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By James Whittington, Saturday 7th April 2018
Everyone who has seen Alfred Hitchcock's monochrome masterpiece Psycho will know that how it created one of the most enduring horror icons of the 20th century, Norman Bates. Played to chilling perfection by Anthony Perkins and based on the novel of the same name by Robert Bloch which was first published in 1959 the movie was a benchmark in the horror/thriller genre and Hitchcock sent the rest of his career trying to match it.
Bates was a reflection, an amalgam of several real-life killers, most notably Ed Gein, whose ability to be in plain sight of his hometown whilst committing hideous crimes is almost as hideous as the crimes he committed. Much has been written about the movie Psycho, but what about the cinematic sequels? Often over-looked and even by some totally ignored, Psycho II and III have a lot to offer and gave Perkins the chance to flesh out his most character.
Psycho II was released in 1983, right at the tail-end of the first big slasher-mania run but could the granddaddy of the knife kill compete? Coming just a year after Robert Bloch's book of the same name but having no resemblance at all this was a brave idea, to bring back the world's most famous Mommy's Boy!
Director Richard Franklin, who apparently was inspired to become a director after seeing, amongst other things the original Psycho, only had four features under his belt but delivers the essence of the original whilst at the same time upping the violence and blood, bringing Tom Holland's script vividly to life. As a side note, look out for Tom in a cameo role as Deputy Norris. It was a box-office hit and though it took some purists time to adjust to seeing Bates in colour its rightly regarded as one of the best horror movie sequels made.
Psycho III arrived in 1986 and this time Perkins decided to sit in the director's chair. Brave you might say, seeing as though it was his directorial debut you could consider it crazy, but Perkins delivers a solid and emotional movie that gave fans a darker insight into Bates' situation, of his off-kilter mind-set and the duplicity in his tangled mind. Again, the film has nothing to do with Bloch's third Psycho novel, Psycho House which was published in 1990.
Set only a month after Psycho II, Norman finds himself falling in love and its this bizarre twist that split the audience at the time. Here we view Norman's softer side which at first seems at odds at to what has gone before but as we all know his evil will always conquer. Perkins would only direct one other feature which is a real shame as he shows signs of a very confident director.
Though there was a movie, Bates Motel in 1987 which didn't feature Perkins, a TV Movie followed and was very good too and we will look at that in a different feature as it wasn't given a cinematic release. There was also a scene for scene remake in 1998 but the least said about that the better. Another TV outing for Norman was Bates Motel, a series that ran for 5 seasons and dived directly into the relationship between a young Bates and his mother.
But apart from these it's the cinema releases with Perkins as the star that made the Psycho series such a success. Check out II, III and Psycho IV: The Beginning on Horror and tell us what you think.
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HC: When did you first become aware of the book by Stephen McGeagh to which Habit is based?
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