The film documentary by Alexandre O. Philippe revisits movie history most famous shower scene
Re-examining “Psycho” on “78/52”
It’s unusual to do a feature-length documentary on just one scene, especially a scene that lasts less than three minutes. And yet director Alexandre O. Philippe manages it with his film “78/52”. The documentary presents us with a thoughtful and entertaining re-examination of the iconic shower scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho”, peeling back some unexpected and wholly new layers about this often discussed moment in cinema. Filmed in stunning black and white, and featuring several Psycho-related re-enactments to help set the tone throughout its 91-minute runtime, “78/52” takes a comprehensive look back at the moment cinema changed forever in 1960, when Hitchcock dared to take audiences into a roadside motel bathroom to bear cinematic witness to the murder of a young woman by the name of Marion Crane (played by the unforgettable Janet Leigh). “78/52” refers to the number of camera setups and cuts in this two-minute scene, two minutes that changed cinema forever. The killing of Marion Crane in “Psycho” remains a landmark event in both horror and film in general, especially since it has been credited as being the first cinematic expression of harm to a female character in such a seemingly visceral manner. “78/52” lovingly examines this scene from every angle: the narrative psychology behind it, the technical approach, Hitchcock’s own brilliance and pathology, the scene’s incomparable influence on future films and television shows and even the rating system. Beyond just celebrating the technical aspects of that specific scene, 78/52 also dissects various themes that run throughout Hitchcock’s storytelling in “Psycho”. Philippe brings in an art historian to discuss the painting Norman Bates removes to spy on Marion Crane. It’s a version of Susanna and The Elders, a biblical story of a beautiful woman and two voyeurs that has been rendered dozens of times on canvas but Hitchcock chose the one version in which the elders not only spy on Susanna but assault her, one of a hundred small hints Hitchcock wove into the fabric of his film to warn us of what we’re about to see. “78/52” features an amazing array of interviews with tons of notable folks, including Guillermo del Toro, Elijah Wood (and his fellow co-producers at Spectrevision), Marli Renfro (Janet Leigh’s body double), Peter Bogdanovich (who does a killer Hitchcock impersonation), Richard Stanley, Mick Garris, Danny Elfman, Karyn Kusama, Oz Perkins, Leigh Whannell, Neil Marshall, Bret Easton Ellis, and my personal favorite interviewee, Jamie Lee Curtis (who shares a fun anecdote about why she finally decided to embrace paying homage to her mother’s shower scene in the first season of Scream Queens). This is a movie for everyone masquerading as niche entertainment, made by a group of people interested not only in what kind of melon was used during the shower scene to approximate the stabbing sound, but how many types of melons were tested. If you’re slightly interested in how movies get made, it’s a treat, but even massive Hitchcock geeks (like me) should learn at least a thing or two with a huge, creepy smile on their faces.
By Ken Warren, 2017-18
Directed by: Alexandre O. Philippe
Starring: Alan Barnette, Justin Benson, Peter Bogdanovich
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