Friday, March 31, 2017

Yes, We Have Nosferatu, (We Have Nosferatu Today), or Thoughts on Mel Brooks and Dracula: Dead and Loving It

Mel Brooks, along with Sir John Gielgud and Audrey Hepburn  belongs to the exclusive EGOT club; in that he’s won an Emmy, a Grammy an Oscar and a Tony.  But what about Liza and Barbara Streisand, you may ask and yes, technically they’re members of that club too.  But those divas actually received non-competitive awards, a 1970 Special Tony in Babs’ case and a 1990 Grammy Legend for Liza.  Mel won all his awards fair and square, mostly for his Broadway production of The Producers (2001).
What does this have to do with Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995), you may also ask, and I’ll be happy to tell you.  It’s not his greatest movie; it’s no Young Frankenstein (1974).  But then again, Young Frankenstein (1974) should be on everybody’s top 10 list, it is the gold standard for horror comedy, and he’s only made 11 movies in his career.  A Mel Brooks movie is a rare commodity, and Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995) deserves a re-watch and some affection.
Written, produced and directed by Mel Brooks, Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995) is an affectionate, goofy, and almost Vaudeville-esque send-up of Bela Lugosi’s 1931 Dracula, and therein lies its fatal flaw.  Movies like Dumb and Dumber (1994) ushered in the next generation of comedy and by comparison Mel Brook’s brand of Borscht Belt farce, sly puns, and wordplay with generous amounts of cleavage seemed tired and dated.  You know the plot of this movie, you've seen it a dozen times before.  But if you love the genre and Mel Brooks, there's no way you won't thoroughly enjoy this underrated and criminally unappreciated gem.
Leslie Nielsen stars as the Count with the cape and does a great job with the pratfalls and a broad Transylvanian accent.  In fact the mostly American cast affects what I would call the Hollywood English accent, with the exception of the director as Dr. Van Helsing, doing his best Freud impression.  With Peter MacNicol, Janosz Poha from Ghostbusters II (1989) as Renfield, Harvey Korman as Dr. Seward, Lysette Anthony as Lucy Westenra and Steven Weber as Jonathan Harker.  Also watch out for Anne Bancroft, also known as Mrs. Mel Brooks, as Madame Ouspenskaya, the Gypsy lady who sells a cross to Renfield for 12 kopeks.
Everyone forgets that Leslie Nielsen had a successful film career before his second act as a comedy superstar, and also starred in one of my favorite movies, ForbiddenPlanet (1956).  Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995) was eviscerated by critics and currently holds a dismal 11% on Rotten Tomatoes.  I also recommend his Hitchcock pastiche, High Anxiety (1977), another forgotten Mel Brooks film.




my first novel?  thanks for asking:)  it’s a the first book in a 4-volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of killer kung-fu witches, haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hour diner with the best pie in town…
read for free on kindle unlimited or buy the paperback, available at fine bookstores everywhere (amazon).

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Vampire Rear Window, or Thoughts on Fright Night

From Tom Holland, who would go on to direct Psycho II (1983) and Thinner (1996), Fright Night (1985) is an 80’s horror comedy in the same vein (see what I did there) as The Lost Boys (1987), but set in a bland American suburb (maybe Haddonfield?) instead of Southern California.  William Ragsdale portrays Charley, a typical 80’s teen who has a perfect view of his new neighbor’s bedroom window.  Of course that new neighbor turns out to be Chris Sarandon from The Sentinel (1977) as Jerry Dandridge, the disco vampire (he likes to wear scarves).  Other than his fashion choices he's a pretty traditional vampire; no reflection, allergic to sunlight, crosses and garlic, the usual stuff.
The movie stands out because of the brilliant casting of screen icon Roddy McDowall from Planet of the Apes (1968) and The Legend of Hell House (1973) as Peter Vincent (if that name sounds suspiciously similar to Peter Cushing and Vincent Price, it’s no coincidence), a late night TV horror movie host and reluctant vampire hunter.  Also with Amanda Bearse, 27 at the time, playing Charley’s teen girlfriend Amy.  If that name sounds familiar it’s because she played Marcy D’Arcy in Married With Children, and Al Bundy would be sorely disappointed if i didn't mention this movie also featured Heidi Sorenson, Playboy’s Miss July 1981, as one of the victims.
 Also take special note of Charley’s car; he drives a sweet 1966 Ford Mustang (the Eleanor/Bullitt Mustang is a 1971 Shelby, in case you care, and I know you do).  There was a remake in 2011, because of course there was.




