Sunday, 31 December 2017

78/52 (DVD)

The title of Alexandre O. Philippe's documentary 78/52 refers to the (supposed) seventy-eight camera setups and fifty-two shots in the shower scene of Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho. (It could have been called A Long Hard Look at Psycho, but that title was already taken by Raymond Durgnat's book.) After an introduction to Psycho's cultural significance, the documentary analyses the shower scene shot-by-shot: the painting covering the peephole, the "calm before the storm", the three jump-cuts as Marion screams (echoing the monster's first appearance in Frankenstein), and the montage as she is attacked.

Talking heads, all filmed in black-and-white, include Hitchcock scholars Stephen Rebello (author of Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho), Bill Krohn (author of Hitchcock at Work and Masters of Cinema: Alfred Hitchcock), and David Thomson (author of The Moment of Psycho). Philippe's greatest coup is his interview with Marli Renfro, Janet Leigh's body double, who has rarely spoken about her role before. The most revealing contribution comes from Walter Murch (editor of Apocalypse Now), who meticulously deconstructs Hitchcock's editing and camera placement.

This is not the first study of Psycho's shower scene: Philip J. Skerry's book Psycho in the Shower also includes a detailed analysis of the sequence. Surprisingly, Skerry isn't interviewed in 78/52, though his book (like Rebello's) is essential, especially if read alongside Richard J. Anobile's book of Psycho stills. (Leigh has written her own memoir on the film, Psycho: Behind the Scenes of the Classic Thriller; and Hitchcock is a lightly fictionalised account of Psycho's production.)

78/52 includes plenty of clips from Psycho, though it clearly couldn't secure the rights to the original Bernard Herrmann score. It also features short extracts from Laurent Bouzereau's documentary The Making of Psycho. The DVD includes a fascinating extended interview with Philippe, and a booklet with a short written statement by him.

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