dead". The New York Times. Retrieved 2006-12-01.
  63. ^ Leigh, 131
  64. ^ Wood, Robin (1989). Hitchcock's Films Revisited. London: Faber and Faber. p. 146. ISBN 0571162266.
  65. ^ a b Leigh, 112
  66. ^ a b Taylor, Ella (1998-12-09). "Hit the showers: Gus Van Sant's 'Psycho' goes right down the drain". Retrieved 2006-12-01. ((cite news)): Text "workSeattle Weekly" ignored (help)
  67. ^ a b Leigh, 105-6
  68. ^ Leigh, 95
  69. ^ Rebello, 21
  70. ^ a b Leigh, 187
  71. ^
  72. ^ a b c d e Leigh, 99-102
  73. ^ Smith, Joseph W., III. The Psycho File (McFarland, 2009), p. 175.
  74. ^ Review of Psycho, June 17, 1960, as reprinted in Nichols, Peter M. (ed.) (2004-02-21) [1999]. The New York Times Guide to the best 1,000 movies ever made (Updated and Revised ed.). New York: St. Martins' Griffin. p. 788. ISBN 0-312-32611-4. ((cite book)): |first= has generic name (help)[1]
  75. ^ These are from (in order): New York Times, Newsweek, and Esquire
  76. ^ These are from (in order): New York Daily News, New York Daily Mirror, and Village Voice
  77. ^ Leigh, 141
  78. ^ Steinberg, Cobbett (1980). Film Facts. New York: Facts on File, Inc. p. 13. ISBN 0-87196-313-2. Hitchcock's second highest moneymaking film was Family Plot ($7,541,000), and third place was a tie between Torn Curtain (1966) and Frenzy (1972), each earning $6,500,000.
  79. ^ a b Leigh, 103-106
  80. ^ a b Leigh, 180-181
  81. ^ Hardy, Phil (1986). Encyclopedia of Horror Movies. London: Octopus Books. p. 137. ISBN 0-7064-2771-8.
  82. ^ "NY Times: Psycho". NY Times. Retrieved 2008-12-23.
  83. ^ a b Leigh, 186
  84. ^ "100 Scariest Movie Moments". Bravo. Archived from the original on 2007-10-30. Retrieved 2009-07-02 (via Internet Archive). ((cite web)): Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  85. ^ "The 25 Most Shocking Moments in Movie History". Premiere Magazine. Retrieved 2006-12-02.
  86. ^
  87. ^ "Alfred Hitchcock: Our Top 10". CNN. 1999-08-13. Retrieved 2006-12-01.
  88. ^ Corliss, Richard (1998-12-14). "Psycho Therapy: Gus Van Sant works out his Hitchcock obsession with a reverent remake". TIME. Retrieved 2006-12-01.
  89. ^ a b c Leigh, 90-93
  90. ^ a b Kaganski, Serge. Alfred Hitchcock. Paris: Hazan, 1997.
  91. ^ Fiennes, Sophie (director); Žižek, Slavoj (writer/narrator) (2006). The Pervert's Guide to Cinema (documentary). Amoeba Film. ((cite AV media)): External link in |title= (help)
  92. ^ Leigh, 113
  93. ^ Ebert, Roger Psycho III. Roger Ebert' Movie Home Companion. Kansas City: Andrews and McMeel, 1991
  94. ^ "Psycho III". Variety. 1986-01-01. Retrieved 2006-11-26.
  95. ^ Charles Winecoff (1996). =Split Image: The Life of Anthony Perkins. Diane Pub Co. ISBN 078819870X.
  96. ^ Ebert, Roger (1998-12-06). "Review of Psycho (1998 film)". Retrieved 2007-11-03.
  97. ^ Conversing: Webster's Quotations, Facts and Phrases. ICON Group International, Inc. 2008. p. 317. ISBN 0546672655.
  98. ^ Billington, Alex (5 Nov 2007). Anthony Hopkins Talks About Alfred Hitchcock Presents.
  99. ^ Dicks, Tim. "Psycho (1960)". Retrieved 2007-05-18.
  100. ^ Episodes "Treehouse of Horror IV" and "Brother from the Same Planet" show Skinner being punished for "talking to a woman" and his mother (Agnes) watching him from the window of their "Psycho" style house.
  101. ^ Berardinelli, James. "Review: Psycho (1960)". Retrieved 2008-11-16.
  102. ^ Dirks, Tim. "Psycho (1960)". Film Site. Retrieved 2008-11-16.

Further reading

The following publications are among those devoted to the production of Psycho: