78/52: Hitchcock’s Shower Scene

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3ad4ce720165db17c3e3035dcfbfc474An entire 90-minute documentary devoted to one scene from one movie? Sounds a bit obsessive, but we’re talking about the “shower scene” from Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho.” It took Alfred Hitchcock 78 camera set-ups and 52 cuts for mad Mr. Bates to murder Janet Leigh.* It took director Alexandre Philippe three years to assemble the interviews, analysis, and rights to countless clips.

The shower scene changed movie making forever. While Hitchcock never showed actual nudity or graphic violence, he so strongly suggested them that after “Psycho,” they became central features of mainstream films. And launched the entire genre of slasher movies.

The main fault is that the producers never got the rights to show the shower scene in its entirety. Same issue with the iconic Bernard Hermann score — the one that leaves us expecting really bad stuff whenever we hear “string stings” in any context. The score of the documentary overcompensates for the loss of the Hermann music, and is rather too heavy for many viewers.

“78/52” is basically for film buffs. If you want to know how he did it and got away with it (Hitchcock, not Bates), then this is your chocolate sundae.**  Otherwise, it’s a bit — well — obsessive.

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* – actually her body double, one of the original Playboy bunnies.

** – film buffs will recall that the “blood” in the shower scene was diluted Hershey’s chocolate syrup. Hitch thought the audience would not accept really red blood, which is why he shot the whole film in black and white. The failure of a later Technicolor remake proved the wily Brit’s intuition correct.

Phil Neches

 

 

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