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Case Number 19935: Small Claims Court

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The Psycho Legacy

Shout! Factory // 2009 // 90 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Kent Dixon (Retired) // October 18th, 2010

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All Rise...

Judge Kent Dixon doesn't even go to baby showers anymore.

The Charge

The ultimate retrospective on the most influential horror series of all time.

The Case

"Uh-uh…mother-m-mother…uh…what is the phrase? She isn't quite herself today."—Norman Bates

In 1960, filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock took a gamble, aiming to create a B-grade horror film, shot entirely in black and white using his Alfred Hitchcock Presents TV crew, that would largely fly under the radar. The resulting film not only shocked and impacted movie-going audiences at the time, but still captures the imagination and causes the skin to crawl for people who watch the film today. Based on a pulp novel of the same name by writer Robert Bloch that was inspired by the life and crimes of American serial killer Ed Gein; Psycho tells the story of secretary Marion Crane (Janet Leigh, The Manchurian Candidate), who is on the run after embezzling from her employer, and Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins, Murder on the Orient Express), the young man who runs the motel where Marion stops to hide as she runs from the law.

Granted, Psycho may not be in the same league as other legendary big-budget films like The Ten Commandments, West Side Story, Jaws or many of the other films that have left their indelible imprint on popular culture, but its impact has been no less significant. Not only did the first film leave its mark, but it also spawned three sequels, a shot-for-shot big-screen remake and a failed TV series. At just over 45 minutes into the original film, the legendary shower scene was sheer brilliance, forever changing the way people looked at their bathrooms, just as Jaws made us all think twice about swimming. But it wasn't just that infamous scene that made the original great, it was also Hitchcock's keen eye, Joseph Stefano's tight screenplay, Bernard Hermann's powerful score and the skill of both the main and supporting actors that gave Psycho the strong foundation to build from.

When the film's sequels Psycho II and Psycho III were released on discs in 2005, one fan found the shortage of extra features incredibly disappointing. It was that fan, Robert Galluzzo, who set out to right that wrong by gathering an unprecedented amount of info on the Psycho film series, and The Psycho Legacy project was born. I have reviewed a lot of documentaries and one of the biggest challenges for filmmakers must lie in the editing suite. With interview and archival content from more than 32 individuals who have been involved in the series over the past 50 years, Gallozzo and his production team must have had literally hundreds of hours of content to sift through before making the likely difficult decision of what to keep and what to cut, to get the feature down to a manageable 87 minutes.

The Psycho Legacy is quite simply a fan's love letter to a film franchise he clearly cares about very deeply. The feature covers all the bases, as it reflects back to the original film and the sequels, balancing the interview content between members of the creative teams behind each film, and journalists and other fans. There's a lot of detail here that will likely take fans more than one viewing to really appreciate, and when all is said and done, viewers may find themselves running back to their film libraries to watch the series over again with a new perspective, excitement and appreciation.

Given the widely varied source material and other content included on this release, The Psycho Legacy comes to us with a surprisingly solid audio and video presentation. Granted, some of the picture and sound quality isn't all that great, but that's not the point of this release at all; fans of the series will become so engrossed in the content itself that any concerns with the A/V presentation will quickly become irrelevant.

As if the feature documentary itself wasn't enough, Disc Two of the set includes more than three hours of additional content, including a delightful hand-held video from a convention where Perkins talks about the films and his legacy as Norman Bates; the real tragedy of this release is that, since he passed away in 1992, Anthony Perkins was not able to provide his own look back at the series. Fortunately, many of the individuals who worked closely with Perkins throughout the series participated in the documentary, so that's the next best thing. Other extra features include "The Psycho Reunion Panel," held at a 2008 horror film convention, which brought many of the series' production and acting team together to promote the release of the documentary; a tour of the Bates Motel with Gallozzo and Univeral's creative director John Murdy; "Revisiting Psycho II" reflects back on the production and launch of the first sequel; "Shooting Psycho II" includes a conversation with cinematographer Dean Cundy; "A Visit With Psycho Memorabilia Collector Guy Thorpe" is self-explanatory; Psycho on the web takes a closer look at fan site thepsychomovies.com; and "Serial-Killer-Inspired-Art" takes a bizarre look at artists whose work leans heavily into some of the more bizarre and disturbing work you've likely ever seen.

Take note studios: filmmaker Robert Galluzzo has set the bar very high for extra features. Granted, not every DVD release can include the depth and breadth of content found on The Psycho Legacy, but the days of blooper reels and trailers being listed as "bonus features" should be long gone. Galluzzo has not only created a love letter to Norman Bates and the Psycho films, but also an impressive and invaluable catalog of content for a franchise that has impacted fans for 50 years since Norman and Mother first swung a blade.

The Verdict

Not guil…what's that Mother?

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 97

Perp Profile

Studio: Shout! Factory
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• None
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Alfred Hitchcock
• Documentary
• Horror
• Suspense
• Thriller

Distinguishing Marks

• Extended/Deleted scenes
• Featurettes


• IMDb
• Official Site

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