Release Date: October 19, 2010
Region: Region Free
Video: 1080P (AVC Advanced Video, 23.976fps)
Main Audio: 5.1 English Master Audio (DTS-HD 6 channels, 24bit, 48kHz)
English Mono (DTS 2.0, 24-bit, 48kHz, 384kbps)
French Mono (DTS 2.0, 24bit, 48KHz, 384kbps)
Subtitles: English, French, and Spanish
Notes: This disc is the same transfer used in “The Masterpiece Collection” boxed set. This title is also available on The Legacy Series 2-DVD set and contains an SD version of the transfer as well as most of the same special features. Instead of the “Psycho Sound” featurette, the Legacy Series release includes a Hitchcock-directed episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents entitled Lamb to the Slaughter.
“I once made a movie, rather tongue-in-cheek, called Psycho. The content was, I felt, rather amusing and it was a big joke. I was horrified to find some people took it seriously. It was intended to make people scream and yell and so forth – but no more than screaming and yelling on a switchback railway. So you mustn’t go too far because you want them to get off the railway giggling with pleasure.” –Alfred Hitchcock
Psycho is an extremely pleasurable film to watch. It might very well be the most iconic film of all time. The film is held in such high regard that it is rather difficult to believe that initial critical reaction was less than favorable. This is actually a huge understatement. A few of the reviews from the era might be considered hostile.
An example is this scathing review written by CA Lejeune for The Observer:
“A new film by Alfred Hitchcock is usually a keen enjoyment. Psycho turns out to be an exception… There follows one of the most disgusting murders in all screen history. It takes place in a bathroom and involves a great deal of swabbing of the tiles and flushings of the lavatory. It might be described with fairness as plug ugly.
Psycho is not a long film but it feels long. Perhaps because the director dawdles over technical effects; perhaps because it is difficult, if not impossible, to care about any of the characters.
The stupid air of mystery and portent surrounding Psycho‘s presentation strikes me as a tremendous error…I couldn’t give away the ending if I wanted to, for the simple reason that I grew so sick and tired of the whole beastly business that I didn’t stop to see it. Your edict may keep me out of the theatre, my dear Hitchcock, but I’m hanged if it will keep me in.” -CA Lejeune
There were many such reviews. It has been theorized that the critics were angered because they were not allowed a special screening of the film and held the inconvenience of watching Psycho with regular audiences against Hitchcock. According to this theory, the critics took their revenge by assaulting the director with poised pens. I suppose that this is possible. Another possibility is that they were expecting another North by Northwest and were shocked when Hitchcock delivered something radically different. Critics have been known to hold it against a film when it does not meet their expectations. It is easy to judge a film harshly for not falling in line with one’s preconceived notions. This is a wrongheaded approach to film criticism that still plagues journalism today.
In the end, it doesn’t really matter why critics seemed to hate the film because they were forced to reconsider their appraisals when audiences loved Psycho. Many people saw the film multiple times. It was a phenomenal success on every level. By the end of the year, even critics were singing Psycho‘s praises. Some of the very same critics that condemned the film upon its original release were writing new reviews that hailed it as one of the year’s best.
Psycho has lost none of its appeal. It is probably less shocking to modern audiences, but the film is still as enjoyable today as it was over 53 years ago. It is probably one of the most studied films in cinema history and interest doesn’t seem to be waning. We should hope that it never does.
4 of 5 MacGuffins
The 50th Anniversary Edition of Psycho is housed in the standard blue case with absolutely gorgeous cover art.
The menus are also gorgeous and employ sepia tinted footage from the film itself. It is visually stunning, but the presentation is slightly marred by the lack of Bernard Herrmann’s iconic score. This is only a minor complaint and this issue should not detract from the viewer’s home video experience.
4.5 of 5 MacGuffins
The picture really looks remarkable and is a vast improvement over other home video releases of the film with incredibly crisp detail evident throughout the film. The contrast looks attractive and reasonably accurate, which essential in this particular film. The grain seems in keeping with the celluloid source and isn’t distracting but welcome and in keeping with the texture of the original cinematography. There is unfortunately some slight aliasing to report (especially on certain fabrics) and there may be some noise related issues on certain landscape oriented shots in the film. The print is not immaculate and there are occasional black and white specks to report. None of these issues is likely to be distracting to most viewers. This is the best Psycho has looked on home video and it surpasses any expectations that most viewers are likely to have. It might not rival the exceptional Warner Brothers release of North by Northwest, but comparing the transfer to that particular 8K restoration print seems incredibly unfair.
