He Said, She Said: Psycho

Melissa Sikes and Socorro Carrillo


By Melissa Sikes

Alfred Hitchcock did not write the horror classic Psycho. It was forged by the mind of Robert Bloch. Published in 1959, Psycho was soon adapted to film by the infamous Alfred Hitchcock in 1960. Nowadays, the 1959 horror classic is best known as a film. I always thought it originated from the mind of Hitchcock. Boy, was I wrong! While Hitchcock directed a decent adaptation, the novel takes it to a whole other level.

Psycho inadvertently revolves around the life and death of Mary Crane. Employed at a real estate firm after a life of lost opportunities, Crane is at the end of her rope. She sees no light at the end of her tunnel and decides to take her life, and its prospects, into her own hands. One day, Crane is left with the duty of depositing forty thousand dollars to the bank. Instead of obeying her employer, she seizes the opportunity to steal the money and flees to her soon-to-be husband some eight hundred miles away.

After taking a wrong turn, Crane ends up at the Bates Motel off an old highway. Here she meets the motel’s manager, Norman Bates, the novel’s antagonist. Crane takes Mr. Bates for a calm and respectable man, but what she does not know will make her lose her head! Bates is a man who life has revolved around and been controlled by his mother, Norma Bates. After a series of unfortunate events, Bates develops a second personality. Basically, the murderer is her, which is actually him. Got it? Let’s move on.

While I did enjoy the film, I do have a few bones to pick with it. I am of course speaking of the unnecessary sex appeal inherent in the film. Norman Bates, in Hitchcock’s rendition – played by Anthony Perkins — is tall, dark and handsome, while in the novel, he is described as a fat, middle-aged man with thinning hair who wore rimless glasses. It seems that Norman Bates would have been better portrayed by Alfred Hitchcock himself! The book’s description of Bates makes the entire story all that more disturbing. If Hitchcock had held true to Robert Bloch’s vision, I believe his film would have made more of an impact.

Another troubling personality trait you do not pick up on in the film are Norman’s own, personal thoughts. You do not get the overwhelming sense of hatred he has for women. Reading the novel, you are engrossed by his staggering amount of hostility towards women, often referring to them as “bitches” (sic). The film, once again, lessened his intensity. You cannot get lost in his thought processes in the film like you can while reading the book. Hitchcock’s adaptation downplayed his pent up rage, making him seem more passive than what he was destined to be.

Nor do you understand his troubling feelings he has for his mother. Just the way he talks about his mother makes your skin crawl. His relationship with her resembles that of an Oedipus complex. The story plays out with Norman killing his mother and her lover, an event that may be the cause of Norman’s mental deterioration. The question to ask is, did he kill his mother and her lover out of jealousy? It seems that it was Norman’s unhealthy relationship with his mother is what turned him into a psycho, which brings forth another question, was Norman born a psycho or was he molded into one?

If you are looking for a true horror classic for this upcoming Halloween, I suggest you pick up a copy of Robert Bloch’s Psycho.


By Socorro Carrillo

Very rarely do people of my age become truly scared. We are of the invincible era, explosions, blood, guts spewing out all over doesn’t affect us. Instead we are more affected by tales of the psychological persuasion which is why Alfred Hitchcock’s version of Psycho is truly a master piece. The story of young Norman Bates and his conflicted relationship with Mother has haunted many a subconscious since the 60s. Which is why I’m taking the stance that the movie is infinitely, indescribably, astronomically better than the book.

The first reason is the actors. With a star studded cast, who can ignore the genius and craftsmanship that Psycho upheld. As the screen begins to take shape our eyes are immediately bewitched by Janet Leigh who plays Marion Crane. Otherwise known as the physical embodiment of glamour and femininity. Her arched brows, pale blond hair, and plush lips keep our vision in a tunnel. Later on, we are still under her spell. For at least 5 minutes the actress doesn’t even speak and yet we are entranced. We watch her expression go from worried and naive to that of a femme fatale making her get away.

As Leigh pulls up to the infamous Bates Motel her doe eyed expression sweeps into a calculated mischievous smirk. Giving the audience a visual clue that not all of the characters are as innocent as they seem. Which brings me to my next highlighted face in this cavalcade of mystery. Anthony Perkins. A name where every syllable is slathered with talent. Perkins, of course, plays Norman Bates, the titular Psycho. From his classic good looks to his innocent façade Perkins plays unexpected creepy, and does it right, especially in the notorious parlor scene.

Which brings me to my next point — the cinematography. Psycho was one of the few films Hitchcock didn’t film in Technicolor (it’s not like he needed it). The classic monochromatic palette breathes life into the macabre plot. As Leigh and Perkins dive into the roles Hitchcock molded for them, they stretch into their skills like water heating up. They begin with a simmered back and forth banter which ultimately leads to a boiling crescendo when Norman reveals a small part of what’s haunting him underneath his calculated layers. Each shot is caressed with Hitchcock’s delicate paintbrush. The close-ups, the long shots, the fades are all meant to cause a chill down your spine. Perfection embodied is the only way to describe it.

Some chastise Hitchcock’s minor inconsistencies with the novel on which its based. However, I believe it is these changes that make the film so great. An improvement really, on an already unmarked surface. Who could take Da Vinci and make it better? I am more than certain Hitchcock would have, given the chance. When done right, a movie will always trump its novel, what better way to enliven a character than to raise them in flesh and blood? We all go a little mad sometimes, so why not recuperate with a viewing of this classic cinematic achievement? I think your mother would approve…} else {