Tag Archive: Psycho


Review by C.J. Bunce

Notorious isn’t just the name of an Alfred Hitchcock film, it describes the reputation of the acclaimed director over the course of his 55-year career.  Over the course of his films he would become famous for not only the blonde actresses in his films, but his misogynistic, voyeuristic, fetishism themes and content.  A precursor in many ways to Quentin Tarentino, Hitchcock nearly 40 years after his death is as popular as ever, with his film Vertigo still on many critics’ lists as the best American film of all time.  Those who view his films are left to wonder how much of the content of his films were the man, and how often was he simply selling what moviegoers were looking for–something new, something surprising, something stylish, and something shocking.  The flip side of Hitchcock viewed as provocateur is the fact that his films always featured a strong lead woman–sometimes from the opening scene and other times by film’s end–and the actress was often the only name marketed above the title, including some of the most fierce and compelling women characters ever filmed.

Scotland author Caroline Young takes a compelling look at the director and his relationship with the leading women in his films in her new book Hitchcock’s Heroines, a photograph-filled hardcover from Insight Editions.  Young, author of Roman Holiday: The Secret Life of Hollywood in Rome, Tartan & Tweed, and Style Tribes, sources interviews with the actors as well as interviews with Hitchcock to gain a better understanding of what motivated his work.  He spent the first half of his career–represented by the first half of the book–developing the style he would come to be known for by the time of his 1954 success Rear Window, culminating in his ideal production team: costume designer Edith Head, production designer Robert Burks, assistant director Herbert Coleman, and editor George Tomasini.  Hitchcock knew that most of his audience were women and believed that in the 1940s-1960s women usually determined what movie a couple was going to attend.  So the appearance of his leading women was as important, if not more important, than any other part of the film.  He also had an eye for using color and wardrobe as part of his storytelling tools, perhaps changing a character’s muted-toned costumes to striking and contrasting by film’s end to represent a character’s change in mood, strength, or growth.

Hitchcock’s Heroines is a superb source of costume sketches, costume designs, and production stills spanning Hitchcock’s directorial career.  Young includes with her discussions of each actress and corresponding character the costumes and costumers, which amounts to a history of Hollywood costume design artists, including Jean Peron, Dolly Tree, Joe Strassner, Marianne, Irene, Edward Stevenson, Vera West, Gilbert Adrian, René Hubert, Howard Greer, Edith Head, Christian Dior, Milo Anderson, Moss Mabry, Helen Rose, Harry Kress, Rita Riggs, Helen Colvig, and Julie Harris, although it was also not beyond Hitchcock to source his own vision from off-the-rack wardrobe from Western Costume Company or Bergdorf Goodman. Hair style and hair color is also a recurring theme Young pursues in the book.

Young references an interview from 1931 where Hitchcock discussed selecting actresses for roles: “The chief point I keep in mind when selecting my heroine is that she must be fashioned to please women rather than men, for the reason that women form three-quarters of the average cinema audience.  Therefore, no actress can be a good commercial proposition as a film heroine unless she pleases her own sex.”  It is noteworthy that Hitchcock was not always responsible for who starred in his films–Young cites instances where studio head David O. Selznick directly cast Hitchcock’s leading actors.

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Rebel Blockade Runner

The most expensive Star Wars prop and the most iconic single Star Trek costume sold at auction this past week.  A new record was set for the highest sale price for a television costume, the market proved yet again that even the slightest Star Wars item takes top dollar, and sci-fi again rules the private collectors’ market for screen-used costumes, props and other entertainment memorabilia.  It all happened at auction house Profiles in History’s latest Hollywood memorabilia auction, held in Calabasas, California over three days September 30 through October 2, 2015.

Profiles in History reported that it tolled $7.3 million in sales in the auction.  The biggest news came from a production model of the Rebel Blockade Runner, the first ship seen at the beginning of the original Star Wars, which set the record for the sale of any Star Wars production piece.  It sold for double the catalog estimate at $450,000.  The prior record for a Star Wars item was $402,500, for a TIE Fighter filming miniature from Star Wars that sold at Profiles in 2008.

George Reeves’ The Adventures of Superman television series earned its rightful place in the history of television, with his supersuit selling for $216,000, the most for any known sale of a television costume.

Superman George Reeves

Star Trek fans saw the most iconic Star Trek costume with the best provenance recorded sell for $84,000.  That was one of Leonard Nimoy’s blue tunics from the original series, accompanied by the documentation whereby a fan won the costume from a studio promotion back in the 1960s.  No other original series piece has sold with better provenance back to the studio.  Other Star Trek items sold included an original series third season McCoy standard blue uniform for $57,000, and an incomplete Class A Spock uniform for $14,000.

Everyone wants to get their hands on original Star Wars items–the most difficult of the major franchises to collect since most items remain with Lucas or Lucasfilm.  A small section of the Death Star barely seen in Return of the Jedi sold for a whopping $39,000.  And even though it wasn’t screen-used, a lot consisting of prototype pieces of the most cosplayed sci-fi outfit ever, Carrie Fisher’s “Slave Leia” outfit from Return of the Jedi, sold for $96,000.  Finally, in the top echelon of sales at the auction, a special effects camera used to film Star Wars sold for $72,000.

Then there’s Indiana Jones.  One of Harrison Ford’s screen-used bullwhips sold for $204,000, a fedora went for $90,000, and one of his shirts and leather jackets each sold for $72,000.

