Within the world of horror films and films in general it's difficult to think of a movie that is more recognizable and well renowned than the Alfred Hitchcock classic, Psycho. This movie is such an enduring classic because it's an absolute master class in horror film making, and its twists and turns are still as surprising today as they were in the year that Psycho was made.
Alfred Hitchcock is undeniably the most talented and creative horror filmmaker in the annals of film history, and Psycho is without question his magnum opus. However, it took a lot of work to get Psycho to where it is today, and before the film was released many people thought it was going to be a forgettable B-movie that was just another entry into Hitchcock's insanely long resume. Obviously, it wasn't. And although few movies have been analyzed and pored over as much as Psycho has, there are still details in the movie that are very easy to miss. So here are 10 details that you probably never spotted in Psycho.
10 Coming Late To The Party
Psycho is such an effective horror movie masterpiece for a few reasons, but one of the biggest is the mere fact that the movie sets up it's audience with some specific expectations and then completely defies those expectations, making the mysteries and scares even more powerful.
Obviously Janet Leigh as the headlining actress who barely makes it a third of the way through the film was a masterful stroke by Alfred Hitchcock, but he made the movie doubly surprising with Anthony Perkins and Vera Miles as well. Although Anthony Perkins was first billed, he doesn't appear in the movie until almost a half an hour in, while the second-billed Vera Miles doesn't appear until almost an hour in.
9 A Striking Similarity
Although Psycho star Anthony Perkins couldn't be more clearly different from his movie counterpart, Norman Bates, he does have a somewhat unfortunate commonality between this mother obsessed weirdo. At one point, Norman explains to Marion that his mother has been raising him on her own since he was five years old, after his father tragically passed away.
Anthony Perkins' real life experience is pretty much identical to Norman's. He was raised by his single mother from the time that he was five years old, because his father also tragically passed away. Both Norman and Anthony were only children, so it really was just him and his mother.
8 A Black And White Masterpiece
Although Psycho was filmed long after color films had become an industry standard for higher end films, Alfred Hitchcock decided on making Psycho a black and white film for a few reasons.
Firstly, he thought that the movie would be too gory in color. And secondly, after seeing how many inexpensive B-Movies managed to do very well at the box office, he wanted to elevate the genre a bit and see how well it could perform with a little extra effort. Aside from being less expensive, the black and white filming was convenient because Hitchcock actually used Bosco chocolate syrup in place of blood, which would have looked absurd in color but looked great in black and white.
7 The Real Life Mama's Boy
Psycho clearly tells the fictional story of Norman Bates and his obsession with his mother, but the character was actually inspired by a real life serial murderer by the name of Ed Gein. Gein was a killer in Wisconsin who actually exhumed bodies and made bizarre trophies out of their remains, and his relationship with his mother seems to be a big inspiration for Norman Bates' character in the film.
After the deaths of everyone else in their immediate family, Gein and his mother Augusta lived alone on their farm. Augusta was in poor health after having a stroke, and Gein became obsessively devoted to her care.
6 Shower Dangers
Janet Leigh's scene in the shower where her character is murdered by the mysterious, titular psycho is one of the most iconic and memorable movie scenes in film history. While Janet Leigh reportedly had no problems filming the scene at the time, when she actually saw the completed film she realized how uncomfortably vulnerable people (especially women) can be in the shower.
As a result of seeing the movie, Leigh reportedly quit taking showers and took baths from that time literally until the end of her life. Considering how much of an impact that specific scene seemed to have on people, it clear likely that she wasn't the only one affected by it.
5 Shrill Shrieking
Even people who aren't big fans of film are aware of the fact that Alfred Hitchcock was an absolute master of filmmaking. But Hitchcock's attention to detail when it came to selling his characters and his narrative was truly unparalleled. In one of the earlier scenes with Norman, Norman realizes that there has been a murder and hysterically shouts at his mother.
In order to make Norman seem even younger and more innocent, Alfred Hitchcock actually had his sound technicians remove the bass tones from Anthony Perkins' voice during that particular scene in order to make him sound more like a scared teenage boy.
4 An Interesting Movie First
In one quirky little detail in Psycho, the flushing of a toilet plays a somewhat prominent role in a particular scene, and it was very intentionally put there by the film's writer. Joseph Stefano wrote the screenplay to Psycho, and he was adamant that the toilet flushing scene needed to be in the film.
Director Alfred Hitchcock told him that if he wanted it to be there then he had to make that clear in the script, so Stefano wrote a scene that basically couldn't avoid showing the toilet. And incidentally, the toilet flush in Psycho is the first flushing toilet shown in an American feature film.
3 An Incorrect Urban Legend
One of the most famous tales behind the making of the movie Psycho is that the movie's director threw ice cold water on actress Janet Leigh in order to elicit an appropriately shocked scream during the shower scene.
But both Hitchcock and Leigh agree that this never actually happened, and the shower water was warm and comfortable the entire time. Leigh even quipped that she just actually acted for the scene. The theory is that this story originated with the Universal Studios tour where the Bates Motel is one of the most popular stops, and that the tour guides were just looking for something interesting to tell attendees.
2 Doomed To Fail
Alfred Hitchcock was incredibly passionate about Psycho and he was extremely ardent about making the film, but the studio didn't offer him a lot of support. Paramount Pictures, the studio that was producing Psycho, gave Hitchcock a very small budget to work with, so much so that the director deferred his payment in exchange for a percentage of the movie's profits.
The studio had little faith in the movie's performance, so they readily agreed and offered him 60% of the movie's gross as his payment. The movie was obviously a huge hit, and Hitchcock made an absolute fortune.
1 An Unexpected Villain
Psycho is based on a novel of the same name by writer Robert Bloch. But in his novel, the character of Norman Bates is drastically different from the film version. Originally, Norman is a middle-aged, overweight, unattractive, and unlikable loner. But Alfred Hitchcock decided to metaphorically and literally flip the script by making Norman into a young, handsome, and endearing man.
Hitchcock believed that the movie would be more effective if Norman was the boy next door that no one would ever suspect of something so heinous. This, Hitchcock believed, would make the ending far more shocking than if Norman was clearly an unappealing creep from the get-go.