my first novel?  thanks for asking:)  it’s a the first book in a 4-volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of killer kung-fu witches, haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hour diner with the best pie in town…
read for free on kindle unlimited or buy the paperback, available at fine bookstores everywhere (amazon).

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Full Metal Monkeys, or Thoughts on Kong: Skull Island

Kong: Skull Island (2017), an interesting reboot set in 1973 throws out everything from the previous movies except for the premise of a giant ape on a mysterious, uncharted island.  Throw in a crackpot scientist played by John Goodman, a crack military team led by Samuel L. Jackson and a bunch of CGI and you have just enough movie for a modern audience more comfortable with video games and watching movies on their phones.
The movie spends more time referencing Vietnam films than Universal films, and they go into the jungle blasting Black Sabbath like they’re under Kilgore’s command in Apocalypse Now (1979) or the space marines in Avatar (2009).  It’s all Charlie Don’t Surf and he thinks he does, until somebody throws a palm tree at your chopper.  And I have to admit, it’s more than a little emotionally satisfying to watch the big guy taking out the military team, and he's not even a king in this movie, he's just "Kong".  But these guys have no right to be there, Kong's only defending his island against the invaders.  It’s kind of like when Captain Cook was slaughtered by Chief Kalaimanokaho╩╗owaha in 1779, but you know, with helicopters, machine guns, and giant apes.
TomHiddleston is a little too high brow for his part as grizzled ex-SAS captain James Conrad, with a distractingly posh accent and about as much chemistry with Brie Larson as Adrian Brody and Naomi Watts had in the 2005 version.  Now Jessica Lange and Jeff Bridges in 1976, that was believable and a far more traditional update than this movie, which was ironically set in the same decade.  Also watch out for John C. Reilly, Mr. Cellophane, as Hank Marlow, a crazy guy living in the jungle, and The Good Place and Other Space’s Eugene Cordero as one of the Sky Devils.
There is some clever exposition during the long jungle hikes to the extraction point that brings in the Lovecraftian Old Ones and Edgar Rice Burroughs territory with Hollow Earth theories, which grounds the movie in its pulp roots, but for the most part it’s just actors reacting to green screens.  Kong looks great, but it’s hard to get any emotional investment in a screen image that isn’t even a model or a guy in a suit, he’s just zeroes and ones.  Peter Jackson’s version was a sincere if overblown homage, while the 1976 update had a life-size model of the head and hands, in addition to Jessica Lange in a suede bikini.  This version has Samuel L. Jackson repeating his Valley of Death speech from Pulp Fiction (1994), but now it’s about Icarus flying too close to the sun, which is an apt metaphor for this movie’s and American Cinema's love affair with digital effects. 




my first novel?  thanks for asking:)  it’s a the first book in a 4-volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of killer kung-fu witches, haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hour diner with the best pie in town…
read for free on kindle unlimited or buy the paperback, available at fine bookstores everywhere (amazon).

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

90’s Magic Pulls the Greatest Trick of All, or Thoughts on Clive Barker’s Lord of Illusions

