Tuesday, September 24, 2013


Having recently sat down and re-watched all four movies in the Psycho series, and before I plough into Stephen Rebello’s book on the making of the original, I decided to re-read Robert Bloch’s 1959 source novel for the first time since I was about 15. It still holds up as a great little pacey read, chilling in parts even though the story and twists are all so familiar by now. What impresses me the most is the way Bloch brings the character of Mother to life, making her an integral and seemingly legitimate part of the story without ever actually asserting that she is a real physical presence. It’s classic horror pulp and one can easily see how many thought Hitchcock was committing career suicide, just as easily as one can see what Hitch found so compelling and potentially cinematic about it. The shower sequence is just as much a story-twist shock on paper as on celluloid (though in different ways – sustained on film but incredibly blunt and abrupt on paper). I kinda wish Gus Van Sant had attempted a more faithful interpretation of the novel when he directed his 1998 remake, rather than the shot-for-shot ‘homage’ he inflicted upon us. Re-reading the novel has also made me long for a good bio/biopic of Calvin T. Beck, the editor of Castle of Frankenstein magazine on whom Bloch supposedly based much of the Norman Bates character (along with infamous Wisconsin ghoul Ed Gein).

For more on the Calvin T. Beck/Norman Bates connection, read Tom Weaver’s terrific article on the subject at the following link: