ALFRED HITCHCOCK AND THE MAKING OF PSYCHO by Stephen Rebello
1990 – St. Martin’s Griffin – 224 pages
Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho was not only a blockbuster; it was also a game changer. In retrospect it’s a little strange, how one little black and white film changed the course of movie history. Stephen Rebello’s book gives fans a deep dive into the making of this classic movie, exploring truths and debunking myths along the way.
Rebello certainly did his homework. Not only did he interview many of the cast and crew, he also combed through the Hitchcock collection of papers, which was donated to the Motion Picture Academy library by Patricia Hitchcock. What emerges is a very thorough exploration of the making of the film. Rebello arranges the material chronologically, beginning with a chapter on Ed Gein, the Wisconsin serial killer that inspired writer Robert Bloch. From there Rebello gives the reader a chapter on Psycho author Bloch; he then connects this thread from Gein to Bloch, and finally to Hitchcock.
From this point the author explores every aspect of the film’s journey from screenplay to its release and runaway success. Psycho screenwriter Joseph Stefano contributes some great insight into the creative process, writing for and with Hitchcock. Rebello discusses the casting of the film, and Hitch’s decision to shoot the movie “on the cheap”.
The reader also gets a very detailed description of the movie’s production. The scenes are so vividly described that at times the reader can almost imagine being on the set. Of course, many pages are devoted to the infamous shower scene, and Rebello seemingly puts to rest the claim made by Saul Bass that he partially directed the shower scene.
The post-production gets a chapter as well, with much discussion of Bernard Herrmann’s unforgettable musical score. The marketing of this movie was a vital aspect of the film’s success, and Rebello details the many marketing techniques worked to perfection by Hitchcock. Rebello concludes with a look at the continuing legacy of the movie.
Not only is the book very informative, it is also thoroughly engaging. It is a gripping read, not unlike a juicy novel. I am not surprised in the least that this book was optioned to become a movie. If you have seen the result, 2012’s Hitchcock, do not read this book expecting it to tell the story of the film. Where the movie is occasionally over-dramatized, the book sticks to the facts. And what a great story it is.
This book is a must read for any true fan of Hitchcock or Psycho. Beyond that, I think any movie lover in general would find this book hard to put down. Highly recommended.