Once famously lauded by Stephen King as “the future of horror”, Clive Barker’s Lord of Illusions (1995) was the author’s adaptation of one of his Books of Blood stories (The Last Illusion, 1986) featuring demonic rent boys and a post Quantum Leap, pre-Star Trek: Enterprise Scott Bakula in one of his early film roles as Harry D’Amour, Clive Barker’s hardboiled, hard drinking occult detective.  In Lord of Illusions Harry investigates the onstage death of Swann, a popular magician who used real magic because, you know, he used to belong to a cult in the 80’s and happened to imprison a demon in an iron mask and steal all his power.  What can I tell you, the 80’s were a fun yet complicated decade.
Kevin J. O’Connor, who you may remember was the Yellow Card Man in 11.22.63 (2016) is Phillip Swann the fake illusionist and real magician, while my favorite Bond Girl Xenia Onatopp and my favorite mutant Jean Grey, Famke Janssen portrays his grieving widow, Dorothea Swann.  Daniel von Bargen, Mr. Kruger from Seinfeld is Nix, the demon.
Stephen King to date has only directed one of his works; Maximum Overdrive (1986, the one with the killer trucks), while Lord of Illusions marked Clive Barker’s third adaptation, along with Hellraiser (1987), and Nightbreed  (1990).  There’s always a barely hidden sexual fluidity in his movies, competing with all the horror elements without adding to it.  It’s ironic because Clive Barker should be a stellar director; he has a background in theater, he’s an excellent writer and painter, he has a visual and descriptive eye, and yet all these considerable talents do not translate onto the silver screen.  His compositions on film are static and without artifice, his action scenes are weak and his casting decisions are questionable. 
Kevin J. O’Connor as Swann, Daniel von Bargen as Nix doesn’t match up with Scott Bakula and Famke Jannssen in terms of chemistry or even looks.  And i'm sorry, physical beauty is relevant, this is a visual medium we're watching a movie.  I mean he’s happy to fill the background with male models but unlike Pinhead, he fell short in Lord of Illusions in finding a villain that could hold his own against Famke Jannssen.  In the end the movie only serves to prove my point, much like The Illusionist (2006), the greatest trick a magician can achieve is getting the hot girl to marry you.




my first novel?  thanks for asking:)  it’s a the first book in a 4-volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of killer kung-fu witches, haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hour diner with the best pie in town…
read for free on kindle unlimited or buy the paperback, available at fine bookstores everywhere (amazon).

Monday, March 27, 2017

Millennial Blade Runners, Still Dreaming of Electric Sheep, or Thoughts on Morgan

 Morgan (2016), a movie completely overshadowed by Ex-Machina (2014, I mean, how many genetically modified super intelligent killer androids that coincidentally are also pretty girls kept behind glass in secret underground bunkers do we need?) is an under-rated and unappreciated modern Frankenstein movie with a crazy, literal metric ton of quality actors.  Anya Taylor-Joy, you know, Thomasina from The Witch  (2015) and Casey in Split (2016) is Morgan, a genetically modified 5-year-old super genius with super strength and the body of a 20-year-old girl.  She’s essentially an organic Replicant, which is an interesting coincidence as the movie was directed by Luke Scott, the son of Ridley (yeah, Alien, Blade Runner, that Ridley Scott). 
Kate Mara, Rooney’s sister, appears as Lee Weathers, a risk management consultant from the mysterious corporation that funded the Morgan project.   Lee sees Morgan as a corporate asset, a collection of patents, while the scientists at the secret facility in the Irish countryside that raised her see her at the least as their prized pupil and more like their daughter, so there’s your conflict.
Rose Leslie from that show about ice and fire and the movies The Last Witch Hunter  (2015) and Honeymoon (2014) is Dr. Amy Menser, Morgan’s closest friend while Toby Jones from The Girl (2012) and Berberian Sound Studio https://goo.gl/e1FMJr (2012) is Dr. Simon Ziegler (there’s a lot of doctors in this movie).  Jennifer Jason Leigh, Daisy Domergue in The Hateful Eight (2015) is Dr. Kathy Grieff while Paul Giamatti, Limbo from Tim Burton’s Planet of theApes (2001) and The Illusionist  (2006) is Dr. Alan Shapiro.  Is that a big enough cast for you? Well there’s more, newcomer Boyd Holbrook from Logan (2017) is Skip, the cook while Michelle Yeoh is Dr. Lui Cheng.  Also watch out for Brian Cox, the first Hannibal Lechter (Manhunter, 1986) as Jim Bryce.
The movie currently holds an unappreciated 40% on Rotten Tomatoes, but what do those guys know?



my first novel?  thanks for asking:)  it’s a the first book in a 4-volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of killer kung-fu witches, haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hour diner with the best pie in town…
read for free on kindle unlimited or buy the paperback, available at fine bookstores everywhere (amazon).

