On June 16, 1960, Alfred Hitchcock premiered his iconic riddle suspenser Sickie in New York, with secretiveness as the theme when it came to the plot. The Hollywood journalist’s original review is below
New York — The great filmic bents of Alfred Hitchcock, his superb art, specialized mastery, skill, and planning are veritably much in substantiation in Psycho, his new Paramount release which opened then history in a special engagement previous to its general release in August. This is a first-rate riddle suspenser, full of visual shocks and surprises which are heightened by the melodramatic literalism of the product. It’s certain to be one of the big grossers of the summer.
Hitchcock’s assertion of secretiveness concerning the plot during production and in the “ eyeless selling ” and exploitation crusade is fully justified by the surprise lurid ending. And, because of the nature of the film, with a crucial character being boggled in the first 20 twinkles, the exhibition policy banning admissions after the launch of the picture applies to a complete understanding and enjoyment of the film. Paramount has used these factors to a veritably good advantage in its retailing.
The film opens with a typical Hitchcock touch, a long slow visage shot over the city of Phoenix, Arizona, swinging down to a hostel window to reveal an ardent love scene typical of the French “New Surge” academy. The main story is laid against the background of an insulated motel and a touching creepy manse. As in all Hitchcock flicks, the camera goods and studies then are a vital and instigative element, establishing a weird realistic quality, stropping the terror, and erecting the suspension.
There are two murders on camera and innumerous others pertained to including a matricide. One of the murders, that of Janet Leigh, takes place while she’s taking a shower and there’s enough blood on screen to satisfy the most murderous movie suckers. The other murder takes place at the top of a staircase and the camera follows the headlong fall of the blood-covered murder victim down the stairs.
Anthony Perkins gives by far the stylish performance of his career in the title part. As the youthful, sensitive, and gracious owner of the motel, he maintains an appearance of innocence while disposing of the remains of the murder victims purportedly killed by his mama. Miss Leigh is excellent as the youthful woman who steals 40,000 to buy off her unhappiness and break her swain’s plutocrat problems, only to be boggled at the hostel. John Gavin is veritably good as the swain and Vera Miles is splendid as the devoted family, both necessary in working the murders. Martin Balsam as a private investigator, John McIntire as a small city sheriff, and Simon Oakland as a psychiatrist contribute sharp and effective characterizations.
Perhaps it’s not justice to give away the ending, but since hardly anyone plays justice and since the picture’s playing then you might as well know that Perkins ’ psychotic split has him assuming the binary places of himself and his mama. And, as Hitchcock says, the mama is a sanguine maniac.
Joseph Stefano’s script from the novel by Robert Block gives Hitchcock an occasion to use all his considerable bents in the structure of a stunner which makes brilliant use of John. Russell’s outstanding photography, Bernard Herrmann’s largely effective musical score, the wonderfully atmospheric settings of George Milo, and the fine art direction of Joseph Burly and Robert Clatworthy.
After the movie starts, no one is allowed to enter the theaters where Psycho is showing. Nobody will want to leave before it’s finished. — Jack Harrison, first published on June 17, 1960