On this day in 1960, film history was made. Why? Because Alfred Hitchcock‘s legendary Psycho had its world premiere at the DeMille Theatre in New York City. Although the film wouldn’t go into wide release until September of that year, early buzz on the film indicated that it was unlike anything audiences had ever seen before. Indeed, this remains the case today, as Psycho has endured for nearly 60 years precisely for that reason. The film masterfully blends drama, suspense and shocks resulting in an effort that is more like an experience of disorientation and terror than a usual horror film. It became an absolute phenomenon, and had such a deep psychological impact on audiences that certain individuals who saw the movie became forever uneasy about taking a shower afterwards. Thrust into global fame for his role as motel owner/murderer Norman Bates, star Anthony Perkins became defined by his most iconic character and grappled with typecasting concerns afterwards. As for the movie itself, it spawned two theatrical sequels, a subsequent fourth film that was made for Showtime, a failed NBC pilot called Bates Motel, and a subsequent series of the same name that ran for five seasons on A&E. (Yeah, there was that 1998 remake as well, but the less said about that the better).
It’s been said many, many times before, but worth recognizing again: Psycho is not only the most masterful suspense film ever made, but the greatest example of cinema as art and popular entertainment that I can think of. It remains as effective today as it did 57 years ago. And yes, it features a protagonist who only a mother could love.
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