Saturday, March 25, 2017

M. Night Shyamalan’s Silence of the Fight Club, or Thoughts on Split

Three teen girls, two popular mean ones and an outcast are abducted in M. Night Shyamalan’s Split (2016), and the ease at which James McAvoy kidnaps them is both terrifying and frustrating.  The movie is carried by the performances of James McAvoy as Kevin, a kidnapper with 23 personalities, and Anya Taylor-Joy, Thomasina from The Witch (2015) and the genetic mutant 5-year-old super soldier in Morgan (2016), as Casey, the outcast/loner and also the girl with the best chances for survival, given her particular skill set, which is told in flashbacks.
Kevin’s personalities include Hedwig, a 9 year-old boy, Barry, a gay man, Dennis, the OCD predator who actually kidnapped the girls and Miss Patricia, the English maternal figure who along with Dennis, dominate the multiples all living in Kevin’s head.  Atmospheric, stylish and thoughtful, Split almost makes up for The Village (2004) and The Happening (2008) and also features a particularly heart-breaking twist; far more sensitive and poignant than his previous films, though completely overshadowed by a superfluous and distracting science fiction/supernatural/Jekyll & Hyde element.
Watch out for Broadway star Betty Buckley, Grizabella from Cats (1982) and Norma Desmond from Sunset Boulevard (1994) as Dr. Fletcher, Kevin’s psychiatrist.  There’s also a cameo by M. Night Shyamalan, but the less we compare him to Alfred Hitchcock, the better.
Split is highly recommended and certainly my favorite of M. Night Shyamalan’s movies, however this is the movie he should have made after The Sixth Sense (1999).  Instead he made Unbreakable (2000), Signs (2002), The Village (2004), Lady in the Water, (2006), The Happening (2008), The Last Airbender (2010), and After Earth (2013).  That's over a decade of big budget disappointments and confusing fiascos. The fact that his latest movie is an outlier and happens to be good needs to be measured against his entire body of work.  Compared with 2015’s The Visit, it seems that if he keeps his scope small and focuses on kids he can tell an effective story. It’s only when the director attempts to invent a whole new mythology or comment on humanity as a whole that he goes off the rails.  But after two good movies he’s due for an overambitious and hubristic spectacle, we’ll see what happens.





my first novel?  thanks for asking:)  it’s a the first book in a 4-volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of killer kung-fu witches, haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hour diner with the best pie in town…
read for free on kindle unlimited or buy the paperback, available at fine bookstores everywhere (amazon).

Friday, March 24, 2017

Pleased to Meet You, Hope You Guess My Name, or Thoughts on Needful Things

Needful Things (1993), an underrated but one of the best adaptations of Stephen King’s 1991 novel of the same name (yes, I’ve read the book, and yes I am one of those insufferable people who will tell you I did), is effective at distilling a 690 page novel into a twisted, Twilight Zone-y 120 minute movie.  Stephen King’s greatest strength as a writer is his characters, the intimate portraits he creates an emotional bond with the reader that cannot be reproduced in a movie, though he has had better results on TV.  We don’t have access to Alan Pangborn’s hopes and dreams in Needful Things, we have to make do with Ed Harris as the small town, Castle Rock police chief in over his head dealing with a mysterious shopkeeper who may or may not be the devil.
Max Von Sydow, with the same accent he used as Ming the Merciless in Flash Gordon (1980, maybe it’s his real accent) is Leland Gaunt, who rolls into town in his beautiful vintage Mercedes  (a 1958 300d Adenauer in case you care, and I know you do) and opens Needful Things, a store that sells you the item you most desire, for a price.  The needful things range from a signed Mickey Mantle baseball card (in the book it was Sandy Koufax, what did i tell you), to a magic locket and a first edition of Treasure Island. The price involves a seemingly random, mean-spirited prank against one of the locals.  The pranks escalate quickly as old rivalries and resentments are stirred up, until the town de-evolves into anarchy and the local church gets blown up.
With Bonnie Bedelia, Holly McClane from Die Hard (1988) as Polly Chalmers and the aforementioned Man in Black Ed Harris with hair (at least from some angles).  Also watch out for quirky indie star Amanda Plummer as Nettie Cobb and Don S. Davis as Reverend Rose, you may remember him as General Hammond from Stargate: SG1 (1997).
The movie was filmed in British Columbia, which I suppose is a good enough stand-in for Stephen King’s beloved and fictional Castle Rock, Maine, even though it’s a completely different ocean.  That may seem like a minor detail to you but little details matter, and they add up.   Directed by Fraser Heston (yeah, that Heston, he’s Ben Hur’s son, which makes him Hollywood royalty), Needful Things currently holds an unappreciated 26% on Rotten Tomatoes.


