Review Date: November 15, 1999
Released by: Universal
Release date: 5/27/1998
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 1.85:1 | 16x9: No
Alfred Hitchcock's landmark horror film Psycho
is one of the films that formed the foundation for the horror genre. Psycho
has an important place in film history and not just the horror genre and it earned its place in the AFI top 100 films. At any rate if you wanted to see an Alfred Hitchcock film that gave him the title "Master of Suspense" Psycho
is as good as any.
In 1998 Universal Home Video released a Collector's Edition DVD of Psycho
along with a Signature Collection laserdisc with identical supplements. A film as great as Psycho
deserves a splendid DVD release and Universal doesn't disappoint presenting a beautiful looking transfer and a ton of supplements to enjoy. Lets take a closer look at the DVD.
Marion Crane (Janet Leigh
) is having an affair with Sam Loomis (John Gavin
) and wants to get married. Sam, however, is in debt and works and lives in a hardware store. Because of his financial situation Sam doesn't want to tie the not with Marion just yet. Naturally Marion is unhappy about this and dislikes having to meet Sam in cheap motels to spend time with him, but has no other choice. Marion is given a large sum of money ($40,000) at her job to deposit at the bank and just like that Marion thinks her troubles are over. In a moment of weakness she decides to steal the money with intentions of giving it to her lover Sam.
Marion leaves town in a hurry to find Sam and give him the money. However, she becomes extremely paranoid after coming across a policeman who found her behavior strange and suspicious. One night while driving a storm hits and Marion unable to see the road clearly decides to spend the night at a motel and wait out the storm. Attending to her needs is Motel manager Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins
), who's troubled by his vindictive and controlling mother. It seems Mothers not herself, which is too bad for Marion, who quickly discovers that when Norman says "she goes alittle mad sometimes" he means it.
Meanwhile Marion's sister Lila Crane (Vera Miles
), having learned her sister pocketed the $40,000 and disappeared, becomes concerned for her. She decides to meet with Sam to see if she went to him with the money. When Sam tells her he hasn't seen her the two along with a private investigator - Milton Arbogast (Martin Balsam
) - search for her. Their searches finally take them to the Bates Motel where they'll learn the shocking truth about Norman and his Mother.
without a doubt is one of my favorite horror/suspense films. In fact, if someone was to ask me what a persons first horror film experience should be I'd say Psycho
. The film has all the elements that make a great horror film. When I started out in the slasher genre the Nightmare on Elm Street
and Friday the 13th
s of the world were my first exposure to the genre, and while they are great and good respectively, Psycho
is a better rounded horror film. The film is not necessarily gory, but it is suggestively violent. Shot in B&W the film is not necessarily colorful either, but the stark images seem to speak volumes in the same manner as a film like Psycho
I think Psycho
is great for many reasons; first there's an actual story cleverly crafted that really gives you a great deal of background information on all the main characters. You really feel for Marion Crane and understand her reasoning behind taking the money and the easy way out. You also care for Norman Bates a part, which is brilliantly played by Anthony Perkins. He's so plausible and believable that when the big "revealing" at the end of the film your stunned but at the same time you saw it coming through some of his memorable lines - "we all go a little mad sometimes" comes to mind.
also has some scenes that unfortunately overshadow many other equally good moments in the film. Whenever someone thinks of Psycho
they probably remember the shower scene or the finale. Two great scenes that are still as powerful today as they were 40 years ago for sure, but when I think of Psycho
I think of Anthony Perkins performance and the dialogue sequences between him and Janet Leigh. Those are my favorite moments from the film. Finally, lets not forget Psycho
's amazing score. Composed by Bernard Herrmann it's one of the films strongest points and indeed gives the film an edgy feel.
A good way to see the difference a score can make to a film is to see the shower scene without music, which is a supplement on the DVD.
Universal Home Video presents Psycho
1.85:1 in it's original widescreen ratio; it is not enhanced for 16:9 viewing. Psycho
underwent a great restoration and the overall image is spectacular. The opening titles exhibit a fair amount of nics and scratches, but once the film starts there are hardly any throughout the remainder of the film. Shadow detail is excellent and depth of field is surprisingly good for a film this age. Whites are clean and blacks are solid.
Being a non-anamorphic disc the amount of detail and sharpness is very good everything appears in focus and I noted no shots that appeared soft. The detail is really great and is most noticeable in scenes like the hardware store or inside the Bates house everything is visible and well defined. Grain was also in check throughout the film very little is apparent during the presentation. This transfer could have really been something had it been 16:9 enhanced as it stands now the DVD has a pretty good transfer though limited by not being enhanced for 16:9 TVs. A nice effort by Universal, but why they excluded 16:9 enhancement on this (and another great horror DVD The Thing
) disc is beyond me.
The soundtrack to Psycho
is one of the best parts about the film. The Dolby Digital soundtrack is excellent, though a bit muffled at times. There is also a 2.0 mono soundtrack included on the DVD.
This is a prime example of a collector's edition that really deserves the title "Collector's Edition". I think terms like collector's or special editions are being used to loosely nowadays when many don't offer anything significant for ones money. Universal always does a good job of putting extensive supplements that really heighten the films experience and Psycho
is no exception.
First there's an excellent documentary "The Making of Psycho
". It's an intimate look into the making of the film and features interviews with many key members of the cast and crew. Among them are actress Janet Leigh, Assistant Director Hilton A. Green, screen writer Joseph Stefano, assistant to Alfred Hitchcock Peggy Robertson, Alfred Hitchcock's Daughter Pat Hitchcock, head of Wardrobe Rita Riggs and Clive Barker. The documentary is very thorough going through everything from pre-production to post production. Much mention is made of the novel and adapting it for the film; interesting enough the character of Norman Bates is very different in the novel and the murders are more gruesome.
Joseph Stefano talks about his experiences working with Alfred Hitchcock and his work writing the screen play. The documentary also pays close attention to the actors, their backgrounds, their experiences and how they came to be involved with the project. Also some mention is made of casting a "Mother" which was a hoax that paid off. Janet Leigh also has some funny behind the scenes info to share about the infamous shower scene as well as her personal experiences working with Mr. Hitchcock. The documentary is fantastic; one of the best I've ever seen next to Universal's The Thing
Documentary and the great Exorcist
documentary on the Exorcist DVD.
The DVD also contains an interesting theatrical trailer for Psycho
starring Alfred Hitchcock. He takes you on a tour of the house and the films locations. He also talks about the events of the film. It's quite funny and was done with the existing sets after the actual film was completed. It's a great supplement, one of my favorites on the disc. There are also 5 re-release trailers. Also included is Newsreel footage of the release of Psycho
, which has on location footage at theaters and mostly is about how the policy that no one be allowed into Psycho
after the start of the film was enforced.
Rounding out this release is the shower scene with and without music, The shower scene storyboards and extensive photo galleries of publicity photos, lobby cards and more. Notably missing is an audio commentary, but I'm going to score the supplements an A+ anyway.
is one of the greatest horror films of all time and this special edition doesn't disappoint in presenting the film in an excellent audio and visual experience. The supplements are also abundant and I was impressed with their quality. This DVD belongs in every horror fans library.
Movie - A
Image Quality - A-
Sound - B+
Supplements - A+
- Running Time - 1 hour 49 minutes
- Rated R
- 1 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- English Dolby Digital 5.1
- 2 channel Mono sound
- The Making of Psycho Documentary
- Newsreel Footage o the Release of Psycho
- Theatrical Trailer
- Re-Release Trailers
- Shower Scene with and without music
- Shower Scene Storyboards
- Photo Galleries