Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Psycho (1960)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Psycho (1960)

In Alfred Hitchcock's ground-breaking horror thriller:

  • the opening shots were views of 1960s Phoenix as the camera above the city slowly descended into the window of a motel (not the first motel in the film!)
  • in a furtive, lunchtime love-making scene, real estate office secretary Marion Crane (Oscar-nominated Janet Leigh) in white bra and half-slip, was with her shirtless lover/fiancee Sam Loomis (John Gavin) who was experiencing financial difficulties (both his dead father's debts and alimony payments to his ex-wife)
  • worried about marital prospects after the tryst, there were tense shots of Marion's face - as she fled town in her car (after embezzling $40,000 from her real estate office) - at a stoplight where she was paused, her boss Mr. Lowery (Vaughn Taylor) gave her a puzzled look as he glanced at her as he crossed the intersection in front of her
  • in Marion's apartment, a tracking shot linked her packed suitcase to the envelope stuffed with money
  • after sleeping by the side of the road, a California state trooper Patrolman (Mort Mills), with frightening dark glasses, stared at Marion through her car window, and interrogated her on the side of the road
  • that Saturday evening, Marion was tormented by menacing, inner monologues from off-screen voices - her disintegrating mental state and self-destructive conscience (and physical weariness) caused her to look inward and punish herself - as she imagined and forecast events leading up to her capture
  • through Marion's rainy windshield, she spotted a sign for a secluded, off-road Bates Motel, and noticed a haunted-looking Gothic house behind the motel
  • she met the motel's proprietor-manager Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins), and signed her name as "Marie Samuels" in his register; the nervous, amateur taxidermist son invited her to his back parlor to eat and engage in conversation with Marion amidst his stuffed birds
  • the psychotic, disturbed "mother's boy" was dominated by his jealous 'mother', rumored to be in the Gothic house on the hillside behind the dilapidated, remote motel.
The Back Parlor Scene
  • Norman perversely peeped through a hole in the wall at Marion undressing in her hotel room; she had obviously made the decision to return the stolen money the next day
"Peeping Tom" Voyeurism of Norman on Marion in Hotel Room
  • in the film's shocking, carefully-edited, dialogue-less shower murder scene, a blurry female figure wielding a knife high in the air entered Marion's bathroom as she showered. The scene was at first a purifying act that shockingly turned violent with the violin-screeching soundtrack of Bernard Herrmann timed to the repeated stabbings, the ting-ting-ting sound as the shower curtain rings pulled off the rod, and the image of bloodied water spiraling down the drain that dissolved into a close-up of dead Marion's stationary open eye.
Marion's Shower Murder
  • Norman's screams were heard coming from the Gothic house on the hill behind the Bates Motel: "Mother! Oh, God! Mother! Blood! Blood!"; and then, at the bathroom door after viewing the curtain-less shower and the dead body, he turned away and cupped his hand to his mouth, revulsed and nauseated by the horrific scene and possibly stifling a scream
  • Norman laboriously cleaned-up the murder scene, deposited Marion's corpse in his car's trunk, and drove the car to the nearby swamp; he stood by nervously and nibbled at candy as the car slowly gurgled lower and lower as it descended into the muck
  • Norman and private investigator Milton Arbogast (Martin Balsam) engaged in a tense conversation at the front desk when he arrived to investigate Marion's strange disappearance - as he looked at the register to discover if Marion Crane used an alias (Norman chewed nervously on candy, almost bird-like; from a low camera angle, his adam's apple moved up and down his giraffe-like throat while awkwardly stretching to look at the register); Arbogast proved that Marion stayed at the motel by matching her signature to the "Marie Samuels" signature in the book - after Norman denied that he had any recent guests
  • they continued their conversation on the motel's front walkway, when the PI made the provocative implication that the very suspicious Norman had been fooled by Marion, and that she had paid him well to keep her hidden: ("Let's just say for the uh, just for the sake of argument that she wanted you to, uh, gallantly protect her. You'd know that you were being used. You wouldn't be made a fool of, would ya?"; Norman bristled at the suggestion: "But, I'm, I'm not a fool. And I'm not capable of being fooled. Not even by a woman... Let's put it this way. She might have fooled me, but she didn't fool my mother")
