The Murder that Changed the Movies

Fifty years ago, death on the silver screen was typically quite decorous. Women swooned and expired in their beds, surrounded by sobbing intimates and backed by angelic musical chords. Men often died more violently, clutching their hearts on the battlefield yet spilling nary a drop of blood. And anyone who was murdered – gangsters and “bad” girls, for instance – generally got what they deserved, as decreed by Hollywood and the censors who routinely policed its business.
Then came the murder that broke all the rules and changed American movies forever. And with respect to cinematic violence – particularly the targeting of women – we’re still debating whether that change was for the better.
Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, shot in four weeks for $800,000 and released nationwide 50 years ago this month, earned few plaudits at the time. One reviewer called it “a blot on an honorable career,” while others veritably retched onto the page. Time magazine lamented “one of the messiest, most nauseating murders ever filmed. At close range, the camera watches every twitch, gurgle, convulsion, and hemorrhage…. The nausea never disappears.” And Bosley Crowther of the New York Times did not intend praise when he warned, “You had better have a pretty strong stomach.”

Read the rest on


Tags: Anthony Perkins, Hitchcock, Janel Leigh, Norman Bates, Psycho, cinema, film, movies

Views: 7

Replies to This Discussion

Might this also have been one of cinema's first forays into blunt realism? An admission that shit does indeed happen in the real world and violence is committed against women, and if you doubt that, here it is in your face?
Possibly. I was born post Psycho, but it does strike me that older movies often were quite unrealistic. Not to say modern movies aren't though, but the older ones were kind of naive.
"At close range, the camera watches every twitch, gurgle, convulsion, and hemorrhage…. "

That's funny - I remember distinctly, the knife is never shown actually contacting the actress; there are a few shots where the knife is shown in front of her body, in an action that suggests stabbing, but in a very theatrical way. The sound effects were pretty gruesome, which no doubt had an impact.

Emotionally, it's a terrific scene in a terrific movie.

Hitchcock became much more explicit with his violence soon afterwards, in color, in The Birds.
I'm guessing these reviews were made at the time the movie was released? Nowadays it is pretty tame. I really liked the movie. It surprised me in how open it was about sexual things. Violence and sexual things had more impact and surprise in the movies before they were commonplace.

I also saw another black and white movie that I thought might be Hitchcock--the end scene has a merry-go-round and some killer shoots the operator and then the merry-go-round goes dangerously fast and an old guy has to crawl underneath the ride to get to the lever to turn it off. Does anyone know what that movie is? Sorry for the tangent.
Yes, they were from back then.


Support Atheist Nexus

Donate Today



Help Nexus When You Buy From Amazon


Nexus on Social Media:

© 2015   Atheist Nexus. All rights reserved. Admin: Richard Haynes.

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service