Favorite Horror Films of the 1960s: Psycho




It is time to both revisit and move forward with my series on horror films. Psycho (1960) is a Paramount Film that was both produced and directed by Alfred Hitchcock and was based on the novel Psycho by Robert Bloch.  This movie stands as one of the best, not only horror but American, films as a whole. Hitchcock is, without a doubt, an auteur, one of the great Masters of American cinema, and this film had huge influence on the creation of slasher films and psychopathic villains in films.

The film revolutionized the way the public viewed evil; it did not have to be supernaturally based nor a radiation caused event; rather, Hitchcock established that the human mind and life experience could create more frightening monsters than vampires and werewolves. These are people who suffered horror, and their creators were other people, at least in most cases of psychopathology.



Psycho had an exemplary cast. Among the actors were Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, Martin Balsam, and Vera Miles. All gave extraordinary performances in this movie.  From the deeply disturbing opening sequence of the murder in the shower to the end revelation of Norman Bates’ level of insanity, the film is a masterpiece of cinema.

Hitchcock’s cinematic formalism is evident in his complete control of every detail of each shot. This is a film that is created with the planned brushstrokes of a master artist. The power of the murder scene in the Bates Motel bathroom is so strong that many people watch it and believe they have seen much more than they actually have.  Hitchcock never shows the killer’s knife entering the body of Marion Crane, played by Janet Leigh.  Hitchcock’s use of careful angles and reaction shots as the young women is being murdered makes the viewers perceive more than is being shown on the screen.  The effect is far more powerful than later films which would rely primarily on gore to have an impact and not on story and cinematic technique.



It is also interesting to note that the first victim, Marion Crane, was a woman who had committed a crime, in the theft of a substantial amount of money from her boss.  Hitchcock would establish this pattern that was too often used to the point of becoming cliched that the so-called “bad” girl was the one to be killed.  Additionally, if Norman Bates is also viewed as a victim of the circumstances of his own life, then the film focuses primarily on the impact of these crimes on the young.  This is certainly not exclusive; others who are older are also attacked, but Hitchcock seemed to be exploring the effect of this horror on the younger generation. Perhaps he also understood that group was the primary audience for his film.

Psycho made an extraordinary profit at the box office, and it was nominated for several Academy Awards.  Its legacy is well established. Norman Bates is a character who has grown past this film and entered into the public’s awareness through other remakes and adaptations, and many of the motifs of horror/slasher/gothic films are derived from this movie.

Psycho must be seen as one of the best films in American cinema, and Hitchcock is one of the American film masters. If you have not seen this movie and are prepared for powerful images and shocks, then I recommend it highly. It is one of the best films of all time.


33 thoughts on “Favorite Horror Films of the 1960s: Psycho

  1. sportsattitudes

    Charles, I can’t imagine what it was like for lucky patrons to see this movie in a theater, the way great cinema is meant to be seen. I saw Jaws in a theater and still remember how that stuck with me. I wish I had seen Psycho in person as I’m sure my reactions would have been similar. Absolutely one of the best movies of all time. Great tribute to it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I had the pleasure of seeing Psycho on the big screen. I come from a small town, and our only theater showed old movies. I was a small child when Psycho was made, but a teenager when it saw it.
    Hitchcock was a master. I have seen most of his movies and the old TV series, plus read the anthologies put out under his name.
    And I must say, I thoroughly enjoyed the first two seasons of Bates Motel, and am looking forward to the third.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I think it is on A&E. It covers Norman’s early years when his mother was alive, starts out when she buys the motel. In my opinion, it’s a good series, and the young man playing Norman rivals Anthony Perkins in his performance. It goes into its 3rd season in mid-March. Btw, Norman’s mother’s name is Norma, and they are very close. Norman has an older brother also. It think the series compliments the movie.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I agree that Hitchcock was a Master of suspense and horror however after watching interviews with actress Tippi Hedren and hearing what Hitchcock put her through during the making of The Birds, it changed my opinion of the man. He definitely had a very dark side to him and he took advantage of his power and position in Hollywood to bully his leading ladies. There is a movie about Tippi Hedren/Hitcock and the making of The Birds called ‘The Girl’. For example, the scene in the attic where Tippi is attacked by birds…she was told by Hitchcock that they would use mechanical birds, however when Tippi entered the set for this scene, the birds were real and they actually attacked her. The blood you see on Tippi’s face in the film is real. Hitchcock made her redo the scene many times though she was terrified. There’s a lot more to the story and if you want to know the real Hitchcock, I recommend you watch ‘The Girl’.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Sarah

    You’re right, Psycho did depart from the traditional perceptions of evil, shifting from fear of external forces to a more intimate threat behind closed doors. I’ve never really thought of that before. Hitchcock was a genius at not only creating tension, but his films are magnificent to look at too.

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  6. Alfred Hitchcock was the master. He understood that people create their own fear and he never needed outlandish external elements. Psycho still creeps me out, and I always feel uneasy when I see Anthony Perkins. Then, my husband is totally freaked at large flocks of birds. To this day. It was his first Hitchcock movie on the big screen. Mine was Marnie. Have you seen it? Thanks for a great review!


  7. Reblogged this on K. D. Dowdall and commented:
    Psycho is perhaps one of the most terrifying movie masterpiece’s every made, write’s Dr. French, especially for the time period it was produced. Professor French writes with an astute understanding regarding the here-to-for now clichéd rationale that a thieving woman can be viciously can be murdered on film – not as victim, not as heroine, but as the bad girl. Hitchcock’s movie in many ways changed terror movie-making forever. via https://charlesfrenchonwordsreadingandwriting.wordpress.com/2016/02/28/favorite-horror-films-of-the-1960s-psycho/


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