Kemper's Reviews > Psycho

Psycho by Robert Bloch
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Apr 13, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: 2011, horror, crime-mystery, serial-killers

Nowadays, it seems like every horror movie is either a remake, a sequel or the kind of vile torture porn that makes you want to puke in your bag of popcorn. Filming one of these flicks requires tens of millions of dollars for a platoon of pretty actors, gallons of fake blood, special effects and a marketing campaign. Oddly, they don’t seem to spend any money on scripts for these things.

But Alfred Hitchcock only needed about nine grand to buy the rights to this book. Then it only took a blonde, a shower, and a butcher knife to create one of the defining scenes in horror history. There might be a lesson in that story somewhere, Hollywood.

Legend has it that Hitchcock had all the available copies of the book bought up after he obtained the rights so that he could keep the story secret for his version. If that isn’t true, it should be. I’ve often wished that I had a way to temporarily blank out my memory of certain stories so that I could read or see them for the first time all over again and be completely surprised. Unfortunately, alcoholic blackouts are extremely unreliable at this so I just have to try and imagine what it would have been like to read this book before the story became a classic. I bet it was a complete mind fuck for those poor bastards who did read it back in 1959.

It holds up remarkably well despite knowing the story and it being over 50 years old. Shifting narration to the inner dialogues of different characters was very effective, especially with Norman himself. My only real complaint is that I wished it would have been the sister Lila and not Mary who took the infamous shower because Lila is a shrill nagging harpy that annoyed the hell out of me.

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Comments (showing 1-30 of 30) (30 new)

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message 1: by Dan (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dan Schwent Is this from the Rubbermaids?


Kemper Actually, no. Saw it on sale for cheap on audible.com and I'd never read it so picked it up.


message 3: by Robert (new) - added it

Robert For some reason I particularly like the last sentence of this review.


message 4: by Megha (new)

Megha "I’ve often wished that I had a way to temporarily blank out my memory of certain stories so that I could read or see them for the first time all over again and get the full benefit of the story."

How is wish I could do that too.


Kemper Robert wrote: "For some reason I particularly like the last sentence of this review."

You must be anti-harpy.


Kemper mp wrote:

If I could, I would watch The Usual Suspects like once a week.


message 7: by Megha (new)

Megha Kemper wrote: "mp wrote:

If I could, I would watch The Usual Suspects like once a week."


I was once very close to watching a crappy Bollywood remake of The Usual Suspects even before I had heard of the original. But I didn't watch it after all because the actor they had looks like an ape and I couldn't stand him.
When I watched the original one finally, I felt real happy that Bollywood hadn't already ruined it for me.


message 8: by Michael (new)

Michael The movie version is one of those great examples of how less is more. Give us just enough and let our imaginations do the rest....

I find it similar to a scene in "The Searchers" when John Wayne's Ethan Edwards is pushed on what he saw in a canyon. If you've seen it, you know which one I mean.

If not, go and see the movie immediately!


Kemper mp wrote: I was once very close to watching a crappy Bollywood remake of The Usual Suspects even before I had heard..."

Unless they had the Bollywood version of Kevin Spacey, I don't see how that could have worked.


message 10: by Kemper (last edited Apr 15, 2011 08:24AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kemper Michael wrote: "If not, go and see the movie immediately!

Oh, I'm a big fan of The Searchers and know exactly what you were talking about. I recently read The Ten Cent Plague about the uproar over comics the post-World War II America, and that author brought up a point about how trying to get around the restrictions of the Hayes Office made filmmakers get very creative in both double meanings in dialogue and hinting but not showing certain things. It was his belief that it was trying to work around the censorship made them better film makers.

I don't mind gore in and of itself. I love the early George Romero zombie movies and splatter fests like Planet Terror, but I'm not of fan of this wave of trying to make things intense by showing extended and explicit scenes of people getting carved up in movies like Hostel.


message 11: by Dan (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dan Schwent Kemper wrote: "Robert wrote: "For some reason I particularly like the last sentence of this review."

You must be anti-harpy."


Once you get harpies, you can't get rid of them.


Kemper Dan wrote: Once you get harpies, you can't get rid of them."

I think they make a cream to help with harpy flare-ups.


message 13: by Robert (new) - added it

Robert It contains Essence of Odysseus, right?


Kemper Robert wrote: "It contains Essence of Odysseus, right?"

That and Neosporin.


message 15: by F.R. (new)

F.R. I know that for 'Strangers on a Train', Hitch's people didn't tell Patricia Highsmith who was going to direct the film to get a cheaper place. I guess the same trick would have been used for 'Psycho', hence the 9k.


message 16: by Trudi (new)

Trudi If I could time travel (maybe I could borrow your lawn mower someday?) I would go back and see some of these landmark films for the first time with an unsuspecting, virgin audience. My memory would be wiped clean too, of course. Psycho would be on that list for sure, as well as The Exorcist.

Keyser Soze! It's worth inventing a memory wipe just to be able to watch that movie for the first time over and over again. Have you seen Memento Kemper? What I wouldn't give to feel all the feels again of seeing it for the first time.

