In honor of both Rue Morgue’s 13th Anniversary Halloween Issue and Psycho’s 50th bloodstained birthday, I thought it the perfect time to present a guided look at some of the many collectible items that have been spawned from Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece of the macabre and the Robert Bloch novel that preceded it.
I’ve long had a special fondness for Psycho. The first time I remember seeing it was probably back in 1980 or ’81 when I was 8 or 9 years old and although the film’s themes (voyeurism, sexual repression, duality, among others) and Freudian concepts went completely over my head, I could still appreciate how tense and frightening it was. On top of that, I was in total awe of Bernard Herrmann’s shrill score – reminiscent of screeching birds – with which I would later realize nicely tied into the whole bird motif that ran throughout the film.
When I bough my first VCR (a huge, top-loading model from a Granada rent to own store) at age 14 from the earnings of a summer job, the very first movie I bought was Psycho. Purchased brand-new at the then-bargain sale price of just $24.99 at the Towers department store at Jane and Finch Mall, I played it that same night and noticed several things I had not observed before. It’s now 24 years later, and I still have that tape.
And I still notice something new every time I watch Psycho.
Below are items from my Psycho-related collection. Enjoy the pics …
With Psycho, author Robert Bloch loosely based his novel on the activities of Plainfield, Wisconsin psychopath, Ed Gein. At the time Gein was arrested for murder in November, 1957, Bloch was living only 35 miles away in Weyauwega, Wisconsin and had heard a bit about the crimes, but not everything – as newspapers of the day did not print all the grisly details. Of course, Gein’s activities would later go on to inspire The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Silence of the Lambs. Here’s a vintage paperback tie-in edition, published by Crest (Fawcett Publications) in 1960:
Bloch – a protégé of H.P. Lovecraft who had been writing since the 1930s was a prolific author with numerous novels, short stories and screenplays under his belt. He was to achieve his biggest success with Psycho though, and the 1959 novel would remain the one he is most remembered for. Bloch went on to write two follow-ups: Psycho II (having no relationship to the film) in 1982 and Psycho House in 1990. He died in 1994 at age 77.
Here’s another novel of his, 1960’s The Dead Beat, which was quick to cash in on the popularity of Psycho:
This absolutely amazing offering pictured below was released in 1974 and is part of Flare Books’ Film Classics Library series. Edited by Richard J. Anobile, this 256-page volume features frame blow-ups of nearly every scene in the film, complete with dialogue. Some of the images are a bit blurry, but it is nevertheless an indispensable addition to any cinema fan’s library. Other titles in the series include Frankenstein, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Maltese Falcon and Casablanca
Here’s an excellent biography on the man, and an effort that to this day has yet to be matched. Of Psycho, Hitchcock considered the film to be “a black comedy.”
Back in the late ’80s, I purchased a repro copy of the original U.S. one-sheet poster (around 27 inches x 40 inches) similar to the one shown below:
Frankly though, I’m not really a huge fan of the poster’s design and much prefer the Belgium release French poster featured below which is admittedly smaller in size (approximately 14 inches x 22 inches), but features stunningly beautiful and colorful artwork. My copy of it is also a reproduction that was released back in the early ’80s, but it looks so good that its former owner mistook it for an original and actually had it linen backed – a process to restore and preserve rare posters. In fact, I’d have to say that this is my favorite of all the poster designs for Psycho:
Anthony Perkins’ highly nuanced portrayal as Norman Bates was (and remains) one of cinema’s most accomplished performances. So successful was he in the role in Hitchcock’s classic that he became a victim of typecasting forever on, and ultimately went back to playing Bates more than two decades later in 1982’s Psycho II. Perkins would even go on to direct 1986’s Psycho III himself. He wanted to direct Psycho IV as well, but the job ultimately went to Mick Garris (TV’s Masters of Horror). Here’s a selection of VHS cassettes of the entire original series, including two releases of the original film:
There have of course been numerous books published on the making of Psycho and the film’s effect on the cinematic landscape. But here’s something a little different: a comic book adaptation of the film. The following was released as a three-issue series in 1992 by Innovative Corporation and features beautiful rendered artwork. The likeness of Janet Leigh and many of the other actors is actually uncanny. Strangely enough, the artists aren’t able to pin down Anthony Perkins’ likeness quite as well.
As Psycho is generally considered the first modern horror film, many books use it as a springboard for a discussion on other psychologically-themed shockers, including those from the slasher sub-genre. Here are a couple of very well written and illustrated examples:
On the toy front, Polar Lights/Playing Mantis put out this fantastic plastic model kit on the Bates Mansion back in 1998. It’s even got a miniature “Mother” inside. The kit has just been reissued again, this time with a lighting fixture to allow the windows to light up – something the original never came with.
In 1999, McFarlane Toys released this Norman Bates action figure from the second series of its Movie Maniacs line. Complete with base and mini movie poster (which is actually a modified poster image from Psycho II), the highly detailed figure features a removable wig and knife. The navy blue polka-dot styled dress is actually not from the original Hitchcock film, but like the mini poster, from Psycho II.
Unfortunately, I don’t yet own this Madame Alexander collectible Janet Leigh doll w/ bathtub and shower curtain, as it’s somewhat pricey. But, hopefully one day I’ll be able to pick it up and make space for it on my shelf – right next to Norman himself. Here’s some pics …
For anyone with a desire to dress up as Norman (or more correctly, Mother) and walk the streets with knife-in-hand this Halloween, the following item will be of interest: an “official” Psycho Norman Bates/Mother costume from Rubies Costume Company.
And for an even more authentic effect, they’ve even released a 15 1/2 inch x 16.5 inch light-up Bates Motel sign for wannabe Normans to stick on their windows or porches!