THE PSYCHO LEGACY – DVD review

Published September 22, 2010

In an earlier article, PSYCHO BABBLE: The Legacy of Norman Bates, I waxed Hitchcockian on Hitch’s notorious 1960 classic, its three sequels, and my affection (is that wrong?) for all of them.  (You may want to scratch that post before continuing here.)  In that article, I mentioned that a recently-produced documentary, THE PSYCHO LEGACY – chronicling the making of ALL of the PSYCHO films – had been completed and was seeking distribution.  Thanks to our friends at Shout! Factory (who also valiantly released the long-awaited bio-pic ELVIS), the wait is over.

From the Shout! Factory press release:

Just when you thought it was safe to take a shower again, Shout! Factory is set to reveal THE PSYCHO LEGACY, a 2-Disc Special Edition DVD set that explores the history, impact, and mystique of PSYCHO and the films that it spawned.  THE PSYCHO LEGACY follows the indelible filmmaking legacy left by the PSYCHO movies and unravels the screenwriting, casting, and directing of all the movies, examining their undeniable longevity and success.   Interweaving rare and never-before-seen interview footage with Anthony Perkins and dozens of interviews with the films’ cast, crew, writers, and directors including Robert Loggia, Olivia Hussey, Henry Thomas, Diana Scarwid, Tom Holland, Hilton Green, Mick Garris, Richard Franklin,  and others, THE PSYCHO LEGACY is the first documentary to unite and explore decades of PSYCHO movies in one place, revealing surprises and insights into what is considered the “grandfather of modern horror.”

It’s been two years since I first wrote about this documentary, and now that I have received and watched my advanced copy (I love this job), I am here to tell you my thoughts.

Was it worth the wait?  Pretty much.  In addition to the 90-minute feature – a treasure trove of new interviews, vintage footage, and behind-the-scenes factoids from all four films – the 3+ hours of bonus material make this a MUST HAVE for fans of this series.  Those special features include extended and deleted scenes, an hour-long panel discussion with Anthony Perkins (this feature alone, filmed in the late 1980s, is a fascinating look into the mind and heart of PSYCHO’s charismatic star), The PSYCHO Reunion panel, a tour of the Bates Motel, Revisiting PSYCHO II (screenwriter Tom Holland and TPL director Robert Galluzzo look through original blueprints, props, and possessions left behind from PSYCHO II director Richard Franklin), Shooting PSYCHO II (an interview with famed cinematographer Dean Cundey), a visit with PSYCHO memorabilia collector Guy Thorpe, PSYCHO on the web, and The Hyaena Gallery Presents Serial-Killer-Inspired Art (… ironically, the most disturbing thing included here).

While the making of the original PSYCHO was brilliantly chronicled by documentary filmmaker Laurent Bouzereau – featured on all of the previous PSYCHO DVDs – this new doc is a perfect companion piece to that earlier film.  Director Galluzzo has called this an unofficial sequel to Bouzereau’s documentary.  Even a Hitchcock aficionado like myself learned much from the material here, including the fact that PSYCHO II producer Hilton Green (Hitch’s assistant director on the original PSYCHO) initially wanted Jamie Lee Curtis to play Mary Loomis in PSYCHO II.  Producers balked, however, and the part eventually went to Meg Tilly.  Meg was fine in the role (… though one also learns here that she and Perkins did not get along on the set).  However, I think Jamie Lee would have been perfect in the part – after all, as we eventually learn (SPOILER ALERT), the part is actually supposed to be the niece of the character January et Leigh played in the original, so who better than to play the role than Leigh’s daughter, Jamie, hot off of John Carpenter’s Halloween?  Oh well.

There are so many tasty tidbits here, one could not possibly list them all.  Some highlights: like when Jeff Fahey (PSYCHO III) segues off-topic and relates a story from the set of Grindhouse, where directors Tarantino and Rodriguez casually taunt him with his “Duane Duke” dialogue.  Or Perkin’s own anecdotes regarding the filming of the first three movies (his interview was completed not long before the filming of PSYCHO IV), and his relationship not only to the role of Norman Bates, but to fans of the series, is utterly fascinating.  He even tells us how the hilarious pronunciation of the word “cuuuuuutlery” from PSYCHO II came about.  One forgets this was shot on a camcorder during a panel discussion.  Thank God for the amateur cameraman in the audience, otherwise this footage of the notoriously interview-shy Perkins would not exist.

If I had any problems with the material presented here, I wish the producers had sprung for the rights to use Bernard Hermann’s iconic score for use on this disc (… or even Jerry Goldsmith’s haunting score for the first sequel), but instead we get a PSYCHO-esque score that more-or-less does the job.  I quibble – this is a very well produced documentary, and director/producer Robert Galluzzo is to be lauded for taking on this task on spec.

If I haven’t made my point yet … THE PSYCHO LEGACY is a marvelous document on all of the PSYCHO films, a brilliant companion piece to Bouzereau’s PSYCHO documentary (not to mention this bargain-priced DVD), and also to the continuing legacy of Norman Bates.

THE PSYCHO LEGACY ($19.95) will be released in stores nationwide October 19, 2010.  Copies can also be purchased at Amazon.com and Shout! Factory.

Highly recommended.

DOCUMENTARY GRADE: A
BONUS MATERIAL: A