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… for a peeping Tom killer in his forties (the
age of the murderer in Bloch’s novel), the
director proposed using a much younger character
and even suggested to the writer that Perkins get
the lead role(Rebello 111). When Hitchcock began
production on PSYCHO, he was told that he would
have to use the facilities at Revue Studios, the
television division of Universal Studios, which
Paramount had rented for the making of the
film(Rebello 112). Although he was unable to use
his regular cinematographer, Robert Burks,
Hitchcock managed to convince Paramount that his
special editor, George Tomasini, should be
included in the production(Rebello 110). The
director’s desire for detail was in full force
here. He insisted that Stefano and others scout
motels along Route 99 to learn how they operated,
who stopped at them, and who ran them.

The Bates
Motel was then put together on the Universal back
lot and was definitely on the seedy side, with a
scaled-down The mansion cost only $15,000 to
construct and technicians cannibalized several
other stock buildings on the lot to keep the costs
down, throwing onto the structure a tower that had
been part of the Dowd home in HARVEY(Rebello 150).
Perkins, then only twenty-seven, was hired without
the actor even reading the script. The rising
young performer owed Paramount one film under his
contract and was taken aboard because Hitchcock
thought him right for the role of Norman Bates
along with other reasons(Rebello 128). The role of
the female lead was a problem. Hitchcock was
interested in using Shirley Jones, but her salary
would have been too high. Instead, he selected
Leigh, who was more of a starlet than a star at
the time, although this part would change
that(Rebello 132). Leigh received a copy of the
Bloch novel before shooting began, but the
director wrote a note to her pointing out that the
female victim, who is almost incidental in the
novel, would have much more importance in the
film(Rebello 133).

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Actually Leigh is on screen for
only forty-five minutes before she is brutally
slashed. Leigh’s relatively rapid departure forces
viewers to switch the focus that they began. To
protect the murderous mother’s real identity,
Hitchcock announced to the press that he was
“considering” Helen Hayes or Judith Anderson to
play the role(Rebello 136). This attempt to set up
viewers for the surprise ending (an atypical
finish for a film by a director who always avoided
surprise endings) backfired somewhat when
Hitchcock was attacked with wires and letters from
actresses asking to be considered for the role of
the mother(Rebello 136). Originally, the concept
for the horrific mother was nothing more than a
large plastic doll with glass eyes; however,
Hitchcock was quick to alter this approach,
substituting a sunken-faced and an ossified corpse
of his own design(Rebello 137). He used that
cadaver for one of the many offbeat pranks he
pulled on Leigh, which the actress took so well
that she quickly became one of Hitchcock’s
favorite performers.

Once the corpse was created,
Hitchcock had it placed in Leigh’s dressing room
so that when she entered and turned on the light
the corpse sat grinning at her, causing the
actress to let out piercing screams louder and
more frightening than her shrieks in the shower
scene(Rebello 140). When it came to that famous
shower scene, Hitchcock not only approved of every
little detail in the scenefrom toilet to shower
nozzlebut he demonstrated every move the killer
and victim were to make. The director even showed
Perkins exactly how he was to wrap the body in the
shower curtain. Ironically, Perkins was not
present for the filming of Leigh’s murder. He
later commented: “Not many people know this, but I
was in New York rehearsing for a play when the
shower scene was filmed in Hollywood. It is rather
strange to go through life being identified with
this sequence knowing that it was my double.
Actually the first time I saw PSYCHO and that
shower scene was at the studio.

I found it really
scary. I was just as frightened as anybody else.
Working on the picture, though, was one of the
happiest filming experiences of my life. We had
fun making itnever realizing the impact it would
have.”(Rebello 192). It was Hitchcock who
specifically ordered this murder shown as a brutal
thing, scribbling in his own hand for shot 116:
“The slashing. An impression of a knife slashing,
as if tearing at the very screen, ripping the
film”. This brutal slaying is long, terrifying,
and gory.

