Back in the Day

The Shower Scene That Changed the World

Where would Amerca be without Psycho?

Book Cover As long as I am levitating in the mid-last century, I should note that Alfred Hitchcock’s groundbreaking film Psycho, released in 1960, is the subject of David Thomson’s latest book, The Moment of Psycho: How Alfred Hitchock Taught America to Love Murder (Basic Books).

Thomson, who is best known as a film critic and the author of the quintessential A Biographical Dictionary of Film, wields an impressive erudition, offering an analytical point of view in the most useful kind of commentary—placing the objects of his investigation in their cultural contexts. Which is to say that even if you are not a fan of slasher films or celebrity starlets (e.g., Nicole Kidman), there is great value in Thomson’s monographs as well as his compendia. In this case, we are provided with the facts of Hitchcock’s production including his battle with studio censors, as well as Samurai cineaste Thomson’s argument that Psycho—an unusually violent film for 1960s America (who doesn’t know the archetypal shower scene?) profoundly changed movies and America forever. It not only altered what films could show but our expectations of them.
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