Back in 1959, no one could believe that Alfred Hitchcock was going to shoot a movie for a mere $800,000 in just 30 days using the crew from his TV series, Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Moreover, they couldn't understand why he was adapting a pulp novel by Robert Bloch inspired by the gruesome career of the Wisconsin serial killer, Ed Gein. The reaction must have been much like the bewilderment when the news hit that Gus Van Sant intended to direct a shot-for-shot remake of this very masterpiece.
Everyone must be familiar by now with the events at the Bates Motel. Indeed, folks tend to overlook the biggest and most glorious macguffins of Hitchcock's career - the life and crime of Marion Crane (Leigh). Her illicit hotel rendezous with marriage-shy lover Sam Loomis (John Gavin), the theft of $40,000 and the tortuous drive to the outskirts of Fairvale take up a goodly portion of the picture. Indeed, it seems like business as usual for the Master Of Suspense, until Marion takes a shower...
With Psycho, his blackest, most cynical and most manipulative feature, Hitchcock introduced the American Nightmare strain into the genre. He also revived the fast-fading art of montage with the now legendary shower sequence. To the accompaniment of Bernard Hermann's shrieking strings, Hitch (and "visual consultant" Saul Bass) packed 87 cross-cuts into a frenzied 45 seconds to create the most perfectly timed visual shock since the Odessa Steps massacre in Battleship Potemkin.
Throw in some fluid camera movements, the odd technical flourish, superb performances (notably from Leigh and the remarkable Perkins), the occasional heart-stopping jolt and a trick ending (the rarely seen Norman/Mother superimposition) and you have a timeless classic - which is in as much need of a remake as Citizen Kane.