All right. I said I was going to get back into this, and dammit, I’m going to get back into this. Tonight seems to be a wonderful, crazy random happenstance. First off, I finished mainlining Bates Motel a couple of weekends ago. You want to talk about a suspenseful show with a good amount of cheese, scenery-chewing, and what-the-fuckery, you guys: Bates Motel is AMAZING in that respect.
If you haven’t heard, Bates Motel tells the story of how Norman and his mother – Norma (“fathers name their sons after themselves all the time, why can’t a mother?” <– actual paraphrase) – come to own the Bates Motel. Apparently the town in which the motel resides runs on illegal pot money, as well as formerly on an Asian sex ring. Norma’s big battle? Trying to kill a proposed bypass that would ensure tourists would never drive past her motel. Norman gets involved with multiple women, including his Language Arts teacher, who he later kills. I’m sure there are other stupid things that happened, but I can’t remember important events. Just be aware that the what-the-fuckery aspect? I wouldn’t lie to you about that.
So I sped through the second season of Bates Motel once it was released on Netflix. The third season starts tomorrow night (9/8 central, on A&E!). And Turner Classic Movies showed Psycho yesterday, and I had juuust enough room on Jeremy the TiVo: Episode IV: A New Hope to record it.
And then I reviewed my list and saw that Psycho was indeed on it, and since I slept almost ten hours last night, it’s not like I’ll fall asleep any time before midnight tonight. And if I happen to miss this amazeballs timing, I’m going to be mad at myself.
(Also – if I watch it tonight, I’ll be able to delete it tonight.)
Now having said all that, I have seen key scenes from Psycho. I know I’ve seen the beginning, the scene in the office, the shower scene, and the scene where Norman puts Janet Leigh in the trunk of the car and then sinks it into the swamp. (Look, if y’all wanted me to not mention spoilers, you wouldn’t be reading my live-blog about a movie I’ve never seen.) I may have even seen the scene where the detective goes into the foyer and a wheelchair falls down the stairs, though that may be a different movie. I’m not one-hundred percent sure.
But I do know one thing – I’ve never seen it all the way through. And therefore, it goes on the list.
A Phoenix secretary steals $40,000 from her employer’s client, goes on the run and checks into a remote motel run by a young man under the domination of his mother.
Oh, imdb. You sweet, summer child; still thinking after all these years that people don’t know what the real plot is.
Dammit – I said I was going to watch an episode of Scandal while I wrote the preamble to this entry, and apparently I really can block Scandal out while writing because I totally finished the preamble before Olivia was able to fix this situation. Guess I’ll just finish this huge metaphor for Ferguson, Missouri writ large – I mean, “last week’s episode” – first.
(Seriously, Shonda – and trust me, I love you, I’m with you, and I stand with Ferguson, but while this wasn’t nearly as heavy-handed as Aaron Sorkin’s shark-jumping “Isaac and Ishmael,” there is a fine, fine line between “metaphor” and “wish-fulfillment history rewrite.”)
Okay, this movie is just about an hour and a half long. I should finish this before midnight. Right?
According to Ben Mankiewicz, the second-most important person working on this film was Bernard Herrmann, the composer. GEE, I WONDER WHY
I feel like I should turn some lights off, but I’m keeping them on because I feel like I should turn some lights off. (I hate horror, you guys. Even horror I’ve seen pieces of.)
Fancy credit sequence. Why don’t more movies nowadays go in for fancy credit sequences? (answer: too many people work on a movie nowadays for the credits to fit within the time required for a fancy credit sequence.)
Afternoon falls on Phoenix, Arizona, on apparently Friday, December 11th, at 2:43 p.m. The camera zooms into a cheap hotel where Marion Crane is enjoying her lunch hour with her gentleman lover. My first thought is: that bra really looks uncomfortable. My second thought is: Well, that’s definitely the best way to eat out at lunch.
SORRY NOT SORRY
Apparently, Marion’s gentleman caller is divorced, but Marion wants to marry him in spite of his alimony payments. But if he won’t marry her, she’s going to call the whole thing off. Despairing of having nowhere to eat lunch in the future (I SAID I WASN’T SORRY), he agrees to think about it. I think. I was too busy searching for that Jon Stewart .gif up there.
Marion returns to the office and learns that her sister will be out of town for the weekend, and then her boss’s client comes in with the boss, after their own lunch meeting. They must have gone to a place that served Italian sausage. (I’M NEVER SORRY) Anyway, the client starts waving around $40,000 in cash, because he’s going to buy his daughter a house for her wedding present. He’s buying his unhappiness away, and basically, Marion begins to look at him with dollar signs in her eyes.
