Psycho: 50th Anniversay Edition (Blu-ray) (1960)
R Dir: Alfred Hitchcock | Universal | 109 min.

Review By: Matt Brighton and Christopher Bligh | January 28th, 2012

Plot: What’s it about?

At this point, Alfred Hitchcock was at a transitional phase. After creatively mixing a solid script into a classic movie, Hitch decided to try a little something smaller. A lesser budget, a lesser crew, and the work. Alfred had gotten hold of a book about a killer and noticed that at the same time the smaller budget movies were making money and he felt maybe he should do one himself and do one of the best. He certainly got that chance with a few stipulations, and one of the very first films “reviewed after the film’s release”. It’s a tale of theft, a motel, people and a Psycho.

The setting is Phoenix, Arizona. The day and date is Friday, December 11 and the time is 2:43 PM. Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) likes to have fun on her breaks especially in the company of a man. After her break, she returns to the bank and the head man gives her a nice piece of money to hang onto to for a real estate deal. Instead, she decides to take the money for herself and go on a trip on the road away from everything. Little does she realizes what pitfalls she leads to on this road with the few stops she makes and with the non stop risk she takes.

To describe the rest of the movie would be an injustice to any viewer who has never seen the picture. This is a great Hitchcock movie in every sense. Once the viewer thinks they have it all figured out, along comes a curve. The film offers it’s sense of tension thanks to the wonderful screenplay by Joseph Stefano that let out sentences few and far between and give a nice balance for the cast. The other heightened tension is the great string filled score of Bernard Herrmann giving memorable musical touches to almost every scene in the film.

From many films in color, Hitchcock’s choice of black and white is a great one. Orson Welles once said “Black and white is an actor’s friend…” and nothing can be truer than the performances in this film. Janet Leigh is Marion Crane, a girl who likes her man and doesn’t mind a little excitement on the run. Anthony Perkins is at his best as Norman Bates, a young motel man who has a nice demeanor but has a bit of a complex that holds him back.

The rest of the cast fares very well as they arrive little by little, like the sentences in the screenplay. (This would be a different matter 37 years later)

This is a thriller with slight tension, a steady pace and a nice package all wrapped within a little less than two hours. Psycho shows, like the best directors, that a film that can do so much with so little can be a great representation of the best work and Hitchcock certainly represents it well.

Video: How does it look?

“Psycho” was one of Hitchcock’s first films to arrive on DVD and a very early entry in Universal’s catalog titles on the format. Initially it didn’t benefit from an anamorphic transfer but that was since fixed. Now, with its debut on Blu-ray, the 1.85:1 AVC HD transfer is the best this masterpiece has ever looked. The film now sports a very glossy, film-like look to it that wasn’t present in earlier editions. I really can’t imagine this in anything other than black and white and films devoid of color have a certain tenacity about them (don’t ask me why, they just do). Detail has been improved a bit over the previous DVD, contrast is stark and right on the money as are the black levels. “Psycho” is considered one of the greatest movies of all-time and now, finally, we’ve got a transfer that’s nearly as good as the movie itself.

Audio: How does it sound?

One of the many advantages of the Blu-ray format is that it enables us (and the studios) to re-master the original soundtrack. As we all know “Psycho” came out way before any sort of multi channel sound was even thought of, but this new DTS HD Master Audio mix does sound pretty good. Universal has wisely left the original mono soundtrack on the disc so any purists out there (and you know who you are) will be content with the same mono mix that’s always been associated with the movie. Let me also say that “Psycho” sports one of the most recognizable scores in the history of cinema and Bernard Hermann’s work here sounds as good as it ever has.Now don’t get me wrong, this new DTS mix isn’t really on par with most modern movies but it is an improvement over the previous 5.1 mixes. It’s a step up, for sure, and that’s never a bad thing.

Supplements: What are the extras?

As mentioned earlier, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen this classic on disc, it was previously released twice by Universal and varied with its supplements. The good is that all of the supplements from the previous “Hitchcock Masterpiece Collection” have all been ported over, though the bad is that there’s only one new supplement to this disc. Stephen Rebello’s insightful commentary is present and he literally wrote the book on the making of this movie, suffice it to say ? the guy knows what he’s talking about. Laurent Bouzereau’s ninety minute documentary, The Making of Psycho going through all aspects of the development of this film as well as Hitchcock’s approaches as well as reactions from surviving cast and crew (circa 1997). It is once again a well made documentary covering all aspects of the picture and a great addition to this DVD complete with scene selection and an overall nice assemblage of everything. We get a smattering of trailers, re-release and the like as well as a Hitchcock-narrated newsreel with his comments about the film. A nice little featurette entitled “In the Shadow: Hitchcock’s Legacy” is included with interviews from of today’s most well-known directors. We see some direct shots from their movies and how they compare to that of ?ol Hitch and it’s uncanny how similar some of these are. Imitation is most sincere form of flattery, right? We also get a 15 minute conversation with Alfred Hitchcock Fran?ois Truffaut as they discuss cinema. There are some fairly interesting questions and it’s certainly worth a listen. Next up we get the famous “Shower Scene” shown both with and without the sound and what a difference it makes. We round out the supplements with some image galleries and storyboards.

Disc Features
  • (1.85:1) Aspect Ratio
  • Video Codec: AVC
  • Audio: DTS HD Master
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Audio Commentary
  • Deleted Scene(s)
  • Featurette
  • Documentary
  • Digital Copy
  • 1 Disc Set
Psycho: 50th Anniversay Edition (Blu-ray)

must own!