Good afternoon. If you do not know me, I am Gigi the parti poodle and I am the owner of a novelist. Specifically, the one who writes this blog. I had a splendid Halloween barking at children who took the treat bags my novelist put together and set outside the door so children could pick up Halloween goodies and social distance. That was great fun. I also lay on the couch near my novelist and watched Psycho. Unfortunately, the Maltese took part as well. It is an astounding film even to this day. I do not believe I should go into the motel business. However, at times I look at the Maltese and think I would not mind giving him a bit of a scare during his bath. Without further ado, here is my novelist.
I had the great pleasure of re-watching Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece Psycho this Halloween. What is so remarkable about the film isn’t just the masterful direction, the brilliant score, the spectacular set design, the extraordinary script (based on Robert Bloch’s novel) or the astonishing cinematography all of which were passed over for Oscars (it was nominated in four categories: Best Supporting Actress for Janet Leigh, Best Director for Alfred Hitchcock, Best Cinematography for John L. Russell and Best Art Direction for Robert Clatworthy, George Milo and Joseph Hurley). What stands out for me about this film is the accuracy with which both Norman Bates and Marion Crane’s psychology are executed.
Now this is not just based on the acting, although the acting here is iconic. It’s the details and every facet of their existence in the film. Marion is shown as competent, intelligent, attractive and normal. Familiar even. The name in Hebrew means “bitter” and the name in French means “little beloved”. In contrast is Marion’s sister Lila. Her name means “night”. In the first scene in the hotel room we see Marion wearing a white brassiere and slip as she rolls around in bed and converses with her boyfriend Sam Loomis. Sam must give most of his money away in alimony which keeps he and Marion from getting married and their affair secret. Marion is also in her early thirties which in 1960 would add to the desperation. She is not yet married. In her mind Sam is her last chance.
The fairy godmother character comes in the strange form of her boss’s client, an unlikable misogynist named Tom Cassidy. He has $40,000 he wants her boss to put into the bank for his eighteen-year-old daughter who is about to get married which Marion offers to do. Remember, Marion is in her early thirties and this guy’s daughter is eighteen. I can’t imagine that didn’t sting just as much as Cassidy’s unwanted flirting. Also note in this same scene Marion is dressed in white just like she was in the hotel room.
Under normal circumstances Marion would have taken the money to the bank. Someone with her personality would do so. But desperation forces her to make an uncharacteristic choice. Instead she feigns a headache, takes the money and drives home to pack her bags and head for Sam in California. Note that while she packs her bags, she is no longer wearing a white brassiere and slip. She has instead changed into a black brassiere and slip. This is symbolic of a couple of things. One is Marion’s shift from a logistical person to someone trying to be tactical. Secondly her contrast with her sister whom we have not yet met but has been mentioned in her conversation in the hotel room with Sam. Innocence and impurity. And finally, life and death. Looming in the background of course is a shower.
Marion’s conscience haunts her on her route to Sam. She becomes tired and pulls off the road where a policeman finds her. She talks to him and manages to drive away but is concerned she may get caught. She finds a used car dealership and looks for a new car in exchange for hers. But the policeman is not far behind. He parks across the street, leans against the car and watches her. Marion becomes more desperate. She offers the salesman more than the car she wants to trade hers for is worth. She excuses herself and goes to the bathroom to retrieve the proper amount of money to secure the car and get out.
As she drives her paranoia helps her brain to concoct conversations, ones she imagines the policeman and the car salesman are having about her. Marion has committed a crime and now she is beginning to project her thoughts onto other people. Sound familiar? Marion and Norman are mirror characters. They may be on opposite sides of sanity, but they parallel each other.
The character Norman is based on real life serial killer Ed Gein, who was a profoundly disturbed and heinous man who liked to perform his own version of taxidermy. In order to make this a tolerable observation of Ed’s habbits, Marion’s last name is Crane and Norman happens to have a collection of stuffed birds. Norman’s traits are, for a film made in 1960, remarkably accurate for a psychopath. His stutter for one. Psychopaths tend to double words in their speech. This is a relatively new discovery and yet, here is a film made fifty plus years before that research depicting this trait. Also, Norman is constantly eating and offering food. Psychopaths have essentially three things they focus on: sex, money and food also a relatively new discovery. And here the movie depicts Norman’s fixation on food. And we know he fixates on sex made obvious by varying observations especially the peephole from his office to Marion’s room where we see Marion take off her clothes and once again we see her in a black brassier and slip indicating not that Norman looks at her with love but rather with lust.
Norman is also twitchy and jittery. Psychopaths are often misdiagnosed with ADD at an early age. One great scene depicting Norman’s twitchiness is when he and Sam have a conversation at the motel. Hitchcock made certain to put Norman’s tapping forefinger in the forefront of the shot.
You can check out my books Chicane and the first two books in my Musicology book series Musicology: Volume One, Baby! andMusicology: Volume Two, Kid!on Amazon in Kindle and Paperback editions. You can also check out Musicology’s web site at www.musicologyrocks.com and vote for who you think will will Musicology!!!
STREAM OF THE WEEK: MARNIE (1964)-Peacock
In a salute to Sean Connery I thought I would offer up one of my favorite films of his. Wonderfully it is also directed by Alfred Hitchcock and stars Tippi Hedren. If you watch the trailer to this film, you will hear Hitchcock say, “Marnie is a very difficult picture to classify.” It is indeed. Marnie is a young woman who appears harmless. But she is anything but. In fact, she has a passion for embezzlement and lying. But unlike Marion in Psycho Marnie does not appear to have guilt about her crimes. When she steals from the wrong firm a complex and sinister young partner named Mark figures out what she has done and hunts her down. Because that is what Mark does, he hunts. If Marnie tries to leave him, she’ll go to prison. If she stays, she remains his prey. Marnie is based on the book by Winston Graham.
SMART MOVIES FOR SMART KIDS: The Adams Family (1991)-Netflix
Although Halloween is over, I still think this is a fun film for kids. Steeping in droll humor, The Adams Family is about the famous eccentric family sans Uncle Fester (Christopher Lloyd) who appears to have gone missing for twenty or so years. Realizing this a con artist (Dan Hedaya) joins forces with a woman named Abigale Craven (Elizabeth Wilson) to have her strange adult son (also Christopher Lloyd) pretend to be Uncle Fester in order to cheat the Adams Family out of a large sum of money. But they underestimate the charm and wit of Gomez (Raul Julia), his wife Morticia (Angelica Houston) and their two lovely children Pugsley (Jimmy Workman) and Wednesday (Christina Ricci) all of whom make “Uncle Fester” feel right at home.
SCREENWRITINGU FREE CLASS FRIDAY: GREAT CHARACTER; GREAT SCENE
You can sign up for the class here. The class is at 12:00 Noon PST this Friday 11/6.