Rajeev Masand – movies that matter : from bollywood, hollywood and everywhere else

February 9, 2020

Cut above the Best

Filed under: Have you seen this? — Rajeev @ 3:15 pm

Why would a documentary on the legendary shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho be titled 78/52? Well, because Hitchcock shot the chilling murder sequence using 78 camera angles and 52 editing splices. Want another bit of trivia? To capture the sound of a knife stabbing a body, Hitchcock listened to different kinds of melons being pierced, finally settling on a casaba, intercut with the sound of a piece of steak being knifed.

That’s just some facts amongst the hundreds crammed into this fascinating docu on one of cinema’s most unforgettable moments. Directed by Alexandre O Philippe, 78/52 meticulously collates so many details about the scene, narrated by a host of voices.

There’s Jamie Lee Curtis, the daughter of actress Janet Leigh who played the murdered secretary Marion Crane. Anthony Perkins played the ‘psycho’ Norman Bates, and his son Osgood is interviewed here, as is Hitchcock’s own granddaughter Tere Carruba.  There’s also an account by Marli Renfro, who, as a 21-year-old model at the time, stood in as Leigh’s naked body double for seven days while Hitchcock filmed the shower scene. These interviews add insights along with those from a multitude of Psycho admirers like master editor Walter Murch and director Guillermo Del Toro.

The documentary is packed to the gills with details, but at 90 minutes it can sometimes get tedious. The true-blue cinephile, however, is unlikely to complain as one is treated to a thorough deconstruction of the edit and the score. Why, for example, that cut from the blood swirling in the drain, to Marion’s lifeless eye? Or the logic behind the haunting screeching violins echoing her screams.

78/52 is a tribute to the genius of Hitchcock – the director who killed off his leading lady in the first third of Psycho. Just listen to how critic-turned-filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich describes it in the documentary. Recounting how it felt to come out of the theatre after watching Psycho in 1960 when it released, he says, “I felt like I had been raped.”

78/52 brings alive that terrifying and voyeuristic shower scene, and this documentary is a worthy watch for every film lover.

(78/52 is currently streaming on Netflix)


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