78 pieces of film from Alfred Hitchcock and 52 cuts from editor George Tomasini throw in the chilling score from Bernard Herrman, a helping of Hershey's chocolate syrup and you have the essence of the shower scene from Psycho. Director Alexandre O. Phillipe has put together the all encompassing detailed frame by frame analysis of the film with a band of the films aficionados interviewed in a setting similar to the Bates motel to provide their thoughts. The discussion looks at the US in the time before the film juxtaposed with what was to come after, Political Assassinations, Civil Rights, Women's Rights, Vietnam and Protest. The participants point to three films Some Like It Hot, Anatomy of a Murder and Suddenly Last Summer that began to push new boundaries. Where these films pushed, Psycho smashed leaving many wondering how Hitchcock got away with what he put on the screen.
No stone is left unturned. Marli Renfro who was Janet Leigh's body double for the scene features heavily in the production. She answered an ad for the role, stripping down for Hitchcock then again for Janet Leigh before getting the gig a couple of days later. Renfro talks about prop difficulties on set to that fact that she was hired for a couple of days work that turned into a week. Hitchcock in fact shot the scene entirely separate from the rest of the picture.
To really experience the horror of the scene one has to go back to the time and the directors' recent history. He had just come off North by Northwest pus several Technicolor marvels before it. He was also hearing the talk that Henri-Georges Clouzot was coming for his title of master of suspense with 1955's Diabolique being exhibit 1. Hitchcock was having none of it wanting to make a mike drop statement in black & white in a motel shower.
Among the commentators are Directors Eli Roth, Guillermo del Toro actors Elijah Wood and Jamile Lee Curtis alongside composer Danny Elfman who comes to the fore when Bernard Herrmann's slashing strings music that opens the attack followed by the lower octave baseline as Marion Crane slowly takes her last breaths. Director/ Actor/ Critic Peter Bogdanovich was at the press screening from the opening. He recalls that from the moment mother pulls the curtain back and the knife comes into frame the audience started a sustained screen that did not stop until the scene faded to black. Bogdanovich felt like he was assaulted not to mention Hitchcock's misdirection as Vera Miles appeared in the shower in the trailer. Plus it was unheard of in mainstream films of the day to kill off you presumptive lead character 40 minutes into the film. Phillipe also recruited a series of editors including Chris Innis ( Hurt Locker) Walter Murch ( Apolocype Now) and Bob Murawski (Spiderman) to break down Tomansini's work. They focus in on the dead space to the left of the frame, the switch from Marion's back to the wall to back to the curtain in order to introduce Norman Bates into the scene and the knife stabs themselves cutting through the shower spray and only touching Marion's body in on frame near her belly button.
78/52 is a film historian, director obsessed, editing nerds Valhalla. The documentary has clips of the director from his Sunday night show, interviews, doc with Truffaut doc and stories of his idiosyncrasies. The score is dissected, Saul Bass' storyboards examined along side the battle with the sensors. It's a master class in filmmaking that I can highly recommend.
**** Out of 4
78/52 | Alexandre O. Philippe | U.S.A. | 2017 | 91 Minutes.
Tags: Documentary, Interviews, Shower, Murder, Shots, Cuts, Film, Psycho, Hitchcock, 1960, Black & White, Body Double, Bates Motel, $40,000.