my first novel?  thanks for asking:)  it’s a the first book in a 4-volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of killer kung-fu witches, haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hour diner with the best pie in town…
read for free on kindle unlimited or buy the paperback, available at fine bookstores everywhere (amazon).

Thursday, March 23, 2017

You Don’t Do That to Someone You Love, Even if You Hate Them, or Thoughts on Gus Van Sant’s Psycho

Psycho (1998), Gus Van Sant’s color photocopy remake starring Vince Vaughn and Anne Heche is a curious experiment; it’s the same but different, the camera zooms in a different window with different actors and a different director, but with the original script (with some unnecessary modernizations) and following the original direction, tone for tone, beat for beat, and shot for shot. 
The Hitchcock cameo in front of Marion’s office now features the director in a conversation with Gus Van Sant; a move that most critics found hubristic.  The sexuality is also more overt, as well as the nudity; I mean if you’ve ever wanted to see Viggo Mortensen’s butt this is the movie for you, and the shower scene is of course, more explicit.  I can understand these updates, Psycho needs to be an R-rated film and I’d rather have them adding nudity and violence than throwing in a bunch of f-bombs and dumbing down an already perfect script.
Even at his thinnest, Vince Vaughn brings a beefy heterosexual menace to the character of Norman Bates.  He has a physical confidence that carries over to his lines, he doesn’t stutter and speaks more authoritatively.   I do think Norman needs a gay vibe, or at least the fragile sensitivity that Anthony Perkins brought to the role; it makes his underlying resentment of his mother and hatred of women all the more compelling.
As for Anne Heche, she ain’t no Janet Leigh.  However she does have a bird-like and looks good with her hair wet, and as you know the movie isn’t about Marion Crane.  Now Julianne Moore as Lila Crane is an upgrade, who knew Lila was a redhead?  Her first appearance with her cute yellow 90’s Walkman in Sam’s hardware store is charming, you don't know how much you miss color until you’re starved of it.  The colors in Bates Motel are washed out, moody, and depressed from that soft Vancouver light; here you have the blinding Arizona sunlight. 
Watch out for William H. Macy as Arbogast, speaking of perfect timing, and veteran character actor Robert Forster from Jackie Brown (1998) and Mulholland Drive (2001) as Dr. Richmond.  The soundtrack has also been tweaked by Danny Elfman, the only composer I would trust with Bernard Hermann’s legacy.
Black and white was a budgetary decision that Hitchcock made to keep complete editorial control of his movie, but the visual style of the 1998 remake, the glorious, saturated colors and the wardrobe choices make the film.  Even Saul Bass’ opening credits gets a dash of vivid green.  Again this is polarizing to audiences, you will either love those choices, or hate them.  But there is a comfort in telling and re-telling the same story over and over again.  The remake is polarizing, I don’t know of many people other than myself who will actually admit to liking it, however it makes for an interesting double feature with the original 1960  version.





my first novel?  thanks for asking:)  it’s a the first book in a 4-volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of killer kung-fu witches, haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hour diner with the best pie in town…
read for free on kindle unlimited or buy the paperback, available at fine bookstores everywhere (amazon).