Jurassic Park cane

Other notable, classic, genre pieces sold, including:

From Forbidden Planet, a light-up laser rifle ($66,000), a light-up laser pistol ($27,500), and a Walter Pidgeon Dr. Morbius costume ($24,000).

From Jaws, a Robert Shaw Quint harpoon rifle ($84,000) and machete ($27,000).

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Psycho 1960 poster

Reservations for the Bates Motel await you at your local theater later this month.

Mother would be pleased.

Turner Classic Movies is teaming up again with Universal Pictures Home Entertainment and Fathom Events to bring a film classic back to theaters for a limited screening.  This time it’s Alfred Hitchcock’s black and white classic thriller Psycho, which first shocked audiences 55 years ago.  It’s back, but for only two days.

We all go a little mad sometimes.

original Psycho schlock poster

TCM host Ben Mankiewicz will introduce the show with a brief short about the movie, which will air at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. local time Sunday, September 20, 2015, and Wednesday, September 23, 2015.

Here’s a preview of the event:

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Bates Motel neon

The new prequel to Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, A&E’s new series Bates Motel, is all sorts of unsettling, creepy and jarring.  First of all it has you cheering for Norman.  And you can’t help feel a little wrong about that.  We come to the re-introduction of the Bates Motel and that house–the original old house used to film Psycho–and its odd inhabitants, and recall that this was the first of the film villains that didn’t look like a traditional villain, making Psycho that much scarier.

Bates Motel, the series, is jarring in many ways.  Film actress Vera Farmiga (The Departed, The Manchurian Candidate, Source Code) with a bit of Psycho’s 1960 Vera Miles look, has an incredible role here to make her own as Norman’s mother Norma Bates.  In episode one “Nice Town You Picked, Norma,” Farmiga really dives right in.  One minute she’s a great, doting mom, happy and gleeful.  The next she is very dark and cold, spinning guilt trips onto her son at his every move.  Norma and son Norman–what is in a name?  There’s something at the core of their relationship the writers apparently haven’t scratched the surface with yet–they’re a little too close.  Viewers get some glimpses at a Mommie Dearest character in the making.  A school populated only by pretty girls who keep flocking around the nerdy Norman seems like a set-up for Norman as Stephen King’s Carrie.

Norman and Norma at soon to be Bates Motel Continue reading

Review by C.J. Bunce

I like western movies.  I like the sounds of the Old West, the cattle, the clinking of spurs as the two guys slowly meet up in the center of the old western town.  I like epic western soundtracks and I like slow guitar soundtracks, and theme songs that sometimes tell a familiar story.   I also have read a little Louis L’Amour and love his writing and descriptions.  I’ve never thought of picking up a comic book about the Old West, mainly because they don’t make ’em anymore.

I almost didn’t pick up All-Star Western #1, one of DC Comics’s New 52 line.  Mostly because it had the crazy looking Jonah Hex on the cover.  All I knew of Hex was watching a bit of the Jonah Hex movie, which for whatever reason I didn’t finish on video.  But somehow (fate?) it ended up in my pull list.  I have read a super western-ish book recently called El Diablo: The Haunted Horseman, by Jai Nitz, Ande Parks, and Phil Hester, that was just awesome (to be reviewed here later on).  Intrigued by the idea of a current western comic in the midst of the Justice League superheroes, I read it first from the stack.

From a literary standpoint there is almost an unending supply of reasons to check this one out.

Unusual Setting

One would think a western comic took place in the Old West.  This takes place in Gotham city in the 1880s, which in my mind is more Old East.  The drawings have a nice old-time feel to them.  The colors offer more than just sepia tones.  There’s a little Mike Mignola and P. Craig Russell’s Gotham by Gaslight feel here for sure.  A good thing, as I wished that book had turned into its own series.

Narration

The narrator is none other than the founder of Gotham’s own Arkham Asylum, Doctor Arkham himself.  Arkham is our narrator, and he’s a bit odd.  His character, his mannerisms, and his creepiness might remind you of Clifton Webb as Waldo Lydecker in Otto Preminger’s Laura.  A further creepy scene may also make you think he’s a bit of Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho.

Familiar But Reliable Plot

To get us into this world quickly, the plot seems to be a mix of Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven and a Jack the Ripper tale.  Pacing is reminscent of Alan Moore’s From Hell.  There’s also a bit of the outcast element of Danny Glover’s Mal in Silverado.  There’s a medical aspect of the 19th century as well, the sleuthing of an early Detective Comics of sorts, but again, familiar because of the similar treatment in From Hell.  The art here, however, is a lot more stylish and evocative.  The only downside will be if this continues to be just another Jack the Ripper story.  Too many stories end up there.

The Archetype Western Anti-Hero

Not only does the half-mangled faced Jonah Hex play the anti-hero, he talks a bit like Clint Eastwood mixed with Sam Elliott.  Hex’s confederate uniform really brings you back to Sam Elliot’s performance as Dal Traven in Louis L’Amour’s The Shadow Riders, but there is also a little of Elliott’s Ghost Rider’s Caretaker mixed with The Golden Compass’s Lee Scoresby.  To get me to conjure any incarnation of Sam Elliott in your character is a win in my book.  But then again there’s a spin on Eastwood’s Stranger from High Plains Drifter, as you can see the whole town of Gotham closing in on Dr. Arkham and Hex after only the 24th page.  Who would have thought Jonah Hex could be so cool?

If you want something truly different, pick up this book.