Psycho has been on the minds of horror fans this week, with the announcement that Scarlett Johansson and James D'Arcy have been cast in the upcoming adaptation of Stephen Rebello's book Alfred Hitchcock And The Making Of Psycho, as Janet Leigh and Anthony Perkins. The film, which will obviously chronicle the behind the scenes making of Psycho, will also star Anthony Hopkins as The Hitch and Helen Mirren as his wife Alma.
With Psycho back in the spotlight this week, I wanted to take a look back at the making of the film myself, with a little top 10 list of some highly interesting facts about the movie. As you'll soon see, the making of Psycho is one story that deserves to be chronicled in a feature film!
- After Hitchcock purchased the rights to Albert Bloch's novel Psycho, for $9,500, he ordered his production assistant Peggy Robertson to buy up as many copies of the book as she could find, so as to keep the details of the story secret. Ah, the good ole days, before the internet ruined everything for us months before movies even came out!
- The iconic house on the hill that Norman and his dead mother live in was heavily inspired by the look of the house in Edward Hopper's 1925 oil painting House By The Railroad. That painting currently resides in The Museum Of Modern Art. As for the Bates house, that still stands on the back lot of Universal Hollywood, and is featured heavily in their tour.
- There were actually three women used to pull off the infamous shower scene in the film. Aside from star Janet Leigh, a body double by the name of Marli Renfro was used for many of the shots and a stand-in by the name of Myra Davis was also brought in for the rehearsal of the scene, to make sure lighting was correct. Though Davis didn't actually appear on-screen in the movie, most reports indicate that it was Renfro's body that was used for nearly all the shots in the scene where you don't see Leigh's face, a fact that Hitchcock tried to keep under wraps. Renfro, a Playboy model, was hired for the job due to her willingness to prance around in the nude.
In a bizarre and tragic twist of fate, Myra Davis was raped and murdered by a handyman back in 1988, with The Girl In Alfred Hitchcock's Shower author Robert Graysmith suggesting that the handyman was a sick fan of the film who intended on killing Leigh's body double, but instead unknowingly killed her stand-in. For years, many believed that Renfro and Davis were one in the same. Renfro is still alive and well.
- Psycho is the first American film to show a toilet being flushed on screen, a serious taboo at the time. Back in the 1960's it was unheard of to show the contents of a toilet (in this case pieces of paper) being flushed, which Hitchcock wanted to show in an effort to lend a sense of realism to the film. Of course nowadays we can turn on the TV and watch Snooki take a shit right in front of our very eyes. Oh, how far we've come. Or should I say, how far we've regressed!
- Throughout the filming of the movie, Hitchcock would place various different versions of mother's corpse in Janet Leigh's dressing room, in an effort to figure out which prop would be the most effective and scary on screen. Leigh reportedly took the torture quite well, saying that it kept her in character and on edge.
- Nearly the entire film was shot with 50mm lenses on 35mm cameras, a technique that very closely mimicked real human vision. This technique has been credited for involving the audience in the film, and making it seem more real and eerie, like you're a voyeuristic fly on the wall as Bates himself is a fly on the wall of Marion's hotel room.
- After Psycho was released wide, Janet Leigh received many death threat letters from 'fans', several of whom threatened to kill her while she showered, just like in the movie. One was so horrific that it was turned over to the FBI. In subsequent years, Leigh reportedly chose bathing as her preferred method of getting clean, remarking that she never realized how vulnerable a woman was in the shower until she actually saw the movie.
- Ever protective about the plot secrets in the film, Hitchcock demanded the above billboards be posted in all theaters playing the movie, with a rule that no patron be allowed into the theater once the movie had already begun. Hitchcock did not want, for example, anyone to come into the movie after Marion Crane had already been killed, as he felt it would ruin the experience of the film. The billboards suggested that anyone trying to enter the theater after the movie began would be met with force.
- The original trailer for the film, which ran over 6 minutes long, featured Alfred Hitchcock providing a tour of the set. In one part of the tour, he pulls back the shower curtain in the hotel bathroom to reveal a screaming Marion Crane, which fans for many years believed was Janet Leigh herself. But Leigh was actually not available at the time this trailer was filmed, and fellow Psycho actress Vera Miles (who played Marion's sister Lila) was brought in to play Marion. The film's logo was conveniently plastered across Vera's face, so as to hide the fact that it wasn't Leigh. You can see this shot at 6 minutes, 4 seconds into the above trailer.
- And finally, above you will find a video comprised of clips from the German cut of Psycho, which recently surfaced and has never been released onto home video. This extended cut of the film has run on German television for years, and clips from it have finally surfaced online. So hit the play button above to see some of the differences between that cut and the cut we've all seen a dozen times before!