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

She Might Have Fooled Me, But She Didn’t Fool My Mother, or Thoughts on Psycho IV: The Beginning

Like Psycho III (1986), Psycho IV: The Beginning (1990) was a Showtime made for TV production that follows Norman Bates as he’s once again released from the nut house (with SANE stamped on his forehead) and now married to his therapist and expecting a child with her.  Coincidentally, late night talk radio host Fran Ambrose, as portrayed by the great CCH Pounder is interviewing Dr. Richmond from the final scene of Psycho (1960), who has written a book on matricide.  The role of Dr. Richmond was originated by Karl Kolchak’s long-suffering editor Tony Vincenzo,  or Simon Oakland.  In Psycho IV he’s portrayed by Warren Frost.
The late night talk show acts as a framing story for a flashback involving Henry Thomas from E.T. (1982) as young Norman Bates, and Olivia Hussey as Norma Bates.  The prequel is told in broad strokes, you don’t have the benefit and the luxury of 5 seasons of Bates Motel to really dig deep into that mother/son relationship.  I will say that comparisons to Bates Motel, and in particular Vera Farmiga are inevitable.  Olivia Hussey does have the hot mom/bipolar crazy lady going for her, but I do think Norma Bates has to be a blonde.  It’s an elegant way to explain why Norman was triggered by Marion Crane in the first place, and dovetails nicely with Hitchcock’s obsession with blonde leading ladies.
Directed by Mick Garris, who would go on to direct TV adaptations of Stephen King’s The Stand (1994), The Shining (1997), Quicksilver Highway (1997), Riding the Bullet (2004), Desperation (2006) and Bag of Bones (2011).  This was one of Anthony Perkins’ last films, he’s in less than half of it and it looks like all of his scenes were filmed in one day. He would pass away 2 years later.




my first novel?  thanks for asking:)  it’s a the first book in a 4-volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of killer kung-fu witches, haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hour diner with the best pie in town…
read for free on kindle unlimited or buy the paperback, available at fine bookstores everywhere (amazon).

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

12 Cabins, 12 Vacancies, or Thoughts on Psycho III

In many aspects Psycho III (1986) is a more authentic sequel to Psycho (1960) than Psycho II (1983); it was directed by Anthony Perkins and is filled with Hitchcock references, starting out with a nod to the bell tower scene in Vertigo (1958) and intercut with black and white scenes from 1960 and 1983 to establish the mood and tone.  Anthony Perkins’ directorial style is workman-like and professional, reflecting everything he learned and absorbed from an almost 40 year career in front of the camera.  He’s no Alfred Hitchcock, but then again, nobody is.
About a month after the events in Psycho II Maureen Coyle, a lapsed nun who has lost her faith shows up at the Bates Motel, with the same initials as a certain Marion Crane and a similar hairstyle.  It’s a nice respite from Norman’s hobbies of stuffing birds and holding imaginary conversations with his mother, but it’s not long before he’s removing the painting of Susanna and the Elders off his parlor wall and you know that always leads to trouble.
With Diana Scarwid as Maureen, who you may remember as Christina Crawford in Mommie Dearest (1981), and veteran character actor Jeff Fahey in an early role as Duke, a rambling musician of questionable virtue.  Jeff Fahey portrayed Frank from Lost and also appearances in classic TV shows like Miami Vice (1986, movies including Planet Terror (2007) and Machete (2010) and has an impressive IMDb page of 150 credits going back to 1984.
Also featuring an 80’s synth-pop soundtrack by Carter Burwell, who would go on to begin a lifelong collaboration with the Coen Brothers, starting with Raising Arizona (1987).




my first novel?  thanks for asking:)  it’s a the first book in a 4-volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of killer kung-fu witches, haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hour diner with the best pie in town…
read for free on kindle unlimited or buy the paperback, available at fine bookstores everywhere (amazon).

