I bet every television/movie-watching American adult has seen at least one parody of the shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 masterpiece “Psycho.”
My first “Psycho” mockery came packaged as child-friendly, comedic content —Bugs Bunny. In this scene from the 2003 live-action film “Looney Tunes: Back in Action,” Bugs is in the shower, when a woman walks in. In a hilarious and dramatic way, the rabbit screams his head off before collapsing onto the floor, and flushing Hershey’s chocolate syrup “blood” down the drain (scene here). The “Psycho” shower scene is probably one of the most famous of all time, but if you haven’t seen the movie, you miss the very interesting context.
Although “Psycho” is hailed as a piece of psychological horror, the movie is not scary by today’s standards. In fact, the movie starts out with a scene between two lovers, Marion Crane and Sam Loomis, discussing marriage and debt of all things. The action subsequently follows Marion, who heads off to work at a real-estate office, where she is a secretary. Then strides in a boisterous man in a cowboy hat and $40,000 in hand. He’s looking to buy a house (because that was enough to buy a decent home back then) and entrusts Marion’s company to hold the cash for him to make the purchase. Marion is sent to the bank to put the cash in a safety deposit box, but ultimately, she decides to abscond with the money and start anew.
I won’t give much more about the plot away (I won’t ruin it for you), but I will say (because we all know this already), in this movie you will meet Norman Bates, motel owner, and his loud-mouthed mother.
I found this movie to be intriguing for a number of reasons. First, the work is “psychological,” meaning that it deeply explores the mentalities and motivations of the characters, rather than just focusing on action, action, action. Second, this movie keeps you guessing. Norman Bates is a friendly guy from the outset (a “Clark Kent” type) although he is a bit odd (for example, he owns a collection of taxidermied birds). Third, this movie is more than just “horror,” it has an intriguing plot line. The characters are interesting and clever, there is a mystery to be solved, and in the end, everything is explained.
If you have never seen “Psycho,” consider it! It’s not scary (just a little creepy), the plot is absorbing, and, finally, you will have full context for that shower scene (at last!). Also, “Psycho” is a “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant” film (so says the Library of Congress’s National Film Preservation Board — big deal!).
P.S. Did you know Psycho was a book first? I feel like I should have known this, but I didn’t….
P.P.S. I just finished the book (by Robert Bloch). In the book, Norman Bates’s mother plays a more central role.
P.P.P.S. In the book, Norman Bates is characterized as a fat misogynist (while in the movie, he is just a regular misogynist FYI).