4 of 5 MacGuffins
The 5.1 TrueHD sound mix of the film’s original elements is likely to be a controversial issue amongst purists. The mix sounds incredible, but it seems as if there are sound effects missing from the 5.1 track that are evident in the film’s original soundtrack. It isn’t distractingly evident and it is doubtful that most viewers will even notice. However, it seems rather unfortunate (considering how meticulous Hitchcock was about his soundtrack). The mix itself is enjoyable and compliments the film nicely enough, but some will probably prefer the original mono track. Luckily, this track is also available on the disc (though not in high definition).
5 of 5 MacGuffins
Psycho does not offer many features exclusive to the Blu-ray disc, but it does port over the many excellent features from the DVD releases.
Audio Commentary with Stephen Rebello
Stephen Rebello is known for writing the book, “Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho.” His commentary is informative and focuses on the film’s production. He manages to relay a wealth of information in an engaging and entertaining manner. There is a lot to love about this commentary, and it adds value to this release.
The Making of Psycho – (SD) – (01:34:06)
Laurent Bouzereau’s documentary is probably the most comprehensive and well made documentaries on the making of a single Hitchcock film that I have ever seen. It covers every aspect of production in great detail. It might have been better if archive footage of Alfred Hitchcock, Anthony Perkins, and Vera Miles were included. I know that relevant footage is available. Oddly, the documentary is so enthralling that the absence of these key contributors goes unnoticed until it is over. They are certainly discussed at great length. The documentary is far from a mere fluff piece. It is the best feature on the entire disc.
Newsreel Footage: The Release of ‘Psycho’ – (SD) – (00:07:45)
This is a vintage promotional newsreel revealing Hitchcock’s unique policies surrounding the film’s release. It is surprisingly witty and entertaining. Hitchcock fans will love it.
In the Master’s Shadow – Hitchcock’s Legacy – (SD) – (00:25:27)
Contemporary filmmakers discuss Hitchcock’s influence and why his movies continue to thrill audiences. This is actually much better than it sounds, because we see clips from contemporary films that illustrate the director’s profound influence on contemporary cinema.
Psycho Sound – (HD) – (00:09:58)
This brief featurette is new to the Blu-ray disc and looks at the re-mastering process used to create the 5.1 mix from the original mono elements. It is interesting, but is of less interest than the supplements about the film’s production.
Theatrical Trailer – (SD) – (00:06:36)
Theatrical trailers are rarely this entertaining. Instead of featuring footage from the actual film, Alfred Hitchcock gives a fabulously witty tour of the iconic set. He cryptically teases the audience with plot details, but reveals only enough information to make the audience curious. It is really quite delightful.
Re-Release Trailers – (SD) – (00:01:51)
These re-release trailers are less interesting than the original theatrical trailer, but they are certainly worth watching.
The Shower Scene (with and without music) – (SD) – (00:02:31)
This feature allows viewers the opportunity to view the famous shower scene with and without Bernard Herrmann’s iconic score. It is actually surprising how differently the scene plays. The scene actually works quite well without music, but the effect is completely different. Without Herrmann’s score, the scene is less startling and more devastating. The sounds of the knife tearing through flesh, along with the Marion’s screams and whimpers make the moment more intimate when they are played against silence. The horror becomes more personal. There is no doubt that the score contributed to the scene’s success, but for reasons that I would have never guessed. Other people are certain to have different reactions than mine, but this supplement will remain interesting for almost everyone.
Hitchcock/Truffaut Interview – (00:15:21)
These interview clips may sound familiar to those who have read Truffaut’s book length interview with Hitchcock, but it should remain interesting regardless. It is always a treat to hear Hitchcock discuss his films. The audio clips are presented over clips from the film, which increases one’s enjoyment.
The Shower Scene Storyboards – (SD)
These are the famous storyboards for the film that were drawn by Saul Bass, who designed the title sequence for the film.
The Psycho Archives – (SD)
This is merely a collection of photo galleries related to the production and marketing of Psycho. The way that it is listed on the disc is rather misleading (it implies that this is a separate feature and it is merely another set of stills).
Posters & Psycho Ads – (SD)
This is a wonder gallery of poster concepts and ads from the theatrical release of the film.
Lobby Cards – (SD)
This is an excellent gallery of lobby cards used to promote the film.
Behind-The-Scenes Photographs – (SD)
These photos show the cast and crew while they were shooting the film.
*The disc is also My Scenes capable and BD-LIVE enabled.
This release surpasses expectations. The disc’s flaws are eclipsed by its merits and it deserves a place of honor on your Blu-ray shelf.
Reviewed by: Devon Powell