Film discussion: 78/52: Hitchcock’s Shower Scene

As the title says, this is a movie about one scene in Psycho, Hitchcock’s precision-guided psychological bomb of a movie that started unsettling moviegoers in 1960 and hasn’t stopped yet.

The 78 and 52 in the title refer to the number of camera setups and edits, respectively, in the sequence in which Janet Leigh is attacked and killed in the shower. If you’ve seen it (and I assume you have), you know the frenetic, disturbing montage of images that make up the scene. I doubt that you’ve forgotten it.

And if you haven’t seen Psycho, you still know a lot about the scene because the combination of repeated downward knife thrusts and repeated shrieks from the violin section are one of the most-recognized movie memes around.

78/52 might sound like a movie aimed solely at movie geeks, but I think it goes far beyond that. In its way, Psycho was as influential as Jaws was in 1975. The movie simply changed the rules for horror films, bringing in what we now call slasher films, although with considerably more art and restraint than its later imitators used.

Hitchcock’s Shower Scene will give you a real grounding for what movies were like in 1960, what American moviegoers were like in 1960 and (maybe most important of all) what Alfred Hitchcock was like in 1960.

Need to get a Christmas ear-worm out of your head? This is the one to see.

I hope to see you there, which will be in The Loft at 7:00. The coffee is free, but you’d better bring your own tranquilizers!

Paul Goodwin

And by the way, I already have the slate of discussions for January nailed down. We’ll be discussing Lady Bird (OSCAR ALERT!) on January 16 and The Florida Project (DITTO!) on January 23. Those should give us some blessed relief from our post-holiday psychological slumps.