Alfred Hitchcock’s seminal Horror/Thriller/Noir masterpiece that transformed the meaning of the word ‘Mother‘ in cinema and devoted it to an entirely new significance. Starring Anthony Perkins as the molly coddled Norman Bates, who couldn’t even hurt a fly. He runs The Bate’s Motel, while caring for his aged, dominating to the point of suffocating mother.
Janet Leigh plays Marion Crane, a frustrated office worker in Phoenix Arizona, who is tired of meeting her lover Sam Loomis played by the hunky John Gavin, during her lunch breaks to squeeze in quickies, and who can’t afford to marry her, because he is buried under by alimony payments to his ex wife.
A woman doomed to a horrible fate for her sexual freedom and being in the wrong place at the right time!
In a fevered moment of revolt, she steals $40,000 that is entrusted to her to deposit in the bank, and heads out for Sam’s place in California. Caught in a rain storm, she pulls off the main highway and comes upon The Bates Motel and the very dark and looming house that sits atop the hill overlooking the little motel.
Marion starts out wearing black lace undergarments while in the throws of lust and greed, but is transformed in one night by a pang of conscience.
Having stopped at the Bate’s Motel for a respite, she meets the lonely and odd Norman who wants to share his cheese sandwich and a glass of milk, or perhaps his love of taxidermy with Marion. He’s definitely aroused by Marion’s kindness and curves, and that makes ‘mother’ VERY unhappy!
Marion, decides to put the money back, symbolically she is adorned in virginal white underwear again…unfortunately for Marion, it’s too late for redemption…She winds up hacked to pieces in the shower within the first 20 minutes of the film.
Though a stunning moment in film history, there is very little blood.
Killing off a major star in the beginning of a film, had not been done before. The audience was also asked not to reveal the ending of the picture.
The scene is not only an iconic one, but remains branded in the psyche, for it’s brutal tone of alienation and its savage simplicity.
During Marion’s murder scene, the camera frames the blood stained water, draining out of the tub, as Marion’s life force is reckoned so insignificant as to be washed down the rusty pipes forever. The focus on her one lifeless open eye, staring back at us. A death scene that is memorable… shocking… historically transformative.
A life down the drain…
At this point in our culture, I can’t imagine anyone not knowing the story, or not having used a reference to the Bates Motel or Norman. I still have a fear of small motels off the beaten path, somewhat how I feared swimming in the ocean after having seen the theatrical release of Jaws in the 70s.
The story based on Robert Bloch’s novel, and penned for the screen by Outer Limits writer, Joseph Stefano and acta as a sort of composite or embodiment of legendary Serial Killer Ed Gein, Norman remains truly one of the most infamous horror characters in film history for his sympathetic yet terrifying derangement.
The film also stars one of my favorite actresses Vera Miles as Marion’s sister Lila, who does not believe that Marion ever left the Bates Motel. She and Sam Loomis elicit the help of Martin Balsam as Detective Milton Arbogast. With appearances by Lurene Tuttle ,the spirited Simon Oakland and John McIntire.
“I think I must have one of those faces you can’t help believing.”-Norman Bates
“We all go a little mad sometimes” -Norman Bates
Happy Mother’s Day – MonsterGirl!