This week’s Streaming Pick comes to us from Hulu. 78/52: Hitchcock’s Shower Scene is a lengthy title for a short scene in an old movie. So why should we care? Shame on you for hypothetically asking that question I used to set up a reply. Alfred Hitchcock was so much more than a director. Psycho is so much more than a horror movie. Hitchcock, and this movie, evolved cinema.
78/52: Hitchcock’s Shower Scene dissects the infamous shower scene in 1960’s Psycho. Filmmakers, directors, actors, and other creatives get together to discuss the landmark movie. Specifically, the scene where the protagonist of the film is cut down while showering. The title refers to Hitchcock’s obsessive 78 camera setups and 52 edits over the three minute sequence.
Hitchcock did a lot in this film. His entire career built to taking on something so taboo (for the day). To be even more specific, his impressive career built up to this one short segment. The perfection of the entire sequence is analyzed, explained, theorized on, and dissected. Actors movements, camera placement, lighting, and attitude all add to the feel of the scene.
Killing off the main character so early in a movie is still a rarity in today’s cinematic landscape. Today women in crime dramas play the victim more often than not. What sets Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) apart is that she was the sole lead for the majority of the film. She wasn’t a damsel in distress. Her actions were her own. She brought herself to the motel. She decided to accept responsibility right before her fateful shower. We could analyze Psycho in its entirety this way, but that will be for another time.
Stabbing a woman in the shower is still considered a brutal act in today’s movies. The way Psycho filmed it is less graphic than what we see even on prime time TV. The Censors at the time were not okay with nudity. The film is in black and white because the blood in the shower would not fly. The knife was not allowed to be shown to penetrate the skin. Hitchcock challenged the censors every second of this three minute scene. The challenges Hitchcock imposed on the censorship board made his one film stand out. Not only were the challenges beneficial to Psycho, they jumped cinema as a whole forward.
A ninety minute look at what boils down to a few minutes of the movie. The really impressive part of this documentary is not only does it never drag, you actually want more. More on this subject and more documentaries dissecting cinema’s most important scenes.
78/52: Hitchcock’s Shower Scene is now streaming on Hulu