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Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Hitchcock, PSYCHO, and Phoenix

ALFRED HITCHCOCK HOLDING THE CLAPPER BOARD DURING FILMING OF PSYCHO IN 1960
Alfred Hitchcock was a genius in the movie industry and television. Although he died in 1980 at age 80, many younger movie fans know him from his works being shown on TV and at film festivals. For those of us who saw his work in first release, we were able to see him gain stature in the entertainment business through the years.

To most movie fans, the most remembered films of Hitchcock are probably Vertigo (1958), North by Northwest (1959), and Psycho (1960). My personal favorite is Psycho because, not only is it a great movie with all the Hitchcock twists and turns, but it was done on a low budget, involved Phoenix, and contained some innovations that changed the style of how films were made and marketed in its era.

We know the opening scene where downtown Phoenix is panned but did you know that Janet Leigh’s character’s name had to be changed from Mary Crane to Marion Crane because there was a Mary Crane in the Phoenix phone book? Also, most of the highway scenes were done in California although when Leigh drives out of town, she is supposedly in downtown Phoenix although none of the actors or Hitchcock were ever here.

Psycho was a low budget film costing only $800,000 so Hitchcock had to let us know that the date in the movie was December 11 as Phoenix had Christmas decorations on the streets at that time and the cost to remove them by his crew for the film would have been too much.

Another innovation of Hitchcock’s was to have the star (Leigh) get eliminated early in the film. Because of that he insisted on having theaters not allow seating after the film began. By doing this it removed the complaints of those who showed up late to see Janet Leigh only to discover that her part in the movie was over.

In spite of several bad reviews, Psycho was a huge hit proving that word of mouth can overrule the critics in most cases. The combination of Hitchcock’s direction, a fine cast including great character actors of the day getting a chance to shine, Phoenix locations, and Bernard Herrmann’s eerie musical score, made Psycho a film as enjoyable today as when it was released in 1960.

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