Alfred Hitchcock gave us Vertigo, The Birds, and my favorite, Psycho, which will have an 11:30 p.m. showing on Fri. July 1 at the Terrace. But let's imagine that his 1960 classic hadn't been made until our present time. How would the average studio adapt the original Joseph Stefano screenplay (based on Robert Bloch's novel) for a modern audience?
It would have to face a lot of revisions just to make it from pre-production to the film's release, a product of the always-unreliable data from screenings and market research. Subtlety would give way to the blatantly obvious and sacrifice the very things that have made Psycho, a film that is not just a horror movie or a thriller but a pitch-black satire, such a classic to begin with.
Janet Leigh's blond-haired Marion Crane couldn't be a good person making bad decisions; research would show that people wouldn't get it. So in place of a three-dimensional person, Marion, like many of the characters in the Platinum Dunes Nightmare on Elm Street reboot, would be a miserable brunette with a mild goth streak and not an ounce of likability. And her death wouldn't occur halfway through the film but, like in Wes Craven's Scream, would happen at about the 10-minute mark. People don't like it when a movie yanks the rug from under their feet.
That infamous shower scene couldn't just be a series of quick cuts of a thrusting knife, a running shower head, Marion's tormented face, and a shadowy figure. We would see a whole lot more. The mere suggestions of nudity and graphic violence would be replaced, so the all-important male demographic would be treated to every bit of Marion's goodies while she sensually soaps up. In a move done under the guise of staying faithful to the book, the film would mimic the unpleasant aesthetics of Rob Zombie's Halloween remake: Marion would likely be decapitated. Oh, and like the Zombie remake, Crane's body would get pointlessly defiled pre- or post-mortem.
Norman Bates couldn't just be an adorably wacky mama's boy with a love for dresses and knives. An audience wouldn't get the psycho-sexual issues unless Norman one-upped Silence of the Lambs' Buffalo Bill — both characters are based on the same real-life psycho Ed Gein — by brandishing a dildo knife and obsessively tuning his antenna to drive home the point that he wasn't a Stable Mable.
To cover their butts in the money department, the product placement and marketing would take center stage. Hitchcock, the man who would always find a cameo in his own films, would need to change his look. He could not be a bald rotund guy in a suit who has a flair for humor. He'd don a track jacket, Coogi denim jeans, and a Cookie Monster baseball cap over a kickass hairpiece.
Norman wouldn't eat nondescript candy like a bird, either. He'd snap into a Slim Jim or eat a Snickers, which would really satisfy him. He would use Murphy's Oil Soap to clean up those pesky bloodstains, and Marion would have used Priceline to find the Bates Motel.
Once released, the shocks and secrets within the celluloid wouldn't survive its two weeks in theaters thanks to internet spies, while critics like Michael Medved would decry the film's moral bankruptcy and the chickenheads at Fox and Friends would point to the film as part of Hollywood's homosexual agenda. Ironically, GLAAD would be up in arms over the negative portrayal of homosexuals, and the film's rival studio would announce a reboot to be released within the year.
Thankfully, this nightmare scenario was just my own delusional psychosis at work. If there was no Psycho, we would have never had a Black Christmas, a Halloween, a Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan, or an I Dismember Mama, a true celluloid pleasure. On the upside, though, there would be no ill-advised Gus Van Sant remake with Anne Heche, Vince Vaughn, and Natural Born Killers-esque flash cuts.
Psycho is awesome. Go see it.