This past weekend one of the premium movie cable channels, in a delightfully mordant move, ran a 24-hour Mother’s Day marathon of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 salute to filial devotion, Psycho. Now, I’ve watched Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh and company more times than I can remember (certainly more than 50), but there’s one scene about halfway into the picture that I always enjoy. I don’t want to give too much away, since there may yet be readers out there (presumably younger ones) who have yet to see the film, so I’ll simply say it’s when Perkins’ Norman Bates is trying to dispose of a car in a handy swamp. As he watches, the auto slowly sinks into the mire…and then suddenly stops, the vehicle’s rear sticking out for all to see. A nervous Norman stands on the edge of the marsh, unsure what to do, and we in the audience–in spite of the actions that led up to this moment–start to feel nervous for him, hoping that the car will continue its muck-filled descent and take its incriminating evidence with it.
It takes a rare filmmaker like a Hitchcock to get moviegoers to sympathize with an on-screen character whose actions, shall we say, do not merit sympathy…or does it? Have you ever found yourself on the side of a movie’s villain? I’m not referring to the law-breaking protagonists of a crime film like, say, Ocean’s Eleven or The Godfather or an “innocent” victim such as King Kong or the Frankenstein Monster. No, I mean: Did you hope The Maltese Falcon that the Fat Man and his cronies got was the genuine article? Did you want the level-headed Mr. Potter to take over the Bailey family’s poorly-run building and loan in It’s a Wonderful Life? Were Roy Batty, Pris and the other replicants of Blade Runner more compelling than Rick Deckard? Did you, like Lake Placid co-star Betty White, wind up “rooting for the crocodile?” Sound off in the comments and tell us which black hat you secretly (or publicly) wanted to come out on top.