- Year: 1960
- Country: USA
- ''Production: Shamley, 109m B&W
- Director: Alfred Hitchcock
- Producer: Alfred Hitchcock
- Screenplay: Joseph Stefano, from the novel by Robert Bloch
- Photography: John L. Russell
- Music: Bernard Herrmann
- Cast: Anthony Perkins, Vera Miles, John Gavin, Martin Balsam, John McIntire, Simon Oakland, Vaughn Taylor, Frank Albertson, Lurene Tuttle, Patricia Hitchcock, Janet Leigh
- Oscar Noms: Best Director, Best Supporting Actress, Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography
One of the most famous movies of all time, and quite possibly the most influential horror film in history, Psycho traded the supernatural beings of the genre's past – vampires, werewolves, zombies, and the like – for an all-too-human monster. The film made "Norman Bates" a household name and guaranteed its director's status as the master of suspense.
Adapated by Joseph Stefano from a creepy but forgettable novel by Robert Bloch, who based the character of Norman on a real-life Wisconsin serial killer, Ed Gein, Psycho tells the story of Marion Crane, an attractive young woman who steals $40,000 from her place of work. She leaves town without a plan, except a vague desire to shack up with her married boyfriend. Driving all night in the rain, she finally stops at a roadside motel, where the manager is an awkward but nice-enough young man named Norman (played to quirky perfection by Anthony Perkins). In a shocking twist that had audiences at the time literally screaming in the aisles, Marion is stabbed to death while taking a shower that evening by what looks like an old lady with a foot-long carving knife. Shrieking violins on the soundtrack (Composed by Hitchcock regular Bernard Herrmann) punctuate the terrifying attack. Never before had the central character of a commercial movie been killed off so brutally less than halfway through the film. After an insurance detective assigned to the case, Milton Arbogast (Martin Balsam), gets snuffed out as well, Marion's sister Lila (Vera Miles) and boyfriend Sam Loomis (John Gavin) track her to the Bates family home up the road from the motel. They discover that the killer is actually Norman, a homicidal, cross-dressing schizophrenic who makes himself up just like his dead mother whenever sexual or threatening feelings arise. Although a police-employed psychologist (Simon Oakland) "explains" the cause of Norman's illness at the film's end, there can be little doubt that whatever truly motivates him lies beyond the ability of rational minds to comprehend.
When Psycho first opened, it received mostly lukewarm reviews from critics – though better by a mile than the venom that greeted Michael Powell's eerily similar Peeping Tom, also released in 1960. Public reaction to the film was staggering, however, with people lining up around the block for tickets. Generating additional buzz was Hitchcock's newly initiated "special policy" of not allowing anyone to enter the theater after Psycho's opening credits had run. Clearly this British-born filmmaker had found a way of tapping directly into America's collective psyche: By making his monster so very normal, and by uniting sex, madness, and murder in one spooky and sordid tale, he effectively predicted the headlines of many of the coming decades' top news stories. The success of Psycho led to three forgettable "sequels", including one directed by Perkins himself in 1986 – a colorized experiment that nonetheless paled in comparison with Hitchcock's black-and-white original.