Sunday, October 21, 2007


I found out about thirty minutes before it started that the Tower Theatre in Salt Lake that they would be playing a 35mm print of Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho.

I live about forty minutes a way, but this is quite possibly one of my favorite movies and wild horses couldn't have dragged me away from this screening. We made it in thirty minutes.

It seems as though the older and busier I get, the more I enjoy watching films (particularly those as good as Psycho) on the big screen. It's replaced religious experience for me on a lot of levels. You go to a place, act reverently and hope to learn something about yourself and your fellow man.

Psycho is no exception. This was the first Hitchcock film I watched as a kid. I saw it on video (maybe it was on TV) when I was about 10 years old and it scared the hell out of me. It still scares the hell out of me.

I've always been fascinated with the film, even from an early age. The tension in the film is nail-biting no matter how many times you've seen it. And after you've seen it once, you understand how brilliant Hitchcock (and screenwriter Joseph Stefano) were in carefully leading the audience to believe that Norman Bates and his mother were two distinct and separate entities. It was so carefully constructed that when the sheriff tells Sam and Lila that they're crazy and that Norman's mother has been dead for ten years, you believe him about as much as they do. Which is to say not at all.

I was also blown away again by Stefano's script. It's widely reported that the shooting script was a first draft from a neophyte screenwriter. The act one turn of killing the female lead and switching main characters was nothing short of a brilliant choice.

And even after having seen this film at least once a year for the past decade and a half, on the big screen there were still moments that caught me off-guard and made me feel uneasy (the shower scene, obviously, but also Mother's intrusion on Arbogasts investigation...)

The film is top notch.

Which is why I didn't understand the reaction of the audience.

The audience (about 100) that was there to see the film seemed to think that they'd slipped their way into a comedy of some type. They were laughing at all the most tense parts and, to be honest, it was pretty obnoxious. And it seemed as though the crowd was largely filled with film students from the University of Utah. And the fact that they can't suspend their disbeleif long enough to watch one of the greatest films ever made, one that pretty much every director steals from, does not bode well for the future of films if these clowns manage to make it into the industry.

Speaking of which, my brother Jason and I had a lengthy conversation on the way home about how obvious the influence of Hitchcock is on filmmakers like Martin Scorsese and Guillermo Del Toro (the suspense built in the Pale Man sequence in Pan's Labyrinth is built on a solid foundation of Hitchcock technique.)

The film on the big screen certainly opened my eyes to moments of brilliance in the film I hadn't noticed before.

I don't know, on a big screen, jokes seem to be funnier, horror more tense and love more real.

Watching movies at home is for The Birds.

Which, incidentally, I hear they're remaking.


Andrew James said...

Wow. I would love to see Psycho on the big screen. I'm really not surprised by the reaction of the audience though. Most people these days just don't get "older" films. They have been too inundated with the flashy and the obvious.

Janel said...

Hi Bryan,

I was there at the show. I saw some people I thought were vaguely familiar, but I didn't know why.

My husband and I sat in the front row. I don't think we did any laughing, but for some reason, it was the first time I've seen the show, and I found it very very good! (of course)


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