I also love this excerpt taken from a Stephen King interview about seeing Carrie for the first time:
Question: What do you feel are some of the scariest moments in your film adaptations?

King: You mean that scared in the theatre? When that hand comes out of the grave in Carrie at the end. Man, I thought I was going to shit in my pants.

Question: You had no idea...?

King: Yeah, I knew they were going to do it, and I still almost shit in my pants. The first time I saw Carrie with an audience they previewed it about a week and a half before Halloween....The theatre was entirely full of black people. We looked like two little grains of salt in a pepper shaker, and we thought: This audience is just going to rate the hell out of this picture. What are they going to think about a skinny little white girl with her menstrual problems? And that's the way it started, and then, little by little, they got on her side, you know, and when she started doing her schtick, I mean, they're going, "Tear it up!" "Go for it!" and all this other stuff. These two guys were talking behind us, and we were listening to them, and at the end they're putting on their coats and getting ready to leave. Suddenly this hand comes up, and these two big guys screamed along with everyone else, and one of them goes, "That's it! That's it! She ain't never gonna be right!" And I knew it was going to be a hit.



message 17: by Kemper (last edited Mar 19, 2014 09:26AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kemper Trudi wrote: "If I could time travel (maybe I could borrow your lawn mower someday?) I would go back and see some of these landmark films for the first time with an unsuspecting, virgin audience. My memory would..."

Thank you for asking to borrow the time-mower. Stephanie just takes it without permission and never fills it up with gas when she finally brings it back.

I love Memento. Saw that in the theater and then the group I saw it with had to go down the street to a bar where we spent another two hours figuring it all out.

That King story is hilarious. Dave Berry did a column where he talked about going to a horror movie with King once. Berry was excited about seeing a scary movie with the master of modern horror, but then he said that King screamed like a little girl and spent most of it with his face hidden behind his wife's shoulder.


message 18: by Trudi (new)

Trudi Kemper wrote: "Thank you for asking to borrow the time-mower. Stephanie just takes it without permission and never fills it up with gas when she finally brings it back..."

I'm Canadian. I can't help it. It's in our DNA to be polite, or something they keep pumping into our water supply.

Kemper wrote: "he said that King screamed like a little girl and spent most of it with his face hidden behind his wife's shoulder."

Haha, America's boogeyman indeed :)


Kemper Alexandra wrote: "Great review. My exact thoughts when reading this were that this must have been a total Mind Fuck back in the day. I expect there was much clutching of pearls."

Thanks! I also like to picture the folks back in days of yore clutching their pearls and saying things like "Goodness gracious!" when they read/saw this.


Stephanie *Very Stable Genius* Kemper wrote: "Thank you for asking to borrow the time-mower. Stephanie just takes it without permission and never fills it up with gas when she finally brings it back.
..."


I know I'm replying to this way late, well over a year, but I ask and I return it full of gas, and I even wash and wax it!

You're such a fibber....

I do have the last Outlander book to review still, so I'll be asking for it soon.


Kemper Stephanie wrote: "I know I'm replying to this way late, well over a year, but I ask and I return it full of gas, and I even wash and wax it!

You're such a fibber...


I quote your own review of Outlander to prove who is the fibber here:

"...and I'm sitting on a time mower. I "borrowed" it from my friend Kemper, he was pretty tanked on the corn liquor and semi buried in taco wrappers...I don't think he'll notice.

I rest my case.


Stephanie *Very Stable Genius* Kemper wrote: "Stephanie wrote: "I know I'm replying to this way late, well over a year, but I ask and I return it full of gas, and I even wash and wax it!

You're such a fibber...

I quote your own review of Out..."


But I've changed since then.


Mr. Matt Great review. This gets added to my October-Halloween reads list this year.


Kemper Mr. Matt wrote: "Great review. This gets added to my October-Halloween reads list this year."

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.


Kemper Marc wrote: "How could anyone read this and not see Anthony Perkins in their mind?"

I know I couldn't.


message 26: by Howard (last edited Sep 22, 2014 09:52AM) (new)

Howard Great review, Kemper.

You probably know this, there wasn't even any blood in Hitchcock's "Psycho." When Janet Leigh got whacked in the shower chocolate syrup was used in lieu of blood.

Well, if you didn't know, you do now.

Which makes me wonder: Has this film ever been colorized? Red chocolate syrup???!!!


Kemper Howard wrote: "Which makes me wonder: Has this film ever been colorized? Red chocolate syrup???!!!

I don't know if the original was ever colorized, but Gus Van Sant did that shot-for-shot remake of it in color. Apparently he thought the world needed a version with Vince Vaughan as Norman....


April Cote Hitchcock was the man who got me into horror. I loved his films as a kid. Psycho and The Birds were my favorites. I still tell people who are just getting into horror films to start with the original master, Hitchcock.

I have got to read this book. I have no idea why I haven't before!


Abigail Amazing review-- exactly my thoughts!


Talita Husek Oh, God. I keep bumping into your reviews (they are really amusing) and reading them in Archer's voice


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