*THERE ARE SPOILERS AHEAD! SKIP THIS SECTION AND GO STRAIGHT INTO THE TECHNICAL SECTIONS!
Psycho is considered to be one of Hitchcock’s most shocking, and best films. Released in 1960, and not rated until 1968 when the MPAA ratings system rated it M for mature audiences only (a 1984 reissue re-rated the film R). By today’s standards it is considered a very tame movie for it’s R rating. The film has an interesting narrative, starting when Marion Crane (Leigh) steals a wad of cash to flee her current life, and start anew with her secret boyfriend Sam (Gavin).
Driving afar to meet him out of town, an unexpected storm detours Marion to an isolated Motel where she decides to stay for the night. There she meets the seemingly normal, yet shy, Norman Bates (Perkins). After a couple of awkward and discomforting conversations, Marion goes to her room for the night. Deciding to take a shower and start afresh in the morning, what follows is the most iconic shower scene in film history, where Marion is attacked and stabbed to death by a female assailant.
Norman suspects that it is his jealous mother who has killed Marion, and dumps the body, money, and the car in the swamp to protect her from the police, twisting the narrative of the story completely. The remainder of the film is spent trying to navigate the web of deceit that Norman continues to spin as Marion’s sister Lila (Miles) and a private investigator (Balsam) search of her.
The film culminates with the revelation that Norman is a mentally disturbed individual, leading a double life as himself, and with his deceased mother living in his psyche as an alternate personality. A psychiatrist concludes that Norman was the killer, but it is his dead mother who has complete control over his mind.
It’s really difficult to talk about this movie without having to sort of ruin the ending. The film is masterfully crafted from beginning to end. Every passing minute the film is carefully built for that one climatic ending. Today we look at Psycho and can see the ending coming a mile away, but when you look at everything surrounding the picture it just tells you about the mind behind the camera.
The film was driven by dialogue for the majority of the film, but regardless it’s an engrossing experience. The writing is excellent which makes the performances of each of the film’s characters great. The slow pace that the film employs really helps to add that haunting feeling. I am not sure if by today’s standards Psycho could be considered horror, but one thing I can tell you is that it remains a masterful classic.
Psycho arrives on Blu-ray with a glorious 1080p VC-1 encode framed at 1.85:1. The gray shades, well-defined whites and inky blacks are beautifully transferred, and very much improved upon from their SD-DVD predecessors I was pleasantly surprised to see that the film’s original grain was still intact; luckily for us Universal didn’t decide to scrub and DNR the film to death.
However beautiful the film may appear to the casual, or even movie conscious, viewers if you consider yourself to be a staunch videophile then I do have a bit of bad news. Unfortunately there are occasional aliasing and artifacting issues; however I don’t believe they’re anything that would detract from the great job they did with the transfer.
Psycho arrives on Blu-ray with a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio lossless track. Don’t expect your home theater systems to be put to the test. The track is very simplistic by design, considering that the original track was 2.0 mono, and this retooled 5.1 mix works surprisingly well. The dialogue is clean and clear throughout. Sound effects are well done and added to a few scenes crossing through the soundstage with great directionality. Sure, they aren’t the best effects, but it sounds great nonetheless. The best part about this track is the absence of any signs of deterioration by the audio track, no hissing, no clicks, no signs of issues with the track. As a plus, audiophiles get a treat with a 2.0 DTS track. Psycho sounds simply fantastic.
The BD Live enabled blu-ray release of Psycho’s 50th Anniversary edition has quite a lot of special features for you to check out, but unfortunately not all of the extras that were on the recent 2 disc DVD set.
Audio Commentary with Stephen Rebello (author of “Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho”) – This audio commentary is very informative from the beginning to the end. Rebello doesn’t over analyze, but carries the track with good pace sharing some anecdotes, doing comparisons, talks about Hichtcock, and more. The track is well rounded with enough information to satisfy the fans.
The Making of Psycho – This documentary piece covers everything about the movie. It’s a very details overview of all aspects in ‘Psycho’. (SD)
Psycho Sound – This features a look at the creation of the 5.1 audio mix and the process that was used to make a 2.0 mono to a 5.1 mix. (HD)
In the Master’s Shadow: Hitchcock’s Legacy – This piece is very interesting as well as entertaining and it features interviews with various directors and comparisons of Hichtcock’s work with other films. This is a must see. (SD)
Hitchcock/Truffaut Interview Excerpts – This radio interview was taken from one that was done back in 1962. It’s an old, but great audio interview about Psycho.
Newsreel Footage: The Release of Psycho – This featurette isn’t really what is title allows you to think. This is more an announcement than anything else. (SD)
The Shower Scene – This is the iconic shower scene and viewers get the opportunity to watch it with or without Bernard Herrman’s daunting score. (SD)
The Shower Scene: Storyboards by Saul Bass – The iconic shower scene is broken down into a storyboard. (SD)
The Psycho Archives – A set of photo galleries (SD)
Posters and Psycho Ads
Behind-the-Scenes and Production Photographs
BD Live Functionality
Psycho is a timeless masterpiece without a shred of a doubt. Hitchcock’s masterpiece took its time to see the light of high definition, but now that is here the wait has been well worth it. The film has never looked so clean and crisp as it does on Blu-ray. Even the sound has been upgraded and sounds fantastic. Many of the supplements that were previously available on the DVDs have been ported over and it’s time to replace it. This is the best-looking version of Psycho to date and any film aficionado will be more than pleased. This comes highly recommended.