Psycho, why Hitchcock put his money where his mouth was

Psycho cover


Last night my wife and I watched the movie Hitchcock with Anthony Hopkins in the starring role and Helen Mirren as Hitchcock’s wife, Alma Reville.

For those who haven’t seen the flick, it is about the making of the movie Psycho, Alfred Hitchcock’s most famous movie.

I have no idea how historically accurate the show is but as it tells the tale, Hitchcock had one movie left in his deal with Paramount and decided he wanted to make a horror film based on Robert Bloch’s 1959 suspense novel, Psycho.  The powers that be at the studio didn’t like the idea and refused to finance it.

So Hitchcock quit and went to another project, right?


Anthony Hopkins as Hitchcock

He mortgaged his house to raise the eight hundred thousand dollars he figured it would take to make the movie.

Then he had to deal with the censors.  Psycho had the famous shower scene .  The censors were aghast. How could he make that scene without nudity?  Bare flesh was a no-no. In the deadliest century in human history, a span that saw tens of millions of people slaughtered around the globe, that witnessed the horror of the Holocaust, censors couldn’t allow anyone to get a whiff of female flesh in the shower.

But worse than that, Hitchcock planned to use a scene with a toilet in it.

Until then, no American movie had ever displayed the image of a toilet.

Janet Leigh shower scene in Psycho

Funny how things change, isn’t it?

If you’ve ever seen Psycho, you never forget the shower scene.  Not because of the titillation of the scene, but because of its pure horror.  Few Americans can get into the shower to this day without thinking about that scene.

But, as I said, the  movie is about much more than the making of Psycho. It also provides us a glimpse into the dark mind of the famous director and his enigmatic relationship with Alma Rivelle, brilliantly played by Helen Mirren.  Rivelle, herself a director, carried a lot of water behind the scenes for her husband. She did the daily re-writes, consulted with him, worked on the cuts and the score.

But the aspect of the movie that grabbed me most was the way it portrayed Hitchcock’s obsession with the real psycho Bloch had used as fodder for his novel.

This part of the plot reminded me of a writer in the  middle of a novel.  It can be scary for an author to give himself up to a villain, to get inside his head, spend months viewing life through his lens.

It’s the sort of thing that can turn someone into a psycho.


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  • Your last line says it all Stephen!

  • Tim Greaton

    Stephen, I often liken a committed author to a method actor. Sometimes we burrow so deep into our characters that those thoughts, mannerisms and viewpoints start to flavor the real world. I suppose it makes for great stories but it probably is a little rough on the gray matter 🙂

    • Tim, especially when you consider that we writers tend to be a little odd from the outset, lol. SW

  • Do what you want. Do it the way you believe it should be done. And never let the opinions of her dissuade you. This is a great lessons for writers who are bucking the odds, and we buck them every day.

  • I hate the thought of anyone remaking a Hitchcock film. Any Hitchcock film. He was truly genius, the master of story-telling.

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