Through lightning cuts between Leigh and
close ups of the knife striking her body (she is
stabbed at least a dozen times) and seemingly
piercing her flesh, Hitchcock depictsfor the first
time in film historythe bloody realities of
violent murder(Rebello 189). Reportedly, a fast
motion reverse shot was used to give the
impression that the knife actually enters Leigh’s
abdomen. Another of the inventive techniques
Hitchcock uses in this legendary scene is the way
in which he shows the spray coming directly out of
the shower nozzle. Jets of water encompass the
camera without ever hitting the lens, as if Leigh
is looking directly into the nozzle. To achieve
this effect, Hitchcock ordered a huge shower
nozzle made, then moved his camera in for a
close-up. Even though the film was shot on a
hectic schedule of a little over a month,
Hitchcock took a full week to shoot the shower
scene, directing it from a tower above the set,
employing a single cameraman.

He had abandoned the
use of Technicolor, so as not to make the film
more gory than it already was, and washed
chocolate sauce down the drain as if it were
Leigh’s blood(Rebello 200). Leigh was opposed to
shooting this scene naked. She went through many
options such as special garments such as the ones
that strippers wore, but none worked. Finally, the
director came up with a solution; flesh-colored
moleskin. But during shooting hot water from the
shower undermined this solution. “I felt something
strange happening around my breasts,” Leigh later

“The steam from the hot water had melted the
adhesive on the moleskin and I sensed the napped
cotton fabric peeling away from my skin. What to
do?To spoil the so far successful shot and be
modest? Or get it over with and be immodest. I
opted for immodestythat was the printed take, and
no one noticed my bareness before I could cover it
up. I think!”(Rebello 209). Because he owned so
much of the film, Hitchcock turned promotion
minded with PSYCHO, devising the entire publicity
campaign for his gruesome masterpiece. He insisted
that no moviegoer be seated during the showing of
the film.

The director said that he had fun with
the film. In an interview with French director
Franois Truffaut, Hitchcock stated that “it was
rather exciting to use the camera to deceive the
audiencesThe game with the audience was
fascinating. I was directing the viewers. You
might say I was playing them like an organ I
didn’t start off to make an important movie. I
thought I could have fun with this subject and
this situation My main satisfaction is that the
film had an effect on the audience I feel it’s
tremendously satisfying for us to be able to use
the cinematic art to achieve something of a mass
emotion. With PSYCHO we most definitely achieved

It wasn’t a message that stirred the
audiences, nor was it a great performance or their
enjoyment of the novel. They were aroused by pure
film. That’s why I take pride in the fact that
PSYCHO, more than any of my other pictures, is a
film that befilm.”(Rebello 234). In a 1947 press
conference the great director laid out his
philosophy of the mystery-horror genre: “I am to
provide the public with beneficial shocks.
Civilization has become so protective that we’re
no longer able to get our goose bumps
instinctively. The only way to remove the numbness
and revive our moral equilibrium is to use
artificial means to bring about the shock. The
best way to achieve that, it seems to me, is
through a movie.”(Rebello 236).

PSYCHO provided
shocks heard around the world and became an
instant smash, breaking all box-office records in
its initial release. Hitchcock had the last laugh
with the Paramount executives who wanted no part
of PSYCHO from the beginning. The film became one
of Paramount’s most popular pictures and it made
Hitchcock not only a master of the modern horror
film but also fabulously wealthy. He had outwitted
everyonethe industry, the audience, and the
critics. Alfred Joseph Hitchcock lived for 80
years. He died on April 28, 1980.

He lived a long,
and very successful life. Throughout his life, he
took part in the creation of a countless number of
films. His films were very popular at the time
that he made them, and they are still appreciated
by many today. He is undoubtedly the “Master of
Suspense”. Bibliography: 791.43 Sen Sennet, Ted.
Great Movie Directors. New York: 1982.

High School Library 791.43 Phi Philips, Gene D.
Alfred Hitchcock. New York: 1976. Herricks High
School Library 791.4302 Reb Rebello, Stephen.
Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho. New
York: 1986. Herricks High School Library 791.43
Spo Spoto, Donald. The Art of Alfred Hitchcock.
Fifty Years of his Motion Pictures.

New York:
1976. Herricks High School Library.

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