As the World’s oldest barber shop, Truefitt & Hill has a long history (211 years to be exact) with many famous names from royals to Hollywood stars entering its doors to avail of its unparalleled barber tradition. Among them is Alfred Hitchcock, a fellow British legend, who directed 65 feature films in his career. Arguably his most famous in 1960’s Psycho, which is topical at Halloween, because it is the movie that is single-handedly attributed with kicking-off the whole film genre of horror, which is so often associated with Halloween.
Psycho is based on Robert Bloch's 1959 novel of the same name, which was loosely inspired by the case of convicted Wisconsin murderer and grave robber Ed Gein. Hitchcock acquired rights to the novel for $9,500 after his long-time assistant, Peggy Robertson, recommended he read it. He reportedly then ordered Robertson to buy up copies to preserve the novel's surprises.
However, Paramount Pictures, whom Hitchcock was on contract, did not want Hitchcock to make Psycho, saying the book was "too repulsive" and "impossible for films", and instead wanted another of his star-studded mystery thrillers. Hitchcock steered ahead, independently producing and financing the film at Revue Studios, the same location as his television show.
Psycho was shot on a tight budget of $807,000, between November 1959, and February 1960. Nearly the whole film was shot with 50 mm lenses on 35 mm cameras. This trick closely mimicked normal human vision, which helped to further involve the audience, and is used to this day in horror films like The Blair Witch Project.
Psycho initially received mixed reviews, but outstanding box office returns prompted reconsideration which led to overwhelming critical acclaim and four Academy Award nominations, including Best Supporting Actress for Janet Leigh and Best Director for Hitchcock. Psycho is now considered one of Hitchcock's best films and ranked among the greatest films of all time. Psycho also set a new level of acceptability for violence, deviant behavior and sexuality in American films.
The most original and influential moment in the film is ‘the shower scene’, which became iconic in pop culture because it is often regarded as one of the most terrifying scenes ever filmed. Part of its effectiveness was extreme close-ups and due to the screeching violins in Bernard Herrmann's musical score. A survey conducted by PRS for Music, in 2009, showed that the British public consider the score from 'the shower scene' to be the scariest theme from any film.
Internationally, Hitchcock was forced to make minor changes to the film, mostly to the shower scene. In Britain, the BBFC requested cuts to stabbing sounds and visible nude shots, and in New Zealand the shot of Norman washing blood from his hands was objected to.
Psycho was initially criticized for making other filmmakers more willing to show gore, but is now considered to be the first film in the slasher film genre, and has been referenced in films numerous times; examples include the 1974 musical horror film Phantom of the Paradise, 1978 horror film Halloween (which starred Jamie Lee Curtis, Janet Leigh's daughter),] the 1977 Mel Brooks tribute to many of Hitchcock's thrillers, High Anxiety, the 1980 Fade to Black, the 1980 Dressed to Kill and Wes Craven's 1996 horror satire Scream.
On the review aggregator website, RottenTomatoes.com, Psycho holds a 'Certified: Fresh' score of 96%, with the critics consensus reading: "Infamous for its shower scene, but immortal for its contribution to the horror genre. Because Psycho was filmed with tact, grace, and art, Hitchcock didn't just create modern horror, he validated it."
Here's to our history — one filled with intrigue, mystery and men who have truly groomed for greatness.