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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Feb 10, 2013

'Hitchcock' Movie Review: How The Classic Thriller 'Psycho' Was Made

WE WERE in high school when the thriller “Psycho” became a big hit. Its marketing ploy of not allowing anyone inside the theatre once the film starts and the request for viewers not to reveal the ending really worked. So did its famous scene showing Janet Leigh being stabbed to death while taking a shower. You can still see it in youtube. It might look dated now after such films as the “Scream” series but “Psycho” is definitely the first slasher movie in film history.

We’re glad Ayala Cinemas has released here “Hitchcock”, not a filmbio of the iconic director known as the Master of Suspense but specifically about how “Psycho” was conceived and filmed. It’s like “My Week with Marilyn”, which we loved and is about the making of “The Prince and the Showgirl”. But “Hitchcock” also touches on the director’s (Anthony Hopkins) relationship with his wife Alma (Helen Mirren), herself a writer, who he has taken for granted so he suspects her to be having an affair with another writer, Whitfield Cook (Danny Huston.) He married her in 1926 and they stayed together until he passed in 1980. It’s not a commercial film that would appeal to local viewers, so if you’re a true film buff, watch it right away before it’s pulled out from the theatres.

The film starts with Hitchcock’s 1959 espionage movie that’s the model for the James Bond flicks, “North by Northwest”, being a hit. For his next film project, Hitch chooses a horror-thriller after becoming fascinated with Wisconsin serial killer Ed Gein who inspired the book “Psycho” by Robert Bloch. He appears in black and white dream sequences (played by Michael Wincott) talking to Hitch, reminiscent of the husband of Margaret Thatcher in “Iron Lady”. Honestly, we find these sequences are totally unnecessary.

The film is much more engaging when it shows Hitch arguing with Paramount Studio execs as he raises the budget for “Psycho” (he pawns his own house and lot to finance it) and with the censors on how to do the sensitive sequences. We see how the shower scene was conceived and executed. Later, the sequence at the film’s premiere night when Hitch gestures at the theatre lobby like a conductor while listening to the immortal music of Bernard Hermann, while we hear the audience inside the theatre gasps and screams during the shower scene, is truly a memorable sight to behold.

Anthony Hopkins holds the film together as Hitchcock, the director who’s enamoured with blondes like Grace Kelly who starred in his “Dial M for Murder”, “Rear Window” and “To Catch a Thief”. He totally captures the director’s persona, so recognizable to us because we followed him on TV in the 60s in “Alfred Hitchcock Presents”. As a matter of fact, the movie opens and ends with Hopkins doing the spiels the way the real Hitchcock did it in his then popular TV show. Hidden in a fat suit and excellent make-up, Hopkins totally disappears in the role, even doing the mannerisms and voice of the real Hitchcock.

Giving him splendid support is Mirren whose performance as the supportive wife is quiet but full of emotional depth. Scarlett Johansson is sexier than the real Janet Leigh but Jessica Biel is ineffective as Vera Miles. It’s James D'Arcy who has a real uncanny resemblance with Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates. The original “Karate Kid” Ralph Macchio fails to make an impression as screenwriter Joseph Stefano. Debuting director Sacha Gervasi succeeds in making the film, based on the book “Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho” by Stephen Rebello, not only a chronicle of how “Psycho” was made but also a diverting character and relationship study.