The Psycho Collection – Limited Edition UHD / BLU-RAY

Psycho - Collector's box set on limited edition 4K UHD & BLU-RAY

Hitchcock was probably the world’s first superstar film director. His distinctive portly figure, lugubrious drawl and his famed cameos in the majority of his films alongside his introductions of each episode of his TV show Alfred Hitchcock Presents alongside some of greatest films had secured his persona in the public’s mind. The 1950’s had seen a run of critical and commercial hits that had included the great yet under rated ‘Strangers on a Train’, ‘Vertigo’ (Voted as Sight and Sounds greatest ever films in one poll) and ‘North by Northwest’ that had been an enormous crowd pleaser. Audiences knew what to expect from him :  tautly drawn suspense films with A-list stars and nerve jangling set pieces set in classic thrillers. Psycho was to be different. Always on the lookout for new stories he had optioned Robert Bloch’s horror novel about Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins)  an unstable mummy’s boy who runs his late mother motel and kills a secretary on the run having embezzled money from her employer.

For the era it was shocking subject matter. Studios were appalled at what the star director was intending as his next project and refused to finance it and Hitchcock bet the house on the film. Literally. He mortgaged his home to make the film in black & white with a TV crew. It was a huge gamble but he knew he had something and with a promotional trailer that saw him guide audiences around the Bates house telling audiences about the awful things that had happened there and then instructing cinemas to bar anyone entering the auditorium after the film had started but imploring audiences also not to give the endgame away. And yet despite the subject matter, despite the studios refusing to finance it and despite taking the radical step to pull the rug from under audiences by having his star Janet Leigh bumped off at the end of the first act, the film was huge. In fact it was the biggest box office hit Hitchcock ever had and the studios were now falling over themselves to make his next film with them finally signing up with Universal who gave him share options worth $15m-  an enormous sum at the time.

Psycho arguably contains the most famous sequence in cinema history – the shower scene –  a 52 second scene comprised of 78 shots that saw Janet Leigh’s character’s on screen demise. It remains one of the most potent and influential set pieces ever made – director Brian De Palma based whole films that homage Hitchcock. The film earned the director the fifth of his five Best Director Oscar nominations an award which he would never win only getting an honorary Oscar a year before he died having made his final film three years earlier

Like so many films it was the first and best of an unintended franchise and it would be twenty three years later before a first sequel would appear in1983. Hitchcock had passed away in 1980 and sequels were becoming increasingly the norm in the 1970s with The Godfather, The Omen. Jaws. Star Wars, Dirty Harry, and Rocky but as a sequel  to one of the greatest films of all time made by one the greatest directors of all time was an unimaginable challenge. A studio exec had found that, twenty years later, the Psycho brand still carried huge recognition and regardless of its classic status was deemed suitable for a sequel in a new era of sequels and franchises. Taking that challenge was director Richard Franklin, a not obvious choice but nonetheless a huge devotee of Hitchcock and was taken with the script from Tom Holland who would later go on to write Fright Night and Child’s Play. The challenge was not to write the same story all over again and his script had Norman seemingly rehabilitated in  psychiatric care and now attempting to assimilate a normal life to the outrage of the sister of  Marion Crane – played by Janet Leigh in the original,  but as he begins to get back to a normal stable existence the murders begin again with Norman insistent that he not responsible for them. Psycho II was far far better than anyone might expect and Franklin had crafted several excellent set pieces and the film performed moderately at the box office making $34m in year that  saw the sequels Rocky III, Return of the Jedi , Jaws 3D , Sudden Impact, Amityville 3D, Smokey and the Bandit 3, Staying Alive, Octopussy, Superman III, Porkys II,  and Friday the 13th Part III. It’s one of the most underrated sequels made and deserved to have far more success than it did.

It was enough of a success to warrant a third film and Anthony Perkins who was resigned to the fact that the role had overshadowed his career ever since 1960 signed up on the proviso that he could direct. He knew the studio could not say no and he was given what would be his directorial debut, one of only two films he would ever direct. This time it was more of the same old, same old wit Norman back running the motel and falling in love with a fallen nun who checks in along with other guests that include a drifter and a reporter keen to do a follow up story on Norman. An iconic poster that had Perkins as Norman offering a room key with the family house in the background and was that ‘mother’ in the window promised much but the film delivered little in terms of story, plot or thrills. Released in November 1986 the film was a flop earning only $14m and less than flattering reviews and Perkins would later admit that really he was not up to the job of directing the film.

Nonetheless Psycho was still a potent enough a title to get a fourth film but unsurprisingly this was to be a TV movie with the title ‘Psycho IV The Beginning’ but the films selling point here was that the script was by the books author Robert Bloch and Joseph Stefano who had scripted the original. Here the story was centred around a radio phone-in where the host chats to experts in the field of matricide and listeners phoned in with their own questions and its Norman who rings in and recounts his own story about his relationship with his mother.  Told on flashback it had Henry Thomas as a young Norman and for the first time we saw his mother onscreen as played by Olivia Hussey that hinted at an incestuous relationship with Norman developing a mild Oedipus complex about his mother with a few unseemly scenes that found Norman in bed with his mum or on top of her and finding himself aroused to his mother’s disgust that turned heads as well as stomach’s. Norman is now married with a pregnant wife and he expresses his concern that his unborn child will continue his legacy and he should bring it to an end in his own inimitable murderous style. This fourth film was broadcast to little if any acclaim. With performances varying greatly – a lover that Mrs Bates takes proved that her iconic rocking chair was not the only wooden item in the house that day. Flatly lit and directed by journey man director Mick Garris,  it’s only interest was the ‘origin’ element to Norman murderous ways .

