68. 'Psycho' (1960)
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It's sometimes easy to forget that this is the movie that changed everything.
And not for the better, some may argue. Its director, master of suspense Alfred
Hitchcock, variously described the movie in post-release interviews as a "joke"
or an "exercise," and his production of this shocker in relative secrecy and his
use of a smaller crew on the shoot were emblematic of the departure he was
taking. Instead of a suspense story in which good unambiguously triumphed over
evil, Hitchcock instead began his picture with an ordinary, tawdry crime
committed by a sympathetic character ... and then (spoiler alert — wait, you
haven't seen it?) has that character brutally slaughtered in a shower-knifing
that broke the boundaries for cinematic violence (even though the butcher knife
is never seen penetrating flesh) and also set a new bar for it — a bar that
filmmakers both opportunistic and inspired have been trying to clear ever since.
Bing: See images from 'Psycho'
As a way to throw off audiences it was brilliant. As an observation of the
tragic disconnectedness of 20th century life, it was unselfconsciously
brilliant. Its impact on audiences at the time was galvanic (this critic is told
that he watched it rapturously at the age of one, wedged between his traumatized
parents at a drive-in screening during the summer of its initial release) as was
its impact on critics and criticism: because "Psycho" was the ultimate proof for
many that a popular genre entertainment could also be a work of capital-"a" art.
It was, and remains, an unassailable classic in both categories. — Glenn
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(Janet Leigh in "Psycho"/Courtesy Everett Collection/Rex