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On Air: Norman Bates

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Alfred Hitchcock was a brilliant director, but he was probably equally skilled as a promoter. By the time Psycho was released in 1960, Hitchcock's rotund profile was well recognized by the American public, most immediately through his television show Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

Hitchcock succeeded in creating initial buzz for Psycho by not offering preview screenings for critics. But that was just the beginning.

He came up with the notion that no one should be allowed into the theater once the movie had started. Incredibly, he got theater owners to go along with that stunt.

Also, in the lobbies of many movie houses were life-sized cutouts of the portly Hitch, admonishing audiences not to reveal Psycho's shocking ending.

Perhaps Hitchcock's greatest — and certainly the most fun — Psycho promotion was the six-and-a-half minute trailer for the film. It consists of the director's tongue in cheek tour of the Bates Motel, along with Norman and Mother's house behind it.

As he walks the grounds, the director gives hints of the crimes to come — but before he can go into much detail, he stops himself, saying things like, "It's too terrible to talk about."

And then there is the final brilliant scene of the trailer: Hitchcock stepping into the infamous bathroom of Room Number 1 at the Bates Motel, where Janet Leigh as Marion Crane is dispatched early on in the film.

Except that when Hitch flings back the shower curtain, a la Norman in the movie, who is it standing there screaming? Not Janet Leigh.

It's Vera Miles, who plays Marion's sister in the movie. The stunt throws off viewers as to who is really going to get sliced and diced at the motel.



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I just listened to the piece on Norman Bates of Psycho, and thought it was very well done.

I just wanted to add one comment, about Anthony Perkins. I didn't know that he was a closeted homosexual and that he was tortured by the possibility that he would be outed early on in his career.

This biographical note is fascinating context in which to read one of Norman's defining characteristics, which is brought out in one of the audio clips used in this piece -- his complete sense of discomfort with the beautiful young woman played by Janet Leigh.

The dialogue at dinner where he stutters, "It's actually a f-fff-fff falsity" about birds not eating much was a brilliant selection...he's struggling to get out the word "fallacy," which in a psychoanalytic reading is quite telling! Norman can't get it up to say a word that sounds like "phallus" in front of his lodger.

Even if it's true that Perkins brought the stuttering to the character, then I'm sure this moment must have been scripted.

Sent by Jeff Rufo | 6:08 PM | 7-1-2008

Norman Bates is indeed a compelling and frightening figure. But as a clinical social worker who has specialized in psychological trauma over the past 40 years, I am disappointed to hear him diagnosed as a 'schizophrenic'.

Judging from Norman's symptoms and his behavior, he suffered from a severe dissociative disorder which was once called Multiple Personality Disorder but is known today as Dissociative Identity Disorder. These disorders are rooted in severe abuse in fairly early childhood, anything from an invasive medical procedure(s) to child physical and or sexual abuse. DID is primarily made, not born.

Bates was not psychotic -- he did not see or hear things that aren't there. Unlike schizophrenia at this point in time, DID is treatable. (See Sybil.) Maybe the moral of the story is to treat our children well or else we can create our own monsters.

Sent by Kate Berman | 6:10 PM | 7-1-2008

Also recall that the movie, although shot in black and white, contained a very very brief of snippet of red during the infamous shower scene.

Hitchcock wanted the red to represent Crane's blood.

Rent the DVD and pause the screen at the appropriate time. You'll see red too.

Sent by Scott Hample | 1:07 PM | 7-2-2008

Hitchcock is absolutely fantastic the way he reels in the audience with this trailer. Directors nowadays rarely put this much time and energy into promoting their films. It only shows how much faith Hitchcock had in his movie and how fantastically confident he was in it.

His trailer for "The Birds" is also equally hilarious as he wonders out loud the possible reasons birds would want to attack humans (all the meanwhile he is eating chicken). Pure genius and effort.

Sent by Tiffany | 9:26 PM | 7-22-2008