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The Santa Fe New Mexican (17/Feb/1995) - See 'Psycho' on the big screen; never shower again



See 'Psycho' on the big screen; never shower again

The Master of Suspense is coming to Santa Fe. Three classic Alfred Hitchcock films — Vertigo , Psycho and The Birds — will be shown at The Lensic Theater, 211 W. San Francisco, in a weeklong festival to benefit the United Way of Santa Fe. Tickets are $7.

"It's part of my master plan to feed the children of the world," said Todd Stangland Nowasell, who organized the event. "People often feel that they can't do anything to help, but we have to put some effort into it. I guess I'm on a sort of crusade."

Enlisting the aid of Hitchcock for such a crusade may seem a bit odd, but the dark side of life appeals to Stangland Nowasell, just as it did to Hitchcock. As assistant manager of the Lensic, Stangland Nowasell felt sure that a cinematic revival of Hitchcock's work would appeal to local moviegoers. He spent months trying to convince United Artists management that such a festival could be popular.

The Lensic was built in 1930 as a vaudeville and movie house. The theater rarely revives old films, though they did present Casablanca (1943) as part of a 50th celebration of the film in 1993. The theater seems an appropriate venue for Hitchcock's films, and Stangland Nowasell feels that even though these films have been available on television and video, movie buffs don't get the full impact unless they seen them on the big screen.

"One thing I hate is when people say to me about a movie, 'Oh, I'll wait for it to come out on video,'. If you're going to see a movie, see it on the big screen. That's what the Lensic was built for. It's a very special environment, and it should be a premier venue for very special events."

Vertigo (1958) deals with detective John "Scottie" Ferguson (James Stewart), and his pursuit of an elusive woman, Madeline (Kim Novak), who may be possessed by the spirit of a long dead relative.

Probably best described as an early psychological thriller, Vertigo is unusual in that it offers up a movie hero with a deep fear of heights; a fear so strong that he cannot save Madeline's life when she throws herself off a church tower. But that's only half the story.

Psycho (1960) is perhaps the best known Hitchcock film. Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) manages the desolate Bates Motel. Unfortunately for bank embezzler Marion (Janet Leigh), she decides to spend the night there. The Bates Motel is the sort of place where the guests check in — but not out. The now classic shower scene has left scars on many people who have seen the film; even Janet Leigh admitted that she could never take another shower after seeing the final cut of the film.

Leigh wasn't the only one affected. "People who are buying tickets tell me that they won't take a shower because of the film," Stangland Nowasell said. "But still they're buying tickets to see it again. People are both attracted and repulsed at the same time by this film. It fascinates me that, 35 years later, that shower scene is still being talked about."

Rounding out the trio of films is The Birds (1963), a film Hitchcock spent three years preparing. The premise is simple — and startling: What if our little feathered friends decided to turn against us and peck our eyes out?

"Birds make excellent heavies," Hitchcock once said. "After all, they've been put in cages, shot and shoved in ovens for centuries. It's only natural that they should fight back."

And fight back they do, much to the dismay of the citizens of Bodega Bay, Calif.

Will the films still hold up today, in the era of slasher horror films and minute-by-minute media coverage of wars and murder trials? Stangland Nowasell believes that they will, primarily because Hitchcock allows audiences to use their imaginations — something that can conjure up more horrific images than anything CNN could bring you.

Stangland Nowasell hopes the event will bring the community together for several reasons. Not only does he hope to help United Way of Santa Fe, but he'd like to see Santa Fe develop its own annual film festival — preferably at the Lensic.

"Santa Fe needs a regular film festival," he said. "I'd like to see one here once or twice a year, with different themes and guest speakers. Hitchcock is a great way to kick off such a festival because his work is well known by everybody. I hope people come and scream and even throw popcorn. Because I'll be around to pick it up."