It was an easy paycheck for Perkins in the role that he was now synonymous and its muted reception meant that a further film was unlikely and the hope of any further sequels was sealed by the actors death in 1992 aged only 60. If ever a franchise illustrated the law of ever decreasing returns it was the Psycho franchise a film that could never hope to better let alone equal the original, although Psycho II certainly made an excellent attempt.

Presented together for the first time in the UK on 4K UHD and Blu-Ray, featuring all new restorations of Psycho II, III and IV from the original camera negatives, Arrow Video has put together another lavish and impressive box set with an array of excellent extras

-4K (2160p) Ultra HD presentations of all four films
-New 4K restorations of Psycho II, Psycho III and Psycho IV from the original camera negatives
-Original lossless mono and 5.1 audio options for Psycho, Psycho II and Psycho III, lossless mono and stereo audio options for Psycho IV
-Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
-Reversible Sleeves featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Matt Griffin
-Double-sided posters for each film featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Matt Griffin
-9 postcard sized reproduction art cards
-120-page perfect bound collector’s book featuring new writing by film critics John-Paul Checkett and Johnny Mains plus select archival material.

– Audio Commentary with Stephen Rebello, Author of Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho
– The Making of Psycho documentary
– In the Master’s Shadow, Hitchcock’s Legacy featurette
– Hitchcock / Truffaut audio interview with scenes from the movie
– Newsreel Footage: The Release of Psycho featurette
– The Shower Scene: With & Without Music featurette
– The Shower Sequence, Storyboards by Saul Bass image gallery
– Psycho Sound featurette
– The Psycho Archives image gallery
– Posters and Psycho Ads image gallery
– Lobby Cards image gallery
– Behind the Scenes Photographs image gallery
– Publicity Shots image gallery
– Theatrical Trailer
– Re-Release Trailers

– New audio commentary by Michael Brooke and Johnny Mains
– Audio commentary by screenwriter Tom Holland
– Behind the Curtain, The Masters of Horror on Psycho panel discussion with screenwriter Tom Holland and Psycho IV director Mick Garris moderated by Robert Galluzzo
– Giving Bloch His Due, interview with Chet Williams, author of “Psycho: Sanitarium” on the legacy of Norman Bates’ creator, author Robert Bloch
– Anthony Perkins TV interview
– Anthony Perkins Audio interview
– Richard Franklin Audio interview
– “Richard Franklin On Set” featurette
– Richard Franklin scene commentary
– A sequel to a classic
– The house on the hill
– Personality profile: Anthony Perkins
– Personality profile: Richard Franklin
– Still crazy after all these years
– Behind the scenes
– Anthony Perkins interview
– Vera Miles interview
– Janet Leigh interview
-Jerry Goldsmith demo
-Trailers & TV spots
– Image Gallery
– Audio Press Kit/promotional record (plays during almost the entire film)
– Record gallery

– New Commentary by Michael Brooke and Johnny Mains
– Audio Commentary by screenwriter Charles Edward Pogue
– Carnival of the Heart, a new visual essay by film scholar Alexandra Heller Nicholas
– Scream of Love, a new interview with composer Carter Burwell
– Watch the Guitar, an interview with actor Jeff Fahey
-Patsy’s Last Night, an interview with actor Katt Shea
-Mother’s Maker, an interview with special make-up effects artist Michael Westmore
-Body Double, an interview with actress Brinke Stevens
– Original Electronic Press Kit
– Alternate Opening
-Theatrical Trailer
-TV spot
-Image Gallery

-4K (2160p) Ultra HD presentation of the film in director’s preferred 1.78:1 aspect ratio
-Audio Commentary with director Mick Garris, actor Henry Thomas, and actress Olivia Hussey
-Death by Strings, new visual essay by author and critic Guy Adams on music across the franchise
-The Making Of Mother, an archive interview with make-up effects artist Tony Gardner
-Behind-The-Scenes Footage
-A Look at the Scoring of Psycho IV, an archive featurette
-Theatrical Trailer

-4K (2160p) Ultra HD presentation of the film in 1.33:1 TV aspect ratio

The bonus features for the first two discs are extremely good and worth the price alone and even though the third and fourth film drop dramatically in quality the bonus features are certainly worth a look as they contain a number of decent insights. Though its only the first two films that are rewatchable, as a box set this is a worthy companion and if nothing else will help eradicate any memory of Gus van Sant’s utterly pointless shot by shot remake of Psycho.

Related feature: Underrated and overlooked Hitchcock classics

Related feature: Hugh Bonneville, Kelly MacDonald and director Babak Anvari chat about their Hitchcock influenced thriller, ‘I Came By’

Here’s the original Psycho trailer…..


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