Book #4

Psycho: Behind the Scenes of the Classic Thriller by Janet Leigh & Christopher Nickens

Janet Leigh writes about her experience making the film, and about her career before and after Psycho. Christopher Nickens adds some cinema history and context.

The best part is Janet Leigh’s interviews with the surviving members of the cast and crew, and even friends and family members of the crew. Of course, written in 1994, the voice sorely missing is that of Anthony Perkins.

After finishing this book yesterday and watching the 1998 remake today,  I’ve come to believe that it really was the acting (as perhaps the extension of Alfred Hitchcock’s directing) that made the 1960 version of Psycho what it is. The dialogue is the same between the versions; perhaps 80% of the camera shots are the same. Yet, this is not Shakespeare. You need the right players to give the characters depth. Janet Leigh makes us believe that it’s uncharacteristic for Marion to steal the money even though we’ve only known the Marion for 10-ish minutes. We’re sympathetic to her despite her foibles. Anne Heche doesn’t do as good of a job at giving the viewer a way in to the film.  (Similarly, Anthony Perkins’ Norman Bates is charming and a little pathetic. Vince Vaughn, while generally under-appreciated as a dramatic actor, plays Bates a little too creepy.)

I picked this book on a whim. It was a quick read; fun for a fan of the film.


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