In October, 15 of his films were released on Blu-ray in a Masterpiece Collection.
HBO recently aired The Girl, a docudrama about the director and his relationship with Tippi Hedren.
And now there’s Hitchcock, a big-screen look behind the scenes at the making of Psycho.
You might call this latest film a prequel to The Girl, which focused on The Birds and Marnie. Either way, Hitchcock is an enjoyable look at the man behind the movie, and how he did things his way and changed the game forever.
And that’s really true: The film shows how, because Paramount refused to finance Psycho, Hitch (Anthony Hopkins) had to get scrappy and self-finance the film. He made creative marketing decisions, like buying up all the copies of the book Psycho so no one would know the plot of the film. He forbade anyone from entering the theater after the film started. He came up with an ingenious way to shoot the shower scene without ever showing Janet Leigh actually being stabbed. And he decided to kill off his star just a half hour into the movie as a way to really shock audiences.
Actually, as Hitchcock shows, that last suggestion came from Alma (Helen Mirren), Hitch’s loyal, patient, and often overlooked wife and creative partner. The film is as much about their relationship and how Alma inspired Hitch — both intentionally and unintentionally — as it is about making Psycho.
Of course, not everything in Hitchcock is accurate. In some cases, director Sacha Gervasi just skims the surface of what really happened or makes up scenes entirely. (For a more comprehensive look at Psycho, read Stephen Rebello’s Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho, which inspired this film.)
And I probably could have done without the multiple chats that Hitch imagines himself having with Ed Gein, the inspiration for the Psycho book and film.
But Hitchcock is great fun to watch, despite those misgivings. Gervasi uses wit, style, period detail, and a score by Danny Elfman to effectively portray life on the set (the old-timey Paramount back lot looks great), and shows how Hitch was not always the most pleasant director to work for (for much more about that, definitely check out The Girl).
Hopkins, under layers of prosthetics and padding, nails Hitch’s droll, dark sense of humor — with the help of John J. McLaughlin’s screenplay, of course — as well as his neuroses about not wanting to be seen as a one-trick pony or just a television auteur. Mirren provides a nice complement, and even Scarlett Johansson looks like she’s having fun as Janet Leigh.
Just as Lincoln provided insights into the President by focusing only on a few months of his life, Hitchcock uses the making of Psycho to provide insights into who this man was — a brilliant filmmaker and marketer, and a bit of a pervert, but also a jealous husband at times. And it makes a nice complement to The Girl, in that Hitchcock tells the story from Hitch’s point of view, and the other tells it from the perspective of his star.
In Hitchcock, when Psycho finally premieres to screams and raves, we see Hitch so pleased with himself that he literally conducts the soundtrack out in the lobby before he takes his victory lap when the crowd comes out.
What Hitch did for an encore was detailed in The Girl, and this film shows in highly entertaining fashion just how high he set the bar for himself the next time out.
I’m giving Hitchcock an A–. It is, indeed, a good evening at the movies.
What’s your favorite Alfred Hitchcock movie? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.