Saturday, April 6, 2019

PSYCHO (1998) Blu-ray review

Psycho (1998) d. Gus Van Sant (USA) (104 min)

Having embezzled a large sum of money from the bank where she works, Marion Crane (Anne Heche) takes refuge at a motel operated by Norman Bates (Vince Vaughn), a troubled man whose victims encounter a grisly fate at the hands of his mother. Marion’s disappearance prompts inquiries from her sister (Julianne Moore) and a private investigator (William H. Macy), who both discover the terrifying truth kept hidden within the Bates Motel.

Maybe it’s because I’m a stage actor and therefore used to seeing the same script constantly reinterpreted by different directors, designers, and actors, but I was never “appalled” by the notion of a new vision of Alfred Hitchcock’s groundbreaking masterpiece using Joseph Stefano’s original screenplay, with a few dialogue tweaks to adapt to modern ears. (How many different filmed Shakespeare adaptations have we seen? Same idea, folks.) In fact, I was intrigued by the notion, since most of the issues I have with remakes are their insistence on change for its own sake, out of a sense of obligation, most of which are not improvements on the original.

I don’t think Van Sant’s version betters the original, though there are scenes that come close, and it’s far from a complete disaster or “blasphemy.” It is also not a “shot-for-shot” remake as so many people rushed to label it at the time – Van Sant and cinematographer Christopher Doyle bring their own framing and pacing and visual style, complete with nearly subliminal insert shots (usually during a character’s demise or mental break). There are times when the choice is made to copy a particular moment, such as Arbogast’s rear-projected tumble down the stairs, but these are clearly artistic choices as opposed to sheer laziness. After all, it would have been easier to just have Macy just fall down the stairs, yes?

It is more accurately a “scene-for-scene” remake, and I admire the cast and crew’s commitment to what sadly seemed a doomed experiment (at least in the critical and public eye) before the cameras ever rolled. The first act of the movie, to my mind, actually works quite well, with Heche’s flightier version of Marion Crane a valid and honest take on the character. She absolutely seems like someone who might run off with $400,000 (increased from the original’s $40,000) in the interest of starting a new life with her lover Sam Loomis (Viggo Mortensen).

It’s when she finally arrives at the Bates Motel that things fall apart, only because Vaughn is SO WRONG for the role and not just because Anthony Perkins was so right. As a result, once the weight of the story shifts to Norman’s shoulders, it’s a much less successful enterprise, despite the fact that the rest of the cast (which also includes Rita Wilson, Rance Howard, Chad Everett, Philip Baker Hall, Robert Forster, James Remar, James LeGros) are capable-to-comparable to their 1960 counterparts.

I didn’t dislike the film the first time around and my appreciation for the enterprise – and the courage shown in ever undertaking it – has only grown over the past two decades.


NEW Audio Commentary with Rob Galluzzo (writer/director of The Psycho Legacy) and editor Amy Huddleston

Audio Commentary with director Gus Van Sant, Anne Heche and Vince Vaughn

"Psycho Path: The Making of Psycho" (30 min)

Theatrical Trailers

Still Gallery

is available now on Blu-ray from Shout! Factory and can be ordered HERE:


No comments:

Post a Comment