Wednesday, 14 December 2011

DEBUNKING A "PSYCHO" MYTH


I love Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho". It's a great horror flick (and a great flick regardless of genre) with a couple of twists that sent audiences around the bend back in 1960. It's been imitated, parodied, remade, paid homage to, deconstructed, reviled and revered.

A movie this famous can't help but generate its share of stories and myths. One of those myths, however, has never sat right with me. That's the notion that the infamous shower scene never once shows the killer's knife slashing its victim's skin. Untrue, as this still from the movie proves:


Still, Hitchcock had no trouble making us think we've seen even more than we actually have. Just one of The Master's charms.



2 comments:

Tony said...

The still you posted actually doesn't show the knife penetrating the skin. The filmmakers wanted it to seem that way, though; what you're actually supposed to be seeing is the very split second BEFORE the knife cuts the skin. The way they filmed this was to press the tip of the unsharpened prop knife up against the abdomen, pull it up and away, then reverse the footage. If you slow that shot way down, you can actually see the flow of the shower water running backwards. The darkness at the tip of the knife isn't blood (or, rather, chocolate syrup), it's the shadow made by the indentation of the skin. So it's true, we never see the knife penetrate skin.

Incidentally, though, the other thing you always hear about the shower scene is that there's no visible nudity. That isn't quite true. If you look carefully at the shot where Marion's hand grasps the shower curtain before ripping it down, you can see a naked breast. Not Janet Leigh's, I'm sure; I think they used a stand-in for every shot that didn't show Marion's face. You may have to adjust the contrast or something in order to be able to see it.

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