Monday, March 20, 2017

We All Go a Little Mad Sometime, or Thoughts on Psycho

Contrary to popular belief, Psycho (1960) is not my favorite Hitchcock movie.  It’s easily in the top five, but number one, in case you care (and I know you do)  would be a tie between North By Northwest (1959) and Vertigo (1958) followed by Rear Window (1954), To Catch a Thief (1955), Strangers on a Train (1951) and then finally, Psycho (1960).  And that’s not counting my miscellaneous favorites like Rope  (1948), The Trouble With Harry (1955), The Birds (1963), Dial M. For Murder (1954).  I really like mid-century Hitchcock, that’s when he really hit his stride and made his most stylish movies.
But I digress, this review is about Psycho, a movie that film scholars have written books about analyzing it frame by frame, and Anthony Hopkins even starred in amovie about the production.   There’s really not much more to be said about Psycho so I’m just going to offer some random thoughts, the first being if you get a chance, see it in a movie theater.  A black and white film in a movie theater isn’t black and white; it’s black and silver.  The whites and the grays create an almost iridescent moonlight, there’s nothing like it, and the experience is lost on a TV or a computer screen.
Also far be it from me to spoil a 57-year-old movie but it should have been a clue for audiences when they saw Vera Miles get a higher billing than Janet Leigh during those iconic Saul Bass credits.  The movie as you are well aware opens with a portrait of Phoenix Arizona, and all those buildings and windows before focusing on one of them, looking inside, and telling the story of the people behind that window.  There’s a certain randomness at work here; like the hand of fate the camera has chosen a single window for us as the audience to peer into, and to follow that story wherever it goes.
The Hitchcock cameo comes fast, in front of Marion Crane’s office (he’s wearing a cowboy hat), Hitch always wanted to get his cameo out of the way because he felt it was distracting for audiences who were always looking for him and not paying attention to the plot.  The director’s daughter, Pat Hitchcock has a small role as Caroline, Marion’s annoying (and married, a sore point for Marion) co-worker.  Patricia Hitchcock always played unlikeable characters in her father’s films, it seems odd, like a reverse nepotism or some weird family issue being permanently embedded into American cinema.  However when you think about it, Hitch embedded a lot of his weird issues into his films, that’s what makes them so great.  But he had Robert Walker throttle her in Strangers on a Train (1951), I mean, who does that?
Additionally, the sequence preceding and following the shower scene is essentially silent; there's only one line and for more than fifteen minutes all the audience has are sound effects, Bernard Hermann's fantastic score and Anthony Perkins frantically cleaning up after his mother.  We're watching a silent movie and we're more than ok with it, we want more.  I've said it before, but this movie is the work of a genius from a master storyteller.
Vera Farmiga has done such a great job in Bates Motel in fully inhabiting the character of Norma Bates in such believable and compelling ways that it’s easy to forget that in Psycho, Norma existed as an interpretation of Anthony Perkins.  The audience hears a voice, actor Virginia Gregg, (a voice that technically, only Norman hears) who also featured in Psycho II (1983) and Psycho III (1986) as well as the rest of her appearing in classic American TV shows like Dragnet (1967), Happy Days (1974), Kolchak: The Night Stalker  (1974), The Rockford Files (1975) and The Six Million Dollar Man (1974).
It’s a uniquely American, mid-century gothic horror and the first American film to show a toilet.  It’s ironic that Anthony Perkins took the role to drop his teen idol image, only to fully inhabit a character that would follow him for the rest of his life.  And it’s also interesting that the movie starts out like a typical Hitchcock thriller, a girl on the run with $40,000 bucks, which has literally nothing to do with the plot.  These are just lives intersecting on a lonely highway, and that randomness that can sometimes lead to murder.  That’s the real horror, the snowballing of casual decisions that lead you down a dark path with no escape.





my first novel?  thanks for asking:)  it’s a the first book in a 4-volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of killer kung-fu witches, haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hour diner with the best pie in town…
read for free on kindle unlimited or buy the paperback, available at fine bookstores everywhere (amazon).