Saturday, January 29, 2011

Psycho (a Rare Book Review)

Hey I am back! Sorry it has been a while.  See, I watched The Last Exorcism and I was so disappointed and disgusted that I could not bring myself to think or write about horror for a whole week.  I kid.  I didn't HATE the movie, I just found it to be such a rip-off of other, better films that it left a bad taste in my mouth.  But, this post is not about that film.  Maybe I will write about it later, after I have had a drink or two and can think of something interesting to say about this Blair Witch/Exorcist/Commune/Wicker Man/Paranormal Activity/Cannibal Holocaust/King's Speech knock off.   I am being silly: The Last Exorcism doesn't resemble one of those films.  Can you guess which one?
While I was on vacation I finally read Robert Bloch's Psycho.  Love the film.  It is amazing.  No question.  But I had never read the source material. Last year was the 50th anniversary of the film and quite a lot got written about it.  Almost every article listed Bloch's book as a must-read.  I usually don't care for reading a book AFTER seeing the film: I prefer to do it the other way around.  But in this case I was glad I did.  Hitchcock followed Bloch's book very closely.  All the basics are the same.  The one big difference is Norman.  Anthony Perkin's Norman is a tall, skinny, bird like man who is socially awkward, young, and inexperienced.  Bloch's Norman could have been played by James Gandolfini.  He is older, in his forties, overweight, a heavy drinker, and quite the perv.  He is totally unlikable in every way, whereas you sort of feel sorry for Perkin's Norman.  I find it very interesting that Hitchcock made this change.  It was the right one.  First, it cemented Anthony Perkins as a horror icon and gave him the role of his career.  Two, it upped the ante: by making Norman more sympathetic and relate able Hitchcock really pulled the audience into his world, and famously made us identify with a killer.  Remember how you felt when you were with Norman, waiting for the car to sink?  That is what I am talking about. 

The book is very a very quick read- one or two days tops.  Yes, you know what is going to happen, but it is a very interesting journey to go on nonetheless.  Plus, Robert Bloch was the man and a FOL (Friend of Lovecraft.) 

Final thought: remember Gus Van Sant's ill advised shot by shot remake a few years back?  Wouldn't that have been interesting had he cast it to Bloch's book.  Just a thought.  Yes, it still would suck.  Why remake perfection? 


Anonymous said...

Your review is pretty spot on, and I had many of the same thoughts while reading this one. Have you read Psycho II yet? The book sequel is drastically different from the film sequel, so it's sort of like a bonus adventure of Norman Bates.

If you're interested:
My Psycho Review

My Psycho II Review


Jen said...

Thank you Jonny- I did read your review and now I must pick up Psycho II-- I thought that I heard that Bloch wrote it because he was pissed about the film sequel.