Today: June 11, 2024

The Psycho Collection

Anthony Perkins’ chilling performance as Norman Bates in Alfred Hitchcock’s seminal 1960 horror Psycho is among the finest performances in cinema history. While Hitch’s beloved classic needs no introduction, the three Perkins-starring sequels have long been misunderstood and underappreciated. Arrow Video’s gorgeous new complete boxset aims to change that, allowing viewers to reappraise these underrated horror gems in stunning new restorations. 

This complete boxset, available in Blu-ray and 4K UHD, houses all four Psycho films – the undisputed Hitchcock classic, and the three sequels: Psycho II, Psycho III, and Psycho IV: The Beginning. While the first film has been available in the 4K format before from Universal Pictures, this set marks the first time the sequels have been available in UHD with new restorations from the original camera negatives.

There aren’t enough superlatives in the dictionary to adequately describe the original Psycho’s status and influence. It’s no understatement to say that it utterly changed the face of cinema, and 23 years after it shocked audiences worldwide, Australian filmmaker Richard Franklin (Road Games) took up directorial duties on the sequel that nobody expected – Psycho II. When Bates is declared sane and allowed to return to his old home and motel, it soon becomes apparent that he might not be cured after all. This chilling film is one of horror’s finest sequels; it lives up to Hitchcock’s original while carving a fresh, modern identity for the Psycho saga. Anthony Perkins is incredible once again in the role of Norman Bates, while returning star Vera Miles puts in a memorable supporting performance as Lila Loomis. Quentin Tarantino recently said he prefers Psycho II to Psycho – and it’s not hard to see why someone might have this opinion. This is a genuinely compelling and intense watch, beautifully shot by Dean Cundey (Halloween) with a gorgeous score by Jerry Goldsmith (Star Trek). 

Psycho III sees Perkins making his directorial debut as well as returning to his most iconic role. Released three years later, Perkins was heavily influenced by Joel and Ethan Coen’s debut Blood Simple – even recruiting a young Carter Burwell for scoring duties – and that influence is strongly felt. While Psycho II was much more traditional and Hitchcockian in style, Psycho III goes for a far sleazier and dirtier vibe. The violence is more shocking, the sex more lustful, and the score more electronic. Here is a film that feels entirely of its time, failing to match the timelessness of the first two entries. That’s not to say it’s bad – Perkins is magnificent as Bates once again, and despite being self-critical in interviews since, oozes a confident directorial flair. Burwell’s score is excellent, too, and the gorgeous cinematography by Bruce Surtees (Dirty Harry) captures the red light-soaked depravity of this sleazy threequel. Earning mixed reviews and the weakest box office returns of the series, it was the end of Perkins’ Bates on the big screen.

Finally, the made-for-TV conclusion Psycho IV: The Beginning saw original screenwriter Joseph Stefano – who publicly disliked the previous sequels for going too ‘slasher’ – returning to pen the script. Directed by Mick Garris (Critters 2), the film features Perkins’ final performance as Bates in the narrative’s interesting framing device – Norman calling in to late-night radio under an alias to tell his story, told in flashbacks with Henry Thomas (E.T.) playing his younger self. It’s an interesting way to end Perkins’ Psycho saga; going back to before where it all began with Norman’s troubled childhood. Frustratingly, though, this conclusion ignores all of the events of II and III, and acts as a direct sequel to Psycho – a shame, when the previous two sequels had expanded the mythos so well. The weakest of the series, the film exudes a very television quality, and performances aside from Perkins are pretty lackluster. It’s a shame that the original series ends here on a weak note, but it’s not an awful film by any stretch. There are some interesting ideas and the return of Bernard Herrmann’s iconic theme proves itself a nice bookend.

Arrow Video’s boxset is loaded with new and archival features, housed within truly gorgeous packaging. It’s a wonderful release that will certainly be the definitive, final word on the original Psycho saga. While others have had a crack at Norman Bates since – Freddie Highmore and Vince Vaughn, most famously – nobody understood the character quite like Anthony Perkins. One of the finest horror performances of all time, this series is a wonderful tribute to his work with the iconic titular psycho. We all go a little mad sometimes…

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