Psycho: Second time around

Welcome to Wild Card Wednesday.  Today’s blog is an installment of the original vs. remake series I do with Tiffany A. White.  This month’s movie is Psycho.  To shake things up a bit, I decided to do the remake, so Tiffany will do the original on Friday.

For anybody who doesn’t know Psycho at all, lets start with the simple stuff.

Homemade summary:

Marian Crane steals a large sum of money from her employer with plans of using it to help her and her boyfriend start a new life together.  Her plans go awry when she checks into the Bates Motel and is killed in the shower.

Marian’s sister and a private investigator trace Marian to the Bates Motel.  Will they find out what happened to Marian before the same thing happens to them?

The origins of Psycho:

The original 1960 Alfred Hitchcock version of Psycho was based on a book by the same title by Robert Bloch.  Mr. Bloch’s book was loosely based on Ed Gein’s murders and grave robbing.  I will talk about Ed for my Freaky Friday post, so we won’t go into great detail about Ed Gein here.

The remake:

Let me say up front that the remake did not grab me.  I strongly prefer the 1960 Alfred Hitchcock version.

The Psycho remake was released in 1998.  It was directed by Gus Van Sant.  One of the few things I loved about this film was the cast.  Sure Vincent Vaughn starred as Norman Bates, but the supporting cast was amazing.

We’re talking Anne Heche, Julianne Moore, Viggo Mortensen, William H. Macy, Phillip Baker Hall, and Robert Forster.  Flea (from the Red Hot Chili Peppers) even had a cameo.  James Remar, who plays Dexter Morgan’s father on Dexter, also had a small part.

Look, it’s Flea!

The remake recycled a great deal of the Hitchcock original.  The movie itself was pretty much a shot-for-shot remake of Hitchcock’s 1960 masterpiece.

Hitchcock’s lighting style and editing techniques were used.  The original score by Bernard Hermann was re-recorded in stereo with a new arrangement by Danny Elfman.

Watch the trailer:

The movie itself felt like something from the 60s.  Had 1998 not flashed across the screen as the movie began, I would have thought the remake was set in the 1960s.

Sets and clothing styles had a retro look.  William H. Macy as Milton Arbogast looked more like a 60s era private detective with his hat and suit than a professional in the late 90s.  In addition, the sign in process at the Bates Motel was something I haven’t personally seen since the 1980s–the early 1980s.

Even the values and mores of the characters didn’t quite work for the late 1990s.  This one is harder to explain, but I’ll try.  When Marian Crane steals the money, her boss–instead of pressing charges–sends Marian’s sister to find her and talk her into coming back.  That seems more like a kindness from a bygone era.

Check out the outfits in this pic:

So what was new in the remake?

Well, it is in color.  And modern filmmakers can show things filmmakers in the 1960 original couldn’t…like Norman Bates (Vince Vaughn) masturbating as he watches  Marian Crane (Anne Heche) through the peephole.

Other than that, the money Marian steals is $400,000 rather than the $40,000 in the original.

And there is that scene that shows Viggo Mortensen’s naked behind.  That in itself is almost worth sitting through the rest.

Another thing that was new to me was that the movie’s pacing felt slow.  The original has never felt slow, probably because I watched it expecting the pacing common in movies made in the 1960s.

But the remake was made in 1998.  I think I went in expecting that it would hold up to the pacing expectations of a thriller or horror film made in the late 1990s.  It didn’t, though.

Bottom line? Skip it.  You can see all the people involved doing better work elsewhere.

Watch Julianne Moore, Phillip Baker Hall, and William H. Macy in Boogie Nights.  Watch Robert Forster in Jackie Brown.

Watch Viggo Mortensen in A History of Violence.  Watch Anne Heche in HBO’s original series Hung.  See what a talented director Gus Van Sant is in To Die For and Drugstore Cowboy.

But…put the 1960 Alfred Hitchcock version of Psycho on your movie bucket list.  It is worth your time.


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