Today I want to tell you about two masterpieces, one of literature and one of cinema. In common they have the same title: Psycho . The first was written by Robert Bloch in 1959, the second (probably the best known) was directed by Alfred Hitchcock in 1960.
The Thrillmaster, who was inspired by Bloch’s novel for perhaps his most famous film, and He was also a master in finding brilliant authors and stories, but little known especially outside America, and making them known to the general public, myself included. In fact, there are numerous novels that inspired him for his films and Psycho is an example of this.
Robert Bloch is a writer who has devoted himself mainly to the horror, pulp, fantasy and mystery genres, also collaborating as a screenwriter in the world of cinema (he wrote the screenplay for three episodes of Star Trek). His best known work is Psycho, a novel that combines elements of thriller, detective and psychological, wisely dosing suspense and twists (I counted three twists in one of the final pages). All of this keeps you glued to the book until the very end. Obviously, having seen the film before, I knew what to expect and what the ending would be, but Bloch’s style makes the story so unpredictable and eventful – and in some ways macabre – that I didn’t stop amazed until the end anyway.
The protagonist is Mary Crane (who in the film will have the name of Marion), a city employee who runs away from her office with a client’s money. With these $ 40,000, the girl intends to start a new life with Sam Loomis, owner of a provincial hardware store and full of debt, as well as unaware of the theft and with whom she has a long-distance affair. The two are slow to marry as soon as the methodical and rational Sam wants to settle his father’s debts and ensure a stable future with Mary.
Mary’s escape by car to reach Sam is tight, but she runs into a night storm and, thanks to the fact that she has lost her way, decides to stop at the Bates Motel. And here comes the true protagonist of the story: Norman Bates, a fat and lonely man who lives in the house behind the motel, together with his elderly mother Norma.
Bloch develops Norman’s personality in a masterly way, which one immediately senses is not exactly stable: he has developed a morbid attachment to his mother, which subjugates and humiliates him in every way. His mother controls him and does not allow him to have contact with women, since she considers them all impure prostitutes. For her, women are all prostitutes who do not deserve to live, including Mary. And in fact, the unaware Mary, who in the meantime decides to leave the next day to return her money, becomes a victim of Norma. The girl is in fact beheaded by a mysterious female figure while she is taking a shower in the motel room.
The stabbing scene is made famous by Hitchcock in one of perhaps the most famous sequences in cinema. This scene lasts only 45 seconds and has as a background a musical comment, also very recognizable, of strident strings, which underline its drama. The scene is cruel and the heinous crime, although the shot focuses only on the girl who screams, first, and then on the blade of the knife. You don’t see the injuries or the battered body, but the horror movie effect is assured. Obviously, thanks to the skilful use of framing and the use of the camera. The director took a full seven days of production and 72 camera positions to create this sequence, as well as rivers of chocolate in the tub to recreate the blood (the film is in black and white).
Returning to the story, days go by and Lila, Mary’s sister, goes to Sam because she hasn’t heard from him anymore. With her comes the private detective Arbogast, hired by Mary’s company to track down both her money and her girlfriend. Nobody warned the police, to avoid the scandal for the company. Arbogast is convinced that Mary stole the money and that her sister and her boyfriend are complicit in it. When Lila and Sam reveal they don’t know where Mary is, the mystery deepens.
The investigation leads Arbogast to the Bates Motel, from which he will never return. Lila and Sam, who have meanwhile started investigating with the sheriff, discover that Norman’s mother died many years ago and that the man lives alone in the back house of the motel. Who is therefore the mysterious female figure that Mary, first, and Arbogast, later, glimpsed at the window of Norman’s house
Lila and Sam, who begin to recompose all the elements of the disappearance of Mary and Arbogast, go to the motel in search of evidence. And here the macabre truth will be revealed to them: a deranged serial killer with a multiple personality, the corpse of an old woman in the cellar and a swamp that hides the victims.
Risking their lives, Lila and Sam have Norman arrested, who will later be locked up in a psychiatric hospital. It will be the psychiatrist to whom Norman is entrusted to reveal the facts: the boy, due to the Oedipus complex, killed his mother and her new husband as a young man by poisoning them. Given his morbid attachment to the woman, Norman unearths her body and keeps it at home, hidden in the cellar. He thus assumed three personalities: the severe and authoritarian one of his mother; that of Norman as a child, completely dominated and dependent on women; that of adult Norman, awkward and misogynist, eager to rebel against his mother.
These three personalities coexist in him, creating a very strong inner conflict. This did not allow him to grow and mature and, unable to face the problems and relationships with women, pushed him to murder. Like Mary, the police find Norman guilty of other crimes.
To mirror the double represented by Norman / Norma and Norman adult / Norman child, there is also the one that contrasts the two sisters: Mary, the “bad”, who steals money in a moment of weakness, and Lila, the “good one”, ready to justify her sister’s actions. It should be noted that Sam, at first in love with Mary, who, however, turns out not to know her well enough due to their long-distance history, then falls in love with Lila, who in a few days learns to know and appreciate more than she has done in years. with Mary.
The theme of the double present in the book is taken up again in the film thanks to the presence of many mirrors. The mirror, in fact, has always been the symbol of the split of the soul, of the double personality and of conscience.
At the time of its release, both the novel and the film aroused criticism for the brutality of many elements. With the special effects or the gory tales we are used to today, probably neither the book nor the film are more so macabre, while managing to keep the suspense very high.
A scabrous element, however, remains: Bloch, for the character of Norman, takes its cue from a deplorable killer, who really existed in Wisconsin, such Ed Gein and nicknamed “the mad butcher”. The killer had committed the worst and most gruesome crimes: murderer, torturer, necrophile, cannibal and grave robber. In his home, renamed “the house of horrors”, the police found numerous ornaments and furniture made with the body parts of the corpses he found from the tombs.
He was also inspired by the directors of The Silence of the Lambs (1991) for the character of Jame Gumb and Do not open that door (1974) for the character of Leatherface.
Despite the passage of time, Psycho – especially in the film version – continues to be well known and appreciated by the general public. The film was also included in the American Film Institute’s list of the best 100 US films and certainly contributed to Hitchcock’s fame as well as Bloch’s.

Previous articleWhat are Omega 3 for? The benefits for the heart, skin and sight
Next articleDo penile implants really work?