  • Arbogast was shockingly murdered at the top of the Gothic house's staircase when he snuck back there to investigate and speak to Mrs. Bates; a high-angle overhead shot followed his unbalanced fall backwards down the entire length of stairs - and then after hitting the floor, he was relentlessly stabbed, presumably by Norman's "mother"
Arbogast's Upper Stairway Knifing Murder and Backwards Fall
  • then came another revelation by Deputy Sheriff Al Chambers (John McIntire) during a conversation with Sam and Marion's sister Lila (Vera Miles) about who was buried in Greenlawn Cemetery - he claimed that Norman's mother had died in a murder-suicide ten years earlier and was buried there: "Norman Bates' mother has been dead and buried in Greenlawn Cemetery for the past ten years....It's the only case of murder and suicide on Fairvale ledgers. Mrs. Bates poisoned this guy she was involved with when she found out he was married. Then took a helping of the same stuff herself. Strychnine. Ugly way to die....You want to tell me you saw Norman Bates' mother?...Well, if the woman up there is Mrs. Bates, who's that woman buried out in Greenlawn Cemetery?" - [Note: Norman Bates stole his mother's corpse and had a weighted coffin buried]
  • while snooping around the Gothic house behind the motel, Lila made a shocking, revealing discovery in the basement's fruit-cellar when she turned a chair holding an elderly woman - she saw Norman's mummified "Mother" under the swinging light casting ghastly images onto the wall; she shrieked in response; behind her, Norman (in an old woman's clothes, signifying his split personality) attacked Lila with a knife, but was grabbed from behind by Sam and rescued
  • in the Chief of Police's office, smug and officious police psychiatrist Dr. Fred Richman (Simon Oakland) reconstructed or 'explained' the mystery of Norman's schizophrenic psychosis - after questioning 'his mother'; in all likelihood, a "disturbed" Norman had an incestuously possessive and jealous love for his mother, so he poisoned both her and her lover after he discovered them in bed together; to wipe clean and obliterate the unbearable, intolerable crime of matricide from his conscience and consciousness, a remorseful Norman developed a split personality; in this way, he could keep the illusion that she was still alive; and to make that illusion a physical reality, he dug up and stole her body, and used his taxidermist skills to preserve and stuff her corpse, and keep her 'alive'; Dr. Richman explained, in part: "Matricide is probably the most unbearable crime of all - most unbearable to the son who commits it. So he had to erase the crime, at least in his own mind. He stole her corpse. A weighted coffin was buried. He hid the body in the fruit cellar, even treated it to keep it as well as it would keep. And that still wasn't enough. She was there, but she was a corpse."
  • the next-to-last image was of the psychotically-crazed Norman wrapped in a blanket with his Mother's voice-over, who condemned her son for the crimes while she claimed that she was harmless: (the film's last monologue: "It's sad when a Mother has to speak the words that condemn her own son, but I couldn't allow them to believe that I would commit murder. They'll put him away now, as I should have years ago. He was always bad, and in the end, he intended to tell them I killed those girls and that man, as if I could do anything except just sit and stare, like one of his stuffed birds. Oh, they know I can't even move a finger and I won't. I'll just sit here and be quiet, just in case they do suspect me. They're probably watching me. Well, let them. Let them see what kind of a person I am. I'm not even gonna swat that fly. I hope they are watching. They'll see. They'll see and they'll know, and they'll say, 'Why, she wouldn't even harm a fly.'") - a grinning smile slowly crept over Norman's face - subliminally superimposed by and dissolving into the grinning skull of his mother's mummified corpse

Insane Norman Bates: "Why, she wouldn't even harm a fly"

Marion's Dredged Car in Swamp
  • the film's final image - a dissolve into the dredging of the swamp - showed that Marion's car with her body and the almost-$40,000 in the trunk was being hauled trunk-first from the muck by a heavy clanking chain on a winch; horizontal black bars partially, and then completely, covered the final image

Marion's Furtive Lunchtime Love-Making With Sam (John Gavin)

Flight From Phoenix After Theft of $40,000

California Highway Patrolman (Mort Mills)

Menacing Voices in Marion's Head

First View of the Bates Motel Sign

Gothic House Behind Bates Motel

Norman's (Anthony Perkins) Reaction to Shower Murder

Arbogast's Interrogation of a Nervous Norman Inside the Office (Adam's Apple View)

Arbogast's Questioning of Norman on the Front Walkway

Sam and Lila (Vera Miles)

Deputy Sheriff: "Who's that woman buried out in Greenlawn Cemetery?"

Lila Looking for "Mother"

Norman's Mummified 'Mother' in Fruit Cellar

Lila's Shrieking Response

Sam Struggling With "Mother"/Norman to Save Lila

Dr. Richman's Explanation of Norman's Psychosis


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