One of the most famous movie scenes ever and how it could be avoided.

3 min read

Even if you’ve never seen the movie Psycho you’ve probably seen, heard or seen a copy/parody of one if its most famous scenes. This happens within the first half an hour in a shower. It’s shocking for a number of reasons. First of all, the director is Alfred Hitchcock a man known for producing clever work that was always out to confound the viewer or put an unexpected spin on a film that would deeply unsettle them. With this sequence and scene, the audience were actually set to be quite traumatised. The film and the scene have deeply affected and influenced other film makers years on. It can especially be seen in Game of Thrones.

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Let me just say Spoiler alert before we begin as is the custom! The film starts with the famous actress Janet Leigh turning up at a roadside stopover called the Bates Motel. She signs in and although he appears a bit social awkward the man behind the counter and owner is suitably charming enough. She goes to her room and begins to get ready for a shower and bed. Unbeknownst to her is observed the whole time via a secret hole in the wall. What is unsettling is that Hitchcock films the scene through the hole. We see a shot of the views eye then we become that eyes view. It’s an unpleasant voyeurism view that makes us feel a bit compliant in what is about to happen even though we are just observers. We then get a of Janet Leigh in the shower and then a figure enters unheard by the actress and only seen in shadow so that we can barely pick out the details. She meets an unfortunate end and if 8mm shower glass panels had been added like the ones available at then the scene would not work.

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It was a shock to the audience as they would not have been expecting the end of Janet Leigh’s character who they thought was the main star of the piece. The whole story was set up and building for it to be about her on the run from her crooked boyfriend. The audience thought he was the Psycho of the title and the story suddenly turning out to be about Anthony Perkins, the villain Bates, who was not that well known as an actor was a total but watchable surprise.  This disarming start and the music for the scene has become iconic but so is the idea to through the audience out early on by showing them that in this film no one is safe. Interestingly Leigh’s daughter Jamie Lee Curtis would also be in a similar situation but would survive it in John Carpenters Halloween.

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