ACTUAL DIALOGUE TRANSCRIPTION TIME
The Other Secretary In the Office: Well, I declare.
The Client: I don’t. That’s how I get to keep it.
HEY, I’M A TAX EXAMINER NOW. LET ME TAKE YOUR NAME DOWN, SIR.
The boss wants Marion to deposit the cash in the safety deposit box over the weekend, because he doesn’t believe cash is legal tender, or something. Marion gives him some paperwork then asks to go right home after the bank, as she has a headache. The client gives her permission, and even suggests she head to Las Vegas for some reason. Marion goes back out into the office, and she tells the Other Secretary that she’s going home to spend the rest of the weekend in bed. I BET SHE WILL.
We then cut to her changing her clothes. We know that she’s turned evil – even before we see the pile of money she most certainly did NOT deposit in the bank – because her lingerie is now black, whereas in the motel room, they were white. And everyone knows that bad girls don’t wear white underwear. She finishes packing, including some important-looking paperwork, and then leaves her apartment behind, ostensibly forever.
She then drives out of town, but not before seeing her boss cross the street in front of her. She drives all through the night, eventually parking off to the side of the road to catch a nap. The next morning, a police officer drives up behind her, to find her sleeping on the front seat of the car. Man, cars were huge back then. No bucket seats or anything, plenty of room to sprawl out.
Marion Crane has apparently never learned how to be cool in front of cops. NOT THAT THAT’S A SKILL I’VE EMPLOYED, but as soon as the cop knocks on the window she attempts to skeedaddle. He wants to know what happened, and she explains that she almost got in accident last night while driving, so she just pulled over. THEN SHE ASKS, “Am I acting like I’ve done something wrong?” And the cop and I both yell, ‘YES.’ Seriously, lady, why don’t you just casually drop the envelope full of money you stole out the window? If you know you’re guilty, you just have to try and not act guilty. Put on the “stupid blonde woman” routine (this works even if you’re not a blonde, by the way. As long as you’re a woman, you can get away with this, because men are dumb) (HAPPY INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY EVERYONE, and hey all women, how do you like your day devoted entirely to you be one hour shorter than literally all other days in the year?)
Anyway, after much flop sweat, Marion gets to drive away. But not without the cop following her for a few good miles. When the cop pulls off to go to Gordon (wherever that is), Marion’s shoulders relax and we can all feel her relief.
DIRECTING GEEK-OUT MOMENT
In the above scene, Hitchcock does something great with camera blocking: he films it using one-shots, so the film is cutting between Marion’s POV and the cop’s POV. We never see the two of them in the same shot, until Marion goes to get her driver’s license out of her glove compartment. But during the interrogation, whenever we see Marion (cop’s POV), the focus from the lens is off-center, but whenever we see the cop (Marion’s POV), the cop is centered in frame. It puts the viewer into Marion’s head, looking directly at the cop, and we feel claustrophobic and nervous because of it.
This would be a good time for me to break out my phone and take pictures of some of these angles, with which I could better illustrate, but my phone’s battery is dying and it’s late, so here’s the MS Paint Reenactment:
(Marion’s POV on the left; the cop’s POV on the right. The frames are the car windows. I am not an artist.)
(PS you know who else used this technique? Jonathan Demme in The Silence of the Lambs. HANNIBAL RETURNS JUNE 4TH YOU GUYS, AND IN THIS CASE I DO APOLOGIZE IN ADVANCE)
Marion pulls into a used car garage and looks to make a trade. She spies a newspaper bucket and buys one, and while she’s checking to see if news of her theft had made the morning edition, the cop pulls up and sets up a post across the street. The salesman comes out and wants to sweet-talk her, but she cuts him off, wanting to trade her car in for another model, and quick-like. The more she badgers him into showing that she’s decisive and isn’t going to change her mind, the more California Charlie (his real name, swear to god) gets suspicious. AND GOOD REASON TOO, considering she keeps looking over her shoulder at the cop and pretty much accuses Charlie of accusing her of having stolen her car. They go into the office to hash out paperwork and the cop pulls into the parking lot. She almost drives off without her luggage, and leaves the men in her dust. GIVING THE COP A GOOD LOOK AT HER NEW LICENSE PLATE, MARION.
Marion drives off, and imagines all sorts of conversations between the players we’ve met up to this point: California Charlie and the cop; her boss and the Other Secretary; the boss and the client. As the conversations continue, getting more frantic and panicked, Marion’s face becomes twisted and horrific. I wish my phone weren’t dead so you can see this, and I don’t have time to do another MS Paint Reenactment, so instead I’ll tell you that the best facial expressions are about 27 minutes in (so far), and when you watch this movie, you’ll see what I mean.
