Anyone who knows me knows I’m a hardcore film and horror buff and one of the first shots of a horror movie I ever recall watching was the scene in “Psycho” where Marion Crane is stalked in her shower and mercilessly stabbed to death. It’s a scene I’ve seen at least a thousand times since I was a child and its effectiveness and impact have never worn off for me. Every scene, every second, every single shot is so deliberate and meticulous that Hitchcock creates an entity on to itself in a genuinely flawless horror film. It’s not often you’ll find a full length documentary about one shot in an entire movie, but the iconic moment with Janet Leigh is a sequence that warrants so much examination and analyses. It’s every bit the symbolism and metaphor audiences of the fifties weren’t expecting.
It’s sexual, it’s perverse, it’s intrusive. It’s a rape scene, a molestation scene, and a voyeur scene. It’s a consequence of Marion’s greed, and sexual allure, and it sews the seeds for what would become the slasher genre of the seventies and eighties. It also helped give birth to amazing artists like Dario Argento and Martin Scorsese, all of whom have drawn some significant influence from it. The shower scene is both a microcosm for the unforgiving hand of fate, and the picture of a maladjusted sexual predator. “78/52” is an examination and love letter to the artistry of director Alfred Hitchcock who, while filming “Psycho,” set aside seven whole days with what would become a sequence that required seventy eight takes to complete.
It’s a move that was then very unheard of, and is still considered painfully unnecessary for most filmmakers. But with Hitchcock, it was a move that required specific attention, as the shower scene in “Psycho” is not just an important moment in his narrative, but it’s everything. It signifies both Marion and Norman Bates. It encompasses the entire arc of Norman Bates right in to the sequels, and helped create the fear of showers that many films have aspired to emulate since 1960. Director Alexandre Phillipe takes great pains to explore the making of the shower scene, discussing much of the scene’s nuances with a ton of celebrities, all the while garnering new insight in to how it was filmed. In particular, we get to speak to Peter Bogdonavich who garnered insight directly from Hitchcock, Hitchcock’s granddaughter who explains that he, at one time, considered making “Psycho” an hour long TV movie, as well as Marli Renfro.
Renfro was the body double for Janet Leigh whose nude, shapely physique would help suck us in to the horrific fate Leigh’s character would experience. There are also a slew of lively debates and interviews with folks like Eli Roth, Karyn Kusama, Guillermo Del Toro, Elijah Wood, Neil Marshall, and Jamie Lee Curtis, all of whom pick apart the shower sequence inch by inch, uncovering how Hitchcock built up to the sequence from the moment “Psycho” opens up to the cityscape. “78/52” is a stellar documentary highly suggested for horror buffs, film lovers, and aspiring filmmakers alike. It’s a testament to the genius of Alfred Hitchcock, and how he merged sexuality and violence setting the path for future horror filmmakers.
Fantasia International Film Festival runs from July 13th to August 2nd.