Tuesday, January 8, 2013

nitpicking 'hitchcock' by justin lockwood

I’m an expert on Psycho.  I’m not bragging; it’s just a fact.  It’s one of my all time favorites, and besides having seen it probably a hundred times, I’ve read practically all there is to find on its making.  So I was obviously intrigued to see Hitchcock, starring Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren and based on Stephen Rebello’s Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of  Psycho.  After the film, my boyfriend asked, “What about it was inaccurate?”  “What wasn’t  inaccurate?” I quipped.  Putting aside the whole wife crushes on screenwriter plot, which I’ve heard is utter hogwash, here are the inaccuracies that plagued this movie:

Ed Gein—A highlight of the film for me was its depiction of Ed Gein (Michael Wincott), the real life necrophile who inspired Norman Bates.  The role was well cast and the scenes of his home and bizarre crimes were excellently staged.  But Hitchcock wrongly says that he “dug up his own mother,” and the scene of Ed cozying up to his mom’s corpse in bed is total fabrication. Gein told authorities he tried to dig up his late mother’s grave but couldn’t break through.  He’s also shown in the basement of his house when the cops arrive to arrest him, but he was actually dining at a neighbor’s when his victims were discovered.

The shower scene—In Hitchcock, the director loses it during the filming of the shower scene and slashes wildly at Janet Leigh (Scarlett Johansson).  It’s a great way to dramatize Hitch’s mental state, but Leigh is obviously frightened in the sequence, and the incident never happened.

Raising their right hands—Vera Miles was quoted as saying that “We all had to raise our right hands and promise not to divulge one word of the story.”  She has a way with words, but the scene of Hitchcock literally instructing his cast and crew to raise their right hands and recite an oath is pretty ridiculous.

Tony Perkins—While Perkins did, as he hints in Hitchcock, have an unusually close relationship with his mother and lost his father at a young age, he was nothing like the shy mama’s boy he played in Psycho, and James D’Arcy’s strained, Batesian performance does him a real disservice.

Joseph Stefano—The idea that Stefano landed the screenwriting gig because he was in therapy and had issues with his mother is cute but disingenuous.  Stefano was in therapy, and Hitchcock asked him about it, but Stefano got the job because Hitch liked his take on the opening scene, which he said “Alma loved.”

Alma takes over—Alma Reville was not only Hitchcock’s wife but also his closest and most trusted collaborator, and the movie is a fitting tribute to that.  Still, the idea that she came in and directed while Hitch was laid up in bed (after the bogus “shower scene incident”) is pure invention.  In reality, no one directed but Hitch, and pictorial consultant Saul Bass’ contention that he shot the shower scene has been repeatedly rebuked by sources including Janet Leigh herself.

-Justin Lockwood


  1. Thank you for your revealing perspective on Hitchcock, Justin. It's the one potential Oscar contender (if anything, for Helen Mirren's performance) I've been holding off on seeing, due to the fallacies I read about, in your post and elsewhere. I am finally going to catch it in the next night or two, with appropriately low expectations - while wondering why the screenwriter couldn't have relied upon more accurate source material.

  2. Did it claim to be 100% accurate? Or did it say based on actual events. I would be upset if it said it was all true, like you I am a huge Psycho and Hitch fan and thought this movie sounded like a good idea.

  3. Mr. Lockwood! Thanks so much for your deconstruction of what's real and what's fake here! I'm a huge Hitchcock fan and this was an insightful read before I go see the movie. I hope you never meet my plastic surgeon! I claim to be "all real" all the time! XO