Hitchcock … The Story Behind the Story.
Ed Gien, do you know who he is? Serial killer, cross dresser, psychopath. Don’t feel bad, I didn’t know who he was either. His actions were the inspiration for the book Psycho which was in turn developed into the screenplay for the 1960 thriller of the same title. How did I find this out? The reincarnation of Alfred Hitchcock told me. Well not really, but a spot on portrayal by Anthony Hopkins began the movie Hitchcock by telling me this story. And, in classic Hitchcock form he delivered it with the driest of British wit and charm.
For the casual movie viewer not much is known about the inspiration and work that went into that black and white film from more than 50 years ago. What most people on the street could tell you is that it involved a slasher shower scene by a man with mother issues. What Hitchcock (directed by Sacha Gervasi Anvil, The Terminal) does is takes the viewer further into the how and why of this movie not only by Alfred Hitchcock but also by his determined wife Alma (played by Helen Mirren).
It is true that Ed Gien’s actions started the Psycho ball rolling; however it was Hitchcock’s desire to make it into a film after it had been passed upon by many other directors. But why? He just completed North by Northwest, a spy movie. Why change gears and focus on a dark subject like this? He knew that with inside of all of us that we couldn’t look away when presented with the dark and demented. He knew the human psyche all too well and was able to be the man in the corner with a 35mm camera capturing it all.
As the audience we follow Hitch’s (that’s what everyone called him, even his wife) determination to live again by making films that he wanted to make, not films that he had to make for contractual obligations with the studios. He admits that in his last 30 years he has made some poor film decisions and this was his chance to redeem himself; he was 60 years old and by Hollywood’s standards past his prime. He needed Psycho to prove himself once again.
Alma chooses, as always, to support her husband. However, there is another man, Whitfield Cook (played by Danny Huston) who is after Alma for her script writing skills. Alma wasn’t some quiet house wife always agreeing with her famous husband. For her time she was a very domineering woman who was once Hitch’s boss.
While Alma is being pursued, Hitch is pursuing a blond bombshell, Janet Leigh (played by Scarlett Johansen) to play his leading lady. It turns out that Hitch has a thing for blond actress and once he gets them under his wing, he wants to control their every move. He also casts a mild manner (possibly gay) Anthony Perkins (played by James D’Arcy) who has mother issues of his own. Lastly he casts Vera Miles (played by Jessica Biel), who was within inches of being made a star by Hitch but she chose motherhood instead.
While production is in full swing, Hitch is also having fantasy escapist moments where he is conversing with Ed Gien (played by Michael Wincott) while Ed is performing some of the murders that made him infamous. To top it off Hitch is battling the studio and the censor board not only on the shower scene but also on the toilet in the bathroom. Here’s a bit of trivia – Psycho was the first American film to show a flushing toilet.
All of this starts to spiral out of control when Hitch convinces himself that Alma is cheating on him and his film becomes still born. It’s flat and he doesn’t know why, not until he pleads Alma for help to bring his film to life. Once that happens film history is made. Well, not quite. Hitch also has to do his own marketing where he sends specific instructions to theater owners to hire armed guards keeping patrons from entering Psycho late. How’s that for adding an extra touch of suspense?
Should you see this movie? Yes, but please see Psycho first. This is not a film that will ignite one’s interest in Psycho. There has to be some engagement on the viewer’s behalf to be vested in the film in the first place. This is not a film for a 17-year-old boy to take his best girl to in hopes of understanding Hitchcock. This film was intended for a mature audience who has most likely grown up watching his movies or TV series. This is for the fans who want to see one of the monumental directors reincarnated by an actor who has taken his role seriously.