As the spooky season raises its sharpened axe to soon fall upon us, the ghouls and goblins of Film Ireland wallow in the terror of the films that embrace the nutty freaks, bloody psychos and raging spoonatics with our ‘Bloody Countdown to Halloween’ – cue Vincent Price laugh…
(Alfred Hitchcock, 1960)
‘No! I will not hide in the fruit cellar! Ha! You think I’m fruity, huh?’
‘Mother-m-mother, uh… what is the phrase? She isn’t quite herself today.’
Ah yes… My youth. Coming out of Rocky and wanting to be World Heavyweight Champion. Rushing home from Karate Kid to aim high kicks at my younger sister, and of course after seeing Psycho, hanging around outside showers brandishing a knife dressed in Mother’s clothes. Such memories…
Alfred Hitchcock is undoubtedly one of the oddest characters ever to have had their wicked way with film. He totally understood how it worked upon the audience and ceaselessly re-invented genres with his perverse mangling of storytelling and in doing so shaped so much of what is modern cinema.
If cinema is the best medium for suspense, then Hitchcock directing Psycho stands tall as one of the finest manipulating inducers of celluloid tension. He is the master magician, using sleight-of-hand, pulling rabbits out of his hat, employing techniques that mischievously implicate the spectator in the evil at the heart of the film. Who hasn’t unwittingly found themselves holding their breath when Norman pushes the car with Marion’s punctured body into the swamp and for a brief moment it seems the car won’t sink. ‘Sink… sink… please sink’, you find yourself willing. Indeed Hitchcock ensures that for the most part the viewer is essentially seeing through Norman’s eyes.
From Saul Bellow’s screen credits that dementedly split apart the screen to the music of the introductory piece that plays to Bernard Herrmann’s wonderful score, so essential to the mood of the film, through to the last shot of Norman Bates’ face with a still frame of Mother’s skull superimposed over it, Psycho is a feast of demented thrills and intense bursts of psycho-illogical eruptions. Hitchcock took Anthony Perkins’ timid monster and took the Norman out of normal and shacked him up in that eerie house with the skeletoned corpse of his own mother. What can possibly go wrong?
Anytime I see a house that reminds me in any way of Bates’, I always check the upstairs window for ‘Mother’ and can always hear her calling Norman’s name in her twisted voice and goading him: ‘As if men don’t desire strangers! As if… ohh, I refuse to speak of disgusting things, because they disgust me! You understand, boy? Go on, go tell her she’ll not be appeasing her ugly appetite with my food… or my son! Or do I have to tell her because you don’t have the guts! Huh, boy? You have the guts, boy?’
God knows what Hitchcock’s own Irish mother would have made of it all…
‘Quick shower and I’ll be right with you…’
I once drunkenly argued that Psycho was the reason people replaced shower curtains with those horrible glass doors on their showers. People laughed at me but deep down I reckon I’m right – and they should consider themselves lucky they don’t have shower curtains; otherwise I’d be there, in Mother’s clothes, with my knife – cue shrieking violins and stabbing cellos.
Thank you Mr Hitchcock…