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Weekly Standard (2009) - A Master's Stroke




Review of "The Moment of Psycho: How Alfred Hitchcock Taught America to Love Murder" - by David Thomson

Torture porn refers to a subgenre of horror films primarily obsessed with showing, in graphic detail, the horrible suffering a human body can absorb, embodied most succinctly by the Saw series. Thomson probably overemphasizes Psycho's role in breaking down the censorship regime with regard to sex - foreign and art house films were largely operating without the restraints imposed by domestic ratings boards and thriving as a result -but Marion Crane's bloody death was certainly a key moment in the evolution of just how much viscera could be exposed to the audience.


A Master's Stroke

America checks out at the Bates Motel.

The Moment of Psycho How Alfred Hitchcock Taught America to Love Murder by David Thomson Basic, 192 pp., $22.95

It's summer 1960 — June, to be exact — and you're looking to escape the heat beating down on the city streets: Why not retire to the local cinema and take in a movie under the refrigerated air conditioning? And look! the new Hitchcock movie is just about to start. Good timing on your pan since the portly Englishman has decreed no one shall enter a screening once the movie has begun.

We're dealing with pretty standard fare — slightly risqué, perhaps, with Janet Leigh's Marion Crane shown in her bra a couple of times, but nothing too special. She's engaged in a major theft from her employer, skipping Phoenix with the illicit proceeds and looking for a place to hole up on the way to Fairvale, California.

Ah, look! she's pulling into a motel for the night, just as that mtimidating police officer suggested she do. And here's the hotelkeeper, a slight little thing with a jaunty gait and an awkward way of speaking. He's shy, a mama's boy who endures the old woman's shrill taunts, becoming aggravated when they're noticed by the attractive young woman who has washed up on his motel steps.

Norman is his name and, although kind, there's something just a little off about him. Still, his honest manner has impressed Marion, convincing her to return to Phoenix a...

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