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Psycho


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#1 Dominic Case

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Posted 01 November 2009 - 12:12 AM

Just watched Hitchcock's Psycho for the n'th time. I always forget about the first couple of reels, before Janet Leigh hits the road. But there are a couple of shots where she's driving through town and sees her boss crossing the road in front of her.

Not sure if it's rear projection or mattes - but the effect really jars. Not only is the exterior no brighter than inside the car, but the perspective of the exterior seems all wrong - as though the pedestrians are almost IN the car.

I'd like to say this is deliberate - maybe a sense of heightened realism to portray Janet Leigh's character's sense of guilt - but I suspect that's a totally post-modern interpretation that has nothing to do with the facts. Seems more like bad (or hurried) work.

Does anyone know anything about this? Or anyone like to make something up?

BTW, the first few reels of this film are a testament to the team of Hitchcock and Hermann. Was there ever a better example of the combined power of music and editing? Sorry, the cinematography takes a poor third here!
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#2 Andy_Alderslade

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Posted 10 November 2009 - 07:09 PM

Just watched Hitchcock's Psycho for the n'th time. I always forget about the first couple of reels, before Janet Leigh hits the road. But there are a couple of shots where she's driving through town and sees her boss crossing the road in front of her.

Not sure if it's rear projection or mattes - but the effect really jars. Not only is the exterior no brighter than inside the car, but the perspective of the exterior seems all wrong - as though the pedestrians are almost IN the car.

I'd like to say this is deliberate - maybe a sense of heightened realism to portray Janet Leigh's character's sense of guilt - but I suspect that's a totally post-modern interpretation that has nothing to do with the facts. Seems more like bad (or hurried) work.

Does anyone know anything about this? Or anyone like to make something up?

BTW, the first few reels of this film are a testament to the team of Hitchcock and Hermann. Was there ever a better example of the combined power of music and editing? Sorry, the cinematography takes a poor third here!


The artificiality of Hitchcock films is for me their biggest flaw - otherwise they would be practicaly perfect in every way.

But Mr Hitchcock was very much the product of businesslike studio production, where a director would make 2, 3 maybe 4 films a year barely leaving the studio so model shots, matts, rear projection became the way of filming stories of people being chased through Scottish moorlands, train journeys through the European mountains, assassinations in the Albert Hall, with modest budgets but also with total creative control.

The model shots in The Lady Vanishes are by today's standards of realism laughable, but it still remains a brilliantly conceived film.

When Hitchcock moved to Hollywood all those model, matts and rear projection shots became better with bigger budgets and improved technique. All this more convincing effects actually allowed a great deal of creativity and only got better and better for almost two decades. Vertigo was very much the accumulation of this, there all those tricks seem to play like individual instruments in a massive, brilliant, if somewhat manipulative orchestra - when James Stewart and Kim Novak kiss by the ocean, their kiss is synced up with the enormous crash of the waves - an obvious heightening of their passion through back-projection.

Now Psycho, was very much a different affair from his previous lavish VistaVision films, made on a low-budget with his TV crew, it was very much a production exercise in modesty and speed, something some modern directors could learn from maybe! So obviously flaws in 'tricky' things like matts and back-projection are easily going to be flawed, but you can't deny the power of the cinematography and direction in so many scenes, when Janet Leigh drives through the rain, when Norman Bates spies on Leigh, that bathroom scene, when Vera Miles approaches the front door of the house, the final shot of Norman and his mother!

Of course as film tastes in the 60's embraced realism more and more, things only got worse for Hitchock's dependency on matts and back projection, to the point with Marnie where American critics blasted the film solely for looking fake. He tried to move more to 'real-world' filming with his latter films but his golden days were already over.

But learning to live with the artifice of his films is necessary, same as living with the terrible hammy acting in many loved Hollywood classics, or the terrible sound-syncing in post-war Italian films.
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Aerial Filmworks

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

Technodolly

Ritter Battery

Visual Products

Paralinx LLC

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

rebotnix Technologies

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