By MARK TURNER
With the success of the EVIL DEAD remake I wonder if young movie-goers will understand the shock and outrage that came about with the initial release of Alfred Hitchcock's PSYCHO. In 1960 this film stunned audiences around the world with what was then extreme footage. Compared to today's films it was nothing but that's the thing about classic films. To watch them and to get out of them what the film maker intended you have to place yourself back at that time rather than view it from today's standards.
But apparently there was plenty going on behind the scenes with the creation of PSYCHO as well and that is the story behind the new DVD release HITCHCOCK. Not only that the film is also a love story of a great director and the woman that helped him reach the pinnacle of his career. The two themes work side by side to tell an interesting story that holds your interest from start to finish.
The film opens with Hitchcock (Anthony Hopkins) looking for a new project having just finished with the release of NORTH BY NORTHWEST to rather tame reviews. His wife Alma (Helen Mirren) is trying to get him to work with an old friend, Whitfield Cook (Danny Huston), who has a new book in the making. But Hitchcock is searching for something no one expects, no one has seen. Eventually he comes across something other studios are bypassing, a popular book called PSYCHO.
Based on the true life story of Ed Gein, a small town man who seemed rather easygoing but who was cannibalizing corpses and using body parts to decorate his home, Hitchcock sees something unique here. The problem is no studio will back the picture with the funds necessary to make it. Discussing this at home, Hitchcock and Alma decide to make the picture using their own funds. If the film is a success they can thumb their noses at the studio heads. If it fails, they lose all.
The production story told here revolves around Hitchcock's obsession with the blonde haired beauties that always took center stage in his films. While he never touched, he often found himself entranced by their beauty to the extent that he often times ignored the one woman who supported him from the start of his career to its end.
On the love story side we are witness to Alma's seemingly friendly interest in Whitfield. Working together in his secret beach house their efforts are truly platonic. Problems arise when Hitchcock finds Alma spending more time working there than on his project. His suspicions increase the more she's away to the point he actually becomes jealous, much the same feelings Alma has as he ogles the blondes in his films. Beneath the anger both have about their particular situations there is a deep love that lasted until their deaths.
The film is an interesting look behind the scenes of what became the biggest hit that Hitchcock had in his long career, a success he never exceeded. The main thing that makes it work is the performances by both lead actors here. Mirren offers a woman who loves her husband deeply yet feels ignored both by him and those who don't realize just how much she contributed to his success and she does it in both subtle and non-subtle ways. Hopkins turns in another outstanding performance as well. Where he could have simply done a caricature of Hitchcock he instead gives us the nuances that the man was known for but also displays the complexity and insecurity behind the genius that was there.
The movie was released but sparingly to theaters and has received little push on the DVD market as well. That's sad because my guess is there are few young people today who know exactly who Hitchcock was and the amazing films he made. Ask and if you're lucky they may know PSYCHO but not the other films he is known for. This movie would make a great starting point to get them interested in the man and his films. It's entertaining and informative and leaves you wanting more.
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