Basically, I can see how the first audiences for this movie could have thought that Janet Leigh was supposed to be the title character. But oh, what a MacGuffin that turned out to be.
Marion drives right into a driving rain, and then comes across the infamous Bates Motel. Of course, it hasn’t become infamous yet. Regardless, she jumps out of the car and runs into the office, but there’s no one there. She sees someone walking around in the big scary house on the hill, and when she honks the horn, a pleasant looking man jumps down and runs down the stairs to let her in.
She asks if he has a vacancy, and says:
“We have twelve vacancies. Twelve cabins, twelve vacancies. They moved away the highway.”
IT WAS A PLOT POINT THIS ENTIRE TIME?! GODDAMMIT, I DO MISS THINGS WHEN I DON’T WATCH MOVIES! (NO ONE TELL BRAD OR JOHNNY O)
Marion signs the register as Marie Samuels from Los Angeles – Los Angeles was where she bought the car, and Sam was the name of her gentleman lover.
Norman shows her around Cabin #1, pointing out the bathroom and opening the window. He invites her up to the house for dinner – just sandwiches and milk – and she agrees. While he goes upstairs to get things ready, Marion hides her cash in the newspaper she bought at the car dealership. The rain slows down, and now she can hear a very pained conversation between Norman and his mother. His mother emphatically refuses to allow Norman let a strange woman into her house, so he pulls together some bread and milk and brings it down to the motel for Marion.
She invites Norman into her cabin to eat dinner, and he almost acquiesces, but at the last moment, asks her to eat in the office. She follows him, and over bread and butter, Norman tells her about his taxidermy hobby, how he fills his time, and that a boy’s best friend should be his mother.
DIRECTING GEEK-OUT MOMENT
The next conversation, in which Norman rationalizes how he lets his mother speak to him in the way that Marion overheard (and wow, the acoustics around that motel are fantastic – is it in Red Rocks or something?), Norman leans back in his chair, and overpowering the frame from the upper-left is a giant stuffed owl, wings outstretched, staring at Norman, ready to strike on its prey. Now that is a beautifully-formed visual metaphor.
Marion suggests that Norman leave his mother, but he refuses, because if he leaves, the fire in his mother would go out. “You don’t understand, I don’t hate her; I hate what she’s become.” But when Marion suggests his mother be put “someplace,” Norman’s demeanor completely changes, knowing that Marion means “madhouse.”
While realizing the type of private trap in which Norman has been living, Marion decides that tomorrow morning, instead of continuing on to Fairville (to reconnect with her gentleman lover, and how far does he have to drive for his lunch takeout?), she’s going to return to Phoenix and rectify the private trap she put herself in. Norman is surprised, but offers to bring her breakfast at dawn. When he says goodnight, he says, “Goodnight, Ms. … uh…” and Marion supplies “Crane.” BUT THAT’S NOT WHAT YOU PUT ON THE REGISTER, MARIE
Has anyone ever mentioned how similar Anthony Perkins looks to Nestor Carbonell? I mean it’s really kind of uncanny.
Norman takes a picture off the wall and watches Marion undress in the cabin next door through the peephole he carved out of the wall. THAT’S WHY HE GAVE YOU CABIN ONE, MARION.
#ProTipForLadies: NEVER accept Cabin #1.
Actually, in some light, Anthony Perkins looks like James D’Arcy.
All right, here’s where I’m going to turn the volume down slightly on my TV, because I don’t want my landlady to hear it and get weirded out at — oh shit, it’s already midnight? DAMMIT, I have to work tomorrow. Shit.
Okay, here’s what’s gonna happen, and since I’ve already written about 2500 words, I feel good about hitting pause. I MEAN NOT RIGHT NOW, IN ABOUT THREE MINUTES, JUST LET ME FINISH THIS THOUGHT FOR A SECOND. So look, I’ll get through ~THE SCENE~, close up shop for the night, and then pick it up back in the aftermath first thing tomorrow after work. Before dinner, even. Deal? Deal.
Okay, so Marion’s doing some fancy math to make sure she can pay her boss back what she took, then tears up the calculations and flushes them down the toilet. (FUN FACT!: This is, apparently, the first film to show a toilet flushing on screen.) Then she takes off her bathrobe and starts the shower. She unwraps the soap, and turns the water on.
Oh shit, I just remembered I wanted to take a shower tonight. Shit.
Then we see someone open the door, and loom up behind her, and then —
Well — you know.