“Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho” Or How A Movie Studio Got The Public To Pay 12 Dollars To Watch An Overproduced Dramatized Special Feature Documentary
When somebody gives up, the signs are usually pretty evident. Say you are watching a basketball game, and the fourth quarter arrives. The star player who has been giving his all for the past three quarters starts to play poorly. He’s not making his jumpers, his ball handling is becoming shoddy, and he can barely make it up and down the court. All signs point to someone who is finished. They have no more to give, and what they are currently giving isn’t enough to get it done. Everyone of course gets tired, but this is different. There is no spirit left in their game, no fight, no vitality. They’re not missing shots because they are tired but because they don’t believe anymore. They’ve given up. They just don’t have it in them.
The current state of cinema is also showing signs of giving up as well. Now, I don’t mean to make big grand statements about the cinema as a whole. I’ll leave that to the guys with the Ph.D’s (yes their are doctorates in film). It doesn’t take a genius however to recognize when there is a problem, and tt doesn’t take a rouge scholar to see that something just isn’t right.
Alright lets take a moment and think this through. The life of Marilyn Monroe is such that ten movies could probably be made about it. Her life, her celebrity, her loves, and her death, are the stuff of Hollywood legend and that legend has become modern folklore. When there is any talk of recent popular american history, or famous urban legends, or contemporary style icons, there is usually always mention of the original material girl. She is part of the American consciousness, just as much as Ronald McDonald or Superman or even Christ. Taking into account the scope of her life and the sphere of influence she had, I would not begrudge any movie studio an option to make a film about Marilyn Monroe. “My Week With Marilyn” was a fine idea for a motion picture. There were probably legions of Marilyn fans, both rabid and casual, around the globe yearning for a big screen biography of Norma Jean. It was also a stroke of genius to make the film about what happened to Marilyn during the production of “The Prince and the Showgirl” as we get to see a rare glimpse of what Marilyn was like doing work, and how her personal problems conflicted with her professional gifts. For the most part, people seemed happy with the final product. I haven’t seen it yet, but if its as good as people say it was, I’ll have to check it out in the future.
Looking down the road at a similar project,”Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho” is a film that I don’t think I’ll be checking out in any foreseeable future. Am I the only one that thinks this is a bad idea on a purely conceptual level? I can understand the appeal of a movie about Marilyn Monroe, but Hitchcock? Now its common knowledge that in the history of cinema, the movie “Psycho” is a seminal film. A landmark in motion picture history, that is at once a breakthrough thriller/horror film, but also a timepiece signifying the changing tastes and dynamics of not just the movie going culture but the culture as a whole. Even the lay person with the most rudimentary understanding of cinema has at least a general knowledge of “Psycho” and its impact on popular culture, if not by seeing the film itself, than by seeing one of the many films or pieces of popular entertainment that “Psycho” has personally influenced or been parodied by/paid homage to. So its understood that “Psycho” is important. Can I ask then what is so important about what when on behind the scenes of “Psycho”. Unless I’ve missed a something, the making of “Psycho” isn’t something that is very…….storied or talked about in our modern culture. I don’t hear famous stories about its production, like I do the production of movies like “Apocalypse Now”, “Cleopatra”, “Heaven’s Gate”,any Stanley Kubrick film, “Alien 3”, or even projects like “Popeye” and “Cutthroat Island”. Not that Psycho isn’t discussed and mulled over, just never usually with the production as the main point of focus. Usually any talk (outside of film school) about “Psycho” is about the films impact on popular culture. It usually tells of fights with the censor board and the audiences changing tastes in regards to the film and movies in general. It never speaks of great behind the camera drama, power struggles, fights, or production catastrophes. In fact, in researching Psycho, aside from some very thrifty spending and inventive filming, there is not really too much of note about the production, except when viewed through the eyes of history. Hitchcock was an amusing personality with a brilliant craft but I don’t see him working as the main subject of a expository film about his life and work, and its not like Janet Leigh had a life or career that has since given birth to post mortem superstar status and fandom like Marilyn, not to say she wasn’t an exceptional actress, but worthy of big screen bio-drama; I don’t think so. Taking all this into account, I don’t really see too much, in the making of “Psycho”, that is worthy of dramatization in regards to a major motion picture. Film geeks will love it, as Hitchcock is one of their patron saints, but I fail to see, from the studio’s point of view, how this has any appeal to the average film-goer. Why would they want to see a movie about the making of a great movie that they would have been better off watching in the first place? Are the studios that desperate for ideas or so lazy that they just want to make multi-million dollar elongated special feature documentaries? Have they given up on seeking out fresh, new captivating stories for the every-man to enjoy? Why not just put your efforts into making a great film with a good story, or at least find a product that isn’t only palatable to extreme film nerds? Maybe in time that fresh new project will receive the kind of admiration “Psycho” usually gets.
Then again, push comes to shove, I guess Mr. Every-man wouldn’t mind seeing Scarlett Johansson in a shower.